Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder),
Bred animal myself
Everett, Massachusetts, United States
Posted Nov 24, 2011
My son and I hatched two Chinese painted quails as a school science experiment, then ended up buying them both mates from a local farmer-breeder, as they were both males. We kept them indoors by a large bay window in two extra-large guinea-pig cages. The males of this species are spectacular. Ours were both blue-gray with black heads and white stripes, brown bellies and brilliant red wing-tips. They're also quite cute and round, and have a lovely, quiet birdsong - unless they're trying to get your attention, in which case they can be quite loud.
Quail aren't domesticated birds and don't make good pets. They are beautiful to look at, but difficult to socialize with humans. They prefer to be in male/female pairs and don't like competition of any sort. Our females fought worse than our males did when we first got them and tried to socialize them slowly.
This species of quails have been bred in captivity for so long that some avian experts are concerned that they may be losing the brooding instinct. To restore that, many experts recommend allowing them to raise their own chicks. We did this, and successfully had two batches of dime-sized quail babies running around in no time. They were very cute. Unfortunately, the males hated the babies and had to be separated from the for a time; one even killed one of the babies. However, six of the seven babies survived to adulthood. At that point, our small home was no longer enough space for all these birds, and they were adopted by a pair of local avian enthusiasts with huge aviaries.
Quail are ground-dwelling birds and cannot be kept in traditional bird cages. Their feet do not perch, and they like a lot of horizontal space to run around in - at least one square foot per bird, but the more space, the better. They also suddenly jump up in the air as high as three feet when startled, so you want a rather tall cage, as well. Other than the space consideration, they're pretty easy to take care of - they eat a variety of veggies and quail feed, which most feed stores carry, or wild bird seed. They like to run around in either sand or wood shavings or both - though you want to make sure you have a cage that has high sides, because quails are very active and they will make a mess. They require fresh water at all times, but once they're adults, they're very smart and can be taught to drink from a water bottle strapped to the side of the cage, like rabbits.
They make great birds for an aviary or a very large birdcage with a lot of different perching birds. They'll do a good job of cleaning up the leftovers of birdseeds that fall to the floor of the cage (though this should be supplemented). Just make sure they have a fake plant or two down there to hide behind. Quail are very skittish and very loathe to interact with people, but they're absolutely gorgeous, so if you want birds you can admire and don't mind that they'll never be very friendly with you and be more interested in each other, they do make great pets. Be sure to read up on them first, though - these birds aren't for beginners!