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Quails are one of my favorite birds on the homestead. Admittedly they don’t produce as many eggs as the chickens, and they don’t have the character of the ducks, but there is just something about them.
Quail spend all day chirping, and foraging for food, and they lay 4 to 6 eggs each every week, which makes a wonderful addition to the lunch table.
I spend a lot of my time these days giving homesteading talks, and one question that comes up a lot is ‘Do quails need a dust bath?’.
In this article, I will draw on my 20+ years of experience with these wonderful birds to explain why they need a dust bath, how often they need a dust bath, and what to use for a dust bath.
Yes, quails do need a dust bath. Many birds, including quails, use dust baths as a way to clean themselves. Dust sticks to any parasites that are on the quails and makes it harder for them to hold on, allowing the quails to shake the fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites off.
You will often see birds rolling in a dusty spot, then shaking themselves violently to throw off any parasites.
Do Quails Need a Dust Bath?
The simple answer here is yes, quails do need a dust bath.
Having a dust bath serves almost exactly the same purpose as you and I having a regular bath. Dust bathing helps quails free themselves of any parasites that may be lurking under their feathers.
Birds do not tend to bathe in water, because they end up saturated by the water (unless they are adapted to water, like ducks). Water is heavy, and a saturated quail would struggle to get off the ground if a predator approached it.
Researchers have actually shown that dust bathing also helps quails to maintain an optimum amount of naturally occurring oil on their feathers.
When birds preen, they spread oils around their feathers. Dust bathing helps absorb any excess oils the quails may have inadvertently spread on themselves. Dry skin and other pieces of debris are also removed from the quail’s body by dust bathing.
What do Quails Dust bath in?
There are many different products quails will use to dust bathe in. You don’t necessarily need to purchase anything special.
If your quails have free access to dirt, and there is a spot that is always dry and protected from the rain, the quails will happily use that as their dust bath spot.
If however you keep your quails in cages or there is no place that is totally dry, all year round, you will need to provide your quails with a suitable dust bath material.
Some of the best dust bath substances for quails include;
I am certain there are countless other substances that you could use, but these are the 4 I have found most successful.
Chinchilla sand or chinchilla dust is a very fine powder designed especially for dust bathing (although it was designed for chinchillas it still works well for quails).
Chinchilla dust is usually a very fine volcanic mineral, which is sometimes referred to as volcanic ash or pumice.
Essentially it is a finely ground, naturally occurring powder that quails will love to dust bathe in. I have used Kaytee’s Chinchilla Dust (see more here) which you can simply order from Amazon.com.
Much like chinchilla sand, diatomaceous earth is a super fine powder made from naturally occurring rocks.
Diatomaceous earth consists of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled microalgae.
What makes diatomaceous earth one of the best materials for quails to dust bathe in is the fact the fine powder actually absorbs lipids from the outer waxy coating of many parasites that live on quail.
This loss of waxy coating leads to the parasite drying out and dying.
Pool filter sand
Pool filter sand is probably the cheapest material you can use for a dust bath for your quail.
Pool filter sand is very fine sand that can be bought in 50lb bags, making it a very economical choice.
Pool filter sand does not have any of the ‘magic’ properties of chinchilla dust and diatomaceous earth, but it does still do the job.
Firepit ash is probably the cheapest dust bath material as it is usually available for free.
Providing your firepit only has natural wood burning in it, nothing that has been treated, or anything that contains nails or screws, then the ash that remains after the fire has burnt out makes a great dust bath material.
How often do quail need to dust bath?
In my experience, it is best to have a dust bath available to the quail at all times. You never really know when one of the birds will decide they need to shake off a parasite or two.
If you keep your quails in cages, and space is at a premium, then offering your quails a dust bath at least a couple of times a week will still work well for them.
I have always found a shallow kitty litter box filled with dust bath material is the best way to offer quails a dust bath.
I will typically pour a pound or two of the dust into the kitty litter tray and give it to the quails.
They will normally jump into it straight away and start rolling around, spreading the dust all over their bodies.
Quails do need access to a dust bath. Bathing in the dust is an integral part of quail keeping themselves clean and free from parasites.
If your quail have access to a clean, dry piece of dirt, they will quickly turn that area into their dust bath. If they don’t have any areas that are always dry, they will need a dust bath to be provided for them.
I try and ensure my quails have access to a dust bath at all times, but if your quails are kept in smaller cages where space is limited, proving your quail with a dust bath twice a week will still work well.
If you found this article interesting, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘Do quail need grit?’.
- Bathing and Dusting stanford.edu
- Japanese quail Wikipedia.com
- Diatomaceous earth Wikipedia.com