It is pretty darned hard to get much cuter than a freshly hatched Button Quail. They are born with feathers of all colors of greys, browns, whites, and have spots, stripes, or solid feathering. Barely larger than a bumble bee when hatched, buttons are enchanting, adorable, industrious, and playful.
Button Quail have a very active nature, are voracious eaters, and can be very protective of their space and their chosen mates. My experience has been to be vigilant for squabble outbreaks as Buttons can reduce a perfectly normal cage mate to a bloody mess in just a short period of time. Overcrowding is a no no, and mixing different aged Buttons can also be a potential problem for the smaller ones.
**Introducing new Buttons to an established cage must be done patiently. Buttons can be extremely territorial and I have seen both males and females act aggressively toward a new cage mate.
Following are some thoughts and information of the things I have learned since I began to raise Buttons. I recommend that new Button owners also do their own research, and it is good to have a good resource to refer to when issues arise.
Button Quail Life Span
Buttons live an average of 3-5 years for males and 2-4 for the girls. Much depends on proper feeding, hygiene care, and genetics. Hens in particular must be fed adequate calcium, proteins, and Vitamin D to help their bodies not become mineral depleted from egg laying, or suffer consequential injuries due to poor bone health.
Sexing a Button
Some Buttons are sexually dimorphic (able to tell the difference between male and female), other mutations and colors make it more difficult. The bibbed varieties are easier to tell because the males have bibs and the females don't. Whites, Tuxedos, Darth Vaders, and other mutations are extremely difficult to tell except to compare body structure. Females tend to be rounder with a slightly swollen vent area and pelvic bones may feel further apart than on the males, The males do crow, but also seem more streamlined and upright than the females. Many of the mutation colors show a deep red color along the sides, around the vent, and tail feathers if it is a male.
The bigger the better is a good "rule of thumb" to keep in mind when chosing a place where Buttons will live. I prefer cages with wire bottoms where wire spacing is extremely small, almost as small as screen (Some people disagree with wire floors, but my experience has been to notice balls of wet poo and substrate on little toes are not as likely to be a problem. So house your Buttons in the safest way possible. Floors are the best of course because Buttons are ground dwellers and love to run around gathering food and taking dust baths. I recently read a post suggesting the use of cedar shavings which is a huge NO~NO! I know some folks who actually house their grown buttons in aquariums. Just be diligent to watch their feet as wet substract can ball up on their toes and become hard as cement. This can cause issues with toe loss as well as stress to the bird to remove these little balls, Cages instead of aquariums, allow fresh air flow, and the bedding is able to stay drier. I use pine shavings, but any type of substract that allows good footing (except corn cob, walnut shells, and cedar) should work just fine. Avoid newspaper as it is difficult for these little guys to walk on especially when very young. I have also had bad luck with paper towels on the youngsters thus causing some splay leg. Shavings also offer Buttons a great deal of fun as they LOVE to snuggle into them for warmth, dusting, nesting possibilities, and hiding places. Yes, I have seen my Buttons push substrate up into a pile then snuggle down inside as though they are hiding! Another idea is wood pellets, but they work much better when the buttons are older. If they have issues using them, then don't hesitate to throw that idea out the "cage door". Haha.
Babies are kept in aquariums with UV warming lights as they must be kept warm. My aquarium has a screened top on which a hooded light sits. Then over that I have placed a large towel to keep the warmth in along with added privacy. When they are old enough I transfer them into cages with a light set up for warmth if they need it. Usually my Buttons go into a cage at about 3 weeks or older.
When I have batches of Buttons hatching at different times, I do not mix the new ones with the older ones. Instead, I have a separate box with a screen on top that I place in the aquarium along with the older Buttons. The screen keeps the babies in, and curious older oglers out! Or if space allows you can use a separate aquarium for each new group of buttons.
Button Nutrition and Feed Requirements
The type of feed for babies is unmedicated chick starter. NEVER use any type of feed that is medicated with ANY type of quail. Though already crumbled, the feed still needs to be ground up into smaller pieces because new buttons are so teeny when hatched. I also supplement with Volkmans Egg food for added protein and vitamins. Water MUST be placed in lids or another type of small container. In this add marbles or clean rocks so that baby Buttons don't fall in the water and drown. Furthermore, marbles glitter in the water thus drawing the babies to drink out of curiousity. Buttons drink a lot of water and you will have to replenish it frequently.
Because buttons need a diet of high protein Volkman's Egg food (or boiled egg mashed up with the shell), grain and bean cooked meals, or crushed egg shells are good sources of protein, A good supplement to add to their water is Braggs Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar (with the Mother in it)at 1 TBSP per gallon of water. Of course adjust for amount of water used. You can also use liquid or powdered calcium placed in their drinking water. Hemp, and pulverized Flax are two excellent grain/seed to offer your Buttons. Buttons LOVE food as much as they love the company of other Buttons. Give them some food and it is soon thrown around the cage and then quickly devoured. I have NEVER seen a bird act so voracious offered fresh food or live insects...and especially mealworms!!
**Please refer to the "Safety" page for a list of toxic and non toxic plants and woods that are appropriate for your Buttons as well as all birds.**
Cannibalism among Buttons
I suppose it is not really cannibalism, but I have seen Buttons reduced to a bloody mass in short order. Again, be extra vigilant when introducing new Buttons to an established cage. Introduce them at night in the dark after a week or two living in side by side cages. Once a Button gets picked on it doesn't seem to take long to gang up on one poor little bird. Physical symptoms of discord are bare spots on any part of the body. I had one Button that was picked on under his back wing., but often it is the back, neck or face. Of course, the males can be pretty brutal on their girls. Adaquate space to run around, and plenty of hiding places help to curb at least some of this unfortunate button behavior.
A little side not here:
I have been experimenting lately by placing all male Button Quail together that have been in squabbles. Without hens, what I have seen is that for the most part feathers begin to grow in and the bachelors find peace among each other. For those who do not care to have hens, I have found it is possible to house a group of males together peacefully.
To help new feathers grow in, supplement with ground up flax as it supplies Omega 3 fatty acids that help promote feather growth.
**Keep injured spots clean. I use a bit of Bentadine or spray antibiotic made for animals, and will immediately separate the injured bird until it heals. If left with the flock, the sore spot becomes a red hot target for cannabilism. But also watch for depression in a separated bird as they do not like to be removed from their flock.**
Button have three things they love in life: Socializing with each other, eating, and for the girls laying eggs! Button hens can begin laying as young as 6 weeks, and they will lay, and lay, and lay. In general, Buttons, like chicken hens, lay more eggs with longer daylight hours, and less when daylight is reduced. Egg laying is tough on the girls and a more natural approach to how much light they get is a good idea. I recommend working with their own circadian rhythm in cooperation with the actual outside sunrise and sunset hours.
I have had no success with my Buttons actually trying to nest. It seems that all they do is drop their eggs in a corner or basket, but never seem to sit. But that is OK for me because I incubate all my eggs anyway. But I know folks who have been successful in letting a hen raise some babies. If you allow your hen to nest, be very careful about the male as sometimes he will attack and kill the little ones once hatched. Sometimes a male can make a good daddy, but vigilance is of the utmost importance. Remove him if you see ANY signs of aggression or anxious pacing behavior.
**I gather my eggs every day. But if you find a stray egg you can do the water test for freshness: To test for good eggs, place them in a glass of warm water. They will sink if good, float if bad.**
Offer your hen excess calcium and grit during egg laying. For me, I always add extra calcium to the water, have cuttlebone available, and also a small container of eggs shells and mineralized grit for all my birds as a general rule of health maintenance.
Sometimes a chick is born and begins to develop what is called "Splay legs." This is a VERY serious problem and can eventually lead to a crippled bird and eventual death. I have had little success correcting the splay, but if caught immediately it often corrects itself in a couple days. Place baby on a good non-slick surface, or pine shavings (not chips). Some folks have had success in tying the upper part of the legs together with string, but lose enough so the baby can still walk. But I have never been successful in this. Usually placing on a correct substrate is all it takes to correct the problem...that is if it is correctable and caught the first day. Be hopeful, but expect your baby may stay crippled. I have one young hen with a crippled foot that is doing splendidly. Do not give up on it too soon, but show compassion if you believe your baby is having difficulty living a painfree life.
I almost exclusively use pine shavings on baby quail. Once they get older and their legs are strong and stable, wire floors or bedding pellets work just fine.
Check the feet on a regular basis. Droppings and wet food can ball up on the toes and become very hard. Softening with water is the only way to remove it. DO NOT force the ball off as it can remove a toenail which will cause it to bleed. Little toes can also come off, or cause them to break. Be patient as eventually the little balls will soften and fall off easily. I hold a button's foot under warm running water while massaging the ball until it drops off. You may find your own way that works best for you.
**I once had a Button who got one of my long HAIRS, yes I say HAIRS wrapped around its little leg. Because it was running around in substrate, I did not notice the growing problem. Consequently his little leg became crippled before I found it and cut off the tightly wrapped hair. Be sure to check the feet and legs on a regular basis because weird stuff happens.**
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Linda Rose Forney 503.460.7908
Cute as a Button
I no longer raise Buttons, but hope the information helps you in some way.