Helping Sick Button Quail

Helping Sick Button Quail

While button quail are usually healthy little birds, they can occasionally become sick. Birds do the best they can to hide illness and once you see a bird behaving strangely, it is very ill and needs immediate assistance!

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, nor do I pretend to be one. I strongly  encouraged you to take your sick bird to a veterinarian. The below information can be considered supportive care that might be used (at your own risk!) until veterinary care can be arranged. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific illness.


  • Isolate any bird that behaves abnormally away from other birds
  • Provide a warm environment to help the button quail recover
  • Offer favorite foods to encourage eating
  • Make water easily accessible to the bird
  • If at all possible, seek veterinary advice as the wrong treatment can do more harm than good
  • Supplements that MIGHT help a sick bird recover include apple cider vinegar, elderberry, and grapefruit seed extract
  • Preventing illness  by keeping things clean is much easier than curing a sick bird

Symptoms of Illness

  • Feathers puffed up for an extended period of time (even when other birds around it are active)
  • Dull eyes
  • Poorly groomed appearance
  • Low body temperature (the bird feels noticeably cold or shivers)
  • Has food stuck to feathers from vomiting
  • Has poop stuck to  bottom feathers

First Steps

  • Move the sick bird to an isolation cage away from your other button quail
  • Sick birds cannotmaintain correct body temperature so this is one of the most important things you can do for the bird.
    • Provide heat by placing a reptile heat lamp over the cage with a red 40 or 60 watt bulb
    • If a heat lamp is unavailable, you can use a disposable heat pack such as those found at Walmart in the camping section. The heat pack can be placed in an old sock so that the bird will not get burned if the pack gets too hot.
    • A heating pad can also be set against one side of the cage on low to offer supportive heat as well.
    • Covering 3 sides of the cage with a towel or blanket can help to retain heat (only with a heating pad or heat pack–. NEVER cover a heat lamp or it might catch fire).
  • If at all possible take the sick bird to a veterinarian. While it is easy to purchase antibiotics they should not be used without knowing what the illness is. Too low of a dose can create super germs (bacteria) and too high of a dose may kill or damage your bird. If your bird has a virus, an antibiotic would be useless anyway since antibiotics do not kill viruses. I do not use any antibiotics without veterinary supervision for the above reasons.
  • Here are a few supportive care supplements that I have found helpful when my veterinarianwas closed (weekends). I have only used one supplement at a time as they could in theory counteract each other.
    • Apple cider vinegar: 1 teaspoon per 8oz of water.  My veterinarian has told me that doing this alone can sometimes help change the bird’s intestines to favor the conditions good bacteria need to thrive while discouraging bad bacteria. This is often a supplement given to organic poultry since antibiotics are not permitted.
    • A few drops of sambucol elderberry extract in 2 oz drinking water
    • 1 to 2 drops of nutribiotic grape fruit seed extract in 8oz of drinking water. I have gone as high as 1 drop of gse per 2/oz water but this dosage appears to kill good bacteria too. Use dosages at your own risk and be sure to supplement with probiotics once you stop supplementing.  7-10 days is the longest I ever use this supplement. I like this probiotic supplement but any intended for birds should work.
  • Make sure water is easily accessible in a couple of different locations so that the bird has to move as little as possible to reach it.
  • Place favorite foods in the cage such as a millet spray to encourage eating.


If the sick bird was removed from a button quail colony, the bird CANNOT easily be put back. If even a few days pass, the colony no longer recognizes the bird and I have seen males actually kill a sick female that I was able to return to health after she was placed back in the group. It is better NOT to put the bird back in a colony/group situation  but if possible place the recovered bird with a new mate, in a new enclosure at the same time as the would-be mate. Introducing birds at the same time, helps to defray aggression. Even if pairing up the bird it is important to watch for aggression and separate the birds again immediately if necessary.

The above is not to suggest that a sick bird should ever be left with other birds. Often times the healthy birds will try to drive off the ill bird (survival of the fittest and weak animals attack predators). Basically, leaving an ill button quail with other button quail not only risks their health but also you are risking injury to the sick bird if the other button quail become intolerant of the ailing bird.


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Hobby breeder of the beautiful little button quail in North Central Florida

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