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Keeping Your Quail Healthy
The most important thing to know about keeping quail healthy is that preventing disease is more economical than curing it. Whenever birds are removed from their natural habitat and raised in confinement, the chance of disease becoming established is greatly increased. Several factors play a vital role in disease outbreak. Stress tends to increase susceptibility of birds to disease. Many known, and unknown, factors cause physical and/or mental stress to the birds. The most common “necessary” stress is handling and shipping of birds. The most common “unnecessary” stresses seen are predators, overcrowding, and inadequate food, water, or shelter. Another common problem is raising birds, year after year, on the same grounds. This practice does not cause a direct stress on the birds, but does permit certain disease-causing agents to build up that increase the chance of disease outbreak if stress does occur.
Begin with clean pens and equipment. You must thoroughly clean and disinfect your pen and equipment before and after each group of birds. Use a power washer or a hose and a scrub brush to clean your pen, feeders, waterers, and carrying cages. Use a quality disinfectant that contains some type of phenol, such as Tek-Trol, after cleaning for best results. Wet litter is a breeding ground for diseases, so you must remove old or wet litter to eliminate a source of disease carry-over. Litter, such as pine chips or shredded straw, must be kept clean and dry at all times. Install fresh, dry litter to you shelter area and keep it dry. Clean waterers daily and fill with fresh, cool water. Clean the feeders at least once weekly.
You must be certain that feed and water are present at all times and are easily accessed by the birds. Provide a fresh, commercial, nutritionally balanced feed. Feed stored for long periods will lose some of its nutritional value and may become moldy and toxic to the birds. Provide a fresh water supply at all times. Keep waterers free from feed and fecal contamination, since that contamination introduces harmful bacteria to the birds. Be sure the water is cool in the summer by providing shade and prevent it from freezing in the winter. Quail consume up to 2.5 times more water than feed, thus when water consumption decreases, food consumption decreases also. A reduction of water and feed consumption is usually the first indicator of illness in the birds.
Be certain that you have sufficient room and shelter in your pen. A good rule of thumb is 1-1.5 birds per square foot. Height of the pen is not a factor. Good shelter will help to keep your birds from chilling and overheating. Your shelter area should be twenty-five percent of your pen. Quail need shade from the hot sun and shelter from the pouring rain. Overcrowding increases cannibalistic feather picking, which creates stress in the birds. Overcrowding also retards growth and feed efficiency.
You must isolate your quail from other livestock. Chickens, cattle, turkeys, and swine are subject to some cross-infection. You must separate younger birds from older ones since younger birds’ immune systems are less developed than older birds and more susceptible to disease. Care for your youngest birds first and your oldest last to prevent disease transmission. Use only clean, disinfected crates or boxes to transfer your birds.
Stress from shipping can affect the performance of your birds. Be certain you have electrolytes containing vitamin A in their water to relieve the stress from transit and a new environment. Give your birds electrolytes for the first 3-5 days after receipt and any time you put a lot of stress on them. It is a good idea to not use your birds for dog training as soon as you receive them or for several days after transit.
If you do develop sick birds, you must diagnose and treat them for the specific disease. Remove individual sick or dead birds daily and dispose of them through incineration or burial to prevent a threat to your other birds. Disease prevention is not easy. You will not prevent all disease problems from occurring, but if you are willing to do what it takes to keep your pens clean, disinfected, and stress-free, you will experience fewer problems.