Click The Chinese Painted Quail (Button Quail, Blue-breasted Quail), Conturnix chinensis, and the Japanese Quail, C. japonica, Part 1, to read the first part of this article.
Although ideally suited to a grass-bottomed outdoor aviary, button quail also do quite well in large bird or small animal cages, such as the Pets International Premium Hutch or My First Home. Button quail are ground dwelling birds, so floor space is the most important consideration in cage selection.
When startled, these tiny birds explode straight up with great force, and can injure themselves in low-roofed cages. You may wish to trim their flight feathers if injuries are a possibility in the cage you provide. Despite their friendly demeanor, button quail are easily frightened by unexpected noises, and so should be housed in calm surroundings.
Newly hatched button quail are, quite literally, the size of bumblebees – check that they cannot squeeze through the cage’s mesh.
Button quail should be given as much room as possible – they are always in motion and youngsters in particular seem to explore endlessly. A raised, flat shelf in the cage will be used by the birds as an observation point – you may be surprised at how interested they seem to be in what goes on about them.
Like other quail and pheasants, button quail relish dust baths and do not bathe in water. A sand-filled bowl should be provided for this purpose.
Drinking bowls must be shallow and, for the tiny chicks, should be filled with pebbles or marbles to prevent drowning.
Light and Heat
Button quail do well at normal room temperatures. Their cage should be lit by a full spectrum bulb designed for use with birds.
A high quality finch seed mix, such as Vitabird Finch Seed, should form the basis of the diet. Button quail also relish greens, and should be given small amounts of kale, romaine and similar foods, as well as sprouting grass like the Vitakraft Sprout Pot. Tiny mealworms, crickets, waxworms and other insects are a valuable addition to the diet, especially when they are breeding. Button quail do not open the seeds upon which they feed, and so a constant supply of suitably-small grit is essential. Millet sprays hung at head level will keep the birds busy and all who watch them amused.
Social Groups and Compatible Species
Button quail should be kept in pairs or small groups (“coveys”) of 1 cock and several hens. Males have the endearing habit of offering small insects to females, who are alerted to the treat by his high-pitched “peeps”. Males usually fight with each other and should not be housed together (this includes chicks of over 2 months in age).
They also get along admirably with nearly all finches, canaries and other softbills, and with those parrots that will not harass them. A pair will add greatly to your enjoyment of a well-planted aviary stocked with finches and similar birds.
Button quails breed well in captivity – year round if in good condition and provided with a daylight period of 10 hours or so. Females are, however, quick to abandon their eggs (the eggs can be easily hatched in a commercial incubator). Cocks often harass sitting hens – those that do not will settle near the nest, apparently to assist in detecting threats.
The simple nest is constructed on the ground, often in the lee of a grass clump or log if such is available. Females lay 6-10 eggs, which they incubate for 16 days without help from the male. The young can follow their mother shortly after hatching, and are sexually mature within 2 months. The sight of a hen leading her thimble-sized brood about really must be seen to be fully appreciated. The chicks are very curious and tend to get into all sorts of trouble by wedging themselves into tight places, so be sure to check their cage carefully.
Chicks hatched in an incubator can fend for themselves right away, and make delightful pets. They will likely imprint upon you (see you as their “mother”) and will follow you about incessantly. Such birds sometimes fail to breed as they mature, but more than compensate for this by the close bonds that they form with people.
I hope that you will give these entertaining fellows a try – although a bit of a change from what most bird fanciers are accustomed to, button quail are well worth considering.
Information about button quail in the wild can be found at:
I bought some buttons, and they are very scared of me. How can I tame them?
Unfortunately, with quails that are allowed to grow up "wild" (i.e. not tamed or hand-raised) they may always be uneasy around you. They are skittish nervous birds by nature, and many buttons that I had for their entire lives still were/are very nervous when I come near. The best way to try to overcome this is bribery. Buy some mealworms, and then very patiently, settle yourself down by the cage with one hand inside, holding a worm. Be perfectly still, and hold the worm out so they will be able to see it. Eventually they should become curious enough to investigate and may even take the worm from your hand right off. If not, once you are sure they have seen it, just toss it on the floor of the cage, allow them to eat it, and repeat the process. Do this as often as you have time for (but do not exceed 6 worms per day per bird) and they should become more comfortable around you very quickly, learning to eat from your hand before too long.
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