sick quail babies? violent head jerking, unstable, running into walls


11 Years
Dec 6, 2008

I am so so so sorry if this has been posted about a lot, but I have been looking on here for hours and I cannot figure my problem out.

I have 8 coturnix quail, about 1 week old living in a rubbermaid bin (uncovered, with a heat lamp offset, rocks in the water, and chick starter) until I can get a cage made this weekend. One of them never looked as good as the others, its 'fuzz' wasn't as fuzzy on its head and it was a little on the runty side. yesterday I noticed what looked to be a seizure. It scratched its head fast with its foot then it started jerking its head side to side, up and down. Then wobbled a bit, stood up and appeared fine. This happened a few times in the hour I watched.

I thought maybe it was some problem with its head, size, genetic thing but today, another chick started acting funny. It wobbles a bit then runs backwards. even against the wall of the tub, it runs backwards. Sometimes it falls over a bit then stands up and appears fine. It also only eats sitting down, and appears to 'wipe' its beak on the floor side to side.

Full disclosure, a friend bought them off of ebay on a whim and hatched them. He has raised a lot of poultry before so I have faith in his incubating methods; they all hatched within 6 hours of each other except the first weirdo I described, he was 5 hours later. Basically, we have no idea where the eggs came from, the quality of the parents, the transporting, etc. They could just be 'bad eggs'. I am only concerned because this is only the 3rd day that IIII have had them and I am 1. afraid it is my fault 2. afraid it is a disease and will spread to the others and 3. afraid that this really isn't normal. The two described are separated now and have their own food and water.

Help please? First time quail owner and I am freaking out that my little quail babies are sick!!
Sorry don't know what to tell you, I've never had that problem with my quail.

Your set-up sounds adequate, are you feeding them high protein gamebird feed and made sure it wasn't moldy?

You might try some vitamins/ electrolytes in their water.

The one that had a "seizure" doesn't sound very good off.

Hope someone comes a long soon with more help than I've provided.
First off, what type of chick starter are you feeding them, medicated, unmedicated...does it smell funny at all, any mold in it?

Bedding: What are using as bedding? aspen, pine shavings, pelleted bedding...

skin/feathers: can you seemites at all when you look in the skin? That can cause runtiness and jerking, scratching, etc.

There has to be either an environmental problem or disease going on. How about where your friend hatched the quail, were chickens around the incubator at all, were they around chickens or other quail?
Bedding: newspaper with paper towels over it, I just got them and plan on making them a proper home this weekend.

Food: I don't know what it is supposed to smell like, but it doesn't smell like mold. It is 22% unmedicated chick starter, i have order GBS 30% unmedicated but it won't be in until next week

Skin/feathers: I haven't looked. I will go do that now, I assume I am just looking for tiny bug like things?? I'll try to look for a picture.

Hatching/environment: They were in a barn with guineas and chickens right after hatching but in completely different enclosures for a few days. They never touched/ran/hung out in the same area but shared air.

Incubator had only been used for those quail recently, as far as I know.

VIDEO: yes and no? Seems like the same basic movement but mine stay on their feet and the wings stay in. But as far as speed and jerkiness - exactly on point. Either way, neither mine nor the ones in the video seem happy about it and seem out of control.
Looked for mites, did not see any. Doesn't mean they aren't there, these little guys are very wriggly.

Scarey side effect of looking, I flipped sick guy #1 on his side/back in my hand to check his belly for mites and when I put him back in the tub he laid on his side with his legs stretched out and his head all they way back. Like - almost on his back with his eyes half shut and labored breathing. When i nudged him onto his feet - he was okay.

Edited to tell which bird acted strange after mite check.
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The timing of that fits, as do the symptoms. unfortunately... From that article it sounds like they are all going to have it and that it is not contagious after hatching. Did I read that right?
Is there any definate way to know this is the problem and if so - what can i do about it? The article while helpful was quite dismal about treatment...
Treatment Is Easy Yet Ugly.. Do Nothing, Nature Will Take Care Of It. Quail Arent Very Treatable Birds Per Se'... They Dont Respond Well To Most Drugs That Are Readily Available At Your Local Feed Store And Generally Dont Do Illness Well... 90% Of Illnesses If Survived Are Contageous And The Survivors Seroconvert To Carriers... Which Means They Will Infect Others. The Basic Treatment Palns For Sick (infected Quail) Are The Hopeful Conservative Plan-- Wait And See, Or The Proactive Damage Control Plan--- Cull Them All And Do It Yesterday

I Know Neither Of Those Seem Attractive. If Encephalomyelitis Is The Root Of Your Problems It Is Highly Contageous And 1 Of The Few Disease That Is Readily Passed Enutero (from Hen To Embryo) It Is A Serious Complication Waiting To Get Worse...

Use Strict Biological Isolation And Once Done With These Bleach The Heck Outta Everything! This Stuff Is The Ebola Of The Gamebird World, Few Other Illnesses Are As Epidemic And Severe To Quail As This
Thank you for the quick replies. Is there any for sure way to know that this is the problem? The encephalomyelitis? I have the two that are definitely ill separated and I wash my hands between quail brooders but I want to be sure the others don't catch it but I'm afraid they will show symptoms!!!!

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