Alternative food for keeping Quail in the Tropics

in #homesteading4 years ago

These are some notes ive collected regarding an ongoing experiment to find a way to raise cheaper, healthier quail with fewer commercial inputs, specifically in my own Tropical climate

Please comment and discuss, upvote, resteem, share and follow me!

3 Solutions - Feed, feed and feed

The cost of raising Quail is not high, however the commercial feed is 70-80 % of the cost of raising quail.
This has been the main point of failure in convincing peasant farmers I know to enter raising Quail for selling eggs and for domestic meat production. They can’t afford the feed and transports costs to get commercial grower and layer feeds
Despite quail growing quicker and with less disease issues than chickens, it is their need for a high protein diet that is a limiting factor in uptake. The tradition of feeding broken rice, corn and rice bran supplement to village chickens is not applicable to quail which will not thrive on this low protein diet

  • A Quails diet in the wild should ideally be 50-60% Insects , 30- 40% fruits and vegetables, 10-20% seeds
  • Commercially they are fed around 15g/ day ( a range of 14- 18g/d) though some sources say 20-25g /day. The size of breeds does vary and this may account for differences.
  • They require a Higher protein diet than chickens of 26- 28% to grow the chicks and 24% for layers
  • They should have no less than 20% fruits, veg and roughage
  • 0.5% salt
  • Around 2 – 5% fats , excess fat in absence of protein may depress laying
  • Egg layers need access to shell grit or mineral limestone
    There is a lot of information on growing Quail using foodstuffs from cooler regions outside the tropics, but not so much in the Tropics. So I am trying many different tropical foods to see what they like and thrive on
    If 10% of the commercial feed can be substituted by homegrown foods that is already good, even better if we can aim for 50% or greater. The more that can be economically produced by homesteaders the better


This little guy in the foreground is having a party rummaging through this compost for tidbits in this greenhouse
I’m going to start with the big one first
Wait. Compost? As a food?
Well not exactly compost as you might be thinking of it, rather all the critters that live inside the compost. Insects, worms, isopods, fungi and other wee beasties
This I have not tested yet but I’m gearing up to it, based on several observations

  1. Quail love to scratch just as much as chickens. I did not know this before. They seem most happy when I’ve set them in a bedding of topsoil and dry jackfruit leaves. They are very happy resting and scratching in it
  2. They love to eat insects. And compost attracts many invertebrates in the decomposition phase
  3. It works for chickens. Chicken coop composting is the Best. So I want to know if quail can do the same thing in miniature
  4. Nothing else in my garden has the potential to generate as much high quality protein as much as the decomposition cycle of a compost heap, nor to convert all the protein rich but inedible plants to bird food


    So im gearing up to try this. I’m sure there will be many adjustments.
    The Quail will
    • Live on top of a deep litter system that will absorb their manures
    • This will be piled up periodically to compost
    • It will be seeded with Isopods like slaters and springtails, compost worms and black soldier fly
    • We will keep adding green and dry leaves of food plants to their pen so that what they don’t eat will feed into the compost food web

    Jackfruit leaves are rich in protein and enjoyed by Elephants and cattle. Our streets are lined with Jackfruits so I use them in my Worm farms and Quail pens as an excellent source of bedding

There is plenty of information on Chicken composting, and I used to use it when I had the space for chickens. It’s wonderful

The compost will not provide all the food for the Quail but it will provide some base feed and I hope a bit more
It is also biologically active and digesting the food and excrement of the quails and giving disease and smell suppressing activity.


We also raise insects and other invertebrates

Mealworms ( Tenebrio molitor)

We have done this successfully on oatmeal but we are trying to transition to using rice bran and press waste from tofu production. Quail love mealworms
Mealworms also eat vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, papaya, green beans and other succulent vegetables as a water source

Blueworms (Perionyx excavatus)

We grow these as the main species in our worm farm sacks

Redworms (Eisenia sp)

There are less of these in our worm farms but we hope they will increase in time till we can feed some to the quail


We buy these from the local birdmarket as a treat

BSF (Hermetia illucens)

These grow out of the bin where we compost the quail bedding. The quail have only been moderately interested in them so far but they are good for the Tilapia in the aquaponics system

Other Authors suggest
• Maggots
• Silk worms (Bombyx mori)
• Wood roaches

Plant foods

a selection of Temperate zone Quail habitat foods



• Avocados

Avocados are very toxic to most domestic animals
Elephants and Humans are two exceptions for whom Avocados are an exceptionally healthy food
As a general rule do not feed Avocados to any domestic animal, it can kill them or damage their livers

Also Quail cannot eat the following:

  • Stems and leaves of tomato plants
  • Uncooked potato
  • Uncooked egg
  • Alcohol
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Citrus fruits
  • Caffeine
  • Rhubarb
  • Chocolate

Parsley is sometimes listed however it is not really toxic and can be eaten with benefit in small quantities given. This advice from a Veterinarian;
 “"Parsley has often been reported as toxic in birds, but it has only been shown in ducks and ostriches to cause a sensitivity to the sun. No evidence exists to show this effect in pet birds, and many diets contain small amounts with no harmful effects."

Yes! Foods

The following are suitable

Harder fruits – grated

You won’t catch me doing this. Not unless I was running a farm with thousands of them and I could afford to run windfall fruits through a mechanical shredder. But Some people do go to this effort.
We don’t really have any hard fruits to give
I might trial some Chayote and other gourd type fruits however there isn’t much nutrition in them so I don’t see much point long term

Listed by other Authors
• Apple
• Pumpkin
• Zucchini

Our local “Soft fruits”

These I have tried with success. The quail enjoy them when I put them in the Pen


Quail demolish the Soft papaya as well as some of its seeds


This is enjoyed by quails


I give some Banana, I just slice it into cylinders and the quail will peck out the flesh inside


I collect Noni fruits from the street. They always seem to have 1 or 2 soft fallen fruits below the tree. Its fruiting is continuous.


In season we give some mango scraps or reject fruits


We have given tomato to the quail and they are moderately interested. We slice then in half and drop in. Several writers have recommended the variety “Green Zebra” as especially attractive to Quail


Dragon fruit are cheap and abundant in season here several times a year. Quail love the flesh and the seeds inside


Prickly pear are fairly common here as ornamentals. The fruit is eaten by quails ( and humans)

Other fruits listed by others as suitable but not found here

  • Strawberry
  • Kiwi
  • Blueberry
  • blackberry and raspberry
  • Mulberry


Boiled sweet potato

In our house we eat mostly the Purple sweet potato and occasionally orange types so that’s what the quail get too


I harvest these from the roadside, field edges and some I’ve transplanted to my garden to grow

Soft green weeds


Of all the weeds that we harvest from the roadside for the Quail, the pursland is the one that they adore the most. They will pick the stems clean
Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular[12]) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Studies have found that purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol),[13] vitamin B, carotenoids), and dietary minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron.
Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies


I grow this plant , Ipomoea aquatica in a gutterbed aquaponics system and feed some to our Quail. Its grows naturally in polluted ditches and on riverbanks


There are many weedy species found worldwide, I think ours is the standard Chenopodium album , known in English as Fat hen or lambs quarters. Its is a good food for poultry


Amaranthis viridis is the most common type around here. As well as making a decent vegetable for humans the quails also enjoy it


Also listed by other Authors
• Clover
• Chickweed


Also listed by other authors
• Chicory
• Dandelion
• Thistle seed


Iceberg lettuce is low in nutrition. For a bird that needs high nutrition don’t waste its feeding capacity with nutrient poor foods or it will stop laying and growing
Aim for highly nutritious types of vegetables


Moringa oleifera

Our birds enjoy the Moringa leaf we harvest from the street trees

Hydrocotyle asiatica

I found this plant in a lawn in East Java and I now cultivate it, it is not Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), it is the unrelated but often confused Hydrocotyle asiatica

Sweetleaf (Sautropus androgynous)

I grow this and they will eat it

Basella rubra

I grow this and they will eat some

Also listed by other Authors
• Carrot family - Celery tops, Carrot tops , Parsley
• Cabbage family – kale , collards, mustard greens, turnip, cabbage, rocket,
• Sprouts – oats, sunflower, alfalfa

Grains and seeds

Keep limited because High fat low protein grains will depress egg laying and saving a little on feed costs at the price of no egg production or delayed growth is a false economy


Rice bran and white rice

My friend ran out of commercial feed and started feeding rice and rice bran. This made the birds sick as its far too low in protein

red rice

I tried giving uncooked red rice and they were not at all interested in it, but cooked rice they loved. However with red rice being 2-3 x the price of white rice the only red rice they will be getting are leftovers


They will eat some oatmeal
Also listed by other authors
• Italian millet
• Proso millet
• Barnyard / Japanese millet

• Pearl millet

• Sorghum
• Amaranthus cruentus

While this grain must be treated before feeding to chickens, it is able to eaten raw and directly by Quail with good results
• Kamut
• Rye
• Spelt
• Cracked Wheat
• Ground Corn


Listed by other Authors
• Groundnut / peanut
• Pigeon pea
• Mung bean

Other seeds

• Yellow Mustard seed
• Flaxseed
• Sunflower seed

Other feeds and Commercial feeds

• Ground Oystershell
• Crushed Eggshells
• Boiled eggs – eg chickens as a protein supplement
• Premium Catfood, ground
• Parakeet food
• Game bird feed

In their water

Tulsi Tea

Was associated with better health and less stress for the birds

Sugar cane juice

As an energy source



Great to find your post thanks to a resteem

So much Info in one post, learned so much. Never knew about the Avocado 🥑 being toxic.

Look forward to seeing more of your posts.

It's it the avocado flesh itself that's toxic or just the skin and pits? I've heard both and also that someone's chickens also had no ill affects fron eating the flesh of avocados from a neighbour's tree which used to drop them into his yard. They wouldn't eat the skins or pits though.

I hope you'll keep us updated with how you go. It would be great if you could manage to forgo the commercial feed completely.

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