As with all pets there is always the chance of injury and illness. Avian veterinarians are always a good source of help in a situation with an ill or injured bird. Although we suggest that you consult the avian veterinarian if your birds do show signs of illness or injury we are listing a few of the common problems that arise with raising Chinese Blue Breasted Quail.
Feather loss can be a result of a few problems. Plucking is often distinguished by bald patches in particular areas such as the head, neck, and back. Actual feather loss can be caused by parasites, stress, improper nutrition, and injury. Chinese Blue Breasted Quail have a natural instinct when held or captured to drop feathers. In nature this would help the quail escape leaving a predator with a mouth full of feathers. They do not distinguish human hands for predators and will stress release feathers while being held. Because of this we do not recomend handling them as some pet birds can be such as parrots.
Mites can also be a problem for feathers. It can be possible to see mites on the feather shaft. There are many over the counter medications for mites available from your vet and local pet shop. As always consult your avian vet whenever your pet bird is in distress.
When a hen lays an egg of a different color or shape she maybe in distress. Typical Chinese Blue Breasted Quail eggs are a Brown spotted color. Green and Blue eggs are a sign that there is a reproductive problem with your hen. If she is stressed to lay the egg to early it will not have completed the process receiving the final layers of the egg. If she is sick she also may not completing the egg cycle. Green and blue eggs are typically very thin. Occasionally these eggs can be hatched successfully still. Do take consideration into hatching these eggs however. It is not known if the chick will have complications because of the lesser egg quality.
The egg shape can also be a sign of distress. If the egg is improperly shaped the hen could have swelling in the egg tract, trouble passing the egg, be egg bound, or stressed.
Splayed legs refers to a chick who's legs do not sit under the chick but out to the sides. This condition can be caused by a number of things but the most common seems to be lack of grip on the flooring. If the chick can not grip the floor his legs will slip out to the side even causing his tiny unformed hips to dislocate. To help this chick a simple step can be taken to help, however, when they are so tiny it can be hard so it takes some patience. Gently holding the chick take a small strip of bandage and tape the legs together. Do not tape them so close together that the chick can not walk or stand but at a width that is natural to the chick. With the legs taped together underneath the chick it maybe able to stand and learn to walk as well as allow the hips a chance to heal properly. As the chick grows it is important to make sure the bandage is not to tight, sticking to parts of the surroundings, and is removed as the chick grows to big and the problem becomes fixed.
Curling of the toes can occur again usually with chicks. If the chick does have a toe deformity it is possible to correct this by casting the foot. By using a small light weight but sturdy cardboard type material cut out a small, foot shaped piece. Place this under neath the foot of the quail. After straightening the toes place a piece of bandage over the toes attaching the sides to the cardboard making a shoe type cast. Make sure the chick is able to move about and that any bandage hanging over wont stick to the surroundings. Continue to watch the chick and monitor it's improvement until you feel comfortable that it is healed enough to remove the cast.
Debris Build up on Toes
At times you will notice balls of debris built up on the toes of your birds. This can be from the bird stepping in moisture or it's own droppings then debris sticking to that moisture and collecting overtime. Keeping cages clean will cut down drastically on the chances of this debris collecting. If you do have a bird that has collected a ball of debris on it's foot it is important to remove it. This ball can cut off circulation to the toe and leg even create an infection in the bird or lead to loss of the toe. To remove it gently hold the quail with it's foot in a bowl of warm water. Eventually the ball will soften and start to fall off. Once it is softened you can work it loose being very careful not to further injure the quail's small toes.
On occasion a quail may jump up and hit it's head or be scalped by another bird. If you see a bird who has a head injury remove it from it's cage mate. Isolating it will prevent picking and further stress. Be sure to keep the bird warm as it may not be producing proper body heat due to it's injury. These quail have a miraculous ability to heal and quickly. Holding these quail will stress the quail further so try to assess the wound from a distance. In most cases if the wound is small it will heal on it's own. You can add a small amount of First Aid Topical Antibiotic Ointment if you feel it is needed. Some of these contain a pain medicine which may help relieve the pain and stress your quail is under. You do want to be careful when using any medication as such since these medications were made for a much larger host and were not created for such a small creature. It is important you do not place the injured bird back with it's cage mate until it is healed to avoid further injury.
Feather Plucking typical can be distinguished from feather loss by the pattern of loss. Plucking leaves bald spots usually on the back, neck, and head. Plucking often is a case of over crowding or stress. Most of the time it is out of colony cages as they are monogamous in nature and colony living is too much stress for them, however it at times can be from single pairs as well. Stress can attribute to reasons a bird will suddenly start plucking a cage mate's feathers. Separating the birds will usually elevate plucking and their feathers will grow back in just a few weeks. Keeping them in single pairs will take much stress off of the birds. If the birds are already in pairs the hen maybe stressed from her continual laying of eggs. If you have a pair that has suddenly developed plucking issues it may be possible to stop this behavior by placing the birds in a room with gradually shorter light periods. Shorter periods of light will slow down the hens laying be slowing her reproductive cycle fooling her into believing it is winter with it's shorter days. If they are in pairs and lighting changes don't help consider the presence of mites or finding a new mate to see if they possibly just don't get along.
Occasionally tiny strings will get stuck to a birds legs and toes. Even tiny hairs that find their way into the cages can become problematic for the small Chinese Blue Breasted Quail. If you notice a quail walking differently or placing the majority of it's weight on one foot you might want to see if it has picked up a small strand of hair or string. Tiny strings can tangle around toes and legs getting together as the quail moves. If the strand cuts off circulation in the leg or toes the quail could potentially loose that appendage. If the area below the string is blacked it may already be to late to save it.
Losing a Mate
If a quail looses it's mate it may mourn the loss and call out to it's mate for a number of days. If you plan to place a new mate into the cage be weary of aggressions. The loss of a mate may make the quail aggressive to new mates invading the original mates territory or possibly succumb to an aggressive new mate who wants to claim territory of it's own.
Females particularly may need more time. A female can continue to lay fertile eggs from her mate for three weeks after her last mating with him. She may not feel that she is fine without a mate until she can no longer lay fertile eggs at which point the need to reproduce may invoke her to accept a new mate.
Even with the best of care sometimes it is neccessary to cull when the quail is suffering to much and healing doesn't seem to be an option. Culling is a difficult decision and a hard topic. If the decision to cull is reached please do it in the most humane manner possible. Avian Vets will be more than willing to help you with this decision and can do the procedure for you if needed.