Quail Diet 101: Understanding their Feeding Habits and Care Tips

Quail Diet 101: Understanding their Feeding Habits and Care Tips

 Are you fascinated by the quail species found in your area? Do you wish to welcome more of these game birds into your backyard? Although quails can be quite elusive, understanding their feeding habits doesn't have to be a mystery.

Quails are omnivorous, but their diet mainly consists of seeds, grains, leafy greens, certain berries, and insects. Baby quails require more protein and hence eat more insects. The quail's diet varies with seasons and whether they are in captivity or the wild.

In this article, we'll provide you with a comprehensive guide on quail's feeding habits, including what they eat, how much they eat, and when they eat. By the end of this guide, you'll have all the information you need to attract these lovely birds to your yard!

What Do Quail Eat?

Across the world, there exist over 130 breeds of quail. The dietary habits of these birds vary depending on a few factors, including their habitat (whether they are living in captivity or in the wild), their age, and the region of the world they inhabit.

What Do Captive Quail Eat?

It is a common mistake for some individuals to assume that their captive quail can subsist on the same poultry feed as chickens. However, a generic chicken feed will lack the essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that are necessary for the optimal growth and health of captive quail.

To feed your quail properly, there are specific feeds available to suit your needs, such as commercial feeds for flight, release, or game birds. Regardless of the type of feed you choose, aim for one that contains at least 80% grains.

Alternatively, you can also create a natural feed for your captive quail by combining barley, oats, rye, milo, sunflower seeds, and kernels, with leafy green vegetation, dried insects, and some berries.

While some individuals prefer to diversify their quail's diet with items like cake, rice, sweetcorn, and pasta, it's important to do so in moderation. If a quail dislikes a particular food, it won't consume it, so it's essential to determine its preferences.

Since quail stop eating when they're full, you can leave their food out without the worry of overfeeding them.

What Do Wild Quail Eat?

Wild quail are commonly found in meadows, grassy fields, and cropland areas. They prefer tall grasses as they spend most of their time there foraging, nesting, and sleeping.

These wild quail mostly forage for dried seeds that have fallen from their stalks, preferring hard and slick seeds such as soybeans, millet, and corn. They will also consume ragweed, foxtail, wild sweet peas, bristlegrass, and broomweed.

Apart from seeds, they will also search for the fruit of woody plants like prickly pear, wolfberry, and hackberry. Depending on the location and season, they will consume a variety of berries such as blackberries, grapes, currants, and dragon fruit.

In preparation for laying eggs, wild quail will increase their protein intake by consuming more insects and invertebrates, including beetles, bees, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, roaches, spiders, and even scorpions.

As winter approaches and insects become scarce, wild quail will shift their diet to incorporate more leafy greens and plants.

What Do Baby Quail Eat?

The young of quail are referred to as chicks, and they are quite active immediately after hatching, requiring a sufficient amount of food to match their persistent energy levels.

It is crucial for baby quail to receive an adequate amount of protein until they reach two months of age, which is when they are considered mature enough to breed.

In the wild, chicks will consume only insects until they are eight weeks old, after which they begin to incorporate more seeds and grains into their diet.

For chicks in captivity, it is recommended to feed them starter feeds that contain approximately 30% protein. It is important to ensure that food is available for the chicks throughout the day.

How Much Do Quail Eat?

An adult quail typically consumes approximately 20 grams of food per day, which equates to roughly 20% of its body weight.

It is advisable to leave a surplus of food for both chicks and adults. Quail have a tendency to eat until they are full and then store some extra food in their crop. However, they do not overfeed themselves.

Do Quail Change Their Diet By The Season?

Quail have a tendency to consume more of what is readily available to them. Although they have a preference for grains, they will shift to leafy greens during late summer and fall when insects become scarce. These greens may include lettuce, peas, broccoli, celery, clover, and other similar options.

In spring and summer, when insects are abundant, quail will take full advantage and consume more of them. This provides them with extra protein as they prepare for winter.

During the harvest season, as seeds begin to fall from certain stalks, quail will follow suit and stock up on these seeds.

What Not To Feed Quail?

There are certain types of foods that can make quail ill or even lead to their death. To avoid harming your quail, it's best to steer clear of feeding them caffeine, meat, avocados, parsley, chocolate, tomato stems or leaves, salty foods, and citrus fruits.

While it isn't necessarily toxic, it's also best to avoid feeding quail anything from your backyard. Quail are intelligent animals that will quickly discover the source and may end up damaging your garden.

Tips For Feeding Quail

When feeding your quail, follow these tips:

  • Purchase high-quality quail feed
  • Use small food pieces
  • Avoid mashed feed
  • Leave out enough food for the day
  • Watch out for the mess

Although quail are not too picky about their living conditions, they are particular when it comes to the size of their food. Choose high-quality feed that is specifically formulated for quail, as chicken or other types of feed may not provide the necessary vitamins and minerals required. Quail need high levels of minerals for eggshell and bone formation, as well as proper growth and development. If you opt for turkey feed, make sure it's non-medicated.

Quail prefer small food pieces that are similar in size. This makes it easier for them to eat their food sources since they are often found foraging and pecking at the ground. If purchasing commercial feed, ensure the grains are small enough for your quail to consume. Pellets may need to be broken down by hand before feeding your quail. Avoid buying mashed feed, as it can become too powdery, making it difficult to pick up and eat, which could cause infections in the quail's feet.

Quail can be left with food for most of the day. They 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. Quail will not overeat.

If feeding quail in a contained environment, be aware of their messy eating habits. They tend to throw their food far, especially when pecking at it from within feeders or containers. It's important to clean up any spilled grains as they could attract pests or cause a choking hazard. The grains on the floor may be picked up by other hungry quail as the day goes on.


Quail have a varied diet that changes depending on the season. For the first two months of their lives, chicks require a protein-rich diet, so they feed solely on insects.

As they grow into adults, quail focus on consuming grains and seeds, which make up approximately 80% of their diet. They may also supplement their diet with leafy greens, berries, and insects, depending on what is available.

If you keep quail in captivity, you can feed them commercial feed as long as it has sufficient vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to promote adequate growth. If you want to add any special treats to your quail's diet, keep it to a minimum and avoid the list of toxic foods we mentioned earlier.

Quail can be picky eaters, but they know when to stop. You can leave enough food out for these adorable creatures without worrying about overfeeding them.

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