Quail Diet 101: Everything Quail Can and Can’t Eat

Keeping quail in your backyard farm offers a great source of eggs and meat. Feeding your quail a healthy diet will ensure the tastiest eggs and meat. When I started keeping quail I was wondering what the best food was for my quail and if I could feed them certain kitchen scraps. As I found out, certain foods are toxic and need to be avoided as they will kill your quail. 

Quail can eat bread, carrots, tomatoes, apples, chicken feed, celery, green peppers, and rice. They should not eat meat, chocolate, uncooked potatoes, parsley, grape seeds, citrus fruits, avocado, rhubarb, salty foods, or caffeine. Feeding your quail a healthy diet ensures the tastiest eggs and meat.

Once you know what foods quail can eat, you can plan to purchase or even grow your own quail food, depending on your preferences, time, and budget. 

What should your quail eat? 

Quails are omnivores, and they require a well-balanced diet that includes both plant and animal-based foods. Through experience, I found out that quail are quite picky eaters, and you will learn their preferences quite easily. For example, my quail go for commercial feed immediately, but they will leave vegetables last, and only touch them when their food box gets empty, but I know some people whose birds go for veggies first.

Learn how to raise your own quail and have an unlimited supply of eggs and meat.

My quail are always suspicious of veggies at first, and they only eat it when the feed box is empty

But just what are you allowed to serve them and what should you avoid?

Here are foods that your quail can eat.

Commercial quail feed: High-quality commercial quail feed is readily available and provides all the essential nutrients that quails need. If you have a good quality commercial feed, you don’t have to supplement their diet. Everything else on this list is either a treat or only important if you mix your own quail feed.

Income School

Insects: Quails are fond of insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. These are rich in protein and other essential nutrients that quails require. This is an essential part of their diet, especially in the first stage of their growth. As they get older (6 weeks and up), they require less protein.

Grains: Wheat, barley, corn, and millet provide carbohydrates that give the birds the energy they need.

Vegetables and fruits: Quail enjoy vegetables and fruits, such as leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, apples, celery, green peppers, cucumbers, and berries. You can also give your quail tomatoes, but you must avoid giving them the tomato plant as it contains toxins for the quail. These provide vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for overall health. You can tie fresh greens up in bunches so the quail can peck at them.

Bread: Quail can eat bread in small amounts as a treat, but it should not be a significant portion of their diet. Bread does not provide them with the balanced nutrition they need. Avoid breads that have artificial sweeteners because they can be toxic to birds. Always ensure that the bread is fresh and free from mold.

Grit: Quail require grit to help them digest food. You can provide small pebbles or buy commercial grit specifically made for quails.

Let’s look more closely at commercial feeds and costs

Here are some average prices of commercial feeds formulated for quail. Remember that this will differ depending on the brand. Buying in bulk often gives the benefit of larger savings. 

Quail can also eat gamebird feed or turkey feed. Quail can also eat chicken feed but it is not ideal as it may not provide enough nutrients since it contains more calcium and lower protein levels than quail feed. Quail require a diet with higher protein levels and a balanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus.

Quail eating commercial layer feed

Starter feed: This is used to feed young quail for the first few weeks of their lives. The cost for a 25-pound bag of quail starter feed can range from $12 to $25. (Here’s a link to a 40lbs bag of gamebird starter feed at Tractor Supply).

Layer feed: Layer feed is fed to adult quails that are about to produce eggs or have started producing eggs. A 25-pound bag of quail layer feed can range from $10 to $25. (Here’s a link to a 40lbs bag of gamebird layer feed at Tractor Supply)

Organic feed: If you feed your quail organic feed, these will be more expensive than traditional feeds. Prices can range from $20 to $40 for a 25-pound bag. (You can find various organic quail feed options at the Reedy Fork Organic Farm website).

What can’t your quail eat? 

Certain foods are toxic to quail and must be avoided at all costs. 

Chocolate: As much as you may love chocolate, do not feed it to your quail or allow your kids to do so. Chocolate is toxic to quails and can cause severe health problems.

Alcohol: Alcohol is toxic to quail and will cause severe health problems and even death. 

Avocado: Avocado contains a toxin called persin, which can be harmful to quails and other birds.

Citrus fruits: avoid feeding citrus fruits to your quail, such as lemon, lime, oranges, or grapefruit.

Tomato plant: Your quail can be served tomato, but don’t feed them the green part of the plant.

Salty foods: Quail are sensitive to high levels of salt. Salt absorbs water and can lead to severe dehydration. While you probably won’t feed raw salt to your quail, be aware that snacks like potato chips, popcorn, and pretzels are packed full of salt and should be avoided. 

Caffeine: Caffeine is a no-go for your quail. 

Sugary foods: Sugary or fatty foods can cause digestive problems and obesity.

Artificial sweeteners: Some artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, can be toxic to quails and should be avoided.

If you are giving your quail a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, and insects, these toxic foods should never be part of what you feed your birds. 

What to feed quail for eggs

Rearing quail for eggs is a fun and rewarding hobby or small home business. Quail that are laying eggs need a layer feed. This can be a purchased feed or a homemade feed. The formula needs to be rich in elements that provide the correct balance of nutrients and proteins that the birds require. 

To get scientific, the correct ratio of components for laying quail should be:

A minimum of 17% crude protein content

0.80% phosphorus

0.30% methionine

3.5% to 4.5% calcium

If you are mixing a formula at home, be sure to include 

– Crushed egg shells for calcium (you can feed back your quail eggs to your quail for a source of calcium)

– Fresh greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce for vitamins and minerals

– Mealworms, boiled eggs, soybeans, or fish meal for protein

– Flaxseed which contains Omega 3 to keep your birds healthy and increase the Omega 3 content in the eggs

– Soybeans for probiotics that can increase egg production and eggshell quality

– For organic feed, include cracked or milled grain with kelp, and alfalfa


How often do quail need to eat?

Quails are small birds with fast metabolisms, so they require frequent meals to maintain their energy levels. It is best to provide access to food throughout the day, so they can eat small amounts often. 

In my experience, quail don’t overeat. Once they are full, they don’t go near the food and go on their merry ways.

If you prefer not to leave food in the quail hutch, adult quail can be fed three times a day. Baby quails will require more frequent feeding, which could be as often as every two to three hours for the first few weeks of their lives. 

To answer the question – One large portion or several small ones? It is better to give your quail several smaller portions during the day. 

Always ensure that quail have access to fresh water and grits throughout the day and night. 

I wrote an article breaking down the cost of feeding quail and how much they eat. I encourage you to read it here.

How to feed quail cheaply?

With some time and effort, you can cut costs and work out how to feed quail cheaply. The important thing to remember is not to sacrifice nutrition and health over cost. Your quail may become ill, produce fewer eggs and meat that is not of high quality.

Consider these ideas to feed quail cheaply. 

Grow your own food: Growing your own fruits and vegetables will save loads of money. Plant carrots, leafy greens, broccoli, and celery. An established apple tree will provide fruit crops for years to come. 

Use table scraps: Quail can eat table scraps like leftover vegetables or grains from your meals.

Look for grass seed heads: If you have a grassy meadow or a garden filled with weeds, quail will eat the seed heads. Use a pair of scissors to quickly clip off the entire seed head. They make inexpensive treats and are also healthy. 

Collect bugs and garden pests: This may not suit everyone, but your garden is full of bugs and they are free! Collect cutworms, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and other small insects you don’t want in your garden. Your quail will happily eat them.

Buy chicken feed and add natural supplements: Chicken feed is cheaper than quail feed but does lack some nutrients that quail need. By adding crushed eggshells for calcium and mealworms for protein, you can save money on more expensive quail food. 

Buy veggies past their sell-by date: While You may not want to eat day-old veggies, your quail will have no problem, provided they are not moldy or rotten. Look for stores that offer last-minute deals on food that would otherwise be discarded. 

Buy feed in bulk: Buying in bulk allows you to take advantage of special offers. Ensure that you can safely store the feed in a cool, dry area for longer periods. 

Can you feed quail for several days if you’re going away?

You can provide feed for your quail if you go away for a few days. Place the food into feeders to avoid unnecessary exposure to the elements. Ensure that the feeder can hold enough food for your absence. 

Place fresh water into a water dispenser rather than an open container. Again, ensure that the water is sufficient. Place food and water in the coolest spot and avoid direct sunlight, as this can cause water to evaporate and food to spoil. 

If you are going away for an extended time, you will have to make arrangements for a friend, neighbor, or pet sitter to come in and feed your quail. 

Final thoughts

Feeding your quail a healthy, balanced diet will ensure your birds are happy, healthy, and energetic. They will lay the best eggs and if butchered, will provide tasty, flavorful meat. 

Spend time to become familiar with what quail can eat and those foods that are toxic and can make them ill or even kill them. With some planning and thought, you can also grow or provide your own food, which is cheaper than buying commercial feeds. 

Happy Quailing!


Sam is an outdoor enthusiast, who loves spending time in the garden and learning about animals. His motivating forces are his wife and 5 beautiful children. When he doesn't get it right, he will go and try again!

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