Sudden aggression between the girls?


7 Years
Oct 10, 2012
Breeding season has just started. The male's producing his manly stuff and crowing now, but now there's tension between the girls.
They're coturnix quail, ratio one male to four females. I don't think space is an issue.

My biggest one, Pepper II, always pecks at my smallest, Egglantine every time she walks past. She also pecks at the other girls when it comes to treat time, which she normally does, but this time she seems a little more aggressive. Then Egglantine pecks at her sister, Willow, and pretty much only Willow, who is bigger in size than her, when she walks past. My forth female, Buttons, doesn't get pecked, but seems to be scared for the sake of it.
There's no blood shed or anything, just tugging of feathers.
Willow seems to be missing a few small feathers.

Is this pecking order being reestablished?
Becoming territorial because of breeding season?
Or is it racism/bullying?

As quail age, they do become more aggressive. So birds that might have gotten along last year during breeding season, may be more territorial this year. They may not hurt each other, as you mentioned some feather tugging, but it can escalate into more aggression as the season goes on and especially if you take these same quail into yet another year next year.

So you may need to do some mixing, matching and separating to see who gets along with who and always keep an eye on them. Personalities do change the older they get, and even though the pecking order does not change, birds within it can become more or less aggressive as time goes on and still keep their ranks. :)
Size matter when it comes to quail. Even if there is no blood you have to consider the stress factor. If you don't like the room in the cage just use a 3 to 1 ratio.
Oh okay. Thank you both for the replies!
Its kinda like how they say that some people get crankier as they age. Haha.

Aggression seems to have died down a bit. I went over to check them in the morning before I went to school and found them all standing near the front of the cage, near each other. I'm guessing they were trying to reach for the grass that was sticking through the cage holes. (They have completely destroyed the grass in their cage and love to eat it) Even Pepper and Egglantine, the two aggressors, were standing next to each other, observing the outside world.
I'm hoping they'll stay in neutral mode like this for a while.
one thing I have noticed is if they get stressed... it becomes a free for all

my #1 cause although rare is one quail becomes very aggressive for whatever reason
causes a chain reaction and pretty soon everybody is attacking anybody who gets close

my #2 cause is predators... I always know I have a predator visiting just by behavior of the flock
stress from a predator puts them on edge and grumpy as well

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