Home | Bird Breeding | The Chinese Painted Quail (Button Quail, Blue-breasted Quail), Conturnix chinensis, and the Japanese Quail, C. japonica – Part II

The Chinese Painted Quail (Button Quail, Blue-breasted Quail), Conturnix chinensis, and the Japanese Quail, C. japonica – Part II

Click The Chinese Painted Quail (Button Quail, Blue-breasted Quail), Conturnix chinensis, and the Japanese Quail, C. japonica, Part 1, to read the first part of this article.

Although ideally suited to a grass-bottomed outdoor aviary, button quail also do quite well in large bird or small animal cages, such as the Pets International Premium Hutch or My First Home. Button quail are ground dwelling birds, so floor space is the most important consideration in cage selection.

Button Quail

When startled, these tiny birds explode straight up with great force, and can injure themselves in low-roofed cages. You may wish to trim their flight feathers if injuries are a possibility in the cage you provide. Despite their friendly demeanor, button quail are easily frightened by unexpected noises, and so should be housed in calm surroundings.

Newly hatched button quail are, quite literally, the size of bumblebees – check that they cannot squeeze through the cage’s mesh.

Button quail should be given as much room as possible – they are always in motion and youngsters in particular seem to explore endlessly. A raised, flat shelf in the cage will be used by the birds as an observation point – you may be surprised at how interested they seem to be in what goes on about them.

Like other quail and pheasants, button quail relish dust baths and do not bathe in water. A sand-filled bowl should be provided for this purpose.

Drinking bowls must be shallow and, for the tiny chicks, should be filled with pebbles or marbles to prevent drowning.

Light and Heat
Button quail do well at normal room temperatures. Their cage should be lit by a full spectrum bulb designed for use with birds.

A high quality finch seed mix, such as Vitabird Finch Seed, should form the basis of the diet. Button quail also relish greens, and should be given small amounts of kale, romaine and similar foods, as well as sprouting grass like the Vitakraft Sprout Pot. Tiny mealworms, crickets, waxworms and other insects are a valuable addition to the diet, especially when they are breeding. Button quail do not open the seeds upon which they feed, and so a constant supply of suitably-small grit is essential. Millet sprays  hung at head level will keep the birds busy and all who watch them amused.

Social Groups and Compatible Species
Button quail should be kept in pairs or small groups (“coveys”) of 1 cock and several hens. Males have the endearing habit of offering small insects to females, who are alerted to the treat by his high-pitched “peeps”. Males usually fight with each other and should not be housed together (this includes chicks of over 2 months in age).

They also get along admirably with nearly all finches, canaries and other softbills, and with those parrots that will not harass them. A pair will add greatly to your enjoyment of a well-planted aviary stocked with finches and similar birds.

Button quails breed well in captivity – year round if in good condition and provided with a daylight period of 10 hours or so. Females are, however, quick to abandon their eggs (the eggs can be easily hatched in a commercial incubator). Cocks often harass sitting hens – those that do not will settle near the nest, apparently to assist in detecting threats.

The simple nest is constructed on the ground, often in the lee of a grass clump or log if such is available. Females lay 6-10 eggs, which they incubate for 16 days without help from the male. The young can follow their mother shortly after hatching, and are sexually mature within 2 months. The sight of a hen leading her thimble-sized brood about really must be seen to be fully appreciated. The chicks are very curious and tend to get into all sorts of trouble by wedging themselves into tight places, so be sure to check their cage carefully.

Chicks hatched in an incubator can fend for themselves right away, and make delightful pets. They will likely imprint upon you (see you as their “mother”) and will follow you about incessantly. Such birds sometimes fail to breed as they mature, but more than compensate for this by the close bonds that they form with people.

I hope that you will give these entertaining fellows a try – although a bit of a change from what most bird fanciers are accustomed to, button quail are well worth considering.

Information about button quail in the wild can be found at:


  1. avatar

    are these dirty pets?

  2. avatar

    Hi Nat,

    Thanks for reading the article and for your question.

    All birds have fairly high metabolisms, and so even very small ones defecate frequently. In fact, the highest metabolisms of all are possessed by the smallest species, the hummingbirds.

    Painted Quail are ground-dwelling birds, and so therefore it is all-the-more important that their cage’s floor be kept clean. One way to accomplish this is to cover the floor with a 2 inch deep layer of absorbant litter, such as CoralLife Bird Litter or a pine-based Reptile Sustrate (you can purchase these at http://www.thatpetplace.com). This litter can be “spot-cleaned” each day and completely replaced one each week or so, depending upon the cage size and number of birds you keep.

    If you keep 1 or 2 birds in a smaller cage, you may wish to use a disposable cage liner, such as L/M AnimalCage Liner (also at http://www.thatpetplace.com).

    Spot cleaning or replacing a cage liner takes but a few minutes each day – I think you will find that these charming little birds are well worth that effort.

    Please write in with any other questions, and be sure to let me know if you decide to try Chinese Painted Quail as a new pet.

    Thanks and take care, Frank.

  3. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    Once while visiting a nursing home I saw tiny quail at the bottom of the aviary. Are there minature quail breeds for this purpose or do you suppose they had quail chicks in the aviary? Thanks for any info…

  4. avatar

    Dear Bonnie,

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Most likely the birds are Chinese button quail, which reach only 4-5 inches in length. This is their natural size, i.e. how they appear in the wild as well. The bird you observed may have differed in color from that pictured in my article, as silver, white, mottled, blue-black and other captive strains have been developed. Their tiny size is on of the reasons they have look been popular in aviaries. Keep any eye out for chicks…they run about soon after hatching, and are a bit smaller than a walnut! Japanese quail are slightly larger, reaching 8 inches, and also are kept as pets and aviary birds.

    Its nice to hear that the nursing home has established an aviary….I’m sure it is a wonderful resource for the residents and visitors. In years past I visited a nursing home weekly to se a relative, and brought along creatures ranging from chinchillas to a 4 foot long caiman. At first I concealed the animals beneath a long coat, as I had no approval to bring them in…but word got out among the residents, and I soon had quite a group awaiting my arrival each week. It really seemed to make a difference to them. Eventually the staff asked me to help set up an aquarium, which is largely maintained by the residents to this day (at first I received calls at all hours of the night regarding fish that “did not look well”, but folks soon got the hang of it!).

    Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    Thanks for the info…
    I really enjoy your blog. Next I’m going to try sprouting seeds for my birds. Sounds like fun.

    Happy New Year to you, too. Take care, bonnie

  6. avatar

    Hello Bonnie,

    Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks so much for the kind words.

    Please let me know how the sprouting goes; birds vary a great deal in their acceptance of sprouts, any feedback you might provide would be most appreciated.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    The sprouts were slow to start. I think I put too many in the colander. But eventually they started to look more like the ones you buy in the store.

    I put a small bunch in the pen we have for our baby chickens. We have 5 silkies and 3 Orpingtons that we hatched in Dec. The Orps loved them! They are a large variety that will grow to be 10-12 lbs. at maturiy. They are great foragers and immediately went for the sprouts. I think the silkies ate them also, if there was any left.

    It is a great amount of fun to see the seeds sprout and feed them to our babies.

    Of course, my parakeet got some sprouts and ate his also.

    Our chicks will join the 7 adults we have in the hen house in the spring to make a larger flock. They will be free range. In return, we get a few delicious eggs and enjoy watching them forage on the yard for seeds and bugs. They all have names and different personalities. We think they’re great!

    I have 6 button quail in the hen house, too. They have a protected run outside where they spend a lot of time even when the temp drops to 20 below. They are truly a hardy bunch.

    **Just a note: the hen house is heated and has lights. The birds are spoiled.

    While I’ve been writing this blog the sprouts have disappeared, I’ve held a silkie and an Orp and have been pooped on twice. Birds are great!!

    I’ll keep sprouting, and keep in contact.

    Blessings, bonnie

  8. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here.
    Thanks very much for the update, I’m glad to hear that both you and the birds are enjoying the sprouts!

    Your note on the chickens reminded me of a childhood experience… I grew up in the Bronx, NY, but, surprisingly, that did not prevent my having close contact with free ranging chickens. A neighbor keep a flock in his large yard, and it was, as you say, very interesting to see their various personalities. The chickens routinely found away out, much to the neighborhood children’s delight, but we were never able to catch them…only when the cock gave a certain call did they return and file back inside. The cock was very protective and more than once I watched him drive off cats (and people!).

    When caring for chickens at the Bronx Zoo, I would often supply them with piles of dead leaves…they spent lots of time scratching about for the insects and shoots hidden within, and would rush to me whenever they spied me approaching with a new batch.

    The button quail range into some quite cool regions and do indeed fare well outdoors. I think that keeping them so makes for healthier birds overall.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    Hello, Frank,

    Could you please answer a question for me about sprouting?

    After a few days of rinsing and waiting for the seeds to sprout, do I keep rinsing every day? do I move them to a new container?

    Mine started bunching up and some got mold.

    I’m a visual learner; so,do you know where I can find pics?

    Thanks so much, have a great day.


  10. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your note.

    You do need to keep rinsing most types of seeds if they are to sprout within a few days.

    Ventilation is very important in preventing mold. However, the seeds need to be kept in the dark; closets and other conveniently dark places are poorly ventilated and mold will almost always develop in closed-off areas. A shelf or similar area blocked off by a dark curtain usually suffices, or an unused, partially opened cabinet. Some people cut ventilation panels into opaque plastic storage containers…locating the panels on the lower sides and bottom of the containers limits the amount of light entering.

    Be sure to spread the seeds out well (they swell a bit when watered) and remove any that do develop mold so as to prevent its spread. Keeping the seeds on a colander of strainer will also help.

    I found a sprout supplier that has quite a bit of info posted, along with drawings (designed for people, but same seeds, concepts as for birds). They also have a variety of sprouting equipment that might be helpful if you’ll be doing this on a large scale.

    Good luck and please keep me posted; news of results/problems are useful and always appreciated.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thanks again for the info. I took a look at the link to sprouts. I know I didn’t give them enough darkness and drainage. I’ll have to keep them on the sieve instead of move them to a container with less holes.

    Here I go again. Tonight I’ll start a new batch. The chicks just love them and I want them to know about grass and such things; so, when spring comes they can go outside and enjoy real vegetation.

    blog you later, bonnie

  12. avatar

    Hello Bonnie,

    Thanks for the update…please let me know how it turns out. I wouldn’t mind a bit of spring and fresh vegetation myself right now!

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  13. avatar

    my female has been incubating for 18 days now but still have not hatched yet but i know that they are fertial because one accedently had been brocken and there was a baby inside this happened this morning
    what could be taking the eggs so long to hatch

  14. avatar

    Hello Chris, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    The average incubation period for the painted quail is 16 days, but individual hens vary a bit in this regard. I suspect that is what you are seeing, and that the eggs will hatch soon.

    Sometimes problems do arise after development begins, and fertile eggs fail to hatch, but this is not common. Your hen will likely abandon the nest if the eggs do not hatch by day 21 or so.

    Please keep me posted, and good luck.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  15. avatar

    can you set quails free will they be able to survive on their own?

  16. avatar

    Hello Ben, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Please do not release your quails into the wild. Thousands of animal species, ranging from insects to mammals, have been released into habitats where they are not native, and the results are always very bad for local creatures and the environment.

    As for the quail, they will not likely survive in any event, as they have been captive bred for many generations. Even if you found a habitat similar to their natural home (which is not possible, assuming you are in the USA), their survival instincts have been dulled and their digestive systems have changed over time due to the effects of captive diets.

    Animals released into the wild from captivity often transmit micro-organisms that can be fatal to native wildlife. For example, a bacteria harbored by your quail, which does them no harm at all, can be fatal to a related bird (i.e. bobwhite quail) in the USA.

    Even when released into their native habitat, pets may transmit diseases to which they have become immune. This happened in Arizona with desert tortoises – former pets were released into the proper habitat as part of a government-sponsored plan. The tortoises appeared healthy, but carried a respiratory disease that quickly killed hundreds of endangered wild tortoises (the pets had become resistant to the disease).

    For these reasons, state and federal regulations now prohibit the release of non-native animals. There are a number of inter net sources that provide help in finding homes for unwanted pet birds…please let me know if you need some references or other advice.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  17. avatar

    how well would button quail fare living in a mixed aviary community that included doves and pigeons?(12×16 floor…lots of floor space and hidey holes)I know they have ben kept with doves, but what about pijis?

  18. avatar

    Hello Diane, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Button quail do fine with most of the pigeons regularly seen in captivity – bleeding hearts, fruit pigeons, etc., but please let me know if you have a specific species in mind.

    I’ve kept a breeding pairs of Luzon bleeding heart doves and others with crested wood partridges (which are similar in habits to button quail, although a bit larger) without incident. The only pigeons that I’ve seen problems with, as concerns other ground-dwelling birds, were Victoria crowned pigeons (please let me know if you have those, they are both rare and spectacular!).

    Pheasants do present a problem…males of most species are usually extremely territorial, even if unpaired, and would likely attack the quail.

    Please let me know how your collection progresses.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  19. avatar

    I have mostly ring-neck doves in that aviary….a few King Pigeons that could be moved if you think they would be a problem. What sex combo would make the most compatible little “flock” of buttons? I have read very different opinions of the male/female ration.

  20. avatar

    Hello Diane, Frank Indiviglio here.

    I haven’t mixed king pigeons with other birds. Although they are quite large, kings are much like other rock doves in my experience, and should leave the quail alone. They may stress the quail a bit when landing or, especially, if they become startled and explode into flight, but other than that I think it should work out.

    As regards the composition of a breeding group of button quail, you will come across different opinions concerning the ideal ratio. This is because button quails vary greatly in individual dispositions, and aviary size and set-up affects stocking rates as well… people tend to write based on their particular experience. One male to 2-3 hens is standard, and usually works out very well. I have kept as many as 6 hens with one male without incident, but this would be a bit much in most situations.

    Some males tend to chase the hens incessantly, but that will only be revealed with time. It’s difficult to keep 2 males together…I managed this once in a large outdoor aviary at a nature center, but it was heavily planted and both males were extremely “low key”…none the less, the situation required constant monitoring.

    The chicks grow rapidly, and reach full size within 8 weeks…males may begin harassing the young ones even before that time, so keep an eye on them. Please bear in mind that chicks can easily drown in rather shallow water pans, and, being literally “thimble sized”, can slip through even ½” mesh ( a board around the base of the aviary may be necessary).

    Please keep me posted, and let me know if you need further information. Thanks.
    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  21. avatar

    Would button quail be compatible with parakeets/budgies??

  22. avatar

    Hello Karen, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Button quail get along very well with budgies and just about every other type of parakeet. Assuming enough floor space is provided for them, they are a nice addition to parrot collections. They are very good at cleaning up seeds that are tossed about by the other birds, and both species will breed in the same enclosure without incident. Just be sure to provide the quail with small insects and other foods not required by the budgies (please see article).

    Please let me know if you need any further information.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  23. avatar

    we r hatching quail and im very excited !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    That is great news, thanks for the update!

    Not many birds are cuter than newly hatched button quail – outside of hummingbirds, not many are smaller either!

    Please let me know how all goes, and if you need any info.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  25. avatar


    I’m interested in breeding quail in Australia. Can you tell me what kind of non-Australian native quail breeds the best? Do any quails hatch their own eggs well in captivity without artificial incubation?

  26. avatar

    If you plan on keeping non-native Australian quail, the bobwhite, Colinus virginianus, would be a good choice. Native to North America, they have been bred in captivity for many generations and acclimate well to a wide variety of climates. Females nearly always incubate their eggs successfully.

    If you are located in a very arid region of Australia, you might consider the Gamble’s quail, Lophortyx gambelii. Also known as the desert quail, they are quite beautiful and well adapted to hot, dry climates. They too breed well in aviaries.

    However, you’ll need to check the regulations that govern the importation of non-native birds…Australia is usually quite strict on those matters.

    If you need to stay with native species, the button quail described here would be a good choice. Other larger natives sometimes seen in captivity are the stubble quail, Conturnix pectoralis and the brown quail C. ypsilophorus. Both are rather shy and require a large, well-planted aviary.

    Please keep me posted on your progress, and let me know if you need any further information.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  27. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    Greetings! It’s been a long time. And I need help! My society finches hatched 2 eggs on Sunday. Do I need to feed them worms? Will the babies die? Are the parents feeding them?

    Thanks so much. bonnie

  28. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here. Nice to hear from you again…congrats on your hatchlings!

    Society finches are usually very good parents, and are often used to foster other finch species…the first clutch may give them a little trouble, but usually all goes well.

    You should provide a variety of protein-rich foods for the parents to use when feeding the chicks; such will also help keep the adults in good condition. Egg Food, tiny mealworms and small crickets are easiest to obtain. If you prefer not to use live insects, try canned invertebrates such as silkworms, grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets. You’ll need to break these up into small pieces, but otherwise they should be well-accepted.

    The parents should be provided with a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement during this time, and a cuttlebone for additional calcium. Green sprouts are also important, and will be taken by the chicks once they fledge as well.

    The chicks should fledge in 20-25 days, and will be fed by the parents for an additional 2-3 weeks thereafter…so stock up on that protein! You may need to remove the nest site, as society finches tend to be too “sociable” at times and may lay continually. Eventually, this will sap the hen’s strength.

    In case you have not come across this fact (and I apologize if this is well-known to you) – it seems that society finches are not, as previously believed, a hybridized species whose origins are unknown. They are now considered to be a domestic variant of Asia’s white-rumped mannikin, Lonchura striata.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  29. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    And thank you for knowing so much and being so patient with us unexpected parents. I apologize for calling my zebra finches society. I hope their parenting skills are the same.

    The hatchlings are fine today and I’ll be feeding mom and dad some little goodies.

    Just one more question,if you don’t mind…If I take the nest out of the cage after the babes are out does that stop the female from laying eggs? I hope so. I don’t need babies hatching every 2 weeks. hahahaha!!!

    You are the BEST, Frank and I thank you from my heart.


  30. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks so much for your kind remarks, I’m very happy that I could be of some help.

    Zebra finches are as good as or better than society finches as parents.

    They are stimulated to breed by the presence of a nest box (in the wild they are opportunistic breeders, nesting when rains, temperature and food supplies allow; being so well fed in captivity, they are almost always in breeding condition), so removing it and potential nesting material often stops them.

    However, some females simply lay in their food bowl or even on the cage floor, and pulling the eggs results in a replacement clutch. If this occurs, you may need to pull the eggs and replace them with “dummies”…sometimes after the normal incubation period has past, the female will abandon these “eggs” and not nest again for awhile. Please keep me posted – chronic egg-laying will drain the hen (not to mention yourself as well!).

    Thanks again for your support,

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  31. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    Here’s the new posting…there are 3 babies in the nest. As they get bigger it’s easier to see them. We enjoy finding a new one. Mom and Dad ate a small portion of boiled Silkie egg last night. I ate the rest and I must say there’s nothing quite as good as fresh free-range eggs. We also eat the quail eggs. Super delicious. They also amaze people when I bring deviled quail eggs to a pot-luck dinner. They wonder how I made the eggs so small. And then they eat all of the tiny eggs. It’s so comical.

    Have a beautiful weekend, Bird Angel.


  32. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks very much for the update…glad to hear that all is going well. Hard boiled egg is a very good food for finches with chicks. If you can grind it up with the shell, so much the better.

    Well, I have a somewhat offbeat quail egg-eating story for you. Many years ago, while working in the reptile department at the Bronx Zoo, I received a shipment of African egg-eating snakes (Dasypeltis scabra). As befits their common name, these unusual snakes feed solely upon birds eggs. They swallow eggs without cracking the shells, and have a boney process in the throat that literally slits the egg shell as it passes by. The egg’s contents are swallowed and the shell is regurgitated.

    African egg-eating snakes are too small to eat chicken eggs, and will not take a portion of an egg, or a shelled egg – it must be a whole, small egg or they will refuse to feed. Being close to so many different types of food markets in NYC, I was able to find quail eggs easily…they are still the sole diet of this species at the zoo today.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  33. avatar

    Happy 4th of July, Frank!

    Somehow, we made a mistake on counting, again. There are only 2 babies in the nest.

    Both babies have grown so fast! They are fully feathered and even have little tail feathers.

    So, now we are waiting for the big day when they come out of the nest.

    Re: egg-eating snakes.
    I’ve shared your story of the egg-eating African snake with family and friends. We all are amazed.

    Another question. If you don’t mind.

    Later this year we may move to Nevada from Wisconsin. I’m planning to take my birds with me. We’ll be traveling in my van. I thought it would be OK to put them in a smaller cage for the trip. Any suggestions for traveling with finches and parakeets?

    Have a safe holiday.


  34. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your kind wishes…I hope you and yours enjoy the holiday as well.

    Your 2 chicks should do quite well…there are sometimes problems with large clutches, re competition and all. Good luck with them, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the next few weeks immensely.

    You can use either a cage or airline carrier when traveling by car with birds. A carrier tends to keep them a bit more secure, as the sides are largely opaque, but it must be fit with perches. A cage should be fine…you may need to keep it covered for a good deal of the trip; watch your birds’ reactions at first. Short practice trips are a good idea

    As delays and such may arise, be sure to carry ample supplies of cage paper and their usual food (not good to introduce changes on the road). A small oscillating fan and a first aid kit should be on hand for emergencies. Spray bottles are very useful in cooling the birds, especially as they may not drink normally on route. In that regard, be sure they eat and drink adequately when you stop.

    Monitor their condition carefully – some birds are very stressed by travelling, and this always translates into a depressed immune system. Usually benign fungi and bacteria can then cause problems; in zoos, we always inoculate birds against Aspergillosus when moving them to a new exhibit, as the stress leaves them open to attack by a fungi that, in normal times, is not problematical.

    Be sure to secure the cages well with bungee cords or in another way, and secure everything in their cage. Leave only a bit of water in their bowls while moving, and make sure any toys that are in the cage are soft; these should be positioned well away from perches so that they do not swing and hit the birds.

    Check ahead with motels concerning their pet policy.

    Good luck with your new chicks; enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Happy 4th to you and yours,

    Frank Indiviglio.

  35. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    It seems that I just can’t stay out of trouble. I was checking on the chicks and one flew out of the cage, unto the floor, and then down the open staircase to the basement. He did fine and he looked chubby and healthy.

    When I put him back in the cage, the other chick was out of the nest. No. 2 did not look as healthy and fat as No. 1. Now what do I do? Start supplimentle feeding? Or will No. 2 catch up?
    Also, No. 2 could be a few days younger.

    I put them both back in the nest. Hopefully, they’ve had enough excitement for one day. I know I have..haha

    God Bless, bonnie

  36. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for the feedback.

    Well, it is it good sign that the chick could get that far on its own! As long as the other is not severely debilitated, leave it with the parents. It’s quite normal for one to be more robust than the other…as you suggest, it may have been the last to hatch. The parents will continue to feed them for a time once they leave the nest for good, and the smaller will also begin feeding on its own and likely catch up soon.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  37. avatar

    Thanks again, Frank.

    I’ll try to stay out of trouble and the cage.

    I’m sure you’re right…No. 2 made it this far and will be alright for the rest of his nestling life.

    Have a great day, bonnie

  38. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Those birds are in good hands…I can tell. Please let me know how all goes, I think you’ll enjoy watching them fledge and become independent.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  39. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    Bonnie here.

    The 2 fledglings have fledged and have been forced into independence by their parents.

    The mother (hen) managed to also lay 5 more eggs before I removed the common nest. No more nest. No more eggs.

    I’ve prepared a new cage for the “youth” which will be going to live with my granddaughter. I’m just waiting to see if we have a male/female or female X 2.

    When should the male finches show their orange cheek spots?

    Thanks again, Frank, God bless


  40. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the update; I’m happy to hear that all went well.

    Best to remove the nest as you did. Zebra finches do not breed seasonally, but rather when conditions are favorable….the mere presence of a nest site (or, in some cases, a food dish!) may spark egg-laying.

    The cheek color may develop as early as age 3-4 months; but breeding is best put of until the bird nears 1 year of age.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  41. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    Thank you, again. Today I found an egg in the food dish. hahaha

    I’m saving them for crafts. But I hope mama doesn’t overdo.

    Best to you, Bonnie

  42. avatar

    hi,i have been raising 9 button quail and ive had a problem with little balls of poop forming on their feet.i do everything i can to keep the cage cleaned out,but they get their feet wet then get the dust from their food stuck to it along with droppings.its sort of like what happens to your fingers when you are bredding alot of chicken wings.the breading builds up on your fingers each time you stick them in egg and then the flour.i tried to soak one of their feet to remove it,but the foot came off.i felt so bad and really need to know how to prevent this from happening.is there a certain kind of ground cover i should use?

  43. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback…please thank your finch for validating my remark!

    You may need to switch to an enclosed tubular feeder; some will then just lay on the floor, however. Well-fed females usually do fine, but if it keeps up please be back in touch and we can consider dummy eggs or other options.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  44. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    The problem you are seeing may be related to the space available to the birds. Despite their tiny size, they produce a great deal of waste material and move about quite a bit. In a small enclosure, it’s very difficult to prevent them from walking in their feces.

    You might also consider an enclosed water fountain, so that they have less opportunity to walk in water. However, you would need to secure it well (most are designed to clip through cages bars) and check that they are using it regularly.

    Corn cob, hardwood chips or chemical-free sand are both absorbent and work well with button quail, with sand being better for chicks as it prevents the legs from splaying out.

    Mineral oil may help in removing the caked material, but you would be well advised to consider a veterinary visit. When normal foot function is restricted, the foot or toes can become necrotic, which is likely what happened with the bird you mentioned.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  45. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    Bonnie here. Updating on the finches.

    The fledglings are now feathered so I can tell they’re both male. I’ve moved them into their own cage away from their parents.

    Their next move will be to my granddaughter’s room. Where they will live happily ever after. (at least in my world, haha)

    Momma hasn’t produced any eggs for awhile, that’s a good thing.

    That’s all for now.

    Blessings, bonnie

  46. avatar

    Hello Bonnie, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks so much for the update and congrats!

    It’s promising that she hasn’t re-nested already – fun but it drains her (not to mention you!).

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

  47. avatar

    Hello, In your article I do not see the need for high protein in these quails diet. Quail need high proteins and although meal worms can add protein they are also to fatty to provide constantly for the purpose of protien.

  48. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Yes, protein is necessary…I’ve found that the daily provisioning of a few mealworms and some of the other insects mentioned meet their needs (except, as noted, during the breeding season, when extra insects are a good idea). They do seem quite adaptable as regards protein needs…I suspect this may have to do with the fact that, in some parts of their natural range, insects are scarce during the dry season. In general, button quail do quite well on typical captive diets, as they are adapted to some quite harsh natural environments…some breeders actually decrease protein intake quite a bit outside of the breeding season, so as to avoid bringing the birds into breeding condition at inopportune times (extra protein and, especially, live insects, can have this effect).

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  49. avatar
    Name (required) patsaviary

    Hi Frank

    Great blog you’ve got here!

    I have a question for you. I have a outdoor grass-bottomed aviary with budgies and quails. I was wondering if there is a chance of the quails causing any health problems for the budgies.

    Thanks for your help!


  50. avatar

    Hello Pat, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest and the kind words, much appreciated.

    No serious concerns…quails are more likely to pick up nematodes from the soil or perhaps something from walking through/pecking at rodent and wild bird droppings, if such enter the aviary. Some of these could theoretically be transferred to your budgies… other than those possibilities there are no major concerns.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  51. avatar

    Hi Frank, I keep Chinese Painted Quail ( we call them King Quail in Australia ) in large aquariums and cages. Yesterday I noticed 2 out of 5 of my four week old quails ( raised by their parents )are a bit lame. They still look healthy and have no problems eating, but they appear to have no strength and they move slow if I go to pick them up. I think it is similar to a hen quail I once bought but died a month or so later. Have you encountered or heard of anything like this before? Are there any common diseases in King Quail you know about? Please, any help would be greatly appreciated – Brendon

  52. avatar

    Hello Brendon, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    I have run across what you describe in quails and other birds, but there are a number of possible explanations. Selenium deficiencies and slipped tendons have been implicated as regards King Quail (I like the Australian name!). Some folks have reported an improvement after feeding hens on “layer mix” and similar products formulated for breeding birds. Unfortunately, this does not help the chicks already afflicted with the condition, but exercise (see below) and vitamin mineral supplementation might be worth a try.

    Inbreeding is always a concern in pet trade animals, if at all possible vary your sources and add new breeders from time to time.

    Lack of exercise/small quarters sometimes causes lameness in pheasants, quails, ducks, cranes, etc – at the Bronx Zoo, we utilize volunteer “Crane Walkers” to work with hand raised White-naped cranes. These folks paint their toenails red and walk around in the grass – the chicks follow and peck away, exercising in the process! If you could provide a a large space and toss around some insects or other treats to encourage the hen and chicks to move about, that might help.

    As you likely know, overly hard surfaces can sometimes cause bird (and tortoise) legs to splay.
    Good luck and please let me know your thoughts and how all turns out,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  53. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    What you have said makes a lot of sense because I strongly suspect the chicks are inbred. I take pride in breeding healthy, mother raised stock and I would never intentionly inbreed my quails. However I bought “Pumpkin” the cinnamon mother quail in question and paired her with my heartbroken, favourite male “Chris” who is a pure or normal colour. Within a month of having Pumpkin she had promptly laid 5 eggs and sat on them. Imagine my suprise when instead of brown chicks hatching, 3 out of the 5 were yellow (silver now). With my experience in bird genetics I knew that Chris could not be the father. I have read before that female King quails can store semen in their bodies for long periods and so Pumpkin must have been allready impregnated when I bought her.

    Also one of the chicks is a runt and grows at a third of the rate of the others ( but is otherwise healthy ), which is why I suspect they are inbred.

    I feed my quails crickets, fresh grass and heaps of other good things but I will also hunt for a good quaility commercial feed or lay pellets.

    I think the aquarium they are in is big enough but I will move them to the biggest space possible.

    On another note, in Australia the name Button quail refers to a number of species of our native quail. All are protected in the wild as are King quail, another native species. It is facinating to me that the Chinese Painted quail or King quail or button quail or whatever you want to call these wonderful birds, is native to Australia as well as China and other parts of Asia. How this happened is a mystery to me.

    Thanks again -Brendon

  54. avatar

    Hello Brendon,

    Thanks for the feedback and kind words,

    Varied diets are my favorite way of assuring good health also; I’ve always tended to use lots of wild caught insects and plants for birds and herps. In the US breeders ship quail – that might be a way for you to get fresh stock, folks in Australia ship them as well.

    Lots of surprises with parentage, sperm storage, etc, as you’ve seen – some female marsupials “choose” most fit sperm from several males, fish switch sexes, sharks, monitors and others sometimes breed w/o mating – makes our own biology look a bit simple!

    Lots of genetic work on smaller quails, and it does seem that the bird that ranges from India to your homeland is indeed a single species, C. chinensis. Perhaps it spread to Australia and elsewhere when the continents were closer/joined, but then you often see drastic differences (as in those odd “mammals” of yours!). Well, room for more research, you’re living in a real hotbed of evolution there, enjoy.

    Good luck and please keep me posted when you can,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  55. avatar

    Hi ther-

    A couple of things that I’d like to mention. The first one is that bany buttons can get cold very easily. I’d suggest putting a heat lamp with the mother to keep them warm. Also, even inbred birds do not act that weak unless they are inbred for may generations. (we are speaking about the CBBQ)

    There are my two cents. 🙂


  56. avatar

    I breed CBBQs. One thing I must say is that I admire you for breeding parent raised birds. I use incubators but it always amazes me when people let the parents hatch teir own. It is such an awesome act to watch! Great Job! Very few people do that here in the US


  57. avatar

    Hello Charlie, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and for taking time to write in with your observations…both very good points and well-worth keeping in mind.

    Good luck and please check in when you can,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  58. avatar

    Hello Charlie,

    Thanks for your comment; the general impression I had, without having checked into it too much, was as you say – parent raised birds not all that common. It is something to see if at all possible, nothing like it!

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  59. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    I’ve been going to a feed store and purchasing the beautiful turquoise eggs that these quail lay for my snakes. Anyway, they frequently go through them slowly and rather than putting these fertile eggs in the fridge and perhaps subsequently tossing them I wonder how feasible is it to incubate them without a commercial incubator? I decided to set something up on a heatpad with a little Coralife thermostat and have been trying to keep it at around 101 or so degrees(this is apparently a cheapy still air incubator). I fried a few the first time when the temp rose to 107 overnight but aside from this problem I can’t think of any other reasons eggs kept in such a manner won’t hatch provided the humidity is kept up and I turn them every time I walk past the snake cages.


  60. avatar

    Hi Joseph,

    Thanks for the as always interesting and unique post…at the risk of insulting you, I have to say you remind me a lot of myself in my younger days – actually, even now, I’m still tweaking things! My cousin once hatched a lovebird egg using the pilot light on her old gas stove, so it is possible. With some birds the turning timing/rate does matter but I imagine quail would be close to what chickens need – let me know if you need details. Humidity is impt, embryos/chicks often get stuck in the egg or to the sides of the shell in dry conditions. Keep a powder free latex glove nearby – oils from skin can clog the egg’s air pores, and watch for dead eggs – phorid flies find them right away – they lay on the shell and the larvae actually enter through the air pores! Once established, they may get into your terrariums.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  61. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    No insult at all! Its nice to see cases like yours when a childhood interest blossoms into a career of the same.

    I went ahead and aborted the second run due to needing the pad space for the eggeater eggs in the other thread…but temperatures probably varied too much for a good hatch(between 96-104…and this with me looking in at least 2x per day). So long as something well insulated is used it seems temps would remain stable but since the eggs need fresh air and turning that throws a bit of a variable into things. The story of the lovebird eggs is amazing!(from my reading it seems parrot eggs are even trickier). Did she end up hand raising the baby?

    All the Best

  62. avatar

    Hello Joseph,

    Thanks for the feedback – I should have mentioned that the egg was incubated by the parents until the female died, spent 1 week or so on the pilot light, not whole incubation period. It was a long time ago, but I don’t think the chick did well but rearing did not work out.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

  63. avatar

    I have a 7 week old button quail, and I want to know when can I put it in the avairy with my male and female button quails, who are the parents of this one. Also how do you tell a button quail male or female? Thank you for any help you can give me…besides the 7 week old one, I now have 4 babies, born 4 days ago and are inside and in good health.

  64. avatar

    Hello Sandy, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and congrats on your chicks.

    Unfortunately, if the chick was hatched in an incubator it will be quite difficult to introduce it to the parents; they usually attack chicks that they did not incubate in the nest.

    In normally-colored button quail, the female lacks the black and white throat-chest markings, and her breast does not have the blueish cast of the male’s breast. This is only apparent once they are mature, however. It’s more difficult to distinguish sexes among the various color phases (albino, lutino, etc) but the males are usually brighter in color.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  65. avatar

    Hey Frank, I was wondering if you knew, If i can breed my female Japanese Quail with my Male Button Quail? They seem to be making mating hints but i’m not too sure, Thanks

  66. avatar

    Hello Dani

    Thanks for your interesting question. The 2 are closely related and have been successfully crossed in captivity. In fact, many birds in the pet trade in some areas likely have had both species as ancestors. I’m not aware of any problems that have arisen, and you may get some very interesting chicks. Please let me know how all goes, I’d like to pass your experiences along to others.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  67. avatar

    hello! when do the bibs of the chinese painted quail start to show?? i cant find any information on them on how to sex the chicks except through vent sexing which… im not an expert and cannot tell the difference. i have two silvers and one brown . parents are brown (female) and father is blue, red and brown. the babies are now 5 weeks old.. feathers are almost all out except for tiny bit on they cheeks and under their wings are still pinkish (u can see feathers are stil growing there when they flap).

  68. avatar

    i forgot to add, my babies were naturally hatched from mum. she laid 6 eggs, and a seventh one on day 16 of nesting and 5 hatched, 3 survived. now she’s sitting on another 9 eggs. how many clutch shud i limit her to a year? im in new zealand and in winter she doesnt lay eggs. i keep them indoors so i can alter the amount of light i give them for optimum feeding, even that, normal ceiling light diddnt make a difference over winter. why is that? do they need 14 hours of full spectrum light?

  69. avatar


    Thanks for your interest and congrats. Males start to show distinctive bib coloration at about 3 weeks of age; however, this can be difficult to see in the various color strains, especially where, as with he parents you describe, a variety of different color phases are involved. Vent sexing, or behavior, may be the most reliable way. Enjoy and please keep me posted – I’m interested to see what happens concerning their coloration and sexes. Best, Frank

  70. avatar

    Hi Ruth,

    This is an interesting concept, thanks for raising it. The effects of light cycles vary greatly by species, across all groups of animals. At the Bx Zoo, we are able to induce out-of-season breeding in species by increasing the light cycle; others do not respond unless it is the right time of year. Same with various reptiles, insects and others, and re other seasonal ques. Some birds (budgies, i.e.) will breed whenever it rains, as will some frogs. One deer species I kept (Indian Sambar) in NY bred in tune with spring in India, while Barasinga, from the same region, adsjusted to NY’s seasons…sorry, rambling..

    Painted quail usually do breed year round, however, with any type of 12-14 hour light source. I suggest cutting light to 8 hrs per day during winter, as egg laying severely depletes the female’s calcium/protein reserves. Over-producing hens, even if well fed, may live only 18 months or so. Their eggs are quite large in comparison to body size. Some breeders report that greens and insect/protein food will also spur breeding out-of season, as happens with other bird species; most cut way back on these items during winter. Yours may not be breeding because other factors are affecting them – diet, temperature, etc, each can have a role. Inbreeding/outcrossing can also affect timing. Button quail tend to feed well year round, so best not to worry about that re lighting, etc.

    In most natural habitats, the maximum number of clutches is 3 per season; pets with good diets can produce more, but I would limit them to as few as possible, 2-3 clutches maximum.

    Best, Frank

  71. avatar

    Hi there, my chinese painted quails have bred and have had babies. I have a home waiting for these baby birds to go to, but I was wondering what age the babies can leave their parents? They do find their own food, but should they stay with their parents for the shelter and protection?
    Many thanks.

  72. avatar

    Hi Daniella,

    Nice to hear…they are such great little birds, aren’t they? You can separate them now that they are able to forage on their own. Actually, even incubator-hatched chicks do well right away, but I believe their are benefits to their being with the parents for a time.

    Enjoy and pl keep me posted, Best, Frank

  73. avatar

    Hi Frank. I have been a caregiver of button quail for about a year now. They are a lot of fun to watch. I started with a group of six and now I have seven smaller groups with one male to one-3 hens I have one pair that is sitting on eggs now for 10 days now. The male seems to be keeping a close eye on her and is very protective. I never thought that I would get the opportunity to have them hatch their own eggs, I am excited. I wasnt prepared for her to get broody and her cage is attached to another set of buttons quails in a double cage. I have to find some way to keep the chicks inside the cage without causing the hen to leave her eggs. Right now I have 1/2 inch hardware cloth separating the cages. Do you have any suggestions? Also I have a pair that aren’t laying any eggs even though they get the same amount of light and same diet. I don’t really need them to lay eggs but I want them to be healthy. They are young about 4 months old. Thank you for your suggestions.

  74. avatar

    Hi Peggy,
    Nice to hear of your interest and successes. Unfortunately, hens are often skittish and may abandon the nest if you try to screen from the outside. Perhaps just try moving around the ara with screen, hold it alongside, etc., to test her reaction. Best to buy a small incubator, in case the experiment does not work out. The chicks can feed themselves right away, and so are easy to raise if you need to incubate the eggs; these usually become quite tame.

    Pairs may fail to breed for a wide variety of reasons…usually no need to worry, but watch for signs that female is egg-bound..straining, puffed feathers, listlessness, etc.

    Please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  75. avatar

    fighting birds? i have an arrangement of one male to 2 females in a well lit enclosure complete with plentiful food, water as well as a nesting box (which they don’t really use) but recently one of my females has started looking very scraggy and ive noticed, immediately after she lays an egg, the other female will attach her quite violently. The aggression seems to stop a little while after they laying, or if i take the aggressive female out for a little bit.
    even the male seems to be plucking her feathers out and it would be very difficult for me to separate them, is there a way i could stop this behaviour? something they may be missing thats causing the aggression and plucking, they have been together for around 5-6 months happily, it is just recently the fighting seems to have occurred more regularly.

  76. avatar

    Hi Samantha,

    Unfortunately dominance hierarchies develop between females, sometimes even after quite awhile; males sometimes join in , esp. when in breeding condition…it may lessen when they go out of breeding condition, but they often breed nearly year-round; removing the aggressor for a time and re-introducing can change the dynamics, but not always. Unless the enclosure is very large and you can add plants, logs etc to break up the area, you may need to keep the females apart, Best, Frank

  77. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you for your very informative website! I’m considering getting some Chinese Painted quails and I’m seeing a lot of advice that says they’re happiest in 1 male – 1 female pairs. I’m not sure how interested I am in breeding at this point, but I would like to eat the eggs. Is it alright to eat fertilized eggs? I don’t know how often they’re likely to be in breeding condition (constantly?!). Is it necessary to discard any that are likely to be fertilized?

    Sorry if that’s a stupid question!


  78. avatar

    Hi Carrie,

    Thanks for the kind words. They can remain in breeding condition for much of the year. Fertilized chicken eggs can be eaten, so I don’t think that is an issue. However, I’d speak with your doctor re handling, etc., as the chance for Salmonella transmission will be likely be higher in eggs produced at home. Best, Frank

  79. avatar

    Are button quail eggs smaller than the quail eggs in the stores?

  80. avatar

    Hi Kevin,

    Yes they are…assuming those sold in your area’s stores are bobwhite quail eggs, as is typical. best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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