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Help & Advice with keeping indoor quails

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Hello! We only just yesterday purchased two quails to go in with our two zebra finches (both birds are in couples of male and female)

We bought them as we felt awful for them - horrendous conditions in the shop.

We were looking for advice on what we should be doing with them, how to care for them etc.

I asked as many questions as I could to the man in the shop but he wasn't that knowledgeable on them.

I rang today to ask what breed they were, he said Chinese quails.


He said that keeping a male and a female together will be fine...????

The female I chose has had most of her plumage on the back pulled out, poor thing, so I was hoping to have her in my care so she can fully recover.


They already seem a lot brighter and not so scared which is great. All birds seem to be used to each other already.


All we purchased was some awful chalky looking grain for them from the mans suggestion. They seem to be more interested in our finch food, is this okay??


My partner is in the process of building them a small house as I feel like they need a little bit of cover, and I think we will also make them a sand box.


Our floor to the cage is a sand sheet. We have some of our finch nesting material on the floor too which the quails seem to love rummaging around in!


We were thinking of giving them an "exercise hour" or two each day from the cage. We have our birds in the kitchen so it's a very safe space for them, the floor space doesn't have any gaps for them to get stuck and they'd be supervised at all times.


If I could just please have as much advice as possible, we want to give them the best care possible as the standards really weren't too great in the shop.


Happy to answer further questions!!

Many thanks.

post #2 of 4

Congratulations with your new buttons! And :welcome 

You seem to be going in the right direction in general.

One male and one female should be fine with Chinese Painted Quail aka Button quail aka King quail - they have even more names than that ;) Though the female might have lost her feathers due to over breeding in the old cage or she might have been pecked at by the other birds. I'd keep a close eye on them and if you see the male pecking at her, I'd separate them to allow her feathers to grow back, but as that can take quite long I hope it won't be necessary.

I'm not sure what the man in the shop gave you to feed them. My buttons get game bird feed, which I grind up so it's almost powder. They also prefer millet seeds and similar, but if I am to believe what others on this forum say, millet is too low in protein for buttons. They will live, but they won't compare to birds that are fed a proper diet. A bird in the process of regrowing feathers will need much protein in particular. Also, game bird feed usually has added vitamins in suitable amounts for the birds, so you don't need to worry about that. You want something with close to 25 % protein (usually starter feeds, turkey feed is also used by many). Starter feeds don't have enough calcium for laying birds though, so you will want to give them extra calcium (I use powdered oyster shell in a separate bowl).

I made a house for mine, with a small, button-sized opening, which they don't use. I also have a tunnel, which they do like to use. So if you are making a house, I'd give it at least two openings and make them relatively large. Fake plants are also good to give them cover.

Sand sheets shouldn't be used, neither for buttons or for other birds - the intention is to wear the claws down, but in fact the entire foot is exposed to the sharp bits of sand, I've seen some ugly pictures of parrots with wounds on their feet from either sand sheets or the sand pipes you can get for the branches. Wood shavings, wood chips, plain sand or similar is better for the buttons. If you don't cover the entire cage in sand, a sand box is indeed a very good idea.

Exercise outside the cage might work, but in general buttons don't like being handled, so it might stress them to be taken from and put back into the cage. You can give it a try and decide for yourselves.


One last thing I'm wondering, is what kind of cage you have them in. 50 cm. high with wire top caused bald patches on the heads of two buttons I had - they boinked into the cage top. Some buttons kill themselves by boinking, I think the risk of that is higher with a taller cage where they can gain more speed before hitting the top. I make my own button cages now and pad the top with foam rubber or fabric, but I have a feeling that wouldn't go well with the finches.

Edited by DK newbie - 1/15/16 at 6:54am
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Ah thank you, and thank you for getting back to me! :-)


When we were watching them last night he did seem a bit nippy with her. We were told to wait a short while to see if he realises the female is all his and hopefully that will stop. When I monitor them again I'll see if he has calmed down, if not I will think about separating sooner than advised as she is missing a lot.


Ahh okay, so would it be advised to purchase a starter feed for now then, or shall they stay on that forever? With the powdered oyster shell seperate?


I'm glad you said about the two openings, we nearly purchased a ready made house with just the one. None of them looked particularly big enough though. Great idea about the fake plants!!!


Oh Gosh I didn't realise about that being harmful to their feet!!! We just went for that due to it being easy to clean, just scooping that up and laying another! If we were to have just an almost laminated type cardboard base (awful description I know) with scatterings of sand and wood chips would you think that would be okay?? I'm just trying to think of easy wiping and cleaning?!?? As we currently have that under the sand sheet.


I'm very excited to see them playing around in the sand box once that is done - sounds very entertaining to watch!


In regards to getting them out for exercise, we were also thinking of trying to make them feel safer with us by feeding mealworms through the bars for maybe a couple of weeks? And then see how they feel to be handled for then?


I have just checked online and I think I have found the right cage, it stands at 74cm? It MIGHT not be the correct one however picture looks fairly similar. Is the extra height okay for them? If it isn't, we'd be mroe than happy to look at padding the top. The finches never stray near to there so I wouldn't imagine it would bother them??


Sorry for all the questions!!!! I really appreciate all the help!! 

post #4 of 4

You're welcome ^^

Button quail don't do well alone, so if it becomes necessary to separate them, you should keep them where they can see each other - preferably separated by a single layer of wire. I've never had birds pecking each other (except from a male that boinked into a branch and got a small gash on his head once - the others just couldn't leave the blood alone) so I might not be the best adviser on that, but I've read that it can become a kind of habitual behavior they'll always be doing, which is why I'd want to stop it right away if I see them doing it. And I imagine he would be less likely to peck at her, if she looks 'normal' - i.e., is fully feathered. Pecking might also be caused by stress and malnutrition, so simply living in a calm place and getting good feed for a while, might reduce the risk of pecking, provided it hasn't already become habitual.

I've only had buttons for a bit under a year, but the general recommendation on here is to keep them on the starter feed their whole life. Currently mine are getting 'Grower' feed which is lower in protein, but that's solely because the manufacturer doesn't make starter feed during the winter, which I wasn't aware of (the idiots think that just because people don't hatch pheasants in the winter nobody will buy their feed, they don't realize what they make is one of the most suitable and cheapest quail feeds there is ;) ). And yes, powdered oyster shell in a separate bowl, so they can decide for themselves how much they need. I probably refill my oyster shell bowls once a month or so currently, they don't eat much but they do eat it.

With regards to bedding, I'd give them more than just 'scatterings', both to make sure they have good footing and not a slippery 'laminated cardboard' and because I imagine that their poop is likely to become smeared all over this cardboard and I imagine it could get rather nasty ^^ For easy cleaning, I can recommend sand, provided that doesn't give problems with regards to the finches (I know parrots can get 'crop impaction' from eating too much sand, but I don't know about finches). I have buttons on sand in my room and it has the great advantage that you don't need to change it all when cleaning the cage, you can just use a cat litter shovel to remove the droppings.

Meal worms from the hand for trust is a good idea (though they might be a little big?). I use bugs from the garden, flies and such and it does make them calmer and more curious about me, but not to the extent that they'll voluntarily let me touch them.

The cage height is only a problem if they boink, but I find it more likely than not that they will, at some point, when something scares them. Maybe they won't get hurt at all, but they might also die from it, so better safe than sorry. I've never had finches, but I'm very convinced my budgies would try to eat/shred any kind of padding I might add to their cage ^^

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