Japanese Quail

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Scientific name: Coturnix japonica

Other common names: Coturnix Quail

The basics:
The Coturnix Quail is a grassland species once found over a wide area of eastern Asia, including Siberia, Manchuria, and China, as well as Japan. Like some other quail species, the wild population may be collapsing, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has rated it as “near threatened,” since the species faces the one-two punch of being hunted for food while losing its habitat to agriculture. According to legend, these birds were domesticated in 12th century Japan as singing – read “crowing” -- birds. In more recent years, they have traveled into space and hatched chicks on the Mir space station.

Despite these adventures, down through the centuries, they have become most popular as a good species for producing meat and eggs. Some of the many varieties available for commercial purposes, include Jumbo, Jumbo Brown Coturnix, Pharoah XLD1, Texas A&M White Coturnix Quail, Spanish, Italian, Golden Italian, Gold, Manchurian Gold.

The normal wild form of the Japanese Quail is a speckled brownish bird with a noticeable white “eyebrow” above the eye. To distinguish males from female, check the chest. Males will have a warmer chestnut brown breast, while the female's breast will be more of a grayish brown. There are a number of attractive color and pattern mutations available to the fancier, from white, silver, yellow, and brown, to such patterns as “White Crescent,” a mutation where a crescent of white feathers appears on the breast.

Average weight:
100 - 240 grams (3.5 - 8.5 oz.)

1 - 3 years

You can potentially double the life of your female Japanese Quail if you allow her to rest during the winter from constantly laying eggs, which does take a toll on her body. In an indoor bird room, put timers on the lights, so that there are increasing hours of darkness in the winter, which naturally discourages laying.

Behavior / temperament:
Apart from the tendency to fly straight up and the potential aggression of a male against a rival, the Japanese Quail is known for its surprisingly large crow for a bird of that size. When considering raising quail as an apartment project, you need to have a realistic understanding of how loud the cock actually gets. However, as long as you understand these well-known characteristics of Coturnix quail, you should be pleased with this species, as it has been highly regarded over the centuries for being an alert, hardy bird that is fairly friendly to its keepers.

Japanese Quail can be acclimated to live in an outdoor aviary with sufficient shelter from extremes of heat and cold. However, like all quail, the males can be territorial, and breeders often recommend a minimum of 16 square feet of floor space for each pair of quail. Adult males cannot usually be kept together without fighting, and an over-enthusiastic male can also be a real nuisance to his mate, so some breeders have had success by keeping three females with each male. In this way, a male can't harass a single female to the point of ill health.

Like other Coturnix Quail, Japanese Quail have a bad habit of lifting off straight up like a helicopter when they're startled. To prevent them from hitting themselves too hard on the head, most breeders place netting or another soft barrier below the ceiling, as a sort of “false roof” to slow the birds down. They also benefit from plants in the aviary or cage, to give them more cover and a greater feeling of security. Aspen bedding is often recommended as a safer alternative to pine or corn cob bedding, if you are cage-breeding mutations in an indoor birdroom.

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, since the balance of medications, calcium, and protein in chicken feed is all wrong for these quail. However, this species has also been successfully maintained on unmedicated turkey crumbles, if for some reason you don't have the gamebird starter You can easily supplement the diet with a chopped salad of apples, greens, carrot, broccoli florets, and sprouted seed, and 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


beautiful colors, meat birds, dual purpose birds, eggs galore, quail eggs, comic relief


excess males


boygirl ratio, pretty noises, cleanup crew, pharaoh quail, peppery tasting egg, color varieties

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