FAQs | Southwest Gamebirds


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the process for ordering from Southwest Gamebirds?

The process for ordering is simple. Follow the prompts on any of our product pages, which will guide you to select from the quantity options and available shipping dates. Enter any special requests in the order notes at checkout, and we will do our best to accommodate. After you order, you will receive an email with your order summary. Be sure to check your spam folder if you do not see this email to ensure that you will receive your shipping notification. We will contact you if we have any questions about your order, otherwise you likely won’t hear from us until your selected ship date. We will then send a second email with tracking information on the day your order ships. If you selected to have your order ship sooner if possible, you will receive your tracking information when the order ships. We typically do not notify you of an earlier-than-scheduled shipment because these decisions are made at the last minute based on cancellations and product availability so please only select this option if you have the flexibility to receive your order earlier than scheduled. 


We send detailed care instructions with every order, so you know exactly how to care for your eggs or birds when they arrive. There is also a wealth of information available on southwestgamebirds.com

How are eggs shipped?

Eggs can be shipped via USPS Priority Mail or USPS Express Priority Mail, based on your preference and budget. Most eggs do fine shipped via Priority Mail, but the estimated delivery time is not guaranteed. Transit times of up to a week are normal and we send the freshest eggs possible with this in mind. As long as the package was not mishandled in the mail (for example, left in the sun/heat), our hatching eggs are not too old to incubate and hatch with this transit time. Express Priority Mail is more expensive, but delivery is more timely and the packages tend to be handled more gently. In our experience, Express Priority Mail is a much more reliable method for getting your eggs quickly and in good shape. With either shipping method, we package the eggs carefully in custom foam packaging, and inspect each egg by hand before shipping. We also send detailed hatching instructions to help you achieve the best results possible with our eggs.

Eggs shipped to Hawaii are sent via airline to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) for inspection and approval, and must be picked up at the airport on the day of arrival.  

How are live birds shipped?

Live birds are only shipped via USPS Express Priority Mail which is the fastest available shipping option from USPS. Because adult birds can overheat in transit, they are only shipped in the cooler months. We raise birds to 6 weeks old to have adequate fat reserves for traveling. We also evaluate each bird individually for physical issues and overall vitality to make sure they are good candidates for the shipping process and likely to thrive in their new homes.  We cannot include food or water in the shipping box, so the birds are allowed free access to food and water until the day they are shipped. We never package birds ahead of their ship date. Shipping is stressful for the birds and it is normal to have to provide special care within the first 72 hours to help the birds recover from the shipping process. We send detailed care instructions with each shipment to help your birds have the best start possible in their new homes. Because nearly every bird survives the journey, we proudly offer a 72 hour live guarantee for all shipped birds. 

Birds shipped to Hawaii are sent via airline to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) for inspection and approval, and must be picked up at the airport on the day of arrival.  

What do I do if my eggs arrive broken or cracked?

We make every effort to make sure eggs are packaged safely so they aren’t broken or cracked during transit, and eggs normally arrive in good condition. When available, we also try to send extras in case a few are cracked in transit. If a large percentage of your eggs arrive damaged, please send pictures of the damaged eggs and the box they were shipped in to info@swgamebirds.com. The pictures help us to determine what may have caused the damage, and make insurance claims with the Post Office when necessary. If the damage was caused by USPS, we will work with them to resolve the issue to make sure future eggs arrive safely.

How many of my eggs will hatch?

On average, 50% of shipped eggs should hatch, but this depends on many variables and can vary dramatically from shipment to shipment depending on how the eggs were handled during shipping. We have also noticed that some lines are more hardy during shipping than others. We recommend that you follow our detailed hatching instructions carefully. If you have an extremely low hatch rate, we recommend opening the eggs and performing an “egg-topsy” to figure out what happened based on the degree of development of the embryos. For information on troubleshooting your hatch, click here. Feel free to send us pictures of your egg-topsy for help identifying potential issues.

Do you offer a hatch rate guarantee?

No. Many factors go into hatching eggs, and shipping adds another layer of complexity to this process. We try our hardest to give you the best chance at a high hatch rate by sending the highest quality eggs in the best packaging possible. However, we do not guarantee hatch rates because of the many variables associated with shipping and hatching eggs. If you have an extremely low hatch rate, we recommend opening the eggs and performing an “egg-topsy” to figure out what happened based on the degree of development of the embryos.  For information on troubleshooting your hatch, click here. If for any reason you are not satisfied with your eggs, please contact us and we will make reasonable accommodations to replace all or part of your order at a discounted rate.

Although some farms offer hatch rate guarantees, we encourage you to understand the “fine print” and read customer reviews about how these guarantees were handled if a hatch rate guarantee is important to your purchasing decision. 

What is your live bird guarantee?

Shipped live quail usually arrive happy and healthy, although they will be very thirsty and hungry! Although we do everything we can to help them make the journey, the shipping process can be stressful for the birds and there are many variables out of our control that can affect the shipping process. We recommend that you follow our detailed instructions carefully, and contact us if you have additional questions. We offer a 72-hour live bird guarantee. Any birds that do not survive for 72 hours after USPS scans the birds as “Delivered” or “Available for pickup” will be refunded or reshipped depending on availability. Your business is important to us, and we want you to purchase our quail with confidence that you will get what you pay for.

What do I do if my live quail arrive injured or dead?

We make every effort to make sure quail are packaged safely so they make the journey through the mail safely and arrive healthy and happy. If your birds arrive injured or dead, please contact info@swgamebirds.com within 3 days for replacement. Please also include pictures of the birds in the box as they arrived and the outside of the box if it was damaged. The pictures help us determine what may have caused the injury or death. If the damage was caused by USPS, we will work with them to resolve the issue to make sure future birds arrive safely.

Can I candle the eggs?

Yes, you can! Most solid-colored eggs, such as duck or chicken eggs, can be easily candled and activity will be noticeable after a few days. Speckled eggs such as quail eggs can be a little tricky but can still be candled with a discerning eye. You will need to rotate the egg and look for a portion that is light colored on the front and back to get the most transparent view of the egg.  After about a week you should be able to identify activity in the egg, and depending on the orientation of the dark and light parts of the shell, you may be able to see the chick as it grows. Regardless of the egg type, it should be easy to separate developing eggs by 1-2 weeks. Developing eggs show white in the air sack and darkness in the yolk area, whereas eggs that are not developing will glow yellow or green. Be quick when candling quail eggs! They can cool down to room temperature within minutes which can kill the developing chicks.

Why aren’t my eggs fertilized?

We test our eggs regularly for fertility, and require 95+% fertilization rates from each pen before we offer hatching eggs for market. Shipped eggs will often appear unfertilized if they experience trauma during transit, such as being dropped, jostling/vibration during a rough transit, or getting too hot or cold. We call them “scrambled eggs”. Fertility cannot be visually confirmed at the blastoderm site after the eggs have been in the incubator for more than about 24 hours. If your eggs don’t hatch, we recommend doing an “egg-topsy” to see if they started to develop or were rendered unviable before incubation. Generally, if an egg does not develop at all, it was damaged during shipping. If it started to develop, but did not hatch, it is likely due to conditions in the incubator. To read more information about incubation, click here.

How long after eggs start moving will they hatch?

If you see the eggs moving during the lockdown process, they are very close to hatching! They will likely begin to hatch within a few hours. Watch for the first egg to pip, and when it has hatched, the rest will be sure to follow within hours. We strongly advise against opening the incubator during hatching and for at least 24 hours after the first egg has pipped because the drop in humidity will cause the membrane to dry and “shrink wrap” the chicks inside the eggs, potentially killing the chicks.

What do I do if my eggs don’t hatch?

There’s a big learning curve for hatching eggs. If you candled your eggs prior to lockdown and they were developing normally, give them an extra few days to hatch. Sometimes shipped eggs develop slower and hatch a few days late. If they don’t hatch, the most common issues are incorrect humidity or temperature. Chicks incubated with too much humidity during the incubation process do not have enough air to survive the hatch, and chicks incubated with too much or too little humidity during lockdown may not be able to break the shell or the membrane surrounding the chick. There could be many other variables, too. To learn more about why eggs might not have hatched, click here.

How fresh are my shipped eggs?

We normally ship eggs that are no more than 3 days old, although they are viable for approximately 10 days. In the unlikely event that USPS delivers your eggs late, they will likely be fine if they were not in transit for more than 7 days. At the end of each week, we incubate our unsold eggs to test viability and maintain each of our lines. In general, we use the oldest eggs for ourselves, and ship the freshest eggs to our customers to give you the best chance of hatching healthy chicks!

How should eggs be stored?

Fertile eggs that are going to be incubated should be stored between 50-70 °F, pointed side down. If they are going to be stored for more than 72 hours, they should be stored at an angle and rotated every 1-6 hours.

Does Southwest Gamebirds take returns?

As part of our effort to keep our flock healthy and secure, and to comply with state laws, we cannot accept returns of eggs or birds to our farm. If for any reason you are not satisfied with your product, please contact us and we will make reasonable accommodations to replace your product at a discounted rate or offer a full or partial refund depending on the circumstances. Please note that perishable items such as eggs are sold “as is” while live birds are guaranteed for 72 hours. 

Do I need a permit to raise birds?

It depends on your state and the type of bird. Most states do not require a permit for any domesticated bird, but some states require a propagation permit to raise quail. We recommend that you check your local laws before purchasing any type of livestock or poultry.

My power went out during incubation. Will my eggs still hatch?

Don’t panic! In nature, a hen will leave the nest during incubation to eat and drink each day. If your power goes out, cover your incubator with as much insulation as you can, such as with heavy blankets or towels, to maintain as high a temperature as possible. Seal any vents in the incubator to decrease air exchange and heat loss. If the power is only out for a few hours, your eggs should still be fine.

My incubator overheated. Will my eggs still hatch?

If your incubator did not go above 102 °F, your birds may still hatch! If the incubator reaches a temperature over 104 °F for an extended period of time, the hatch rate will decrease substantially. We recommend troubleshooting the incubator, increasing ventilation, decreasing the ambient temperature in the room, or making sure the incubator is not in direct sunlight.

Can I help my chicks hatch?

This is a hotly debated subject, and we must admit we have helped chicks hatch from time to time ourselves. We have a strict rule never to help a chick hatch that will be used for breeding stock, as we believe that only the strongest chicks should be included in and of our breeding programs. However, we have nothing against helping a chick hatch that will become a pet or be used for meat or egg production. From a practical standpoint, a chick that is not strong enough to hatch will generally have physical limitations, or it will be weak and may not survive anyway. For this reason, we do not recommend the practice, even though we understand the urge to intervene. If multiple chicks are hatching during the lockdown process, opening the incubator will release humidity, which can quickly dry the membrane around pipped or partially hatched chicks, causing them to suffocate. If you absolutely cannot resist the urge to help a chick hatch, only do so after the majority of the other chicks have finished hatching and are ready to be removed from the incubator, so as to not endanger the other chicks.

How big will my quail get?

Japanese quail are typically classed into three size categories: bantam, standard, and jumbo sizes. In general, for a line to be considered a specific size category, at least 75% of the birds should conform to the average size range when raised under the proper conditions. We do our best to provide accurate size ranges for both birds at maturity and eggs from each of our lines based on the weights we see at our farm, however these sizes can vary for individual birds and can be affected by husbandry practices such as proper brooding and nutrition. Additionally, size ranges can shift from generation to generation depending on breeder selection methods. Because environmental and nutritional conditions may vary, we do not guarantee that our live birds (which may not be finished growing at the time of shipment) or birds hatched from our eggs will reach specific sizes or stay in specific size ranges advertised as “average”.

What should I feed my quail?

Quail need a high-protein game bird feed. Quail should be fed a game bird/turkey starter feed with 30% protein and no more than 1.5% calcium until they are 7-8 weeks old. At 7-8 weeks, the quail should be transitioned to a game bird or turkey layer/breeder/all-purpose feed with 20-22% protein and 2-3 % calcium. Your birds will be ~6 weeks old and can be fed starter feed for up to two weeks after shipment to help them recover from stress due to transit and relocation.

Will my quail fly?

Domestic quail are not great flyers, but they are very good at what we call “assisted jumping”. Coturnix can jump and fly a few yards, and a small percentage can maintain flight for short bursts. Most, however, prefer to stay on the ground.