Pros and cons of adding quail to an aviary

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Quail can be kept in the same aviary as most finches, doves, and placid parrots. As ground dwelling birds, they bring activity to a part of the aviary that would otherwise be bare. The most commonly kept quail species—and therefore the main topic of this blog post—is the king quail.

Photo credit: Hiyashi Haka

Advantages of keeping quail

They control insects

Small crawling insects are no match for a quail’s ferocious appetite. They’ll spend all day scratching through the aviary substrate looking for bugs wherever they may hide. Quail are particularly adept at getting rid of earwigs, but sadly don’t do much to control ants.

They’ve got a lot of personality

Quail are a lot of fun to watch and interact with. I personally enjoy throwing mealworms near a small group of quail and watching them race each other to claim the snack.

They clean up spilled food

Quail are less effective at cleaning up spilled food than previously thought, but they still a reasonable job keeping the aviary floor free of food. You can’t feed quail exclusively on food discarded by other birds, so a ground-level source of seed and greens will need to be provided.

Photo credit: Neil T

Disadvantages of keeping quail

They can be messy

Quail need seed and greens available at ground level, and tend to flick their food around as they eat. This causes the aviary substrate to quickly become messy.

They deprive other birds of live insects

Quail will compete with other birds in your aviary for live insects. Because they live on the ground, they will generally find and eat crawling insects before your other birds. If your aviary houses rare and expensive live-food eating birds, you probably don’t want them losing out on insects to common and inexpensive quail.

They can make cleaning more difficult

Keepers generally provide a bit of shelter for the quails using logs, old pallets, or sideways plant pots. With the nests and roosting locations all at ground level, hosing the aviary clean becomes impossible and sweeping up debris becomes challenging.

They can attract predators

Some quail like to call out in the late afternoon and evenings, which can attract cats. Being largely restricted to the floor of the aviary, they can draw the attention of dogs, snakes, rats, lizards and other potential predators.

Final Thoughts

I keep a trio of quail in my holding aviary for young finches and in the aviaries that house my placid parrots (plum-headed parakeets and scarlet-chested parrots). They aviary in which they’re noticeably absent is the finch breeding aviary, as I’ve found them to be disruptive to the smaller finch species that like to search for insects and grass seeds on the aviary floor.

Last modified: December 4, 2017

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