How to Care for
Your New Button Quail
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Origin. Button quail originally came from China. The little guys we see now come from US breeders. Although we originally considered them more of a novelty bird or even a clean up bird in finch cages, there seems to be quite an interest in them around the country. We pretty much kept ours like low rider doves. We waited until this late date to write a page on them because we sold so few of them. Then one of our customers started talking them up, so we decided to make more button quail information available.
Cage Requirements. Low cages with plenty of floor space work best. Most birds spend their time on roosts. Button quail run around on the bottom looking for food and squabbling with each other. So rather than a wire floor (which nearly all cages have these days), put some newspapers on the floor so they won't fall thru. Use the Financial Section, so you get your money's worth. The more room you give them, the less they squabble with each other. Ditto if you give them some mini-shelters. They do prefer to run around the perimeter -- just like a fenced-in German Shepherd (the canine, that is).
Cage Substrate. If you have a herd of them, you'll want to keep them over a mixture of small wood chips (preferably Aspen) and sand to keep their feet free of accretions (look it up). Since we change their reading material daily, accretions don't seem to be a problem. If your button quail do accumulate accretions, you can get rid of them by soaking their feet in warm water.
Water. Button quail need a shallow water bowl -- especially
smaller button quail. Adding marbles supposedly increases the
mount of water they drink. The marbles (more of them) keep
the chicks from falling in and drowning.
Feather Picking. Crowding leads to feather picking. The feather picking is mostly a nuisance -- it makes them unsightly. Severe feather picking can even lead to death -- not common but keep your eyes open. De-feathered button quails are no longer cute as a button.
Button Quail Food. Depends on the day. Sometimes they get parakeet food. Other days they get finch food. The pelleted finch foods are probably best. Many commercial breeders feed turkey mash or turkey crumble. The crumble needs to be ground to the right/bite size. You soon learn to just put a little food in the bowl. They're food strewers. They tend to run thru the food when excited (which is most of the time).
Supplements. Button quail hens are little egg machines. You will need to give yours extra calcium. You can add it to their food, give them a little dish of calcium chips, or just leave a calcium block in their cage. Ordinarily, you'd want to add vitamin D3 to help them utilize their calcium. If you keep them under full spectrum lights, you won't need the D3.
Treats. Like any birds that scratch in the dirt for a living, button quails like insects and worms. Mealworms in their food bowl are probably easiest. They like crickets also, but you have to pull crickets' back legs off or you'll be chasing them all over the house. You can also find canned insects. They don't necessarily need live insects. Like most birds, they also enjoy a bit of boiled egg once in awhile.
Fruits & Vegetables. Give them some but not a lot. If you think of them as mini-chickens, you know they'll probably try anything you give them. Our chickens loved table scraps. They'd even clean up watermelon rinds. Just give them this stuff in small quantities.
Grit: (They don't really need it.) Lots of pros recommend small chicken grit and oyster shell chips because button quail don't husk their seeds. They'll probably eat rocks but they don't need them. They probably also ingest some of the sand in their sand bath.
Sand Bath. Ever see sparrows fluttering in the sand and dust in the gutter? Button quail enjoy a good sand bath also. Put a high rimmed container of sand in there and they'll find it. The high rim helps keep the sand in.
Propagation. Professional quail breeders harvest their eggs
manually and incubate them at just under 100 degrees F at 60% humidity
for 16 to 21 days.
They use automatic incubators that turn the eggs every four hours.
Since we don't have an incubator, we'll see if one or two of the hens
decide to set on their eggs. The chicks hatch out about the size
of a bumblebee and need warm temps. We'll report later if we (or they)
Joe Carrieri, Long Island, NY, May 30, 2007
Hi I read your button quail page and noticed you left out a few things.
1. First it's with breeding. Button quail hens 95% of the time will not incubate eggs in a cage. However they will incubate their eggs in a 3by3by3 foot box. Add about 5 inches of dirt and plastic vines covering 1/2 the box for her to hide and build a nest. Oh and put a lid on the box so they don't fly out. They are amazingly good flyers when given the chance. I recommend that a male be with the female. If aggression or feather picking does arise, separate them. The female cannot be disturbed so only interfere when you need to change the food or water. She will dig a small depression in the dirt and lay her eggs and incubate them. When they hatch, she will raise the chicks successfully.
Or you can put the eggs in an incubator. It's your choice. Breeding them in a box for some is fun and an interesting thing to try.
2. If you raise a button quail chick from a few days old and hand raise it, it will grow up to be amazingly tame, almost parrot tame.
If you try it out, it results in a tame button quails that'll let you scratch their necks and let you pet them.
A: Thanks. I'll add your info to my quail page. LA
A: We probably haven't had button quail for two or three years. Coincidently, we got four of them yesterday. I took the first pictures while Kellie was cleaning their cage. That's why there's no tray in there to keep them off the wires. One of the females had this egg (which Kellie promptly dropped). I'll add these pics to my page. LA
Everdina Butler, July 8, 2010
Hi Larry, Thought you might like this picture of how I kept our button quail...low large and long cage with soft cover on the inside solid top of the cage...bottom lined with soft dried grass clippings...very shallow chick waterer, and chick feeder, along with an open bowl of sand, seed and finely cut fresh grass or greens. The box with a hole cut in the side is an excellent place for hiding and also laying eggs (although they did that any place they felt like it). Really enjoyed their neat little noises they made, very cheerful. Had lots of different colors but I enjoyed the blue/grey color the most...easiest to tell the sexes apart of the brownish ones.
A: Thanks. I'll add your report & picture to my Button Quail page. LA
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