Quail Diseases

Quail are generally quite hardy little birds and don't get sick often if kept properly. But on that occasion that they do, you will need to know how to heal and later prevent future illness.

Good hygiene is the number one way to start. Keep your birds environment as clean as possible. Don't let them live in their own waste. Don't crowd birds in so that too many birds are drinking and eating from the same waterers and feeders. Scrub down all feeders and waterers at least once a week with a bleach/vinegar solution. If you keep your quail on wire, scrub off the wire when ever poop starts to build up and how often you need to do this depends on how many birds you are keeping. Don't let the poop get all hard on the wire so as to grow bacteria, poke their pads and cause bumblefoot. (bacterial infections in the foot pads of the birds). Resist bringing in too many new birds to your flock. Especially if you don't know the conditions these birds came from as they can not only be carrying bacterial and viral diseases but worms as well.

The following is a list of the more common diseases and health issues your quail can contract and how to treat these issues.

Coccidiosis, or Cocci for short is everywhere. It is in the soil, it blows in the wind and is in the birds themselves. It is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract of all birds and animals and is caused by the Coccidian Protozoa. While it effects chicks and younger birds more often, it can effect adult birds as well. As the chicks age, they develop immunity to this protozoa and their bodies learn to control it. As long as the bird is not overwhelmed by this protozoa, any time during their lives they can keep this parasite under control enough and not get sick.

However, chicks are very susceptible, being as young as they are having not yet developed immunity, and older but still young birds are also susceptible when they are moved out into a new area or grounds. Birds become immune to their surroundings and move birds to new areas does not give them time to develop immunity to Cocci and other diseases as well. to help prevent this disease in your brooder, keep your brooder very dry and clean. Raise chicks on wire if you have to. Remove all wet bedding daily, do not let poop fall into water or feeding areas. A Cocci outbreak can devastate your chick flock. Cleanliness is the key. As they grow, they will develop the immunity to this protozoa. You can also feed medicated chick starter to help prevent Cocci from becoming as issue in your brooder. 

Symptoms of this disease is standing in the corner with fluffed up feathers, eyes closed, droopiness in the wings, blood and sometimes mucus in the poop, loss of appetite, not drinking and have usually lost enough weight they are very thin.

Quick action is needed to save birds with Cocci. You will need Corid or something with Amprolium in it from the feed store. This medicine is put in the water 5 to 7 days with nothing else in this water but this medication. You can dose the entire flock with this even if one bird is sick

There is no egg or meat withdrawal for this drug.

Ulcerative Enteritis: (also known as quail disease)
This is a bacterial disease that occurs in dirty conditions and once it hits your flock, it moves fast and is deadly. Many times it is brought in when you add new birds to your flock. It is passed through the droppings of infected birds, feed and water. You can also bring it in on your shoes, hands and clothes.

You have to be quick to diagnose this illness as birds can die within 2 days of their first symptoms. You will notice birds all fluffed up and not eating and doing a lot of sleeping. They do drink however and seem to be drinking a lot. The poop will be very ashy grey in color. This poop color will help you diagnose this illness along with not eating. They don't live long with Ulcerative Enteritis, so if they have these symptoms for many days on end, something else is going on. With UE, they do not have time to lose any weight as this will kill them too fast. 

Get them started on Duramycin immediately. Get the entire flock on it as well as if one has it, the others probably have it developing as well.

There is an egg and meat withdrawal of 21 days while using this product.

This is a bacterial infection that is mainly spread to quail from chickens. Clinical signs are swelling  all around the face...foul, thick, smelly discharge from the eyes and nostrils...labored breathing...rattles from the lungs and breathing tubes...and the eye lids can even stick together from being irritated and gummy. It is imperative that you do not keep your quail with your chickens or anywhere near them. Chickens can be carriers of this disease and show no symptoms of it, infecting and killing your quail. Keep Chickens in their own quarters at least 20 feet or more away from your quail. This bacteria blows in the wind too. Visit your quail first before working with your chickens. If you keep your quail in aviaries, designate a pair of shoes just for your aviary so you are not dragging in bacteria. Wash your hands between the two species, even change your clothes if you are doing a lot of cleaning in the chicken area. Do not share waterers, feeders or cleaning utensils. I know this sounds extreme, but quail are highly susceptible to Coryza from chickens and quail are much harder to cure than chickens. So be very careful if you keep both quail and chickens. As with chickens, the survivors of this disease become carriers for life even if they show no symptoms of it.

There are several drugs you can use to treat Coryza. However, Sulfadimethoxine seems to work the best in this case.

There is a 5 day egg and meat withdrawal when using this product.

Quail Bronchitis
This is a disease of Bobwhites only. Japanese Quail are resistant as are more other species of quail. Symptoms include rattles while breathing and coughing. There can also be conjunctivitis, (inflammation of the eye). this is mainly transmitted through wild birds. So keep the wild birds out of your aviaries. There is no treatment for this disease. However, you can treat the secondary infections with Tylan.

There is a 1 day egg and meat withdrawal when using this product.

Equine Encephalitis
Similar to West Nile Virus, this is a virus spread by mosquitoes. While not incredibly common in all parts of the country, it is common in New Mexico among the horses and the wild birds. The first symptom that occurs is neck tremors and ticks as the brain swells. Equine Encephalitis causes brain swelling and recovery can take months if not years. Supportive care is all that saves the birds. 

There is no treatment except supportive care of heat and making sure they eat. Using a mosquito fogger in your backyard or around the quail area can help keep these biting bugs away from your birds. However, be careful not to let the spray get into the water or feed. Bug zappers may also keep the mosquito population down. Keep your yard as clean as possible and remove all standing water so you are not giving these mosquitoes breeding grounds. 

MG (Mycoplasma Gallisepticum)
MG or Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD) is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. Symptoms in quail sometimes vary from mild to severe, producing symptoms of runny to sticky secretions from the nostrils, watery eyes which can be foamy, swollen sinus's, sneezing, and coughing. Many people think their birds have a cold when in fact they have MG. This bacteria is generally brought in when you introduce new birds to your flock or have transferred it from your other poultry. So always practice good bio security and quarantine all new birds for 30 days you intend on adding to your flock. MG can also be transmitted to offspring through the egg. Once your birds have MG, they are carriers for life.

There are several medications out there that treat MG. However, Duramycin seems to work the best for quail.

All quail are open to getting worms, even cage kept birds. Of course quail kept in aviaries on the ground are a bit more susceptible, however not quite as badly as other free ranged poultry. The most common worm quail have to deal with is the Round Worm. Since quail are not out foraging in the soil where other anmals have been. not catching bugs that might carry tapeworms, round worms seem to be the most common of worm you have to be concerned with. If you avoid digging up earth worms and other slugs for our birds, it si not likely they will carry anything other than the round worm. Like all birds, your quail can develop some immunity to worms and can learn to control them over time. So for this reason, I don't like to over do the wormers unless you suspect they have worms. If you have hatched and raised your own quail, keep your cages, pens, and aviaries clean, you may never have an outbreak of worms ever. However, if you purchase your quail from a quail farm, someone off craigslist or somebody down the street, I highly recommend you worm these newly purchased birds. Since you have no idea of the conditions in which they were raised, chances are good they are loaded with worms. The best is to take a poop sample into your vet just to see hat you are dealing with.

It is a bit more difficult to see symptoms in quail as they have no comb as chickens do and it is hard to see who is pooping where. It helps to pick up your quail occasionally and give them a feel. If the breast bone is really protruding and you see them consuming more feed than you think they should be eating, or you are seeing lots of diarrhea, it is possible they do have worms. Over loaded quail will stop laying and generally look pretty lifeless. The round worm lives in the intestinal tract and consumes all the food that the birds are eating causing the bird to lose a lot of weight. Eventually these worms clog up the entire intestinal tract an the bird is unable to move the crop or even defecate. Eventually the bird starves to death or dies from impactions.

For round worms, Wazine is the easiest method to worm quail with. If you suspect tape worms, use Valbazen.

Mites are everywhere. Birds in any living conditions can turn up with mites and these tiny annoying bugs are not necessarily caused from dirty living conditions but it does help to keep your facilities as clean as you can so your birds are less likely of having to deal with these tiny livestock. 

Mites are not really easy to see, specially during the day. They like to hide in bedding and then come out at night and suck the blood of the birds as they are sleeping. During the day these mites will look white or clear and then after sucking the blood from the birds, they turn red.

If you start seeing a lot of broken feathers, red skin around the vents, missing feathers under the wings, lots of scratching, you may have mites. There are many chemicals out there you can use such as Sevin or Ivermectin Pour On. There are also natural products you can use with great success such as DE (Diatomaceous Earth) or Poultry Protector which contains natural oils that suffocate the bugs. Make sure to clean out and replace all bedding as well. Dust or spray all areas, the floors and any bush piles. Repeat these procedures on the birds and their area once a week for a few weeks and you should be able to get a handle on these tiny bugs.

Leg Scale Mites
Leg Scale Mites are not all that common and occur more often in older birds. Wild birds carry these mites as well. These tiny bugs are invisible to the naked eye and burrow underneath the scales on the legs and toes. They are pretty slow moving so you usually only see one bird at a time with these mites. You can tell they have leg scale mites by the way the scales will raise way up and if the mites are bad enough, crusts will form from the excrement of these mites on the scales of the bird.

The best way to prevent your birds from getting these tiny mites is to be careful bringing in new birds and always inspect the feet of newly purchased birds. Keep all wild birds out of your aviaries or quail areas.

Treating for these mites is fairly easy. Rub in some Vaseline all over the legs and toes and gently under the scales. This is going to smoother the mites. Repeat this daily for a week or two, depending on the severity of the condition and this usually does the trick. If the scales are to the point of being crusty, this may take a bit longer to heal. Continue using the Vaseline and don't pick the crusts off. Just let them fall off on their own as this can tear off scales and cause bleeding. Meanwhile clean up all bedding and powder everything with DE. Repeat the cleaning. After one week you should be able to get control of these mites in this fashion.

Egg Binding
This is a very common issue with quail hens, especially with the young layers. Lots of reasons can cause more cases of egg binding and some of these can be avoided if you are careful in how you keep your birds. 

A few of the leading caused of egg binding in quail hens is dehydration and no aces to oyster shell for calcium.

One of the easiest ways a hen gets dehydrated is living in a cage that is too crowed and either she is being bullied away from the water or is too shy to get a drink, but this is usually a case of living in over crowed conditions. Too much compettion. So this is one good reason to never crowd your quail. Water is needed for the hens to properly push the egg out and lubricate the oviduct and if she is dehydrated, the egg is going to get stuck.

Calcium...I can't say enough. Since most quail feeds don't contain high amounts of calcium, you need to keep some crushed oyster shell available at all times for the laying hens. Calcium is very important to give those eggs a hard shell and for contractions of the uterus to push that egg out.

Another reason young layers have trouble with egg binding is using a very high protein feed. The higher the protein, the larger the egg and the more frequently she lays. So back of on the protein levels to 24% to 26% when they get near laying age. 

Also, using additional lighting to force laying. Quail are seasonal layers and their bodies are not designed to lay in the off breeding season. Forced laying, especially on young layers can cause them to lay earlier than they normally would and if their bodies are not fully grown yet, eggs get stuck. When an egg is stuck, the bird cannot defecate and or they become prolapsed. Once they reach that point of prolapse, if not caught early enough, generally they end up dying. If they are in the cage with other birds, they will no doubt peck her vent until she bleeds to death.

Generally an egg bound hen will be all hunched up. She will have trouble walking, she may not be pooping and have their necks drawn in. SHe will look very uncomfortable and appear to be straining heavily. Give the suspected hen a quick exam. Put on a latex glove and with some KY-Jelly or Vaseline, lube up your pinky finer and her vent and gently put your pinky finger in her vent, straight back. Sometimes you can see the egg right there at the vent. However, it can also be stuck about 1 inch into her vent. If you don't feel an egg in the first 1/2 to 1 inch, she is not egg bound.

If you do find an egg stuck in there, there are a few things you can do. First you can try lubing up her vent and just inside the vent. Many times this will get that egg to move. If that doesn't do it, take her inside the house and fill up the bathroom sink with some warm water. Don't fill it too deeply as you are going to put her in this water and she will feel more comfortable if she can feel the bottom when she stands. Not hot, but not cool. Warm water. This warm water will help to relax her muscles and make it easier to expel the egg. Put her into this water so that her back half is soaking in the water. Hold her in this water as she may try to panic at first. Generally they calm down from the warmth. Hold her in this water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Towel her off and blow dry her the best you can. Don't let her get cold. Put her somewhere in a dimly lit quiet room for 30 minutes to an hour. Generally this is enough time to get her to pass the egg.

If by chance the egg is still stuck, you will need to break it. This is not recommended unless that egg is just not passing. If you can see the egg, make a tiny hole in the egg, you can use a syringe without a needle and suck the contents out of the egg and then gently collapse the egg. You don't want all that yoke inside the bird. Be very careful not to cut the inside of the hen with these shards as this can cause infections. Gently remove the collapsed egg shell. You can use a turkey baster to rinse out any yoke or shards that may have stayed inside the oviduct.

Once you get the egg out, let her rest for several hours or even over night somewhere quiet. She can go back to the flock once she is seen eating, drinking and walking properly. Make sure she is dry and that her vent is not prolapsed so others won't peck at her. 

Bumblefoot is the term used for internal infections in the pads of the foot. A bird can get Bumblefoot from standing on wire too long which causes bruising, dirty wire, getting poked on wire...screws...or anything sharp in their area. This is not an easy thing to treat with quail so it is a lot easier to prevent it from occurring.

If you keep quail on wire, always give them places to get off the wire to rest their feet. Standing too long on wire will bruise the feet and pads and bacteria will enter the pad. Keep your wire very clean! This is very important. Quail pads are very soft and delicate and the tiniest poke opens them up to getting bacteria entering the body. This infection can and will kill them if not treated and as i mentioned, it is not easy to treat quail. To diagnose Bumblefoot in quail, the pads will be very swollen and red, hard, the birds will be limping and many times you can see the infection on the pad with a black spot on the pad.

With larger fowl, this infection can be dug out of the foot pads. But quail are far too tiny to do this surgery on. If you suspect your quail have Bumblefoot, and many times only one or two will get it at first, get them all on soft bedding for a while. Since you can't dig this infection out, the most you can do is soak their feet in epsom salts for 10 minutes a day, apply some neosporin (without the painkiller) and really rub it good into the pad and keep the birds warm. Repeat this procedure daily until you see improvement. If the infection is bad enough, this will not help them and you may need to put your quail down before the infection becomes systemic. Prevention is the best medicine in this case.

Head Boink
The Head Boink refers to any bird that has flushed up into the ceiling of the cage, hutch or even aviary and has hit their head. This can be easy to diagnose as this injury effects the brain, neck and spinal cord. The bird will be walking backwards or can't walk at all. They will seem almost paralyzed at times and confused. Sometimes you can't stop this from happening, but you can do a few things to help prevent it.

If you keep your quail in cages, make sure to keep your ceiling no higher than 1 foot. Usually they can't get enough fast lift to hit hard should they flush upwards. As with all caged, hutched or aviary kept birds, put in some fake or real foliage, brush piles, just something to hide under. Your birds will not be as inclined to flush when frightened if they have cover to run to. I can't stress this enough. Give them some safe cover and they will be far less skittish and panicked when they feel scared. Another thing is make sure your birds are not being harassed in the night by predators. This is when most head boinking occurs when the night time monsters come out looking for a meal or quail. So keep your quail area as safe an environment as possible to prevent flushing. Use solar lighting, flashing red lights, fence off the area, whatever it takes to keep your birds safe. If you go out in the night to check on your birds, make sure you alert them with your voice long before you get there. Don't startle them with lights or sudden noises to make them flush.

If you do find one of your birds has boinked their heads, supportive care is all you can do for them. First thing, if it is cold outside get them under heat. Injury sends birds into shock. Shock shuts the bird down and they get very cold. Shock can kill faster than the injury, so keep them warm in an isolated place away from the other birds. Keep them on bedding if they are unable to walk. You will need to dip their beaks in the water every few hours, you will need to hand feed them as well. Generally if a bird is going to survive, they recuperate in 4 or 5 days. If you too much damage was done to the brain or spinal cord, the outcome is usually not good. They will either pass on or you will need to put them down in a humane way.

Mixing In New Birds
Flocks of any types of birds do not take kindly to new comers to the flock. Each group of birds has a hierarchy that must be followed at all times and new birds are just not accepted well into any flock because of their pecking order. 

When mixing in new birds to your flock, quarantining is the best way to do this to avoid disease that might devastate your existing flock and to prevent chaos and death within the entire order. Keep all new birds in a cage within your aviary, set up a small cage next to your hutch or put a partition in your cages for the new birds. Anything will work as long as everybody sees everybody closely. Everybody see, nobody touches. Leave them like this for 3 to 4 weeks. This gives the new birds time to show any disease they may be carrying and for some of the pecking order to be worked out from behind wire. After 3 or 4 weeks when the new birds look well, you can mix in your new birds. It is always best to introduce at least 2 birds at a time. 1 will be too vulnerable to others bullying them by themselves. Watch your birds closely that day and through that next week. If there is too much aggression, you will need to remove who ever is the most aggressive. Especially with Coturnix Quail. Sometimes you need to mix and match these birds when some just don't like certain birds in the new flock. And remember to stick to your space requirements when adding new birds. If they are crammed in, these new birds can turn up dead from aggression. Quail can be very cannibalistic and kill each other when you add new birds, they are cramped or for just any other reason. So watch carefully after mixing and be ready to separate if needs be. If somebody does get scalped or wounded, remove this bird back into the other separated side of the cage and apply some neosporin. Leave them on the separated side until the wound is healed. Figure out who is the most aggressive and remove them to another cage with those that they do get along with.

Supportive Care
At some point in your quail keeping experience, somebody is going to get injured or sick. If the birds is healthy enough to survive, it will be the supportive care that gets them through it. One of the first things that happens to injured birds is shock. Shock is natures way of shutting the bird down, leading to death. The first symptom of shock is the bird will get very cold as the body starts to shut down. And many times shock kills faster than the injury. If you find one of your birds has been injured, separate the bird and get them under a heat lamp. A good temperature for a hospital cage is 80 to 90 degrees.

Good ointment to use are any antibacterial ointments that do not have pain killers in them. Neosporin is a great medication to use on scalping and other injuries. Pain killers can harm poultry, so make sure to use the Neosporin without the pain killer. Blu-Kote is a wonderful antiseptic/anti-fungal spray to use, however don't use it on large injured areas. It tends to harden the area of and can not allow for good healing.

For small areas, Blu-Kote is excellent to use because it hides injuries and you can get the bird back into the flock sooner. The loner you keep a bird out of the flock, the more difficult it is to mix them back in due to the aggression of the pecking order. If you are applying Blu-Kote to the head or around the eyes, you will need to spray this stuff into a ceramic bowl of some sort and apply it with a Q-tip. Blu-Kote stains your hands and clothes, so wear gloves when spraying.

All sick birds require a heat lamp as well. Sick birds do not heal if they are cold. It is VERY common for injured an or sick birds to go off their feed. Birds lose weight very fast due to their high metabolism's so you will want to feed them what ever it is they will eat 

Keeping them Healthy Naturally
Quail are living, feeling creatures and should be treated with great respect to their lives, comfort and both mental and physical health. GIve them the best environment that you can to keep them happy, quiet, comfortable, dry and physically healthy. they will live much longer, be far less aggressive toward each other and if given the most natural environment you can afford, may even surprise you with going broody and raising a clutch of chicks.

They need as much space as you can possibly afford. Double the size of space requirements. This will do wonders for their mental state. Put fake on real branches or other foliage in all cages, hutches and aviaries. Brush is huge to quail. You will make their day if you put this stuff in their cages. All they ask for is a natural environment. Even if your cage is small. Put a small leafy branch in there and see the difference.

Offer up other foods besides there game bird food. Other food stuffs like fruits and veggies can offer them vitamins and other trace minerals they might not be getting in their diet. A variety diet is essential to their mental state as well. It breaks up boredom, gives them something to look forward too, burns off calories chomping into an apple or a peach and enriches their otherwise boring life with some excitement. Food is also a great bonding agent between you and your birds. When they see you coming with that bag of goodies, see if they don't beg to eat out of your hands. Even if you are raising quail for meat only, these birds as well will appreciate a treat of two during the day to help enliven their minds.

Some alternative food stuffs to keep them healthy are Probiotics and apple cider vinegar. Both of these will help to boost immunity to disease. 70% of the immune system lies in the intestinal tract. Probiotics with their good bacteria will keep the intestinal track loaded with oxygen. Most pathogens take hold in the intestines dark anaerobic tissues. If you load these tissues up with oxygen and good bacterias, these pathogens don't stand a chance. You can use any type of probiotics whether they are for animals or humans. Follow the directions on the container for animal probiotics, human grade you will want to empty a capsule into a quart waterer, discard the capsule, fill the water. Always change this water and make a new batch daily. You can use this daily if you wish. You can also put probiotics in the feed as well.

As for Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV),  this stuff goes in as an acid, however as the body digests it, it turns the body more alkaline. bacteria, virus's, and yeast/fungal infections cannot survive in a high alkaline environment. ACV contains all kinds of trace minerals and other things they will not get from their feed. It helps gloss up the feathers, increases appetite and reduces inflammation. So raise the PH of the body and it resists disease. It is not recommended to use ACV on a daily basis, although it does take time so raise the bodies PH. You can use this for one week a month and your quail will benefit greatly. ACV is a great tonic for sick birds to help them cope and feel better during healing.