Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder),
Bred animal myself
Pennsylvania, United States
Posted Jun 17, 2013
I saw button quail for the first time in a planted bird atrium at a hotel. They were active and beautiful, foraging in the undergrowth, weaving between the tropical plants.
Button quail are easily obtainable online through numerous breeders, in a huge array of colours. The eggs are tiny (grape-sized) but do well in table top incubators with quail racks (such as Hova-bator or Little Giant incubators) and hatch in only 16 days.
Raise the tiny (bumblebee-sized) chicks in a brooder at 95F for the first week (use a 60 watt light bulb and reflector 24/7 about 10 inches from the floor); the young will use the heat as they need it until they are fully feathered at 2 weeks. For hatchlings, use metal screen or burlap on the floor for the first 2 days to prevent spraddled legs. From them on, raise them on newspaper covered with paper towels until they are big enough to go on 1/4" hardware cloth.
For their first water, use a shallow dish or jar lid with large pea gravel in it; they will sip water from between the stones without being able to get into it. After 2 weeks, use a quail waterer (like a chick waterer, but with a narrower trough at the bottom). Feed with gamebird crumbles, though you may need to grind it smaller or start them on a gamebird mash. Supplement with millet and freeze-dried mealworms.
Button quail hens only live 18 months - 2 years. They will lay a spotted, army green egg daily. Some females will go broody on their eggs, most will not and so an incubator is required.
Housing can be a fully planted aviary or very large terrarium (they will pick up spilled seed from other birds that don't usually feed on the ground) or a small cage or battery cages. House pairs individually.
Two important things to remember about button quail that makes them different from other poultry:
1. Flushing: Button quail "flush" when panicked, meaning they fly straight upwards. This means a hard or sharp wire ceiling is dangerous to them. I bought mosquito netting (tulle) and clothespinned it under the inside the ceiling of my cages, tightly, about an inch from the top. This made a sort of reverse trampoline, which they'd hit and bounce back down from without injury. Eventually I relocated them into a planted aviary (7 feet high) where they could flush as far as their limited capacity allows (they're not brilliant flyers) and not get injured. The flushing behaviour (sometimes called "the Boink Factor" by breeders) means they're also not great for handling -- better just to observe them. When panicked they also tend to drop a lot of feathers, so excessive handling can lead to bald birds. I found that using a medium aquarium fish net was the safest way to catch them up and move them without them panicking.
2) They are pair birds. Don't try to house them communally once they are sexually mature -- they will pick each other to death, and cannibalism is not unknown. A small group can live peacefully in a planted aviary with lots of hiding places. In cages, keep pairs in individual battery cages (1x2x feet, minimum). In this case, use poultry nipples or a similar battery watering system.