Chinese Painted Quail

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Scientific name: Coturnix chinensis

Other common names: Button Quail; Asian Blue Quail; Blue-breasted Quail; King Quail

The basics:
The 10 subspecies of the widely distributed Chinese Painted Quail are secretive birds that are not easily found in their wet grassland habitats located in India, China, Southeast Asia, Australia, and a number of Australasian islands. Vulnerable to predators because they are the world's smallest true quail and because they nest on the ground, the wild birds are understandably shy. However, they have become extremely popular in aviculture, where they can be bred in a variety of beautiful color mutations, as well as the natural forms.

In the United States, the Chinese Painted Quail (very frequently called Button Quail) is most often represented by the ever-popular Silver mutation, but there are many other choices, including White, Cinnamon, Golden Pearl, Blue-faced, Red-breasted, and more. The sexes are easily distinguished in most mutations, since the male will sport a dapper white bib that the female lacks.

Average weight:
28 - 40 grams (1 - 1.4 oz.)

5 years

There is a relatively high mortality rate when hatching baby Chinese Painted Quail, and most breeders advise people purchasing eggs to raise baby chicks to purchase more than they think they will need. Adult females can be prone to over-producing eggs, which steals calcium from their bodies. By cycling the light in the bird room, to increase the hours of darkness during the winter, you can encourage your hens to rest over the winter, which could double the lifespan of a pet female Button. Injury is often the biggest problem if the birds are not managed correctly. Over-crowded Chinese Painted Quail will fight each other with surprising vigor for such a tiny bird, and startled birds can helicopter straight up, hitting themselves hard on the top of the head.

Behavior / temperament:
The Chinese Button Quail is often recommended to beginning bird owners, but it might be better for the intermediate birdkeeper, since its care does require some knowledge of psychology. These cute, alert little birds can be real charmers if raised as an imprinted pet that follows you around. They also make terrific aviary birds because they are gentle toward non-competing species in their territory. However, they do represent some significant challenges when dealing with each other, since males are completely intolerant of rivals, and females can be almost as bad. An additional challenge is that a great many females will not incubate or raise their own young. Some breeders have used small silky Bantam species to incubate the eggs and babies, and many others use commercial incubators.

The fact that so many color mutations are available is proof that Chinese Painted Quail can be successfully paired and reproduce in cages. However, don't underestimate the space needed for the project. These tiny birds are extremely aggressive toward rivals of their own species, and females as well as males can kill their rivals. Two males should never be housed together. Some people do have success with housing two females for each male, because otherwise the highly-sexed male would be constantly mounting one female and spoiling her back, neck, and head feathers. However, you must keep a close eye on the project, since two females can fight. Most breeders recommend that a minimum floor space of 4 feet by 2 feet be required for each breeding cage.

The height of the cage is another consideration. They fly straight up when startled. Therefore, the top of the cage should either be very low so that the birds can't get up too much speed and bonk themselves on the head, or else it should be very high, so that they have time to steady themselves (over 6 feet high). Chinese Painted Quail kept in regular finch breeding cages may benefit from some birdsafe netting placed at the top of the cage, so that they won't hit too hard when they zoom upwards. In a walk-in aviary that they're sharing with other species, be aware of these ground-dwellers at all times, because a friendly Button Quail can get underfoot. They will enjoy live plants in the aviary, and such cover will also benefit the female, by giving her a little extra help in getting away from her persistent mate. A climate-controlled bird room need not be kept too hot, but Chinese Painted Quail held in an outdoor aviary will need shelter from extremes of hot and cold, as well as wet and windy weather.

Chinese Painted Quail are remarkably easy to feed as long as you make sure that these ground-feeding birds have easy access to food and waterers on the floor. The backbone of the diet is usually a non-medicated commercial gamebird starter, which the birds can eat their entire lives, not just as babies. Don't ever consider feeding them on starter crumbles meant for chickens. The balance of medications, calcium, and protein in chicken feed is all wrong for these tiny quail. You can easily supplement the diet with a chopped salad of apples, greens, carrot, broccoli florets, and sprouted seed, similar to what you might offer finches, which is probably one reason why these birds are often selected to add interest to a finch display. You may offer them some tiny mealworms or other small insects as well. They should have access to a grit that includes crushed oyster shell or another form of calcium.

Written by Elaine Radford


adorable diminutive size, ornamental birds, coloration, friendly pets, childfriendly personalities


meat, eggs, male birds


tiny little eggs, smallest quail, dimesized quail babies, fluffy chicks, flightless birds

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