New to Button Quail, would love some advice!


In the Brooder
6 Years
Sep 9, 2013
Hello! I'm new to this forum, and to Button Quail. Yesterday, I purchased 4 adult female buttons from a local pet shop that need some love. Apparently they had them in with a male that did some serious damage to their feathers, skin, and some toes. One had a moderate-pretty badly overgrown beak, which the shop workers filed down once I pointed it out. I understand that I'll probably have to watch that beak and it will likely have to be trimmed again in the future. On my way home from the pet shop, I discovered mites crawling out of the box (which makes me particularly angry since they specifically promised me there would be no parasites on or in my new quail). They birds are extremely flighty and terrified of human contact. So, obviously I have some work ahead of me to get these little ladies healthy and happy!

Their housing set-up is a bit unorthodox, but seems to be working well so far. I bought the biggest clear plastic storage bin I could find, and used velcro strips to attach a fine mesh tulle "roof" with enough give that they won't hurt themselves when they startle. I'm planning on drilling a few extra ventilation holes when I can get my hands on some power tools. For bedding, I lined the bottom with paper, and added a few inches of aspen shavings. I'm currently using cardboard boxes as hiding places, but I'll replace those with something more permanent as I see what they do and don't like.

My short term goals are these:

1) Fix the mite issue.

This is extremely important because I have a cherished pet cockatiel that must not be exposed. The quail are quarantined in a separate room, but I'd like to be extremely proactive with this. I purchased some mite treatments online that should be here tomorrow or the next day, but I would LOVE some advice in this if anyone has experience! The products I ordered are "Sevin Dust" and "8 in 1 UltraCare Mite and Lice Spray" which contains Pyrethrin.

2) Get them on a better diet.

They're currently eating 100% seeds. I ordered a bag of game bird crumbles, which seems to be a more species-appropriate diet, and I'd like to wean them onto this gradually so it becomes the bulk of their diet. I'm also planning on feeding them fruit and veggies, as I find out what they like, and egg.

3) Encourage healthy feather growth.

The best bird is about 15% plucked with good possibility of feather re-growth, and the worst is probably 50% plucked, with more limited hope of fully feathering out. I'm hoping a better diet and more space to roam will help, but I've also been giving them a feather conditioning supplement in their water. Any tips on helping them re-grow feathers?

4) Discourage picking.

This is the goal I'm most indecisive about. They don't rip into each other or anything overtly aggressive, but they do pull at each other's feathers from time to time. I noticed the healthiest bird doing the most picking, so I set up a temporary separate enclosure for her and removed her from the others a few minutes ago. I'm not sure if this is actually the best plan. They have been calling to each other a little, but they can see each other so they don't seem too terribly upset. The other 3 do still pick at each other, but seemingly not quite as much. I don't know if the "Alpha" being gone will encourage one of the others to start acting more dominant and picking more, or not. I wonder if I should just set up 4 temporary enclosures for each bird for the first few weeks until their feathers start to fill in? Would separation be worth the stress of being lonely? I'd really appreciate some input on this issue!!!

5) Adequate calcium.

Since my quail are all (hopefully!) female, I'm particularly concerned about their calcium levels. I've read that oyster shell is a good supplement, but I don't know enough about it for button quail. Is it small enough for them? Or, should I just use a caged bird calcium supplement to be mixed in with food?

6) Healthy beak conditioning.

How can I help the bird with beak issues? I would assume a better diet and calcium will help some, but is there anything else I can do for her? Would button quail know what to do with a mineral block or cuttlebone?

7) Human interaction.

Eventually, I'd like for them to at least be comfortable when I change their food and water and bedding. I know this will just take time and patience.

I would appreciate any advice or tips anyone has for me! Getting these little ladies healthy is going to be quite an adventure!

Just for fun: The light-colored, mostly naked bird on the bottom is Marion, the medium-brown to her right is Elizabeth, the dark brown at the top left is (probably) Boadicea, or maybe Eleanor (her name hasn't been decided yet), and the dark naked one to the right is Lady Godiva, who has the beak issues, and was named after A) the story of the mythical/historical Lady Godiva riding naked through the street for the sake of her people and B) the color of Godiva dark chocolate. We've ended up going with a strong British women -type theme. Hopefully they'll live up to their namesakes and grow to be strong, feisty little ladies!
Welcome to BYC and the quail forums!

I don't keep Button Quail. "GrandmaBird" knows all about Buttons. LOL

But I just wanted to say you have some mighty cute birds there and wish you great luck with them!
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Thanks so much for the welcome! Hopefully somebody who knows about buttons will see my post and offer some advice

The girls got scrambled egg for the first time today, and were so happy they didn't know what to do with themselves! Maybe someone can tell me, how much egg should they be getting at a time, and how often should they get it? Thanks!
Welcome to the crazy world of the Button! I will try to help the best I can. First where are you located? There is a great book that you can buy online see it here:

this is written by Jodi McDonald and she is the Button Queen (in my eyes anyway). Her book will tell you all about the buttons and their care, housing and health.

For now I can address a few of your concerns

!. Mites! yikes treat them as soon as possible with a treatment made for cage birds or poultry. Do keep them quarantined for 2-3 weeks after the mite treatments are finished!

2. & 5. Diet should be 50% game bird feed and 50% good quality finch seed. You can give them treats as often as everyday but do not give them more then 5 mealworms per week as they are very fattening. They love grass, broccoli, other leafy greens, fruit just no apple seeds, corn, and chicken egg. NO avocado or chocolate. I boil an egg and run it in a tiny blender shell and all they love it and that gives them extra calcium. Which was another of your questions, do give them additional calcium. I like using oyster shell that is sold for cage birds it is small enough for the buttons. Do not use cuttlebone as it is said to have higher amounts of mercury in it, from the ocean.

3 & 4. Pecking feathers. the photo looks like they have been over mated and possibly over crowded. The feathers will grow back the best thing is to be sure they are warm enough, 68-78F and fed well.

6. Healthy beak. you will need to watch the beak for overgrowth but if she is eating a good diet and can peck around it should be kept short enough. But do watch it.

7. It is extremely hard to get these birds "tame" but they will soon relax and be less flighty when you are working in or near them. It takes everyone getting used to each other.

Now are you planning on getting a male or do you know for sure these birds are all female? if you want to have males and females it is best to keep them in single pairs, one male and one female per enclosure. This is how the live in the wild but that said lots of folks try to keep them in groups. This can lead to fights and even death for some birds as well as them never really calming down for you. If you can get photos of the underside near the butt/vent area especially of the dark faced ones I can try to identify if they are males or not. It looks like two males and two females but it is hard to tell from this photo.

As for the cage a regular 18x18 finch cage with the wire bottom covered would be fine for them and if you can give them more room then that it would be better. My pair are in a 18 deep 18 high 36 wide finch flight cage and they are very happy in it. I have nonskid shelf lining on the bottom wire then aspen wood shavings on that.
One thing we did not touch was a bath. These little guys love a sand bath. I put about 2 inches of clean construction grade sand in a 8 inch cake pan and it stays in the cage at all times. They love it and it is so fun to watch them. I think your birds would like one now to help with the mites but be sure to either treat the sand or replace it during treatment.

hope this helps!
and again welcome!
Thanks so much for getting back to me! What makes you think I have males? I am really hoping they are all female, to avoid the issues I've read males bring. I do actually mostly trust the pet shop they came from, in spite of the mite issue (when I called and told them about the mites, they did refund me the entire purchase price and shut their entire bird department down so they can treat all their birds). They assured me they are females because the breeder sexed them before they got them in the store and they are all adults, so presumably the breeder would know, then they were all picked on by the one male the store had, and none of mine showed the crowing that apparently males do. Of course, they are hardly button quail experts! Ideally, I don't want to add any new birds to my little group. I'm happy not breeding, just enjoying them as they are. If I do have males, I suppose I'll hope I can separate the group into pairs. At this point, I'm afraid to catch them and hold them so I can take pictures of their vents since they're still so stressed. Hopefully in a few weeks I can get them healthier and a little less terrified.

I'm ordering finch-sized oyster shell, and I'll have to get some sand. I love your idea of treating the sand to help with the mites. Today I caught them taking a "dust bath" with aspen shavings, which was pretty hilarious. I gave them egg this morning, which they LOVED, and chopped broccoli, which they were much more ambivalent about, but they did pick at it some. I'll have to try your way of making egg to utilize the shell too. How frequently should they be given egg?

Thank you SO MUCH for your help!!! Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think I see a few more feathers growing in already!
Without seeing the underside of the dark ones I would have to go with what you have been told. And until the feathers grow back it is harder to tell anyway.

With the treats, I always cut the bushy ends/tops/flower off the broccoli and put them into a dish same with all the veggies, plus I squeeze the innards out of the corn kernels and cut them up a bit, and super fine diced fruit but I spoil my guys. I give treats almost everyday at the same time and they have gotten so they watch for me to bring it to them!

I don't know who scared you of the males but I love the little crow and I keep my birds in the main room of the house. I do cover them at night so the male doesn't call all night. He will once in a great while not all night just once or twice, seems to be when we have a full moon! He is just warning others this is his territory! Speak of the devil he is calling/crowing at the female right now and she is answering with a cute little peeping. I love these guys they are so dang cute! But be warned they are addicting. It is all I can do not to get more. I did raise a batch of their chicks last summer but its more work then it looks like. And this year I let the female incubate and she hatched out one little girl. She is still with mom and dad and is doing fine. She will be ready for adoption in a couple weeks. But no more, I will remove the eggs now, besides it is getting to be winter and I am hoping she slows down on her laying.

Sorry I wrote a book!
Enjoy your silly birds!
First of all, poor birds! This is why pet shops should be illegal. You should report them. >:-(

At any rate, you've rescued them and they have a chance to be cared for.

The first issue - and probably the most important - is the feather picking. This is generally because of a lack of protein. Feathers are mostly protein, and it may turn to cannibalism if gone too long (chickens will do this as well). Feed them gamebird crumbles, or anything that is at least 28% protein, or supplement their diet with ground beef and scrambled eggs.

Can you get them a little aviary outdoors, or something like a rabbit grazing pen so they can get at some bugs, dirt for minerals, grasses, and sunlight?

If not I suggest a full spectrum UV light.

Look on craigslist for old aquariums and make it a planted terrarium for them. Post an ad asking for someone to donate their old aquarium to house rescued birds. Put some nice bushy plants in there, a sand pit for grit and dusting, and some good places to hide. Drop in any little bugs or flies that you can find to entertain them. Give lots of seed variations like flax, chia, amaranth, or whatever you have lying around. You can also give finch food for treats.

As far as taming them, I'd put their habitat in a high traffic area, and also feed them bits of ground beef or egg by hand if possible. I hatch buttons and raise from chicks, so mine are like little dogs that travel around with me to the store and park and such. I'm not sure if adults who have never been handled can be tamed, but they should at least calm down and not go crazy every time you go around them.

Good luck, you have a sweet heart. :)

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