Every year, more and more people raise quail and discover what a wonderful addition they are to any property. If you’ve got the space, quail are great to have at home or on your ranch.
One of the biggest questions we get is around what to feed quail. When they’re young, quail are typically more fragile than chicks and other types of domestic birds. They have sensitive stomachs, need to be kept warm, and require a steady supply of clean drinking water.
Getting them through the first several weeks of life is the most difficult part of raising young quail. Once they put on some weight and start becoming more active, you won’t have to worry as much. You can feed them nuts, berries, and gamebird feed that you can find online or at your local pet supply store.
But what about what you cannot feed quail? Certainly, there are things to avoid. Skipping foods that are bad for quail will stop them from getting sick and potentially dying.
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Some Foods Are Toxic to Quail
Before we get into what foods to avoid, we want to talk a bit about why.
Like many animals, and even humans, there are some foods that simply don’t jive well with quail digestive systems. They may be delicious to you and other pets, but to a quail, they’re toxic. When eaten in the right amounts, they can be lethal.
Quail generally know what’s toxic for them, and they’ll do their best to avoid any foods that will make them sick. The only time you’ll see them going for foods that are bad for them is if they are hungry to the point of starving.
Here are nine foods you shouldn’t feed your quail:
Coffee is bad for quail, and they won’t respond well to it. Instead, you’ll have hyped-up quail fluttering around your yard and they may get sick and die.
Avoid leaving any coffee grounds or coffee beans around either that may be attractive to foraging quail.
We know that most bird owners probably wouldn’t even think to feed their quails coffee, but it’s still a good piece of information to stick in your back pocket.
Are you thinking about giving your quail a treat? Before you break off that piece of a chocolate bar or dump leftover brownies in their feeding area, know that chocolate is toxic to quail.
Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but now you can add quail to that list.
If you’re raising quail for eggs and plan on consuming or sharing them, then you may want to avoid onions to protect the flavor of your eggs.
Food From Your Garden
Ok, so this isn’t a single item, but it’s a piece of advice most quail owners wish they’d known earlier in their journey.
If you harvest food from your garden and feed it to your quails, they will take notice.
Quail are smart enough to see what you’re doing and notice where their food is coming from. They’ll quickly start to associate dinner with the garden and make their way over and start helping themselves. You will find it harder to grow things once they get in there.
Though there is probably nothing wrong with feeding them iceberg lettuce, it’s not something you want to make a staple of your quails’ diet.
Iceberg lettuce has little to no nutritional value. Thus, if your quail stuff themselves on iceberg lettuce, they won’t have room for foods rich in protein or vitamins they need to survive. Instead, you’ll have a bunch of malnourished birds on your hands.
Yogurt is ok in moderation because it contains healthy bacteria.
However, lactose is typically hard for quails to digest, and you could be seeing a lot of diarrhea in your enclosure after not too long. The same goes for things like milk, cheese, and any other dairy product with lactose in them.
Avocados are a delicious fruit that humans prize, but it’s poisonous to quail. Add avocados to the list of toxic foods to avoid.
It’s not all bad news, though, because fewer avocados for your quail means more for you!
If you feed your quail parsley or they get into it in your garden, you’ll likely see your quail develop diarrhea or vomiting in a fairly short amount of time.
Turnips are strong-flavored root vegetables that you’ll want to avoid feeding your quail for the same reasons as you avoid onions.
If your quail eat turnips, they will affect the flavor of your eggs. You may not think it’s a big deal, but quail eggs already have a delicate, distinctive flavor, and adding anything new into the mix could throw things off. It’s just a better idea to avoid turnips altogether.
One of the great parts of raising quails is that they are not picky eaters. They will likely hoover up anything that you throw at them except for the things they instinctively know are toxic for them.
If they peck around but aren’t eating that much, it may be something that they don’t like or would prefer not to eat. Foods that they love, they’ll usually run over and gobble down quickly.
A well-balanced diet is a key to raising happy, healthy birds. First and foremost, that means buying gamebird feed designed for quail that is enriched with vitamins and other nutrients they need to grow big and strong. There are a lot of different varieties available in stores and online, so find something that’s in your budget and go from there.
You can supplement the feed with vegetable scraps left over from cooking or things about to go bad from the store. Quail love things like cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, and other similar veggies.
One thing to note is that quail can eat and will enjoy eating ripe tomatoes. However, they shouldn’t eat any other part of the tomato plant because it can make them sick. Something to know for people who raise their own tomatoes.
Once your quails are out of their fragile early stages of life, you can be more flexible with what you feed them.
Of course, you can always shift your birds around to different parts of the yard where they’ll spend each day pecking at the ground, grabbing up all of the insects that they can find.
Above all, monitor what your quail are eating and whether it’s making them sick. If they look healthy and are acting normally, then you’re probably good to go. If not, make adjustments and go from there.