When raising quail there are a lot of variables that have to come together to keep your quail healthy. Most quail breeders first think about getting their eggs to hatch and then being able to keep the quail, disease free. These are very important factors when raising quail and do require a significant amount of knowledge and proper management.
But there is also another very dangerous problem that can occur when raising quail that is often overlooked. This problem is cannibalism, also known as picking. It can cause injury or even death when raising quail.
It may start out as simple picking of the toes and beak area of your quail. this type of cannibalism usually occurs with quail chicks. If not addressed at this point it will keep progressing as the quail age. You will also lose quite a few quail along the way. As your quail age the picking will progress more to the back and vent area of your quail. Once you have raised your quail to production age, you certainly don’t want to lose them to this problem. You have a lot of time and money invested in them.
The most common causes for cannibalism when raising quail are overcrowding, not enough food, not enough water, to much heat or not enough heat. As with disease the best solution is prevention.
When your quail chicks are in their brooding stage, use colored lights for heat. Blue comes highly recommended, but red will also work. It is not a bad idea to just give the quail chicks enough light to find their food and water. Make sure they have enough room and you follow proper temperature guides.
Provide more than enough food and water for your quail. No matter if you are raising quail as a hobby or to make money, you don’t want to lose them for the small cost of a few extra feeders or waterers.
Always provide enough space, no matter what stage of life your quail are in. This point cannot be overlooked when raising quail. This can and usually will cause cannibalism and can also cause many more problems. This is just an unnecessary mistake that should not be made.
Try to keep only uniform sized birds together. Your quail can be as mean as humans can in this respect, if they look at little different, are a little smaller or something that makes them stand out. There is a good chance they will get picked on.
Check your quail several times a day, remove any dead or injured birds immediately. Nurse your injured birds back to health before attempting to add them back to the flock. When adding the quail back to the flock, keep a close eye on the quail to make sure it is being accepted. If not you will have to remove it again. You may have to wait until cooler weather or breeding season is over before trying again.
Give your quail places to hide, make them some little brush piles out of twigs or small houses. You can also provide them with something to peck on, other than each other. Put a small tightly bound bail of hay, ripe apples, tomatoes or green corn stalks in the quails cage. I have also had someone give me a very unique idea that he said worked well for him. He took an old CD, put it on a string and dangled it down in front of them and the quail picked on that.
The other option is debeaking, I would only use this as a last resort. But if nothing else works, you are raising quail for a reason and that reason is not to have them peck each other to death. If you do have to resort to this method of stopping cannibalism, remember you have to catch the birds to do this. Catching your quail is a danger in it self.
You can use a scissors, nail clippers or there is a special device made especially for this process. This device will burn the beak back to the desired length, usually removing about one third of the upper part of the beak. I don’t like debeaking nor do I recommend it, but when all else fails. You do what you have to do.