Can Button Quail Live in Colonies?

The answer is sometimes…but should they?  Probably not…and for a few very good reasons.

  • Button quail in the wild are monogamous
  • Mating can be rougher for the females as the males compete for them. Some males will chase down females and couple with them roughly while the females cry in distress. Mating should be a gentle affair. When kept in pairs, the male will approach the female and if she is interested, she will squat down and allow the male to mount her. No violence or aggression and the female does not make distress cries but a different peeping sound. This is aggressive mating also occurs in trios sometimes.
  • A second, very good reason not to do this is genetic diversity. It is all well and good if you are interested in the largest egg production to use a few males and lots of females…but you are limiting the gene pool. All those resulting chicks  will be half way related. The people who bought your eggs now have a bunch of chicks who are closely related. Eventually this will result in genetic problems and give you poor quality breeders.  It is possible to keep multiple groups to get around this issue but your populations will still be less diverse than they could be.
  • Stress! Too many button quail who are kept together will often feather pick each other and may be highly aggressive, severely injuring and even killing each other.
  • Your customers! Is it really fair to sell them eggs from birds that are already closely related? For that matter you are limiting your own gene pool when you wan to replace your breeder birds down the road. It is unlikely that any additional button quail will be imported (the last importation was the 1990s) which means we really need to maintain as much genetic diversity as possible for the health and vitality of these beautiful little birds.

WARNING: Graphic photo after cut showing what can happen if you house multiple button quail together. I am including it not to disgust or “gross out” but so that you understand just how seriously button quail can injure each other… Do not read on if you are squeamish at the sight of blood 😦 You have been warned… 😦

I had 3 young button quail pairs in a 3′ X 2′ cage and came home to a silver male with a badly bleeding face. Another male had attacked while I was not home (he had blood on his beak) and it is likely that some of the others joined in due to the damage level.

These birds were raised together, had a large cage and this still happened without warning –In fact I had planned to place each of the 3 pairs in individual cages in two days time…the irony .

Injured button quail male that was kept in a colony
This male was injured by another male while being housed temporarily in a colony situation before being paired up with a female  in an individual cage. While his injuries are severe, HE IS RECEIVING TREATMENT and should recover with time and some TLC.

Aggression like this can happen at any time when button quail are housed in colonies / groups. So SERIOUSLY think carefully if you want to house button quail this way rather than keeping them in pairs.

injured silver button quail male 2 weeks after colony attack
The injured silver male 2 weeks after sustaining his injury. Interestingly enough the two females would not accept other males initially so I gave up and left them in a trio.
pair9-new-photo
A couple of months later, all healed up with his favorite female.  I originally had him with two females above but his favorite female harassed the second female so badly to the point that she kept trying to escape the cage (and succeeded occasionally). that I  removed the second female and gave her a male of her own which she accepted in time and all birds were happy.

If you really want to try keeping button quail in a colony group…

One of these setups works best

  • 3-4  male/female pairs in a larger enclosure (say 3′ X 8′ floor space or larger) with lots of hiding places and enrichment activities.
    Keeping only 2 male/female pairs often result in aggression as one male will try to chase off the other male and dominate both females.
  • 2-3 females for every male (again though you limit your gene pool by doing this) and you still need a large enclosure.
  • Trios 1 male, 2 females. Note: I have tried this and it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the male will pick one female and ostracize the other.
  • Keeping only males or only females where they cannot hear or see the opposite sex. Same gender groups GENERALLY get along as long as there are no potential mates to compete for and if the cage is roomy enough for the number of birds you are trying to keep.

If you are going to do colony breeding, the safest thing (remember they can be aggressive enough to kill each other) is to raise a group of genetically diverse young together. Then decide at about 3-4 weeks of age (if you can sex them) which birds you would like to keep together in a group and remove the “extra” birds that you want to pair up or find a home for.

If you really must put older birds or those who have not been raised together, you can try a large enclosure with LOTS of hiding places, multiple food and water stations and make sure to introduce all birds at the same time and CAREFULLY watch them. Any bird that shows extreme aggression should be removed OR if you really feel that bird must be in your population, put it in a small cage inside the large enclosure for another day or two and then try one more time to introduce him or her. If you find your button quail are feather picking each other then the situation is stressing them out badly and you should consider removing more birds, increasing the enclosure size or pair breeding.

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