I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of days, ever since I heard from someone who bought quail chicks from me a few weeks ago. They weren’t having much luck keeping the chicks alive and the ones they had left looked weirdly stunted, with abnormal feather growth, weak legs that couldn’t support their bodies and inconsistent body mass. They looked terrible. Especially compared to their very healthy, well-developed siblings who were still living here.
It turns out they were being fed budgie seeds.
I know there’s a tendency nowadays to go more ‘natural’ when it comes to raising livestock. I too would much rather feed a more natural ration and do to my livestock that do well on it. However when it comes to quail, I have not found an alternative solution that’s economical.
Quail are technically wild gamebirds that would normally live on mainly insects. They have a short life cycle and a fast metabolism, and therefore nutrition is extremely important, especially when young and developing. They require a high protein diet. I supply 26% protein gamebird crumbles that I buy at the feed store. Sometimes the feed store sells it for a reason.
No matter what else I try, the quail don’t care. They won’t eat anything but the crumbles. They will ignore even the choicest greens and will peck at fancy seeds with mild disinterest. All they care about is crumbles, water, dust-bath, sex, making adorable noises. That’s it. My attempts to enrich their environment are blatantly ignored.
So I gave up. I house them in bare wire cages with lots of food, water and a perpetually-filled dust bath. They are blissfully happy birds. Today I was able to stroke one of the chicks as he flopped around like a fish in his fresh scoop of dirt. All the other chicks were intent on dinner but he didn’t care. He was in quail heaven.
These are not hand-raised birds. Well, they sort of are but they don’t get handled regularly. Although each generation I hatch out seems to get friendlier. Their feathers are glossy and healthy. Their legs are strong. I have an almost zero percent death rate.
So now I know just how important those crumbles are.