CHINESE PAINTED or BUTTON QUAIL
The number of people who have become interested in keeping Quail in captivity for conservation, aviculture or for their eggs seems to increase each year. Usually a start is made with a single pair and buyers do not really understand the requirements of their purchase. This article is to give the beginner a little guidance about Quail management. They are easy to maintain, interesting to watch, inexpensive, and when visitors come to your aviary they are such attention getters that they are always welcome additions to any cage or aviary. Bird fanciers may tend to forget that this little ground dweller is truly a bird. Never shortchange them environmentally or nutritionally. Their needs for warmth, protection, food and exercise are similar to the needs of Finches and Canaries. Just because they are Quail and live on the ground does not mean they are made of cast iron. These birds must be treated as lovingly and carefully as you would treat any other pet bird. The Button Quail are born with a layer of down and mature to full adult feathers in about 8 to 10 weeks. They are usually ready to breed by about 12 to 14 weeks at which time you might see the hen laying eggs even if no male is present. They can usually be sexed after 4 or 5 weeks except for the whites which are very difficult to sex. Their lifespan is from 3 to 6 years.
Sexing button quail for the most common mutations, the males have a bright white "bib" and more vibrant markings, including a reddish underside. Hens are much more muted in color. The bib is the part under the chin.
The Chinese Painted or Button Quail (Coturnix Chinensis) is the most popular Quail found in aviaries around the world, having many advantages over other species. It is colorful with a black and white face, a slate blue breast, and bright chestnut underparts, and being small it eats mainly mixed seed, and can be housed in a limited area. They are small, plump ground birds with stubby tails. The cock has a black throat surrounded by a broad white band with an outer edging of black. The forehead, face and sides of the neck are bluish-grey as are the breasts and flanks. The abdomen is russet brown in the center. The hen lacks the throat markings, has a rust brown abdomen which becomes yellowish-white towards the middle, the whole back marked with black traverse stripes. Both male and female have black bills, a dark brown tail and orange colored feet. In addition it is compatible with most small birds and therefore can be kept on the floor of an aviary. The Quail being 4 1/2 to 5 inches in length will settle down and breed in an area of only a few square feet, although a larger area is always an advantage. They need to be kept dry, even though this species can withstand cold weather. A floor covering of sand is ideal, and if some clumps of grass are added the birds will be encouraged to nest. The eggs are olive-brown and incubation lasts for 16 days. Unfortunately, as so many have been raised artificially over many years, not all birds will sit and raise their own chicks and therefore you may have to resort to an incubator.
In the event of your birds hatching their own, care should be taken to prevent the chicks escaping through even the smallest wire mesh. The chicks will need some crushed good quality starter crumbs like game bird starter together with some chopped hard boiled eggs. Chickweed and maw seed can be given. Small mineralized grit and clean water must be available at all times, and live food in the form of mealworms or moths can be offered. Should the parents abandon their chicks they can be raised as other Quail artificially. In addition to the normal Chinese Painted Quail, there are a number of domestic mutations including the Fawn, the Silver, White, Black, and Cinnamon.
This article remains the property of Gary Robbins. Author of "Quail in Captivity" available from the World Pheasant Association.
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