We’re having a quail of a time (sorry) with the latest additions to our indoor aviary. The introduction of a pair of common quails (Coturnix coturnix) has proved beneficial in several ways. Turns out they’ve got some endearing character traits too!
We’ve had an aviary (about 3m x 1m) for several years now and at the moment there are Cockatiels, Java Finches and Zebra Finches in there all getting along fine. For quite some time, we had a problem with insects coming in and feasting on bits of food on the floor. Apart from the natural messy eating of the birds contributing to the detritus, we have a blind Cockatiel which spends most of it’s time on the floor so needs its food bowl down there.
The worst problem was hundreds of these small (about 0.5cm long) black beetle-type things that would swarm the ground at night. Fearing that this could present a risk to our birds’ health, we decided that something had to be done.
I’d had these small ‘button’ quails before and remember them enjoying the odd bug so we went down to our usual pet market in search of quail.
Adding Quails To The Aviary
One pleasant surprised was the low cost of the birds. Less than $2 each! We asked for a male/female pair, which I think is as many as we could comfortably house in an aviary of our size.
Bringing them home, we noticed how docile they were, not minding being handled and very at ease. The other birds in the aviary were also non-aggressive so we let the quails loose and watched them for a couple of hours to make sure nothing untoward happened between them all.
As soon as I lifted up a small rock, the small beetles that had taken shelter under it started scattering and the quails just homed in on them like heat seeking missiles. They hoovered those bugs up in a few short minutes and within a week there were no more beetles to be seen anywhere in the room.
Apart from those protein-rich snacks, the quails also eat a kind of standard chicken-feed which seems to include dried corn. They also eat egg shells when available which helps with calcium uptake as does cuttlebone, which they’ll happily peck away at now and then.
Quails are very messy eaters and will happily spread, walk over and just generally mess up their food if given a chance, so use a high-sided container as a bowl to prevent this.
Eggs – The Gift That Quails Keep Giving
Eggs were never really in the initial thinking when getting these quails, but they’ve become a most welcome and delicious treat. Bonus!
Curiously, I’ve never seen the pair mating at all, but the female plops out an egg every couple of days. They don’t really use a nest and eggs have been found in various places on the aviary floor. Since domestic quails have largely lost their brooding instincts they never try to protect their eggs, or even sit on them so if you want to eat the eggs its best to remove them from the aviary as quickly as possible and put them in the fridge.
I’d never prepared quails eggs before and was a bit scared of the prospect in case I got something wrong and ended up with some kind of food poisoning. But it really is so simple.
I usually wait until I’ve got 8 or 9 eggs in the fridge and then boil them. This just involves bringing water to the boil and then putting the eggs in whilst the water simmers for 2 to 2.5 minutes. Then drain the water and let them cool before returning to the fridge.
Personally, when I peel the eggs I rinse them quickly to make sure there are no pieces of shell left before eating. Quail eggs are absolutely delicious. The creamy texture of the yolk compliments the smooth white part perfectly and gram-for-gram quail eggs contain more protein and less fat than chicken eggs.
Are Quails Pet Material?
Well, that depends what you want out of a pet. I know that our quails don’t mind being picked up, but I think its harder to bond with them as their behavior is harder to judge and they hardly make a sound. Actually, their calls are quite interesting but they are so quiet you have to strain to hear them.
That said, they do some funny stuff that makes them fun to watch. I’ve seen the female repeatedly crouch down then suddenly spring forward like a cat pouncing on a mouse for no clear reason. They also look funny when they stretch out in the dirt with their legs extended out. I must say the first time I saw this I had the horrible feeling for a second that perhaps it had died, but this is just how they like to rest.
They also like ‘bathing’ in dirt, rolling around and even partly submerging themselves. They also like cuddling up together, which looks cute. A slightly annoying though funny trait is that they seem to enjoy standing in water, which fouls up the drinking water every day but its no big deal.
All in all, quails have been a success in our aviary and can live comfortably alongside other non-aggressive bird species.