Dealing with homicidal coturnix quail

Discussion in 'Quail' started by Amina, Jan 14, 2017.

  1. Amina

    Amina Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A little over 7 weeks ago, I hatched out some coturnix quail. They turned out to be 9 hens and 2 roos, which I kept together in a 3' x 4' cage in my sunroom. Well, about a week ago, I went to refill their food and water and saw that one of the roos had been badly scalped. I removed him from the group to a cage by himself, where he has been recovering nicely. I figured maybe I made a mistake by keeping the two roos together past 6 weeks of age, and hoped to not have another problem. Then yesterday, I heard a bunch of commotion and went to check on them, and all of the quail were freaking out, trying to get away, but I couldn't tell which quail they were trying to get away from. I then noticed that one of the hens had her neck area badly cut open. I removed her and put her in a separate cage, which now leaves me with 8 hens and 1 roo in a 12 sq ft space.

    Any ideas of how to deal with this situation? I am experienced with chickens, but this is my first attempt at raising quail and I don't know what I'm doing wrong, if anything. The breeder I got the eggs from says the last time she had to cull a quail for aggression was six years ago, and she hatches out a ton of quail, so I can't imagine that the line of quail that I got would be particularly aggressive.
     
  2. Binki

    Binki Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hmm you can sometimes find the aggressor by blood on the beak/chest but blood will also attract other birds to peck at it - the most common situation I'm imagining is the remaining rooster did it while trying to mate like a hormonal noob and she's not ready/not accepted him so she tried to get away and he wasn't pulling on her feathers but her skin so when he hung on it tore, he could also possibly have an extra sharp beak, I find putting finch seed mix in their sand bath encourages them to peck around which helps to blunt their beaks a bit.

    I would monitor them as much as possible so you can discover what the problem is and that's how it will be solved :)
     
  3. Amina

    Amina Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've also been thinking maybe the remaining roo is the perpetrator... I'm used to chickens so I'm not quite sure what is normal with quail, but he's awfully persistent in mating with the hens (at least a lot more persistent than any chicken rooster I've raised). He chases them around constantly and they never cooperate, that I have seen. A couple times, I've seen him try to mount a hen who just wasn't cooperating. She kept walking which resulted in both of them falling over on their sides, with him still clinging on. Having witnessed this, it's easy to imagine him ripping open their necks.

    Regardless, I thought maybe it would help if I split the remaining group up into two. So I put 4 hens and a roo in one cage, and just 4 hens in the other cage. When I split them up, I also leg banded them and clipped their wing feathers, and I noticed that one hen in each cage has a bit of prolapse. Ugh, my quail-keeping adventure is not going well at all! I pushed it back in and put some hemorrhoid cream on it. I went back out later to check on them and there were droplets of blood here and there in the cage with only hens. I looked at each hen closely, especially around the neck area where previous injuries have been, but I couldn't find any wounds. Since I couldn't find any wounds, I'm not sure whether to think the bully must be one of the hens in that cage. I have noticed that the atmosphere in the cage with only hens seems much more relaxed and peaceful though, whereas the atmosphere in the other cage seems pretty high strung. Maybe the blood came from the prolapse??

    At this rate I am seriously thinking of culling every last one of them. :(
     
  4. JaeG

    JaeG Overrun With Chickens

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    Sometimes you do get an overly aggressive male. It's common for the male to mount hens in front of you whether he's a darling or a horror, but the hens should be happy about it if they like him. But a highly strung, nervous male does not make for a happy group and hens don't lay well if stressed. Some colours are more prone to being highly strung too. I'm in New Zealand and here it's the British range colours that aren't as friendly and are more nervous/aggressive. I think I've read whites can be more aggressive in the U.S. but don't quote me on that.

    You may have to sit and observe for awhile to figure out who is causing trouble. It could be a female - they can be just as nasty if they want to be. The hens are old enough to accept the advances of your males and if they haven't started laying yet I would say stress is a factor.

    We love our quail and most are friendly, some to the point of waiting at the front of the cage for some attention when we go to see them. Our gold girl, Flutter, loves a pat. Once you sort out what's going on you will find they are sweet little things, I hope. But one bad egg can make life miserable for the others.
     
  5. Binki

    Binki Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Are you keeping them for breeding or for edible eggs? If not for breeding, you would have just hens and you wouldn't have to worry about roo mating issues, which is similar to that of a chicken rooster in that he needs enough girls to mate with so he doesn't damage them or their feathers.

    I'm thinking the issue is mainly young maturing males and females, the males maturing faster than the females and not really knowing how to go about mating properly because of their inexperience and raging hormones and the females aren't mature and so aren't interested.

    Two prolapses and they haven't started to lay yet? I don't have any prolapse experience - just an idea, maybe a vent pecker?

    Quail are very much like chickens, including the fact if they see blood or a shiny wound they will peck at it so make sure those girls aren't getting pecked on :)

    you could also keep the roo seperated until the girls are mature in a few weeks probably and they will chirp for him if they want to mate :p

    I wouldn't cull them all, the hens have a good chance at being low maintenance, provide them with a dustbath and places to break the line of sight/hide if they want to be alone or if they're submitting to a more dominant hen will give them something to expend their energy on and get safely away if there is more aggression which would likely just be competition.
     
  6. Binki

    Binki Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh yes and they can be really great animals, I have a tame male who demands attention as well as some females who like to be talked to (not handled) and they will start sprinting around and popcorning, hopping like a spazzy puppy showing that they're happy and two other hens that love to cuddle, one is obsessed with me :p

    Give them some more time? :)
     
  7. Amina

    Amina Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the encouragement. I think six of the females are laying, because I'm generally getting 4 eggs but sometimes 6 eggs a day. I'm also getting a lot of double yolk eggs right now, which might explain the prolapse. But considering that a lot of the females are laying, it seems strange to me that the females always run away from this male. I suppose it could be that they don't always run away, but perhaps by the time I'm seeing them, they've already been mated with several times that day and are tired of it. If they do ever cooperate with the male, would they "squat" like chicken hens do?

    I have the quail primarily for the eggs, but I really wanted to breed my own stock too. I guess separating out the other male and putting him back in for "dates" would be an option...
     
  8. Amina

    Amina Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh, and I've had a dust bath in this whole time. And then after the first attack, I added another box full of straw as a hiding place. It didn't help. I don't know... maybe I should have made it darker in the hiding place box?

    Also, these are jumbo pharaoh quail. Do they have a reputation for being extra mean?
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  9. JaeG

    JaeG Overrun With Chickens

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    Yes, females will squat for the male to mount her and make little cheeping noises, and are happy to do it as many times as he wants to, as long as they like him. They are very patient! If they don't like him they will try and run away, and generally act anxious. Males can be relentless so if you can remove him and see if everything calms down it might be a good idea. The girls should all be fine together - just keep an eye on them. They have great memories and I have changed around my groups from time to time and they seem to remember each other, despite not having seen each other in a year, though they would've still been close enough to hear each other.

    A good male will also tidbit food for his girls, rumbling to tell them this is good to eat, and let them eat first of course. Our first male also built nests for his girls to lay in. He's still alive and has always been a sweetheart. We recently had a young boy we wanted to keep but we didn't have any girls for him. He lived on his own for awhile and would start rumbling whenever we gave him treats, tidbitting to his imaginary girlfriends. It was very cute.

    A not so nice male isn't as polite!

    I know chickens that often lay double yolkers are more prone to prolapse so the same is probably true of quail. I've never had a double yolker from mine or experienced prolapse (touch wood). It may just be that, because they have been bred to be bigger birds, they may experience more problems the longer they live, having been bred to slaughter young and give a good sized 'meal'. Or it could be stress playing a part causing them to release two at the same time, creating bigger eggs etc. My quail are just standard sized and at 2 years of age are all still fit as fiddles and the girls still lay daily, though I've always allowed them a break over winter.

    What percentage of protein is in the food you are feeding them? Too high a protein content can cause larger eggs which in turn can cause prolapse. I cannot get gamebird feed where I live in New Zealand so mine get Meatbird Crumble which is 20% protein, with egg or sprouted alfalfa as treats to make up the shortfall. I think most people have their laying quail on 24% protein.

    I hope you sort this out as they really are sweet little things. Our kids love them as they are so easy to pick up and hold.
     
  10. Binki

    Binki Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Great advice and questions :)
     

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