There are quite a few options quail owners propose but which one is the BEST? In this article I write which bedding to pick, or decide if you need it at all.
What bedding is best for quail? Best bedding for quail is pine or aspen shavings or pine pellet, fir wood chips, straw or sand. These materials absorb just enough moisture to control odor but prevent bedding material from sticking to the quail feet. Quail can clean themselves in it.
Quail need a certain type of bedding but which one is the best for outdoor or for indoor keeping of quail? Which type of bedding is the easiest to handle, which one is the most time consuming. We will find out all of that and much more in a second!
If you can keep your quails outdoors in an aviary style hutch you can use sand or soil as bedding.
Depending on the size of the hutch you will have to clean it regularly, it can be anywhere between a week and a month and a half.
Cleaning the hutch if you use sand or soil could mean using a rototiller to mix the manure with the sand/soil or just putting a new layer of soil on top of the used one on a regular basis (depends on: number of quail, size of hutch) and after a couple of months take change completely the soil in the hutch.
The “used soil” should be composted and can be used as fertilizer in the garden.
An upside of using soil as bedding is that the eggs can be seen right away opposed to wood chips and shavings because they have a similar color to that of the egg.
Wood chips or shavings make good bedding for quail as well, in fact they are very wide spread among quail-owners.
If you use this type of bedding you have to add some shavings or chips once or twice a week and you will have to clean the hutch once a week. Quail are poop-machines. An incredible amount of droppings add up in a week.
If you don’t add to the bedding during the week and don’t change the bedding regularly, it gets too moist, the manure builds up and it will stick to the quails’ feet. Which besides being very uncomfortable can lead to all kinds of infections.
Beddings that help odor control
Aspen shavings or pine pellets as bedding provide excellent odor control. Adding some dry stall to the bedding will further increase the odor controlling ability of the bedding.
If odor control is important for you and you don’t want to feel the unpleasant smell of the quail then you should use pine pellets or aspen wood shavings as bedding. They are excellent odor controllers.
Aspen shavings are more expensive while pine pellets are a bit more wallet-friendly.
If you are still not satisfied with the result that pellet and aspen shaving provides you can mix them with some dry stall. This will definitely help you reduce bad odors.
Dry stall is a lightweight volcanic aggregate that softens, areates and drains soil. You can find it in garden shops.
Do quail need a sandbox in the cage?
You might be wondering whether quail need a sandbox in the cage? The purpose of keeping sand in the cage is two-fold: quail clean themselves with sand and quail peck at sand because they need grit to grind up feed. It is enough to place a box of sand in the cage once a week.
Quails use sand for dust-bathing in it. If you have ever seen quails in a sandbox, you know that it isn’t only about keeping themselves clean from lice and mites, but it is about playing.
The birds have a blast in the sandbox. They will cuddle in it, pump and pile up the sand on their back and dust-bathe in it.
Quails also eat some sand to grind up the feed. They will be pecking at sand and eating some of it. So, don’t get scared if you see them eating the sand, that’s because they need it to grind up the feed they eat.
Any type of sand is good for them, for instance play sand could be just as fine as construction sand.
However the more bugs and seeds quail have access to the rougher sand is better. So if you free-range them then it is a good idea to give them something rougher than just play sand.
The sandbox should have sides high enough because the quails will make a mess as they dust-bathe in it. You will also have to regularly clean and refill the box.
There are some who don’t keep the sandbox permanently in the cage, just place it in there only once or twice a week.
Beddings to stay away from
If your hutch has a solid bottom and it has a slippery surface, it must be covered with bedding.
Make sure that you place enough bedding on the bottom of the hutch so that the surface provides enough traction for the chicks to be able to learn to walk. If the surface is slippery it can lead to splayed legs. It prevents chicks’ muscles from developing properly and thus from being able to walk.
Another type of bedding you should stay away from is the cedar wood. Although it is a good mulch and fertilizer its strong smell is toxic to quail.
Best bedding isn’t only a question about what’s best for the quail but also what’s best for you. Best in this case can mean the most comfortable.
In the long run you might want a solution that is practical and less time consuming.
If you can keep the quail outdoors you can keep the quail in wire bottom cages.
Advantages of wire bottom over solid bottom cages for quail
The advantages of wire bottom cages over solid bottom cages for quail are multiple: you can keep more quail, require less maintenance and cleaning, less risk of foot infection, easier to collect eggs.
First and foremost you don’t have to clean and replace the bedding multiple times a week. The manure won’t build up in the wire cage as the droppings fall through the wire. You won’t have to clean the cage as often.
Keeping quail in a wire cage is much less time consuming. It is enough to clean it every two month or so.
Although it is less of a natural environment for quail, it is more hygienic because the droppings fall through the holes. The risk of build ups from feces sticking to the feet of the quail and thus infectious diseases is much lower.
Using a wire bottom cage also means that you can keep more quails in the same amount of space. As you don’t have to have bedding and there is more room in it for the quails. Some people go as far as keeping three times as many birds in wire bottom cages than in solid bottom ones.
In a wire cage it is also much easier to collect the eggs than than on wood beddings where the colors of the egg and the beddings are so similar that it makes it hard to spot them.
All you need to make sure in a wire bottom cage is that the holes of the hardware cloth are no larger than ¼ “ to prevent the birds’ feet slipping through the wire. Also, make sure that the holes are large enough so droppings don’t get stuck.
A common objection against wire bottom cages is that they can cause injury the quails’ feet. While this is a possibility, you must not forget that quail feet can also get wounded in wood chips or shavings. Getting the quails’ feet wounded isn’t characteristic exclusively of wire bottom cages.
Can you keep quail in deep litter?
Speaking about different types of beddings we have to mention the deep litter method
What the deep litter method essentially does is that it uses the bedding and the manure as the two components of a compost.
Basically the mixing of the manure and the sawdust or shavings become one big compost. Its big advantage is that it is a natural method and that you can change the bedding once a year.
All the work it requires is that you add some bedding material to it regularly. The quails take care of the manure and will mix it with the bedding as they walk on it.
Deep litter method keeps dust down a great deal as there is just enough moisture in the hutch to keep the composting going.
Another upside of this method is that if you start the whole process at the end of winter/beginning of spring, by the time you get to autumn and winter the litter will be in a stage where it produces quite a bit of heat that is more than welcomed in that part of the year.
There are some important characteristics you need to take into consideration:
- Ventilation: you need to make sure that in the hutch there is sufficient ventilation. The bedding shouldn’t get too wet.
- The quail as they walk will turn and mix the manure with the bedding, if there are neglected areas you need to turn the bedding.
- When you start it, use small pieces of litter: the smaller the litter the quicker it will start composting. So sawdust, wood shavings are perfect. Don’t start with straw or grass.
- Make sure that the pile is always moist. If you live in a very dry area make sure that the bedding is always a bit moist.
Water and feed
Any type of bedding you might choose, make sure that it doesn’t get too moist. If it does, buildups form and stick to the feet of the quails which can be harmful for them.
To prevent excess moisture in the hutch use a system that gives just enough water to the quails so that it doesn’t get wet everything in the hutch.
The best way to feed the quails is to put the seeds or whatever feed you may give them in a closed container. What do I mean by closed?
The container should have something on the top so they can’t jump in and bathe in it. They will make a mess, and much of it will be wasted in the bedding.
I hope I was able to give you some guidance on what bedding is best for quails and now you know what to choose or even better if I was able to find a better solution for keeping them.