It’s fine and dandy for quail to be messy eaters in the wild, but their natural instinct to make a mess of their feeders isn’t conducive for confined quail. Quail tend to waste feed by violently rummaging through their crumbles about—with their heads. Quail are natural foragers, and their main diet consists of grains, seeds, and bugs. In the wild, they have to scratch, hunt, and peck for food. So, when your quails start wasting feed, that you paid for, the behavior isn’t as understandable.
If quail are left to their own devices, they will happily make a mess with their feed. And if you’ve ever watched quail eat game bird crumbles, you’ve probably cringed at the amount of wasted feed ending up in bedding, or in droppings.
Quail are picky eaters, and they prefer to eat food that is the same size across the board. So if you have crumbles that vary in size, you will soon realize that your quail are picking through it and choosing only the size of crumble they want to eat.
Not only is wasted food an expensive problem to have, but it can also cause food to mix with droppings. If your quail decide to eat their discarded food, later on, they may also be consuming harmful bacteria from the droppings.
Lastly, food-flinging also creates a problem in the quails’ water source— it can dirty the water and promote additional bacteria growth. Keeping your quails’ water clean is important in preventing poultry diseases.
Quail Feeder Options
Now that you know what to consider when feeding your food-flinging quail, you can make an educated decision about the kind of quail feeder you would like to use. While there aren’t many options specific to quail, there are things you can do to create the perfect feeder for your picky quails.
1. Chicken Feeders for Quail
Many quail owners start out with chicken feeders first because well let’s be real, you probably started out with chickens first and then moved onto raising quail. It’s common to raise both chickens and quail. If you do, feeding quarters should be separate because quail feed is much different than what chicken eat. If you are using a chicken feeder to accommodate your quails, it will most likely be a self-dispensing cylinder with an open ring around the bottom for food to fall into as it is consumed. It will do the job if you don’t have other options, but it does nothing to prevent quail from scratching at it or throwing it around with their beaks.
Another type of chicken feeder often used is a long, covered, tray with a series of holes that provide access to the feed. Because the holes are intended for chickens, they are usually much larger than a quail’s head, which means they have more freedom of movement—and you guessed it, more room to fling their food.
Food in either of these containers can easily be sorted through, and wasted, by quail. However, if this is your only option, you can limit how much feed is in the container to try to make it more difficult for the quail to reach and make a mess.
2. Cage-Style Quail Feeders
Galvanized feeders typically hang on the outside of the pen for easy filling, and extend through a measured hole in wire cages. The tray portion of the feeder enters through the hole, and quail have direct access to the feed.
Typically created for small animals, like rabbits, they are not conducive to keeping a flinging-free zone. If this is all you can find, to begin with, it will do just fine temporarily. However, you will need to make sure you are cleaning the mess up regularly, so the feed does not spoil in the bottom of the cage, or create other problems—like more flinging when your quail decide wasted feed can double as a dust bath!
3. Homemade Quail Feeders (PVC)
A quick YouTube search of quail feeders will provide tons of excellent videos from handy, experienced, quail owners. These feeders are often created from PVC pipe, old milk jugs, small plastic tubs, and so on. Here’s an example of one of these DIY feeders.
Once you witness your quail’s horrible table manners, you may decide creating your own feeder will teach them to mind their peas and q’s.
Here are a few things to consider when constructing your own feeder:
- Make the head holes just big enough for an adult quail’s head to fit through. This will prevent food from flying out of the feeder and onto the floor. Your quail will continue to fling food, but now it will just drop back into the feeder.
- This type of feeder is optimal for ground pen raised quail, so you’ll want to keep your feeder close to the ground so they can forage it makes it easier for them to reach in to eat.
- Construct the food tray, the part of your feeder which holds the food, large enough so you can fill it halfway. Feed that is just within reach ensures that quail get enough to eat but not make a mess.
4. Range Quail Feeders
Range feeders are perfect for the free-range bird, or for those of you raising quail for sport or release. These type of outdoor feeders are ideal for feeding quail on your property. They also aid in keeping quail from leaving your location to find the nutrition they need, especially in fall and winter.
Range feeders are usually large containers that appear hat-like. The “brim” of the hat-like feeder prevents rain from running into the feed and spoiling it.
Feeders meant for the outdoors may come in a variety of ingenious designs, all made to hold a lot of feed, and keep it from spoiling.
Range feeders are made in many different sizes, from 25 lb to 150 lb capacities, and everything in between. These large feeders will not provide the “waste-less” features mentioned earlier. However, food waste is less of a concern for quail being raised free range.
Free-range quail can forage for their feed, meaning they can go out and get what they want most—usually grains and seeds. If they can’t find what they are looking for, they will head back to the range feeder to supplement their diets. It’s just a way of knowing your quail are getting all the nutrition they need when they are free-range.
You can find most of these feeders at local ag stores, or co-ops, however, some specialty stores have quail-specific feeders. Figuring out if you will raise quail for meat or eggs can also help in deciding which feeder is right for you. If you are just starting out, do the best you can with whatever containers you can find, and if you are handy, make something that fits your quail, and their adorable behaviors, perfectly. You can always upgrade as your quail-keeping operation grows. Now that you know what types of feeders you have to choose from, I’m sure you’re wondering what to put in them. You can check out our ultimate quail feed guide for more info.