1 week old aggressive quail - what should I do?


In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 22, 2013
Hi, I've been lurking at this site for a while, but I couldn't find an answer to this question, so I went ahead and joined! I'm hoping you all can give me some advice.

I have seven coturnix in the brooder right now, they are now 7 days old. One of them has become aggressive towards the others, systematically going to each bird and yanking out a feather. he/she started this yesterday, and it went on for an hour or two, during which the other birds did not eat or sleep, they spent all of their time and energy trying to avoid this one bird. I thought maybe it was a normal pecking order establishment thing and the behavior would desist once the aggressor felt secure, but he/she didn't stop. No one in the brooder was getting any food or sleep.

So I put the aggressive quail in a separate little bin under the same lamp and within earshot of the other birds. He/she HATES it. crying all the time, clearly wants to be with the other birds. The other birds seemed delighted that the aggressive bird was gone, immediately settling into regular eating and napping patterns.

After a few hours in solitary we put the lonely bird back with the others and he/she immediately went back to yanking feathers, so we did a few more hours in solitary. The second time we tried to integrate the bird back in, he/she yanked a couple feathers but then settled down and soon everyone was happily napping together.

This morning the aggressive bird is back to yanking feathers. Still not picking on any one other bird, but moving from one to the next, with all the other birds fleeing in terror and scratching at the sides of the brooder like they want to escape. So I put him in solitary again...

Is there anything else I could/should do? Should I keep the aggressive bird on its own? Is the feather yanking normal and should I just let it happen? None of the other quail are yanking each others feathers or showing any aggressive behavior. I would love any suggestions you all have as this is my first time with quail!

(note: I do have them under a red light, but in a room that also gets plenty of daylight and we use the overhead light when we're in the room sometimes, but we haven't been doing so during normal darkness hours, so I don't think they're getting too much white light...)
Welcome to BYC and the quail forums!

A few things make chicks turn on each other....being too cramped in and too warm brooder temps. They are 7 days old today? The temp in the brooder should now be down to 90 degrees, lowing it by 5 degrees each week. So today, lower it to 90. If they appear to be a tad warm at this temp and they little guy is still going off on each other, lower it 1 or 2 degrees today, no more.

Give them lots of space. Quail turn cannibalistic when they feel squeezed in. So give them as much space as you can.

If you are doing all this and still the little guy goes after then others, then you are already on the right track. Separate him. And keep him that way for at least a week maybe 2. Then try mixing him in again. Sometimes this changes their behavior. Sometimes not, and they just have a screw loose from the start.

Keep us posted. Good luck and enjoy the forums!
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I actually may have had my brooder too cold for most of the time they've been in it, I've mostly been using the quail themselves as a thermometer, but yesterday I put an actual thermometer in there and while it's not in the actual hottest spot in the brooder, it's close and registering only 80 degrees right now after raising the lamp a bit. For most of the whole time the little quail have been happily spread out around the brooder, or if anything, slightly avoiding the absolute hottest spot (they prefer hanging out in the 'medium' area of the brooder).

I also don't think crowding is an issue, I've only got 7 week old quail in a space that's about 2 feet by 1.5 feet. They have plenty of room to run around and play. They can all eat at once, all drink at once, etc.

I'll keep the little guy separate for a while longer and try re-introducing him/her again later today. If that doesn't work I might separate it for longer, like you suggest. It's just so sad, it's crying all the time, pacing back and forth by the wall where it can see it's clutch mates and pecking at the wall of the brooder. I wish I could explain to it that I want to put it back, but if I do, it has to promise not to be a jerk!
We had a similar issue when we introduced new birds to our 4 week olds. Our 'leader bird' roo started chasing the new birds trying to grab their feathers. Tried pulling him out for an hour or two and he was back at it again. We gave him overnight solitary in view of the group, he acted pitiful wanting to go back to his flock, but in the morning he was on his best behavior when he was let back in with them and hasn't been an issue since.
I would try a 12-24 hour separation and if it doesn't work go for longer. A couple hours didn't seem to be enough he make our guy fear loneliness enough to be nice!

Good luck!

So after being separated for a few hours yesterday morning, I put the little offender back in with the others and he/she has been playing nice so far. I put in a little plate of chopped apple (their favourite treat so far!) into the big brooder just before I put him/her in, so that there was something immediately more interesting to do/eat than pluck the other quail's feathers. The distraction seemed to work, because they all happily ate through most of the apple and then passed out in a collective food coma. It was pretty funny actually.

But anyways, so far so good! Who knew that putting quail in "time out" was an effective way to train their behaviour? :)

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