Quail love water. You will be surprised how much they drink when you start raising them. But do they love getting into the water and swim? Let’s find out.
Quail don’t swim and are not good at it. They can easily drown as babies, and they are only moderately capable of swimming for short distances when they grow up. As ground-dwelling foragers, they prefer taking dust baths rather than a dip in the water.
Do quail like water?
Quail are absolutely in love with water as long as they drink it, but when it comes to swimming, they prefer staying on land if they have a choice. They are not incapable of swimming, but their bodies are not designed to be in water.
The bone density and the body weight of the quail make it possible for it to float on top of the water even for extended periods. They are capable of propelling themselves forward and even changing direction. This helps them survive if they fall into the water or are forced to spend some time in it.
However, there are three main issues that make them bad at swimming.
Quail feathers don’t repel water, unlike duck or goose feathers. They lack those wax glands that give those birds the ability to spread a thin layer of protection onto their feathers.
When a duck takes a dive in the water, it comes out dry. This isn’t the case with quail. The longer they stay in the water, the more soaking they get.
Quail will try to get out of the water as soon as they can. They will swim to the shore and walk out, but if the bank is too steep, they will take flight, which they can’t do with wet wings.
Quail are lean animals, and they don’t have a layer of fat. They regulate their body temperature primarily with their feathers.
Once the feathers get wet, they lose the ability to keep themselves warm. This is less of a problem on warm Summer days, but it may quickly lead to illness when the weather is cool.
After running the experiment on a relatively warm day, I could feel the bird shivering in my hands.
Quail feet are not made for swimming but for foraging. Ducks and other water-dwelling birds have a membrane on their feet, which makes them efficient at swimming. They can propel themselves with ease.
If you have ever tried to race a swan or a duck at swimming, you probably noticed how fast they are.
Baby quail and water
If adult quail are not experts at swimming, baby quail are even less so. One of the main reasons baby quail die in a new quail keeper’s brooder is drowning in the waterer, even if it’s only an inch deep.
Baby quail will stand up and start running around soon after hatching from the egg. They are remarkably agile, and sometimes very hard to catch too.
However, chicks are still very inexperienced, and the muscles in their legs are undeveloped in the first few days, which is why they often splain their legs when walking on a slippery surface.
If they fall in the waterer, however shallow the water may be, they are likely to drown as they will be unable to stand up.
This is why waterers should have a narrow drinking trough or be filled with pebbles to provide a slip-free walking surface for the little ones.
Quail hygiene without water
Even though quail don’t take baths in the water, that doesn’t mean that they don’t keep themselves clean.
You will spot your quail cleaning themselves with their beaks and their claws. They often lift up their wings and give themselves a good clean everywhere.
Another way quail love maintaining good hygiene is by taking dust baths. They absolutely love going in fresh sand, and wiggling about, cleaning themselves in it. You can hear them having a great time from a good distance. Once they are done, they give themselves a good shake and feel refreshed.
Although a dust bath is not a must for quail, it is a good idea to give them a sandpit to “wash off’“.
Do quail need water?
Quail only need water to drink, not water to take baths or swim in.
Water is essential for quail to live. In fact, they drink more water per body weight than chickens do.
One of my cages, with 35 birds in it, drinks almost 4 liters of water (1 gallon) daily.
Will quail drown in water?
Adult quail won’t drown in water as they float on top of it, but they can drown if they get soaking wet and are unable to get to the shore. They are more likely to die of exhaustion or hypothermia than drowning.