Slate button quail pair

How to Pair up Male and Female Button Quail

Now, you might not believe this but the pair in the feature photo HATED each other to begin with. It is important to realize that button quail can actually be quite aggressive. While it is more common for males to attack other birds, females are quite capable of being territorial too.

My method for introducing button pairs if pretty simple. It involves a large plastic bin that is about 34″ long and maybe 20″ wide. I put clean shavings in the bin, add a large handful of hay with some finch seed (distraction) and then I place netting over the top of the bin and add the two birds I want to pair up.

If neither bird acts aggressive, I just sit and watch them for a couple of hours. If they haven’t shown aggression by then, they probably are not going to. If on the other hand, one of the bird chases and pecks the other, I immediately shake things up (not literally) and add a few boxes or cardboard pieces bent to form little tents. This gives the attacked bird a way to get away.

Generally the birds are getting along within 24-48 hours. I believe with the slate pair above it took the female a few hours long to be ok with the male.

After a little time has past, the male will generally try to court the female with wings hanging down as he does a little dance around her. He will often make a wind sound (rrrrrrah sound) and sometimes try to offer her a choice bit of food. If she accepts, she is accepting her as her mate.  Mating should be a gentle affair. 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.

Sometimes, in trios or colonies , females are sometimes forced   to mate. The males will chase them down for the chance to mate and the females make a much different distress cry when the males attention is not wanted. This is not always the case but I very, very rarely see such behavior when the birds are kept in pairs.

Tips and Tricks to Pair up Aggressive Button Quail

What to do if this fails or if there is no pause in aggresssion even with the tents (one bird hunts the other). Separate them of course.

I had one female who was VERY aggressive towards any male I put with her and this aggression continued  without pause.  For her, I placed her in a large enclosure with 6 young males and waited. She did attack them but since there was a good number of birds the aggression was diffused so that no single male was singled out.

After 2-3 days it was clear that she liked normal and golden pearl males but did not like males of other colors. Once I figured out the male she preferred over the others (it was mutual). I caught the male she liked (there were several with the same markings) and then placed her in a separate cage with him.

This same female started laying eggs within 2 weeks of being allowed to choose her own mate. There is something to be said for allowing birds to choose their own mates if they do not like who you choose for them 🙂

Colony Breeding

While I do believe pair breeding is best, colony breeding can be done…generally 3-4 pairs work best OR if you prefer 2 females for every male. Two male/female pairs often result in aggression as one male will try to chase off the other male and keep both females.  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. 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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Hobby breeder of the beautiful little button quail in North Central Florida

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