Pet Gazette March 2019 - Page 11

AVIAN | PET GAZETTE | 11 berries, veg and livefoods. The addition of good quality small live insects is of vital importance for the hen especially. They require a balanced but high protein diet, this can be supplemented with a good chick food or crumb. Full-spectrum natural minerals should be added to every feed, this will help greatly within the egg producing months. The hen, when laying can produce an egg a day, every day for months on end. This can equate to a cataclysmic depletion of bone mineral storage. We must seek to make natural minerals available to both sexes at all times. Having access to natural sunlight or a full-spectrum + UV-B lamp in a safe and measured way will also aid them by allowing them to produce their own vitamin D3. Vitamin D3, among other essential uses in the body allows the correct assimilation, storage and ongoing use of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. We must view the active and purposeful replenishment of minerals within the diet as a top priority in birds, provided directly in relation to the developed needs of the species and the number of eggs that the hen produces. The CPQ is not a solitary bird, they benefit greatly from being kept in pairs or small groups. Indeed, being kept as singles can actually be quite detrimental to their overall wellbeing. If a group is thought right for your flight, then it should only ever contain one cock bird. Cock birds will readily fight, even the young male offspring of a father will be persecuted fairly quickly. Two to four hens can be run with a single cock and groups of hens can usually be kept together without a cock without too much trouble, a watchful eye is needed as with all species kept in groups to minimise the risk of bullying. Care should be taken within good general husbandry to make sure that a single hen is not being singled out for attention, copulation can become a rather strenuous affair in this species. With regard to breeding. The hens will start to lay eggs as soon as the illuminated period reaches 11-12 hours a day. She will produce a single egg pretty much every day until the days start to become shorter. Typically, she will lay an egg in random scrapes all over the enclosure until she has eight or more. She will then gather them up and place them in another larger dried grass lined scrape. The hen will generally sit well but it is best to place food and water bowls nearby. She should also be protected from the unwanted attention of other birds. Even the humble budgie will delight in taking the odd egg, let alone the pekin robin who will quickly deplete an entire nest. I will also point out the risk to both sitting hen and the eggs from marauding rodents. Aviaries and flights must be protected from this type of active threat, as should all birds. Most breeders will actually take the eggs after a number have been laid, replacing them with dummies for a while and then incubate them artificially. The eggs hatch around 18-19 days after incubation begins. The chicks emerge fully covered in down similar to a chicken and start to peck around for scraps shortly after. The young are cute, fast and extremely small - about the size of a large bumblebee, they can almost breeze through most standard cage and aviary mesh. They may be best reared in suitable tubs or tanks. One of the main functions of keeping small Quail within the aviary of flight, other than for their own intrinsic beauty and egg production, is that they act like floor hoovers. Scuttling around and cleaning up much of the spilt food left by the other occupants. In a very real sense, they are very good custodians of the natural aviary. Wasted seed will not lay around for hours, tempting in pests, but be cleaned up and put to good use. This must however not be relied upon to be the sole source of food. Fresh veg and some livefoods are very beneficial and will be readily taken. These are inquisitive birds, prone to play, these traits should be encouraged of course. Water should always be made available, small young birds become wet very quickly, deep pools pose a very real risk of drowning. As such, a shallow dish, filled with pebbles or marbles will provide access to water without the risk of saturation. The birds will also crane up within a short rain shower, ruffling as they stretch in a typical quail pose. Well cared for birds can live for over 10 years, this is of course largely dependant on the birds having access to safe quarters, being able to access a very varied mineral rich diet and plenty of sunlight. Many hens will expire before this age simply due to the ongoing effect of calcium deficiency. This species can be thought of as being largely domesticated now. We have no wild collected birds arriving into the EU now, as such, all will be from well settled ‘long term captive bred’ stock. They are available all year and for a surprisingly low amount of money. You should be able to retail this species for around, if not under £20 per rear. This tiny, comical and quite arrogant bird is wonderful to work with, helps us to look after our wider flights and will readily reproduce. They also have companion pet appeal when able to be kept within the correct enclosures. They certainly do deserve a place in everyday aviculture and full time place within our shops. March 2019