Feather picking (cannibalism) is a common vice in poultry and game birds and I have found quail to show very aggressive feather picking behaviour towards each other. Quail tend to peck at the necks, eyes and rumps of other birds. Feather picking is a very bad habit that poultry and game birds acquire if they are exposed to certain conditions.
Causes Of Feather Picking
- Poor nutrition (lack of protein).
- Lack of greens in diet.
- Over heating the birds.
- Lack of floor space.
- Lack of feeding space.
- Lack of drinking space.
- Very bright lighting.
- Increased daylight hours.
- Boredom and idleness.
Action To Stop Feather Picking
At the first sign of feather picking, take action to stop this bad habit because the birds will continue to feather pick and once blood is drawn the birds will pick even more frequently and this could result in the death of the attacked birds.
- Change the environmental conditions.
- Provide more floor space.
- Provide more feeding space.
- Provide more drinking space.
- Ensure better ventilation.
- Cut back on the amount of light the birds have.
- Change the lighting in the coop to red as this will make the blood more difficult to see.
- Improve the birds comfort.
- Change feed – from crumbs or pellets to a mash feed that will require more time at the feeder.
- Give the birds more greens in their diet.
- Free-range the birds as much as possible as this will divert their attention and also allow the victims to get away from their attackers.
- Provide toys to divert attention such as scraps of food.
- Hang a cabbage by string from the roof of the run or hut to provide a diversion. The birds pick at the leaves instead of each others feathers.
- Place foliage in the run for the birds to hide behind or add interest in the coop to divert their attention to.
- Remove the attacker from the group.
Quail appear to be particularly aggressive so be vigilant for signs of feather picking in quail to avoid un-necessary stress or even death amongst the quail flock.