Are you curious about the quail in your neighborhood? Wondering how you can attract more of this game bird into your yard? These camouflaged critters can be quite elusive, but learning about them doesn’t have to be.
Quails are omnivores, but they primarily eat seeds and grains among leafy greens, certain berries, and insects. Baby quail eat more insects to increase their intake of protein. The quail diet changes with the seasons and depends on whether they are in the wild or captivity.
Today we’ll guide you through a quail’s diet, from what they eat to how much and when.
Table of Contents
What Do Quail Eat?
There are more than 130 quail breeds that live across the globe. The quail diet will depend on whether the animal is living in captivity or the wild, how old they are, and what part of the world they’re living in.
What Do Captive Quail Eat?
Some people make the mistake of grouping their captive quail with chickens, thinking that one poultry feed will be enough for both species. Unfortunately, a generic chicken feed will not have the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that captive quail need to grow strong and healthy.
You can feed quails with a specific feed that suits your purpose. For example, there are commercial feeds for birds raised for flight, birds raised for release, those raised as game birds, and so on. No matter which you choose, try to shoot for a feed that is composed of 80% or more grains.
You can also create a natural feed for your quail in captivity. This could start with a mix of barley, oats, rye, milo, sunflower seeds, and kernels. You can also add in leafy, green vegetation, dried insects, and some berries.
Some people like to provide more variety when feeding their captive quail by giving them pieces of cake, rice, sweetcorn, or even pasta. This should be done in moderation. If a quail doesn’t like it, it won’t eat it, so you’ll quickly discover what they prefer.
Since quail stop eating when they’re full, you can leave out their food without worrying about over-feeding them.
What Do Wild Quail Eat?
Wild quail are found in meadows, grassy fields, and cropland. You can find them in tall grasses where they spend most of their time foraging, nesting, and sleeping.
These wild quail will forage for dried seeds that have fallen from their stalks. They prefer hard, slick seeds such as soybeans, millet, and corn. They will also eat ragweed, foxtail, wild sweet peas, bristlegrass, and broomweed.
In addition to seeds, wild quail will also look for the fruit of woody plants like prickly pear, wolfberry, and hackberry. They’ll take advantage of any berries, such as blackberries, grapes, currants, and dragon fruit, depending on the location and season.
In preparation for laying eggs, you will see many wild quail eating more insects and invertebrates to increase their protein intake. They munch on beetles, bees, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, roaches, spiders, and even scorpions.
As winter approaches and insects become harder to find, wild quail will incorporate more leafy greens and plants into their diet.
What Do Baby Quail Eat?
Baby quail must receive plenty of protein until they reach two months of age. This is when they are considered mature and can begin breeding.
Chicks in the wild will exclusively eat insects until they’re eight weeks of age. Once they mature, they incorporate more seeds and grain into their quail diet.
Chicks in captivity should be fed starter feeds that have around 30% protein. Food should be readily available for the chicks throughout the day.
How Much Do Quail Eat?
An adult quail will eat around 20 grams of food per day, which is roughly 20% of its body weight.
For both chicks and adults, it’s recommended to leave out a surplus of food. Quail will eat until they’re full and then store some extra food in their crop, but they will not overfeed themselves.
Do Quail Change Their Diet by the Season?
Quails will eat more of what’s available. While they prefer grains, they’ll switch to leafy greens in the late summer and fall, when insects become harder to find. These greens include lettuce, peas, broccoli, celery, and clover, among others.
As insects begin to arrive in droves in spring and summer, quail will take advantage and eat more of them. This provides them with extra protein as they prepare for winter.
As seeds begin to fall from certain stalks during harvest time, quail will follow suit and stock up on these seeds.
What Not to Feed Quail?
Certain types of foods may make quail ill or even kill them.
Avoid feeding them:
- Tomato stems or leaves
- Salty foods
- Citrus fruits
While it isn’t toxic, you should also avoid feeding quail anything from your backyard. Quails are intelligent animals that will soon find the source, potentially destroying your garden.
Tips for Feeding Quail
Keep these tips in mind when feeding your quail:
- Buy high-quality feed
- Keep food pieces small
- Avoid mashed feed
- Leave out enough food for the day
- Beware of the mess
Quail aren’t picky about their living conditions, but they are very particular when it comes to the size of their food.
You should purchase quail feed from a high-quality provider geared towards quail in particular.
A chicken feed may feel like an easy substitute, but it won’t provide the necessary vitamins and minerals your quail need. Quails also need high levels of minerals in their food to promote eggshell formation, bone formation, and proper growth and development.
If you opt for turkey feed, be sure it is non-medicated.
Quail prefer to eat small pieces of food that are roughly the same size. Since they are found foraging and pecking at the ground, this makes it easier for them to break and eat their food sources.
If you’re buying commercial feed, make sure the grains are small enough for your quail to consume. If purchasing pellets, you may have to break them down by hand before feeding your quail.
Avoid buying mashed feed. It can become too much of a powder, making it difficult to pick up and eat. The powder can also get stuck in the quail’s feet and cause infections.
You can leave out your quail food for most of the day. Quail have a special internal pouch where they store food for later use. This pouch temporarily stores the food until it is moved down to the digestive tract. They will not overeat.
If feeding quail in a contained environment, be wary of their messy eating habits. They tend to throw their food fairly far if pecking at it from within feeders or containers. This happens fairly often with poultry, however, and the grains on the floor may be picked up by other hungry quail as the day goes on.
Quail have a diverse diet that changes with the seasons. Chicks will need more protein, so they solely eat insects for the first two months of their lives.
Adult quail will then focus on grains and seeds, as this makes up about 80% of their diet. They may also eat leafy greens, some berries, and insects depending on what’s available.
Captive quail can be fed commercial feed so long as it has sufficient vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to promote adequate growth. If you add any special treats to your quail’s diet, keep this to a minimum and avoid the list of toxic foods we included above.
Quail are picky eaters, but they also know when to stop. You can leave enough food out for these cute critters without worrying about overfeeding them.
How Do You Attract Quail to Your Yard?
Since quail are known as game birds, many people want more in their yard. You can attract quail to your yard by planting the right greenery for food, shelter, and nesting sites.
Quail feel the safest within dense shrubs and grass. By planting shrubs and patches of coniferous or evergreen plants, you provide an adequate shelter for nesting year-round.
If you’re considering adding a fountain to your yard, quail drink from shallow basins and prefer secluded ground birdbaths.
You can also sprinkle quail food around brush or shrubs or opt for ground feeders if you want to buy commercial feed.
Do Quail Eat Chicken Feed?
Quail will eat chicken feed, but it lacks the nutrients they need for proper development. You can purchase chicken feed and add in additional components to make up for this deficiency.
Alternatively, you can opt for a non-medicated turkey starter feeds for younger quail, which includes a higher amount of protein necessary for growth.
What Vegetables Can You Feed Quail?
Quail can munch on broccoli, carrots, cabbage, peas, lettuce, cucumber, radishes, honeysuckle, red maids, lotus, clover, and turnip greens.