Button quail hen plucking and eating feathers?!

Discussion in 'Quail' started by LaceyNylons, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. LaceyNylons

    LaceyNylons Hatching

    Aug 12, 2011
    Hi everyone!

    My button quail pair successfully hatched a small handful of eggs right before Christmas 2013. Three babies made it to the two month mark and have now found forever homes :)

    Prior to hatching the baby quail, Mumma bird (Cinebun) has never picked at her man's (Peep-peep) feathers before. This behaviour started when the babies reached the end of three weeks old and were still all living together. The baby quail were yet to grow all their adult feathers and still seemed to be learning 'life skills' from Cinebun and Peep-peep. We were planning on moving the babies at the beginning of week 4 to give the parents some space.

    I think perhaps Cinebun felt crowded or stressed as she picked most of the feathers off Peep-peep's back!

    The babies were then transferred immediately to a new home, and Cinebun and Peep-peep had their home partitioned with fly screen mesh. This was to stop Cinebun from feather plucking whilst still allowing the two birdies to interact on some level. Peep-peep's back was sprayed with Blue-Kote to try and assist with his healing and to deter Cinebun's fixation with his bare skin.

    Peep-peep's feathers all grew back, so the partition was removed. Cinebun went straight back to feather plucking!

    She appears to be eating the feathers as well as small bits of shredded paper used for nesting! I can't find anything on the internet about this kind of behaviour, and have no idea what to do about it.

    Both birdies are partitioned again. Cinebun eats a healthy, high protein diet (high protein turkey crumble, mixed budgie breeder seeds, shell grit, zucchini / broccoli / Australian native plants / silverbeet etc). We have recently been adding boiled and mashed egg to her diet in case she needs more protein. We have also been covering her home at night to shorten her daylight hours and have been moved the things in her home around to maybe snap her out of her nasty new habit.

    Can anyone shed some light on this behaviour and what we can do to stop it?



  2. owlett5

    owlett5 In the Brooder

    Aug 15, 2007
    Turner, Maine
    I've heard that a red light can help to reduce picking, not sure if it would help, but they do sell something called a chicken saddle which is to keep the feathers on a chicken's back while mating.

    Maybe you can make a teeny quail saddle? Something to let his feathers grow back until she loses interest in him?
  3. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    New Mexico, USA
    My Coop
    Feather picking can be a result of stress, a poor diet, improper ratio of birds, boredom or a habit. So you need to determine which one of these it might be. Since you have them on a good diet, they may feel their environment is stressful. They may feel cramped in, too hot, too cold, something is missing from the diet. They may have nothing better to do, or worse yet, it has now become a habit. And habits are hard to break in birds.

    You may be able to fix the issue if it is one of the above with the exception of the habit. I have never been able to break my quail or chickens of bad habits similar to this.
  4. GrandmaBird

    GrandmaBird Songster

    May 28, 2012
    You said this started when the chicks were about 4 weeks? This is the way the hen would tell the roo that she is not ready to mate and to keep him from mating. I am sure that when you removed the chicks you might have, not intentionally, made more stress on her. I would keep them separated completely, no sight of each other, for a few weeks and then reintroduce them. Be sure that she is getting plenty of protein and oyster shell or other form of calcium. They eat the feathers so not to leave their scent around for predators to find. Hope this helps.

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