The button quail experiment

A few years back I decided to raise button quail. It was a fun little experiment in house birds. Unfortunately button quail didn't work out well for us, but they were fun while they were here. They are especially fun if you like 22 egg omelettes! Since they are so small, button quail may not be able to live outside in your region. Here in Pennsylvania where it snows in the winter they would not survive the cold. When I decided to learn how to raise button quail, I knew I would have to keep them indoors.

How to raise button quail.

I didn't set out to raise button quail actually. I had gone to a breeders house to get some silkie chicks. Once there she invited us in the house while her husband went to get the chicks. On the table was a small aquarium with tiny white button quail in it and I asked about these cute little birds. They had just had some babies and she offered me some so I took them home that night. 

I had no idea what I was getting into

How to raise button quail


I thought it would be a lot like raising parakeets or other house bird. Instead it was more like miniature chicken...birds. They have a much smaller habitat requirements than chickens do and they smelled a whole lot less, but they still smelled a whole lot more than I expected. Button quail definitely smell more than a parakeet and their cages need cleaned much more often! I really didn't expect that!

Since I was keeping my button quail in the house I used a rubbermaid storage tote that I occasionally use as an extra brooder. I had already cut holes in it and put a perch in before I realized that button quail do not roost. In fact, they don't have the right kind of feet to grip a branch or perch...so they couldn't roost even if they wanted to. Button quail are a ground dwelling bird, so everything in their brooder or cage needs to be ground level. 

Baby button quail

I ended up with 2 girls and 1 boy from my first set of baby button quail. When I brought them home it didn't occur to me that they needed a heat lamp like chickens do. Sadly, we lost one that night before I got their brooder properly set up.

Setting up a button quail brooder

Setting up a button quail brooder is almost exactly the same as a chick brooder. Keep in mind that since button quail are so small (literally the size of a grape!) they can fit through slats in cages, get stuck in regular chick feeders and easily drown in waterers. You'll need to take a few extra precautions to make sure the tiny chicks stay safe.

I switched from my regular flake wood shavings to fine shavings for the button quail chicks. Since some of the regular size shavings were bigger than them, I thought the smaller particles would be better for them. 

Put flat backed marbles in their water container to prevent drowning and make sure the feed container is low enough that they can reach it to eat. You might need to use a lid from a reusable food container or a small tray till they get big enough to reach a regular sized chick feeder.

I fed the button quail chicks gamebird starter. They have a higher protein requirement so regular chick feed isn't right for them. I also gave them scrambled eggs, mealworms and chopped veggies as they got older and they really loved getting treats! 

Button quail in cage

I gave my button quail a small bowl of fine grit since they use a gizzard to help grind up their food like a chicken does. Grit is essential to their digestive process.

As I mentioned before, button quail are a ground dwelling bird so things like nest areas need to be at floor level. They also like having places to hide in and make an adorable little nest from toilet paper or fabric pieces. I gave them empty oats containers, toilet paper, small pieces of towel, empty toilet paper tubes and other things for them to play, nest or hide in. 

They do like to dust bath so a small container of play sand with a little bit of wood ash for them to dust bathe in is ideal. 

Because adult button quail can fly well I needed a lid on their container, but it needed to be soft in case they flew straight up. I ended up using binder clips to attach bird netting to the top of their cage. This kept them in but also kept them safe from injury since it was soft if they flew into it.

button quail eggs

Button quail start laying eggs when they are 6 to 8 weeks old. I found that shocking! They still seemed so young. The average lifespan for button quail though is 2 to 4 years, so it makes sense that they mature rather quickly.

They lay about an egg a day, just like chickens. Of course, you'll need many button quail eggs if you plan on cooking them! They are about half the size of regular quail eggs. Though they laid eggs regularly my button quail never went broody, and I later found out that they aren't known to be very broody.

I was also surprised to find out that button quail can make a lot of noise! The males have a call that's sorta of a screaming/singing and the females make a few calls of their own. If you keep them in mated pairs, they are less vocal.

We really enjoyed raising button quail but decided that they weren't really for us. I much prefer my poultry to live outside rather than inside my house. I think I'll stick to chickens, ducks and guineas from now on!


~L

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