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Japanese Quail and Duck

By DR. Venkatramana Hegde, Hosagadde. Director, Shramajeevi Television Pvt. Ltd. Bengaluru


Population of the country is increasing by every second. It puts pressure on the forest for space and food. Non-vegetarian food is becoming common in modern society. Farm grown animals and birds are in great demand due the shortage in the forest. New species of birds and animals are brought in to commercial rearing to meet the requirement. Farming of country birds is one of such efforts. Country chicken, Turkey, Japanese Quails, Ducks, Guinea fowls etc. are coming to the main stream in recent years. This article explains everything on Japanese Quails and Ducks. Of course the large scale farming of these birds is new to Indian farmers. We tried to compile all possible details from experienced farmers and research stations.

Japanese Quail Farming

Japanese quail is the smallest among all poultry birds reared for meat. This belongs to the quail group seen in our forests. Coturnix coturnix japonica is the only species of the group domesticated and used for rearing. This is permitted for commercial rearing by the forest act. Of course this is not a bird introduced from Japan. Quail farming has become very popular in Tamil Nadu in recent years. This is a hardy bird well adapted to various climatic conditions of our country. Disease resistance is also good. Grows very fast and gets ready for culling within 25 to 28 days. Female bird starts laying eggs by 6th week itself and gives 280 to 290 eggs in a year. Egg and the meat of quail are useful for asthma patients. It has an aphrodisiac effect and antidote for Tuberculosis also. Taste and flavor is excellent. Hence the people eat quails by paying costly price.

There are no specific named breeds in quails. But the farmers have 2 different selections for meat and egg production. Meat type gains 200 to 210-gram body weight in 25 to 28 days. The egg type grows up to 150 to 160 grams and lays 280 to 290 eggs in a year. Nandanam research station of Chennai, India and CPDO Mumbai, India are giving quail chicks to farmers. Even some private breeders are selling chicks for INR 5 to 6 each.

Housing and Breeding of quail

The regular broiler sheds are being used for this quails also. Let the height be 10 to 12 feet in the middle and 6 to 7 feet on the sides. Put big mesh windows on 2 feet wall on both the sides. Circulation of fresh air is most important for good health of the birds. Mud floor is better since it absorbs moisture. But the management is easy in cement floor. Paddy husk is the better bedding material. But it is very costly. Hence most of the farmers are using coconut coir pith or ground nut shell. Feeders and waterers of regular poultry are useful for quails too. These tiny birds reared in deep litter system with complete ready feed. One can put 5 grown up quails in 1 square feet.

Male to female ratio of 1:5 is necessary for egg production. Female starts egg laying by 6 to 7 weeks of age. 75% of the eggs come in the morning between3 to 6. Egg shell is heavily mottled with black, brown and blue. Average weight of the egg is just 6 to 8 grams. Egg shell is very thin and delicate. Careful handling is necessary in collection and transport. Eggs for hatching are sent to the hatchery within 2 days. Incubation period is 16 to 18 days. Hatching percentage is 60 to 65. Day old chick weighs 10 grams. The chicks are very delicate and need careful handling for 1 week. Brood the chicks for 8 days. Provide 100 Fahrenheit temperature initially. Bring down 5 Fahrenheit in every 4 days. Close the windows with gunny bags if the wind is more and during winter season. This will ensure warm atmosphere inside the shed. Let the depth of the water be less in the waterer. Or put pebbles for 1 week to avoid drowning of chicks. Put paddy husk or corrugated paper on the floor to avoid slipping of the chicks. Mix vitamin B complex and mild antibiotic in the drinking water for day old chicks. No vaccine or medicine is necessary. Avoid feed with any mould growth. Average normal chick mortality is 6 to 8 %. Chick mash will do, but the quail needs high level of protein and minerals like Manganese, Zinc, Copper and Iron. Big commercial farmers are using own feed prepared exclusively for quails.

Management of quail farm

Quail chicks are shifted to a bigger shed after 8 to 10 days. They grow fast and spread to the whole shed within 15 days. Coconut coir pith or ground nut shell is used as bedding material. Put sufficient number of feeders and waterers. These birds are fed with pre-starter feed up to 4 days, starter feed from 4 to 15 days and finisher feed from 15 days to culling stage. Each quail consumes 450 to 500 grams of feed till it is sold by 26 to 28 days.

Health problem is less in quails compared to other poultry birds. This bird is resistant to Ranikhet and roundworms. Hence the vaccination and de-worming is not necessary. But it suffers with coccidiosis. To avoid this problem, maintain hygiene in the shed. Provide clean drinking water and feed.

Economics of quail farming

Day old quail chick costs INR 5 to 6. Feeding cost is INR 9 to 10. Broiler quail gains 200 to 210-gram body weight in 26 to 28 days and is culled at this stage. Each bird fetches INR 30 to 40 depending on the demand. Nutrient content, taste, flavor and softness of the meet is excellent. Quail egg has less calorie and very less cholesterol. Eating 2 eggs in the morning and evening keeps asthma under control. It works against Tuberculosis. Eggs sell for INR 25 per dozen. Each bird produces 500 grams of manure. Quail Biryani is becoming popular in recent days. Quail farming is generating attractive income for farmers. One can raise 5 quails instead of 1 broiler chicken in 1 square feet floor space. Present trend indicates that the quail farming will grow on large scale in the coming years.

Duck Farming


Another bird of this article is Duck. It stands 2nd in production after commercial chicken in Indian poultry industry. Share of the duck is 10% in the population of reared birds and 6 to 7 % in egg production. Duck is very popular and common in back water areas of Kerala, West Bengal and North Eastern states. Both meat and egg are the commercial products of duck. Duck egg is sold for INR 7 in the traditional belt. Egg is big in size and the fat content is more. It keeps the stomach cool and avoids constipation. Duck meat is juicy and tasty.

Basically the duck is a water fowl. Even then it is reared in the sheds like any other poultry bird. Breeding stock of birds need open run space attached to the shed. Providing a water channel of 6-inch depth is good. Duck likes immersing the beak and head in water often. Otherwise a black ring develops around the eyes which may ultimately lead to blindness. But in case of ducks grown for meat purpose it is kept hardly for 2 months. Hence all these arrangements are not necessary. Beak of the duck is like a spoon. So it spills feed and water a lot. Hence water line is kept separately so that the other part of the shed keeps dry. A big plate is kept below the feeder to collect and re-use the spilled feed. paddy husk, ground nut shell or coir pith is used for bedding.

Duck breeds

Duck breeds like Chara, Chambali, Kuttanaadu etc. are common in traditional areas of India. Even today 90% of the population of Duck in India belongs to these breeds. Only 10% is the improved exotic breeds. The world popular meat breed is Pekin. Growth rate is very fast and meat quality is good. It gains 2 to 2 kilograms in 45 to 60 days. Pekin ducks lay 150 to 180 eggs per year in breeding farms. Khaki- Campbell is the duck breed popular for egg production. It gives 280 to 300 eggs per year. Egg is large in size and weighs 75 grams. Egg production in local breeds is less.

Duck starts laying by 4 to 5 months of age. Keep 1 male for 4 to 5 female ducks for breeding. There is no specific season for laying eggs. 95 to 98 % of the eggs come before 9 am. Eggs can be stored in open cool place for 3 to 4 days. For large scale production of ducklings hatchery is inevitable. Incubation period of duck eggs is 28 days. Hatching percentage is 55 to 60 only. Commercial hatcheries charge INR 8 to 10 per egg for hatching. Private breeders sell day old ducklings for INR 45 to 50. Government hatcheries charge INR 22 per duckling. These eggs have good demand for consumption in Kerala, West Bengal and in some other states.

Management of duck farm

Brooding period for egg breed Khaki-Campbell is 3 to 4 weeks. For Pekin ducklings it is 2 to 3 weeks. Provide 85 to 90 Fahrenheit temperature in the beginning. Reduce 3 Fahrenheit per week. Let the depth of water be less in the waterer to avoid drowning of ducklings. Chick mash should not have any mould growth. Otherwise even the mild dose of aflatoxin kills the ducklings. Ducks are very sensitive to poisons. Khaki-Campbell breed is more sensitive. Chick mortality is 5 % in ducks.

Nomadic duck farming

There are 2 methods of rearing in ducks. Traditional farms leave the ducks for grazing. Nomadic farming with large size group of ducks is very common in Kerala. They put 5000 ducks in 10 acres of paddy field after the harvest of the crop. Ducks eat the dropped grains, earth worms, insects, water plants etc. while grazing. Grains, boiled rice, palm pith etc. are spread in addition. Ducks grow very healthy in open and produce good meat and eggs. We find many integrators having number of groups like this in Kerala.

Intensive duck farming

Another method of duck rearing is intensive system. Here the ducks are fed with ready feed in the shed. We find big intensive farms of ducks in Pune, Allahabad and Kerala. Duck farming is picking up in recent years in Tamil Nadu also. Each duck needs 3 square feet area up to 16 weeks. Later on provide 4 to 5 square feet per duck. Water channel of 6 to 8-inch depth on one side of the shed is good. However, pond for swimming of ducks is not necessary.

Ducks are fed with ready feed with balanced nutrition like the other poultry birds. Provide the feed throughout the day for initial 2 months. Later on give twice a day in the morning and evening. Khaki-Campbell breed when reared for egg production consumes 12 to 13 kilograms of feed in 20 weeks. Later on 120-gram feed per day per bird is necessary. Pekin ducks when reared for meat need 5 to 6-kilogram feed per bird for 6 weeks.

Health management

Duck is resistant to most of the common diseases of poultry birds. However, Cholera and Plague are the common diseases of ducks. Cholera is a bacterial disease affecting the ducks after 4 weeks of age. High fever, thirsty, diarrhea and sudden death are the symptoms of Cholera disease. To prevent this put vaccine once at 3 to 4-week stage and once more after one month. Duck plague is a viral disease affecting big ducks. Blood vessels rupture and hemorrhage is seen in all the open cavities of the body of the duck. To prevent this disease put vaccine by 8 to 10-week stage. Duck has the resistance against the roundworm. Hence de-worming is not necessary. Even the mild dose of aflatoxin kills the duck. Hence strictly avoid the feed or grains with mould growth.

Economics of duck farming

Duck meat and eggs are juicy and tasty due to rich fat content. Both have good demand and price in Kerala, West Bengal, and in North-Eastern states. Demand is high between November to January. Khaki-Campbell and Kuttanaadu ducks gain maximum body weight of 1 to 2-kilograms. Whereas the meat breed Pekin gets 2 to 3 kilograms in 60 days. Duck fetches 120 to 150 rupees per kilogram live weight. Eggs sell for INR 8 each. Duck farming can be a subsidiary activity in the fish farms also. Ducks are very common around the houses in the villages of Kerala. Ducks can be sold locally at least in small numbers in any part of the country.

Now the time has come for farming of country birds. Few integration companies started operating exclusively for country birds in Tamil Nadu. These birds are being sold in all parts of the country. The local farmers can sell at competitive price and get better profit. The support from governments and research stations is good and reliable. NABARD provides soft loan on big scale for breeding farms of these country birds. Young farmers in search of new options are expected to exploit this opportunity. Let us hope the country bird farming becomes a big industry like regular poultry in the coming years. Namaskar.