Article kindly provided by Glenn Johnson
It seems an unwritten rule that all bird keepers starting out in the hobby must get some King Quails. Over the years there must have been countless thousands bred. These are a great Quail to start with and can be lots of fun.
As we gain more experience in the hobby we tend to seek more challenges and the breeding of Quail is no exception. We have a good range of native and foreign Quails available to us. I have kept a variety of native Quail over the years. Stubble, Brown, Littlebutton, Black breasted and Painted. My favourite however is the Littlebutton Quail, they are easily catered for, free breeding and can become extremely tame. They are inoffensive to others in the aviary and cause no problems to the aviary layout. The same cannot be said about the Black breasted Quail which tends to be somewhat of a mini bulldozer. They dig up all loose soil, sand or gravel and have the time of their life moving it from one side of the aviary to another with the result being an unsightly mess.
The female Littlebutton Quail, like all members of the Turnix group, is larger than the cock birds. The females of this group after mating with the males and laying her clutch of eggs, usually four, plays no further part in either the incubating duties or rearing of chicks. Many breeders will move her in with another cock bird to start the process again. I personally leave her with the cock and have had no problems with her causing problems with the chicks. Incubation takes around two weeks, the nest is usually well hidden with grass often pulled up over the eggs as to hide them. Once hatched the cock feed chicks directly from his beak. I feed a soft food mix to the Quail for the first week this usually get them through the danger period. Water dishes need to be put on a brick to keep the chicks safe as they are not good swimmers.
I feed my Quail finch mix seed, live food in the shape of Bush fly maggots and small mealworms, and soft food mix. The chicks grow rapidly and are able to breed at three months old.
These Quail are an excellent step up the ladder from the common King Quail and give you an excellent bird to learn from before moving on to the more rarer and expensive Quails.
Inevitably, we mad Finch breeders at one time or another, will keep other types of birds along with our Finches. Neophemas, Doves and Quail are the most commonly kept species. We all probably kept the common King Quail at one time or another and were the species that introduced many breeders to the more uncommon species.
For the past ten years, I have been keeping the Littlebutton Quail. In the beginning I started out with the Black breasted Button Quail (Turnix melangaster) I had some success with this species, however due to the fact that my aviary flights are covered with crushed brick gravel, I opted to move the Black breasted Quail on. I found them to be like miniature bulldozers, they had great fun in scratching the gravel from one side of the aviary to the other on an hourly basis, and really made a mess. On an earth floor they would be fine.
After the Black Breasted’s, I purchased eight Littlebutton Quail, five hens and three cocks. I found the Little’s so much quieter and no where as destructive to my floors. With all species of Turnix Quails, seven in total, the hens are larger than the cock birds and are more coloured. The average clutch size for Little’s is four, with the cock bird, doing all the family duties. He alone does the incubating which takes 13-14 days. After the chicks hatch the cock birds does all the feeding and rearing.
Once the cock bird is incubating, you can place the hen bird in with another male and start the process over again. Once the chicks hatch they are independent quite quickly. They don’t take long to find their feet and if you don’t take measures to enclose them in they soon will wander off. They quiet easily squeeze through normal size bird wire, so double wiring or barriers around the bottom of the aviary will be needed. Make sure that you put your water dishes on bricks and give them a small water dish as baby Quails tend not to be good swimmers.
Some breeders will place the cock birds with their chicks in a closed off secure area in the aviary shelter for a week or two until the chicks are stronger. I know many breeders who have done extremely well when using this method.
Feeding isn’t a problem; they will take normal Finch mix, along with soft food mixes and live food. Live food is an important item if success is to be had on a regular basis. I feed both mealworms and Bush fly maggots which they relish. I only feed live food when nesting is observed. Live food can be fattening if fed all year round. Soft food is also limited when not nesting. These Quail become extremely tame and will soon learn to take mealworms from your fingers.
All my birds have nested inside the shelters, which is a bonus as they are protected from bad weather. Nests are a very simple affair, being some November grass gathered in the corner of the shelter or against some strategically placed bricks on the floor.
If Native Quails sound attractive to you, the Littlebutton Quail is a great one to start with before looking into the rarer and more expensive ones. They are popular and well sought after species and well worth including in your aviaries.