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What Do Quails Eat in the Wild & as Pets?
If you’ve spent enough time at farmer’s markets, then you’ve seen all manner of eggs for sale. One of the most unusual and intriguing eggs you may have spotted probably caught your eye due to their tiny size. Quail eggs are adorably tiny eggs that look like they were taken out of a dollhouse. Although some people do keep these birds as pets, they are often kept for poultry purposes, which often leaves people overrun with tiny quail eggs.
Quails and their eggs are considered delicacies in some areas, while other people keep these birds simply because they’re irresistibly cute. Either way, the key to healthy quails is to feed them a proper diet. In the wild, quails may have a less varied diet than pet or livestock quails, leading to different levels of health and altering the taste of the meat and eggs. If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering what it is that quails even eat, then you’re in the right place.
What Do Quails Eat in the Wild?
Quails are foraging omnivores, so in the wild, they are relatively opportunistic in regard to their diet. Their primary source of nutrition is wild grains and seeds. They will also eat fruits and vegetables they encounter, as well as insects, grasses, and leaves. Depending on the time of year, 80-90% of a wild quail’s diet will consist of seeds, grains, and other plant matter.
In areas where wild quails exist in large numbers, it’s not uncommon to see them around bird feeders eating the fallen birdseed. They also enjoy populating areas around farms where grains and seeds are being grown. They will help themselves to unsprouted seeds and plants being grown, like soybeans and corn. If they feel safe, they will not stray too far from these sources of easy food.
- Related Read: What Do Parrots Eat in the Wild and as Pets?
Why Do People Keep Quails as Pets?
Quails are kept as poultry for meat and eggs in many areas, especially in some parts of Asia. However, these petite birds are fun to watch and can be rewarding to keep. They are a great alternative to chickens for people who live in suburban and urban settings. Chickens are larger and create more waste than quails, not to mention they can be a handful. Whether you’re interested in keeping poultry for food or companionship, quails can be a fantastic alternative to chickens, ducks, and geese.
What Do Pet Quails Eat?
Domestic quails eat a diet that is similar to what wild quails eat, as well as being nearly identical to what other poultry birds consume. However, they are much smaller than most other poultry, so it’s important to ensure their food is appropriately formulated for them. A game bird or quail-specific commercial diet is the best option for the base for your quail’s diet. If you are raising quails as food, then they need a high protein and high fat diet that supports rapid growth. For game birds or free-range domestic quails, a more balanced diet that supports healthy growth and muscle development is necessary. Heavy food quails are not well-suited to flight or escaping predation.
An interesting habit that domestic quails have is that they prefer their food to be pieces of equal size. If they are being fed a commercial feed that offers pieces of varying sizes, they will begin to “forage” through the feed. They will do this until they find the pieces that are the right size for their personal preference, and then they’ll leave the rest of the food behind.
They need to have access to calcium supplementation, with crushed oyster shells generally being preferred due to their high calcium content. They also need access to grit, just like chickens. Grit is basically small pieces of rock that help with food digestion. They should have access to their feed round the clock to support health and metabolism. Uneaten food should be replaced every couple of days. Unlike some other types of poultry, quails will only eat until they are full, so offering free feed is safe and healthy for them.
To round out the diet for quails, they should be offered insects and healthy kitchen scraps as treats. They are big fans of insects like spiders, grubs, earthworms, and mealworms. They aren’t usually overly fond of veggies and fruits, but you can offer them kitchen scraps like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and cucumber.
Quail are exceptionally hardy and interesting birds with tons of personality. They are known for their plucky temperament and curious antics. It’s important to fully understand the dietary needs of your quails, though. These birds can be picky when it comes to food, and they have such a fast metabolism to support their small bodies that they can only last a few days without food. Finding the right commercial diet for your quails is the most important part of feeding them but striking a balance between commercial feed and additional dietary offerings will keep them healthy for a long time.
Featured Image Credit: Vinson Tan, Pixabay
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.