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Keeping Chinese Painted or King Quail - Our Experience!

I'm fond of eggs. I love the shape of them, the colours, the feel of a freshly laid egg and of course the birds that lay them! One day some one showed me a really cool egg that I hadn't seen before. It was tiny and speckled and so, so so cute! I thought it was laid by a wild bird but it turned out to be laid by a quail! Well - I just had to get me one of those birds! Or nine as it turned out!

Here's what happened...

Instead of doing the sensible thing and spending weeks researching quails and the many different types, I hit Gumtree and bought a trio for $15 - A bargain really! and so tiny. They are really just heart beats covered in feathers compared to the 3.5 kg chooks in the back yard!

I did organise a cage before getting the birds and I did spend a bit of time sorting that out but Quail Owning Tip #1 is to research the type of Quail you are getting and what their eggs look like before you purchase!!

I set up an old Guinea pig cage for my new babies. I put in a layer of dirt, a few grass plants, a layer of turf (hence the grass in the cage) and lots of logs, a wee house to hide/nest in, a dirt bath (that's the white square bowl)  and had some shade cloth to make sure they didn't bake in the summer sun.

I put the cage on a plastic pallet on top of four stacks of two milk crates as these birds are ground dwelling and I wanted to be able to see them. I often pull up a stool and have a cuppa and talk to the quail and feed them greens and bugs, like caterpillars off my kale!
I put in a waterer that is normally used in a chook pen (the white tube with the red/yellow/blue base on it) but adapted to a smaller water pipe tube as they like water bowls and tended to walk and poop in the bowl I had for them originally. Like all creatures confined to a cage - water is vitally important and something that really needs thought. They will die quickly without water in our blazing Australian summers...
Something else they just adore is a dust bath! I've tried a variety of vessels for their dust baths - this one is the old cats bowl but something deeper is better as they flick all the dirt out in the first ten minutes if its too shallow! When I dust the chooks, I put a tiny sprinkle of mite dust or diatomaceous earth in the quail dust bath to help with any mites that they may have picked up.
I now have the seed in a baby chick container with holes in the lid as they like to spread all the seed all over the place as well and they just tip up the light plastic bowls...

Something I realised fairly quickly is that they like to hide! If you are small and tasty and close to the bottom of the food chain, that makes sense really! What I did was put branches on the top and back of the cage with pegs to help them feel like they were under a branch but so I could still see them. See the green bowl? That's the latest dust bath bowl and it works a treat. When they all hop in there, which they do regularly, we call it a quail Topped mud pie!

Like this!

This is one incarnation of their cage - I like to change it around every few months so I can "make improvements" and they have new things to explore. They like to hide, have things to scuttle in and under but they don't like to hide. In the first photo, I had made them a plant pot house and I could never get them to use it. They sleep outside in a circle, tails in, facing out in family groups as far as I can tell. I took the house out once I realised that they nested, well... anywhere! I've even found eggs in the dust bath!
I bought an original trio of the Silver mutant colouring - a boy and two girls and then the seller called me back and offered me some common coloureds (the brown ones) from the same brooder batch so I ended up with six quail, four girls and two boys. It took a few months but one day I saw an egg in the pen, just sitting in the grass!

At the time I had no idea who laid it but I think it was the oldest, Silverbelle and it was bright green like an Aracuana egg! Too cute and amazing for words!
Our very first Quail egg!
 This gives you an idea of just how small the eggs are! I've read that it takes three quail eggs to make up a chook egg but that may be for standard quails that are much bigger than King Quail eggs!

This Lulabelle, a brown female King Quail. I didn't realise at the time that they laid the plain eggs - not that they aren't cute and fun to cook with but I had planned on getting the bigger speckled eggs that other breeds of quail lay! There's something to said for doing your research before looking for a seller! Not that Id swap my wee cuties for anything!

From Wikipedia
"The king quail (Excalfactoria chinensis), also known as the blue-breasted quail, Asian blue quail, Chinese painted quail, or Chung-Chi, is a species of Old World quail in the family Phasianidae. This species is the smallest "true quail", ranging in the wild from southeastern Asia to Oceania with 10 different subspecies. A failed attempt was made to introduce this species to New Zealand by the Otago Acclimatisation Society in the late 1890s. It is quite common in aviculture worldwide, where it is sometimes misleadingly known as the "button quail", which is the name of an only very distantly related family of birds, the buttonquails."



Here's a bunch of eggs from a cage clean out. They don't like you raiding the eggs and will lay in a different spot each time if you take all the eggs, so these days, if they are laying in a convenient (to me) spot, I leave three or four behind and they keep laying in the same spot! As the hens get older, the shell colour changes. So the oldest quail lays the darkest egg and the youngest, the bluest.

I found that they lay more or less like chooks do, one every day or so. It doesn't take long to get handfuls of eggs especially when you let them go broody to see what happens and next thing, you have babies running around (and falling out of the cage cause they are sooooo small) and in six weeks time they are sexually mature and rearing to go! Its fairly easy to tell the boys from the girls and so I've kept my original two boys as they have got on well and have no problems with fighting but taken all the other boys that have hatched to the local produce to become part of trios and pairs as the produce gets in other young quail. (Yes, that's how I ended up with nine quail)

I now take the eggs out when I spot one of the girls doing the broody thing as I'm not in the right place for raising more babies at the moment!

So, why would you keep Quail - especially some so small as these?

I have fun with the eggs from time to time in the kitchen. You can make bite size scotched eggs, tiny dukkah covered eggs, miniature devilled eggs and fairy sized fried eggs! I usually just boil them for a few minutes and peel them for salads. Always a talking piece!

The eggs also make the right size dose of tasty innocent looking protein to hide chicken/cat/dog medicine in - raw or hard boiled!

I love watching them as much as the chickens! Sitting on a stool and poking greens through the cage or changing out their seed bowl and having them run all over your hands is kinda fun! I love finding a bit of fruit they haven't seen before and popping it in the cage and watching the boys come and check it out before calling the girls over for a treat once they are sure its safe - its like a favourite TV show! The Quail Channel!

So, how much do you want quail now?? Leave me a note in the comment section, Id love to hear your thoughts!

Score card:
Green-ness: If you use the quail as part of your backyard eco system then 5/5 for using the manure on the garden and for feeding them garden weeds and pests! 
Frugal-ness: Quail are very cheap to run. Maybe $5 in seed for the month for all nine of them!
Time cost: The usual feeding cleaning and maintenance time of any pet but lots of time will be spent tuning into the Quail Channel!
Skill level: Very basic care - they are pretty tough wee critters but you gotta make sure they cant get out. They can fly!
Fun-ness: So, so, so much fun!!


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