Whether you are thinking of getting quail, made an impulse purchase of your first quail, or are simply planning – I have all you need to know to get started, especially regarding quail feed!

Read on to learn 5 quick tips for success when feeding quail!

Quail being held up close


Quail are lovely birds that remind me of sweet miniature chickens. They often have quirky personalities and are, in my experience, easy keepers. Quail are great fun to raise and they are also great for folks who can’t have chickens because they are small and quiet.

These unique little birds come in a wide variety — some breeds suited for meat, others for egg-producing pets, and the less fortunate for the sport of hunting. They all have something in common: dietary needs that are different from that of poultry.

When I got my first quail (as an impulse purchase at a local swapmeet), I made the mistake of feeding them my chicken feed. Oops. I learned really fast that was a mistake (more on that in a bit).

Chickens are omnivores, which means they eat meat (including bugs) and plants. Quail are granivores. Gran-i-what did you say? It means they eat mostly grass and seeds. Mostly.

Quail feed is actually quite different than chicken feed. Remember that.



Quail require a high amount of protein in their feed. In addition to more protein, compared to chickens, they also need slightly different percentages of others feed ingredients.

The quail feed formulation and ingredients are not only different, but so is the size of the feed itself. Quail require smaller granules in order to easily consume and digest the feed (they are smaller birds after all).

Quail Feed Ingredients VS Chicken Feed Ingredients

This is one example of many. Different companies have slightly different ingredients and ratios of things like phosphorus and methionine, but you will always find quail feed to be higher in protein.

Quail feed vs Chicken feed graphic

When I made my swapmeet impulse buy of full grown quail, I was happy as a lark! 😉 I was not prepared because it was a spur of the moment decision. Therefore, I fed my new quail chicken layer feed. The first two days I happily got two eggs, one per day from the hen. And then…no eggs. And the…no eggs again.

Several days went by and this sweet little hen did not lay more eggs. Then it dawned on me! I’m not feeding her enough protein. I hopped in my car, drove to the nearest farm store, bought some quail feed and guess what happened? ONE day later, an egg. And then another egg. And then another egg. 🥚

All because of lack of protein. Protein matters.


Quail love water, they drink A LOT of it. It seems as if they drink 4 times their body weight in water each day – although I know that’s not the case.

The point is to be sure they have clean water and a good amount of it.

You also need to consider the waterer. Quail are messy little birds and they will make a complete mess out of on open water dish. I personally use a rabbit ball waterer for my quail. It works great. The quail themselves may not give a 5 star review, if quail could review, because they can only get one little drop at a time. But it sure makes my life easier.


I mentioned that quail are messy little birds with water. Believe it or not, they can trump that mess with their feed. An open feed dish simply will not work for quail. They’ll hop right in the dish and scratch it all over the cage. You’ll find most of it on the floor of the cage or under the cage if they are on a wire bottomed enclosure.

This can frustrate the most patient of souls, so why not just plan accordingling and skip the anger? There are special quail feeders that only allow their heads to enter the dish. They are a little pricey in my opinion. I made my own out of….wait for it….a sour cream container. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

If you want healthy quail, you need to keep their water, feed, and living space clean.


You CAN just feed your quail farm store feed. But they like variety and they’ll be healthier for it. They love things like black oil sunflower seeds, millet, parakeet food, wild bird seed, and they will just about attack you for meal worms! Meal worms are an amazing source of protein, you won’t be sorry to get them some. Trust me.


Newsflash: chickens and quail do not have teeth! They were designed to NEED to hunt and peck at the earth in order to digest food properly. Introducing our friend – grit.

Grit is basically crushed stone. These little bits of stone kind of stand in place of teeth. Both chickens and quail need this to be healthy. If your quail are not free ranging, which they likely aren’t, do them a favor and get them some grit. It’s sold in most farm stores and definitely online.

Other Helpful Information

  • There are different types of quail feed, just like there is for chickens. You many find starter feed, grower feed, game bird feed, etc. Switching from a starter to something else is usually done around 6 weeks of age. Some farm stores only carry one type. The most important thing is the protein level.
  • Some feed has added vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It may cost more, but you can check the label to be sure of what you are getting.
  • You may pay a little more for high-quality ingredients, but your quail will be healthier for it. The highest quality, in the case of food, is well worth it.
  • Medicated feed for quail is hard to find, but there are medicated versions. It is to help fight parasites.
  • If your store of choice has a good selection, you may be able to choose a feed that is specifically formulated for meat production or egg-laying, etc. You can definitely find formulations for all the variations online.
  • If you ever substitute chicken feed, do not use pellets. Chicken feed pellets are too large for quail to handle.

Additional Things Quail Can Eat

This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you started.

  • Insects
  • Berries
  • Rice
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Cabbage
  • Parsley
  • Tomatoes (but not the leaves or stems
  • Clover


There you have it. 5 easy tips to follow to get you started on a successful run with quail. Click to learn more about raising quail, or about the nutritional value of quail eggs!

Remember that protein matters (a lot).

Want to learn more about raising other small birds (not as small as quail, but wonderful little chickens)? Click here to learn about Serama chickens. Or click here to learn about Silkie chickens.

Leah Betts

A happy wife, mother, teacher, writer, hobby farmer, lover of chickens, and contributor to Pampered Chicken Mama!

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