We adore them, we love them, they must be one of the cutest quail species about.
Especially when they are tiny and them looking like mini fuzzballs.
The button quail, aka Chinese painted button quail, is from the Phasianidae family. Be aware though, this is not the button quail of the Turnicidae family (even though they do look a like).
Their official name is Coturnix Chinensis, or also called, Excalfactoria Chinensis…Now after this mouthful of chitter chatter on their names and origin, let us go onward to the more fun and interesting parts!
The button quails are very popular aviary birds, mostly because people keep them on the bottom of the cages, them causing a natural ‘clean up’, of the seeds your finches spill on the ground. Also because they are quite small of size (about 12cm, aka 4-5 inches).
Besides that popularity button quails are often overly bred for the ‘reptile’ people, so if you plan on purchasing a button quail, I’d suggest to go somewhere to a place you can trust, and know won’t be overly bred. Button quails are already quite vulnerable birdies, so it is good to have some strong ones when you purchase.
Males & Females
Best way to keep these little critters is of course either two females, or a male and a female (or several females). You can easily spot the difference between males and females, because the males have beautiful white markings on their throat. Even in the mutations the males end up with having markings on their throats.
If you have a couple, they will show ‘tough love’ at times so I would not worry about that. But if you purchase two males it is highly likely when they reach adulthood they’ll fight for life and death over their territory (or females if you also have those with them).
The button quails do not have a long lifespan, the males about 5 years (though it has been said up to nine years with the proper feeding and nutrition), but the females live only a few years shorter, about 3 to 4. Though if you are unlucky (like me at times), they only live up to 18 months because button quails are very small for the size of eggs they lay. And if you have a female that lays an egg daily, or even twice a day, the lifespan will be seriously shortened.
Care & Health
Easy solutions to lengthen the lifespan of your female is to just break the cycle of the egg laying. You can give them extra calcium or proteins (pellets or insects) to be sure, but it is not entirely sure to lenghten them that much. Usually the easiest is if you work by giving them as few light as possible. Sometimes (like chickens), the hens will stop laying eggs at the height of winter season, if they wake up when the sun rises and go to sleep when the sun sets. That of course means they do not get any artificial light when it is dark outside. Which is easily done if you cover up the cage with a cloth to make it dark. Of course in the spring, summer and so forth they’ll be going crazy with laying eggs, so if you see your female is getting worn out, shorten the days again. Works brilliantly. They’ll definitely lay eggs if they have about 12hours of light in the day.
Even though the eggs are delicious to eat (seriously, on little toast and stuff, a good delicatesse), I rather have my females healthy, than loosing them in a year.
Other than that, just make sure when you keep quails, they have enough space, a clean floor and watch their feet. The problem is if you keep these birds in an aviary, the floor gets filthy quick, or, what happens with me, nesting material at times, end up on the floor. Also they run through their own droppings, so their feet get dirty and that in combination with the sand often and other felts, it ends up in result with them having balls of dirt on their toes. And sometimes it is a pain in the ass to get them off their toes, also at times not ending up in pretty results. What helped for me is laying a plastic under the sand, but also have pine shavings on the floor.
The behaviour on button quails is very peculiar, they are very lively little things. You can see them running back and forth in their cage. Though lively, they are easily scared and will boink about like crazy, and you should try to prevent that. Either have a high cage or a boink proof roof. Because they’d just end up harming themselves if they go ‘boink boink’. In worst case they could even die.
The males at times have a nice little call (or a spooky call if it is at night). They make other funny sounds when they have their activities, and such, but in time you’ll get to learn and adore these little things of quails.
Quails are definitely nice to keep but I’d not suggest it for a starter.
I still have difficulties at times with these button quails, mostly with the females, I had quite a few but also lost quite a few. I came to a moment now where I think it is best not to keep anymore females, as much as I adore quails. But the losses are for me too much as I’m very connected to my birds. But if you are not a fresh starter with birds, and can take proper care of them, then go for it. Just make sure to pay enough attention to the little things.
Now, enjoy the little birds, and if you people have any more questions, of course, feel free to ask.