Care, Feeding and Housing of Chinese Blue Breasted Quail ( also known as: Button Quail)
Fortunately, Button Quail ( Chinese Blue Breasted Quail) are not too particular about their housing, and if a few minor needs are met, they adapt comfortably to nearly any enclosure.
Since they are originally from the sub-tropical climates of S.E. China, their body structure does not lend well to cold outdoor climates. They are anatomically built to travel with their bodies close to the ground for camouflage purposes. In cold wet climates their body structure works against them. Since cold air is heavier than warm air, the air closest to the ground is always the coldest.
Although the quail you buy are captive bred, their anatomy has not changed over they years. They are still the smallest quail in the world.
In their natural environment they are exposed to temperatures that average around 70 degrees F. (21.1 C) A comfortable temperature for domestically bred Chinese Blue Breasted Quail is 85 degrees F (29.4 C) to 45 degrees F (7.2 C) They can sustain higher and lower temperatures for short periods of time, but it is important to realize that temperatures outside their comfort range force them to waste valuable energy trying to maintain a comfortable body temperature. For breeding birds, especially hens, long term exposure to cooler temperatures can be fatal.
Pairs Versus Colony Housing:
The most important factor in choosing proper housing for your quail is understanding their MONOGAMOUS behavior. Unlike other types of quail, they do not live in family groups (coveys) in the wild. Instead, they pair off 1 male and 1 female and live in isolated pairs. If forced to live in colony conditions (more than 1 pair per cage) territorial disputes will eventually erupt into a feather pulling battle. The fight can become serious enough to draw blood, and may eventually lead to a fatality. Both hens and males defend their territory with equal tenacity.
Type of Housing: What Cage is best?
Because they are small and terrestrial, (ground dwellers) they can easily adapt to most types of commercial bird cages. (We sell one that we especially designed with their comfort and well being in mind. It is also designed for easy maintenance. Our cages are listed in the index of our home page.
When choosing a cage for each pair, look for one that has no less that 1 square foot of floor space. Long, low narrow cages are ideal. The cage should have bars or welded wire with spacing of no more than 1/2 inch . An ideal height for their cage is no more than 12 to 14 inches. Since Chinese Blue Breasted Quail have a "sudden flight factor" when frightened , shorter cages prevent them from gaining enough momentum to violently fly into the top of the cage. Although they may still fly upward in the shorter cage when frightened, they generally cannot hit the inside top of it with enough force to cause serious damage.
When first placing a pair in a new cage it is sometimes a good idea to place a piece of cardboard or other solid object on top of their cage until they are used to their new habitat. Since they have a limited short distance sight range, they tend not to attempt to fly upward if they do not have a clear view of the area above them.
Because of their small delicate feet, Chinese Blue Breasted Quail require solid flooring. They do not do well on cages with wire bottoms. Although cages with wire inserts across the bottom make it easier for owners to maintain, they are uncomfortable for the quail.
In addition to bird cages, there are other manufactured cages that may work, such as rodent or rabbit cages.
Containers made from plastic or glass, such as the type designed for fish or reptiles are not recommended for adult quail. These solid wall containers lack proper ventilation and were never designed for birds. Humidity from droppings and dribbled water can quickly build in them creating an environment in which ammonia and heat are produced. This can quickly cause an environment that breeds a multitude of toxic and bacterial micro-organisms.
Solid plastic and glass containers also filter out almost all of the short U.V. rays which are necessary for the birds well being.
Your cage should have wire on all four sides and on the top, but should have a solid bottom. This allows for good air exchange which will help keep the bedding dryer and provide a healthier environment for your quail.
Food and Water Containers:
The location of food and water cups is a major consideration. Because most cages are designed for perching birds, the cups are generally designed to fit well above the floor at the level of the first perch or higher. If this is the case, you will have to replace them with low profile cups or dishes that can be easily accessed by the quail.
Chinese Blue Breasted Quail do not perch, not even at night, so if the cage you purchase comes with perches, they should be removed
Over 80% of avian illnesses and early deaths are due to improper diet. In the wild the diet of Chinese Blue Breasted Quail "Button Quail" is made up primarily of wild grass seeds. They also consume small insects and larvae.
An ideal mix for Adult Breeding Chinese Blue Breasted quail is mix of 50% Game Bird Breeding Crumbles that contain an average of 18 - 29% protein (available at most feed stores. Pet shops normally do not carry this product) and 50% Finch seed mix (this is generally available from both feed stores and pet shops) These ingredients can be mixed together ahead of time and kept in an air tight container or the freezer until needed.
Non breeding Chinese Blue Breasted Quail can be fed a mix containing 50% non-medicated Chicken Layer Crumbles or Game Bird Maintenance Crumbles with an average of 16 to 18% protein, and 50% Finch Seed Mix.
See Caring for Chicks for a proper diet for newly hatched chicks.
The total make up of a Chinese Blue Breasted Quail is approximately 55% water and the total make up of one of their eggs is approximately 65% water. It is essential therefore to be sure your quail have a steady supply of clean, fresh water. It does not take long for it to go stagnant, especially in warm conditions. Stagnant water is an excellent breeding ground for several types of bacteria.
Water plays important part in all of the birds body functions. It is a critical factor in distributing nutrients and flushing waste from the body. It also stabilizes digestion and regulates the birds body heat by evaporation through the lungs, air sacs and skin. It also plays an important part in muscle performance.
Whenever poor nutrition is discussed, the first topic is generally vitamins. However, reaching for a bottle of vitamins is not the answer. In fact, care must be taken when using manufactured vitamins and minerals so that the wrong kind and the incorrect amount is not used.
Birds, and in particular, Chinese Blue Breasted Quail are small and it is easy to overdose them with vitamins which can lead to liver damage and death. The solution whenever possible, is to provide your quail with a well balanced diet. Providing your quail with the right kind of nutrition takes a bit of homework, but the rewards are greater than the effort. Most Game Bird and Chicken Feeds are formulated with just the right amount of vitamins and minerals, no additional supplements are generally required, with the exception of Calcium Carbonate.
There are several forms of calcium: Calcium Carbonate is an alkaline based from of calcium. It is a natural occurring mineral based calcium and is the source that is the most effective type of calcium for birds. It is the form readily consumed by birds in the wild. The best source of Calcium carbonate for domestic birds, is Ground Oyster Shell which can be purchased at feed stores, and most pet shops. Oyster shells are also essential to aid in the digestion of nutrients by the quail.
Other types of calcium not recommended for Chinese Blue Breasted Quail are:
Calcium Citrate, which an acidic based form of calcium. It is combined with citric acid for easier assimilation in the human body, Another form not recommended is Calcium Lactate: This form of calcium is bound with lactic acid. It is often used as an antacid for humans and as a food preservative, it is also often used to treat certain forms of calcium deficiencies in humans.