Why Are My Quail So Aggressive? (How to stop them fighting)

Quail are often either the next step for those homesteaders who have been keeping chickens for a while and are looking to up their egg or meat production or the bird of choice for those homesteaders with limited space.  Either way, people are often surprised by how aggressive quail can be.  The first-time quail keeper may finder themselves asking ‘Why are my quail so aggressive?’

Quail can be an aggressive bird, and there are a number of reasons they may be aggressive.  Quail can be aggressive to one another when the male to female ratio is wrong or when they are kept in an enclosure that is too small or if there are not enough hiding places. Quail may also fight to establish a pecking order within the flock, although this fighting is usually short-lived.

What Is A Good Male-To-Female Ratio For Quails?

Quails can become aggressive and begin to fight when the male-to-female ratio of the quails is wrong.  Male quails like to have more than one female to themselves.  In fact, they like to have several females to themselves.

There are many differing opinions on the internet of what the best male-to-female ratio for quail is.  Some will say 1:3 (1 male to 3 females) others will advocate 1:4. 

I have always had the best success when keeping 1 male quail to every 5 females quails.  

Some professional breeders may keep their quail in pairs.  This is usually an advanced setup and most homesteaders won’t be looking to intensively breed their quail.

If your quail are fighting because the male-to-female ratio is wrong, you have two options. One, introduce more females, or two, reduce the number of males you have.  Which route is best for you will depend largely on your setup.  

If you are keeping your quail for meat as well as for eggs, choose the appropriate number of males to dispatch and process and then add them to the freezer as appropriate.  If you don’t keep your quail for meat, see if you can sell, swap, or give away the excess males.

Adding more females to your brood may be as simple as hatching some eggs and raising the females, although, this solution obviously isn’t going to be an instant fix to the fighting.

What Size Enclosure For Quail?

Many quail keepers find their quail fight when kept in an enclosure that is too small.  Ideally, quail require a minimum of 1 square foot per bird.  If a number of quail are kept together in a cage that allows less space than this, there may very well be fighting.

Personally, I allow 10 square feet for each group of 6 birds.  This gives each bird just under 2 square feet each.  In my experience, there is far less pecking and fighting between the birds.

The more male quail you have in an enclosure, the more space each bird should be allowed.  

A lot of homesteaders will keep their quail in raised cages, in an attempt to maximize the number of birds they can get into a given space.  Having kept quail for many years, I believe they produce better eggs and better-tasting meat when they are kept in a ‘run’ setup rather than a cage.

A run setup (which consists of a small coop with a mesh run the quail can move around freely in) allows them to exercise some more natural behavior, especially if it is furnished with logs, rocks, or plants.

Quails Need Hiding Places

Many new quail keepers underestimate the importance of quails being able to get away from one another.  When we keep our birds in a relatively small space, they may not have an opportunity to escape from the other birds. By providing the quail with places to hide, they can effectively get away from each other without leaving the enclosure.

Quails that don’t have any hiding places in their enclosure may feel anxious and exposed.  This can also lead to them being aggressive to one another.

I strongly recommend providing at least 2 or 3 different hiding places for your quail.  I like to use large terracotta pots laid on their sides, piles of logs, and plants in all my enclosures.

The hiding places need only provide a line-of-sight block from the other birds.  Just enough to give a feeling of security.

Quails Fight To Establish A Pecking Order

Much like with a flock of chickens, quails decide who is top of the flock, and who is at the bottom by fighting to assert dominance.  This is especially true when there is no male present, as he would normally be top of the flock.

Fighting to establish a pecking order is usually short-lived.  Once everyone knows their place, they usually get on with life without having to reassert themselves. 

The only time this might change is when more birds are added to a flock.

If you have a group of 5 or 6 quail and you add another couple of birds, those birds have to fit into the pecking order somewhere.  They won’t necessarily automatically go to the bottom of the flock.  Your quails might spend a few days sorting out the new pecking order.  Once the order is established, things should calm down fairly quickly. 

Some Quail Are Just Aggressive

Unfortunately, some quail are just aggressive.  This is especially true of some male quail.  Despite getting everything else right, these birds just want to fight all the other quail in your flock.  Sadly, there isn’t anything you can do in this situation.  The aggressive bird just has to be culled out of your flock.  You definitely don’t want an aggressive male breeding future generations, because there is an increased chance his offspring will be aggressive too.

How To Stop Quail From Being Aggressive?

If you find your quails are fighting and birds are getting injured, or worse, being killed, take a moment to work through the list below to try to solve the issue.

  1. Make sure you have the correct male-to-female ratio. Males help keep a flock of hens under control, but too many males and not enough females will lead to fighting between the males, often to the death.
  2. Make sure your quails have enough space. When we try to cram too many birds into an enclosure that is too small, tempers can fray and the quail will fight.
  3. Ensure there are ample hiding places. Hiding places make the quail feel safe and secure and also provide an opportunity for the quail to get away from one another, even in a relatively small space.
  4. Cull out especially aggressive birds. If one quail is hell-bent on fighting all the others no matter what else you do, consider removing them from the flock.

When To Intervene If Quail Are Fighting?

If you have noticed your quail are fighting, don’t immediately wade in and try to break the fight up.  A little pecking and chasing may be either mating behavior or the birds may be sorting out their place in the pecking order.  

If two birds are aggressively fighting for several minutes or longer, you may need to intervene to prevent serious injury.

If the two birds who are fighting are both males and there aren’t enough females to go around (8 to 10 females for two male quails), you may well need to remove one of the males from the flock.  If you don’t, one will almost certainly kill the other.

You will also need to intervene if one quail has injured the other. Once a quail has been injured there is a serious risk the other birds will turn in it.  No flock of birds wants a weak, injured bird in their flock and there is a good chance an injured quail will be killed by the other birds.

Aaron Homewood

Aaron Homewood is HomesteadSavvy.com‘s poultry editor. Arron has spent over 20 years keeping, breeding, and showing different poultry breeds, including chickens, ducks, geese, and quail.​
Poultry Editor