Quail food without a package

Discussion in 'Quail' started by forestforghosts, Dec 21, 2012.

  1. forestforghosts

    forestforghosts In the Brooder

    Dec 16, 2012
    West Coast, Canada
    Since I picked up my two button quail chicks, I have been scouring the internet for information on game bird feed alternatives, but it seems most people simply opt for the convenience of prepackaged feed. Forgive me if I missed a major thread somewhere, but as an aspiring homesteader, hardcore DIYer, and someone with a keen interest in the actual part-by-part diet of my animals, I would love to get some experienced input on what these little birds need in a daily meal, in some form other than nutrient percentages.

    I have plenty of time, access to bulk seed and grain, and no issue with chopping fresh produce or rendering bone and meat for my animals - all the better if it means not wasting the remains of my own meals. An interest in entomophagy means I also have a mealworm culture starting up which will hopefully soon be accompanied by a few other insect-keeping projects.

    Anybody have some advice to offer? I'd like to point out I'm not looking for a 'cheap alternative', I'd just like to know and control exactly what they are eating.
  2. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Songster

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    What a cool project! I'd love to hear what you find out.

    One thing you might try is to get in touch with a waterfowl or game bird rescue in your area. Often, organizations like this are very knowledgeable about bird diet--even if they purchase packaged feeds themselves, they will often have someone who knows more about nutrition than your average game bird keeper. Wild bird rescues might help too, or a raptor center (raptor centers often raise quail to feed the raptors).

    You might also be able to find out more by researching the wild bird equivalent's natural diet, and basing your mixes/recipes on that.

    If I had to guess, I'd say that a diet based in grain with a high insect/bone/meat content would be good for quail, but I don't know exactly what proportions you'd be going for. I know that my quail (who live on the ground) go crazy for bird seed, and that they eat a LOT of bugs out of the dirt. They still eat a lot of packaged feed, too, though. And stressed birds (which mine are not, now that I know how to care for them properly) will eat each other.

    Good luck. I will be watching this thread with interest!
  3. Tammy N

    Tammy N Songster

    Oct 9, 2011
    Florence Oregon
    Very interesting Keep us posted as i am new to Quail .

    Im thinking about lining the coop for both my quail and chickens with Mats of Grasses they can eat Or sprouted grains .

    Wish me luck.

    Love your idea
  4. gorabbitgo

    gorabbitgo Chirping

    Sep 9, 2012
    I use a pre-packaged feed called Harrison's in the high potency formulation. They list the ingredients clearly on their website:
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]*Hulled Grey Millet, *Ground Hull-less Barley, *Ground Soybeans, *Ground Yellow Corn, *Ground Shelled Peanuts, *Ground Shelled Sunflower Seeds, *Ground Green Peas, *Ground Lentils, *Ground Toasted Oat Groats, *Ground Rice, *Sunflower Oil, *Chia Seed, *Ground Alfalfa, Calcium Carbonate, Montmorillonite Clay, *Ground Dried Sea Kelp, Vitamin E Supplement, Sea Salt, Natural Mixed Tocopherols, Lecithin, Rosemary Extract, * Algae Meal, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Dl-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, D-Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Carbonate, *Vegetable Oil. [/FONT]

    This formula is about 20% protein and 12% fat, and it should give you a pretty good idea of what you're looking at regarding supplementation and work involved. You will very likely need to buy a vitamin supplement powder if you want your birds to be in peak physical condition, unless you don't mind attempting to recreate their natural environment (including UV lighting bulbs) and diet.

    I also mix high-quality finch seed mix with dried spirulina and wheat grass powder, offer ground oyster shell, and toss in live Dubia cockroach nymphs as a treat. Mealworms are okay, but they're high in fat and relatively low in protein, and once they're adult beetles they're inedible. Dubia roaches are softer-bodied, less smelly, higher in protein, easier to rear, and eat veggie scraps so they're excellent pre-composters. I keep mine in an open-topped terrarium but a lot of people i know raise them in storage bins.

    I'm a city dweller but that doesn't stop me from wanting to be more personally involved in where my food comes from. Since i got my five button girls, i've stopped buying chicken eggs and only eat quail eggs. I have a personal vested interest in making sure my birds get the very best!
    Please let us know if you come up with your own food recipes!
    1 person likes this.
  5. forestforghosts

    forestforghosts In the Brooder

    Dec 16, 2012
    West Coast, Canada
    Thanks for the interest and tips! I'll try to keep you all posted on my progress.

    I looked into keeping dubia or blabares roaches a while back, but apparently Canada has very strict import laws regarding exotic insects, and the majority are illegal to own here without a proper double-sealed room and permits. Unfortunately I am thus restricted to the mealworms, cricket and silkworms (which I'll have soon) and the other assorted of standard feeder worms (I hear waxworms are quite tasty).

    As far as the package list goes those ingredients all seem pretty do-able. It will just be a matter of naturally sourcing some of the additives. And once I am back to my permanent home, I will be rich in kelp and oysters! I am not opposed to vitamin supplements, especially at this point in time, but in the future the goal is to set them up in a more specialized enclosure with live plants - or perhaps in an enclosure in the aquaponics greenhouse if my partner ever gets that going!

    Setting up artificial natural habitats is something of a hobby of mine, as well - setting up a mini-woodland for gamebirds would be a dream.
  6. forestforghosts

    forestforghosts In the Brooder

    Dec 16, 2012
    West Coast, Canada
    To those of you who have expressed interest in this thread, I just want to point out that even though it is slow-going, I have begun my research into quail diets!

    There are several thorough poultry farm research articles to be found with a bit of poking around detailing the dietary requirements of quail and other game birds, right down to the amount per volume feed of vitamins and minerals required. Armed with this knowledge and a careful breakdown of value ranges, I have begun to collect the nutritional information on the feed components which are the most economical and readily available to me, with a bit of preference towards those I can gather locally or produce myself. The hardest part will be figuring out the ratios. Looks like I'm going to have to relearn spreadsheets!

    So far I've learned that quail dietary requirements really aren't all that complex. I think a big factor in the perception that they need such special dietary care simply comes from the fact that there is no readily available pet store brand feed for them, and simply feeding them another animal's feed will not cut it. Looking over the content of the commercial game bird feed blends, there are several ingredients which seem to be selected more for their economy, stability and resistance to spoilage than their nutritional value. Making small, fresh batches for my own use means I can opt for better ingredients which will require less supplementing.

    Now, I'm debating between trying to work out an entirely dry feed blend, or opting for a wet/dry combo which would include a grain, seed and legume dry blend as well as a daily vegetable mix with occasional animal protein added in. My quail seem to be prolific eaters, and not so picky as to eat what they like and disregard the rest, so I don't think giving them a daily buffet will be detrimental, as it tends to be for my pigeon (peanuts, oats, peas, and the rest goes on the floor).

    I am curious about one thing, however...

    Everyone keeps mentioning oyster shell as a preferred calcium supplement for their birds, but I am curious why this would be a better option than eggshell? Eggshell is more readily available, easier to process, and contains the same quantity of calcium as oyster shell (calcium carbonate in any form contains approximately 40% elemental calcium), with the added bonus of several trace minerals to boot.
  7. gorabbitgo

    gorabbitgo Chirping

    Sep 9, 2012
    I think people choose oyster shell because it's often easier to find in bulk packages for convenience. Not everyone wants to take the time to grind eggshell or has access to the quantities they need for their birds.
    I do dry and crush the eggshells from my quail when i use their eggs for cooking, but i never get enough eggshell to equal the amount they consume so i supplement with oyster.

    I'd be curious to know what you'd put into a dry mix, as that would be most convenient for a city-dweller like me who works days and needs to be able to feed the birds without fuss, but i'd also like to hear more about your wet/dry blend!
  8. jak2002003

    jak2002003 Crowing

    Oct 24, 2009
    My buttons are fed on chick starter food, crushed eggshells and hard boiled egg, vegetables, mealworms and the females get a treat of crushed layers pellets to add extra calcium.

    If you don't use chick starter food you can just make a mash from hard boiled eggs (with shells) all mixed together with bread crumbs and a few small seeds such as sunflower and / or small oily seeds.

    My quails also live in an outdoor enclosure and I see them catch and eat many bugs and worms too.
  9. UndergroundQuailRoad

    UndergroundQuailRoad In the Brooder

    Jun 21, 2010
  10. I'd love to see pictures of your natural habitat setup when you get it going forestforghosts. I can't think of anything better than keeping them in a habitat as close to natural as possible, it seems they would be much, much happier that way

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