Quail are small terrestrial birds with brown mottled plumage and short tails. They are bred for their meat and eggs, and for pleasure hunting. They are unlike chickens, which are separated by breed. The different types of quail are more distantly related to each other by genera. Feeding quail is straightforward, and with sound nutrition and some management techniques, you can expect a healthy covey for pleasure and profit.
Commercially-available game feed is available for purchase. It comes in a pellet or mash form. Quail are particular about the size of the feed and prefer bite-size pieces. Because of this preference, inconsistencies in the size of the food may result in an unbalanced diet, so it is best not to mix different forms of feed.
The process of feeding birds kept for meat is different than the method used with birds for breeding or eggs. Meat-bred birds are fed finisher feed, with higher fiber. Breeding birds or those expected to produce eggs are fed what's called developer feed, with a high level of protein, and young birds up to 8 weeks old are fed starter feed, with the highest protein content. Egg-layers are fed layer-specific quail feed with higher calcium content needed for strong egg shells.
Turkey or chicken feed can be used instead of quail-specific feed if availability or cost is a consideration.
To stabilize or increase a quail population in the wild, it is helpful to plant food plots for quail. This involves supplementing native food sources with plantings that can provide food in the form of seeds, and cover that will protect quail from predators, both by hiding and by reducing foraging time that exposes the birds to predators. Suggested plants include buckwheat, corn, soybeans and grains such as wheat, rye and oats. Millets such as panic and foxtail grasses or blueberry and blackberry bushes provide cover as well. Legumes such as partridge pea attract insects, which are also a food source.
Food can be scattered directly instead of plantings for faster results .Grain sorghum is preferred over corn because it comes in smaller pieces that are easier to eat and not as likely to mold.
It is tempting to supplement the diet of captive quail, but the mixed seed feed is balanced in nutrients and vitamins, and the enrichment you add to it may replace food the birds need for a complete diet. Enrichment can be helpful on a limited basis to prevent cannibalism, in which the birds pick on each other. Provide whole oats and barley, scratch feed or vegetables such as ripe tomatoes, cabbage, turnip greens or alfalfa hay in separate corners of the coop to separate and distract the birds.
Feeding in Different Seasons
Quail require higher protein in their diet during the breeding season in spring and summer as well as during the winter in regions with severe weather.
Feed should be used within three weeks of its manufacture, especially if the weather is hot or humid. If mold develops, it can produce a mycotoxin that, when ingested by the birds, can cause poor health and growth.