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Quails are lovely birds to keep, either on the homestead or in the backyard. They lay lots of eggs, they can be kept in a relatively small space and they are generally friendly birds. I have enjoyed keeping quail for 20+ years and I can’t imagine not having them on my homestead.
Sometimes, however, these normally peaceful birds can turn on one another, leading to one or more birds being killed.
This situation can be incredibly frustrating, and urgent action should be taken to prevent further birds from being killed. Below I look at the most likely reasons your quail are killing one another, and what we can do to stop it.
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Why Are My Quail Killing Each Other?
In my experience of keeping quails, the main reasons one or more birds are killed by another quail are;
Too many males in the flock
Male quails are territorial and they will fight, sometimes to the death, to protect their territory, and more importantly, the female quails living within their territory.
In an ideal scenario, your flock will consist of a single male bird with between 4 and 6 females.
4 to 6 females are about the right number for a single male quail to be able to service each of the females on a daily basis, otherwise, you can end up with a low egg fertility rate.
The information above does of course depend on the space you are keeping your quails in. Most people keep them in fairly tight quarters, but if they have a pen that is large and has multiple hides and line of sight blocks, like plants, you can keep more males, providing there are enough females to go around.
If you find one of your male quails is killing the other males in the flock, the reason is almost always a territorial dispute.
To solve the problem, remove all but the dominant male. The dominant male will now have the territory and flock to himself and he will spend his time looking after his females rather than killing other male quails.
Birds are kept in a cage that is too small
Another classic reason quail kill one another is that the enclosure they are being kept in is too small.
One of the major benefits of keeping quail is that they can be kept in a relatively small space. What other bird can be kept for meat or eggs in a space that perhaps measures just 4′ x 2′ (1.2m x 0.6m)?
This benefit can also work against the quail. Far too often people try and cram too many birds into a small space. It would be like a family of 10 living in a 1 bedroom apartment. At some point, tempers are going to fray.
You will find countless articles on the internet suggesting quail only need 1sqft per bird, meaning you could keep up to 8 birds in a 4′ x 2′ enclosure.
From my personal experience, this is nowhere near enough space. I like to give my quail at least 2sqft per bird, and frequently they get far more than that.
If your quail are being kept in a small enclosure, and they are killing one another, consider either increasing the size of their enclosure or reducing the size of your flock.
Lack of hiding places
As mentioned above, quail do need a small bit of space to call their own, and this is especially true of the males. Quails also appreciate somewhere to go to get away from one another.
Hiding places, or even just line-of-sight blocks, can reduce the aggression in a quail flock, and hiding places also provide a place where individual birds that may be being picked on can get away from an aggressor.
In large runs, I often provide 3-sided wooden boxes which serve as nest boxes and hiding places, but large terracotta plant pots will work, as will real or artificial plants. In fact, almost anything will be better than nothing. I was on a farm recently that used old car tires. The quail could hide in them and behind them, and they were climbing all over them.
Whatever you decide to use, make sure it can’t hurt the quail and it can’t topple over, potentially trapping or killing some of the quail.
Just an aggressive quail
Sometimes, despite giving your quails enough space, and having the perfect setup with an ideal male-to-female ratio, one of your quails will still go around killing other birds in the flock.
In this case, you may well have just ended up with a very aggressive individual. There is typically nothing you can do about this, except removing the bird from the flock.
To tell the truth, you don’t want to breed from an especially aggressive quail anyway as you do not want those aggressive traits being passed on to that quail’s offspring. There is no value in developing an aggressive strain of quails.
The bird you remove can perhaps be kept in isolation and raised alone, or it may be necessary to cull that individual bird.
Generally speaking, quails are peaceful birds that get on well together, providing their basic need are met.
Keeping one male to between 4 and 6 females, in an enclosure that offers the birds enough space, along with ample hiding places, should be the perfect recipe for successfully raising healthy, happy, and peaceful quails.
If things have gone wrong somewhere in your flock, and one of your birds is killing the others, work through the list above and try to identify the cause of the aggression. Sometimes you can solve the problem, and sometimes you can’t and the aggressive individual has to be removed from the flock.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘Do Quail Need Grit?’.