Mountain Quail: Everything you need to know

Quails are small birds that are popular for their flavorful meat. Raising the Mountain quail is easy and cheap because they require very little space and can eat an array of foods.

The Mountain quail is one breed that is hardy and easy to tame. These skittish birds can be a good addition in your aviary either as pets for their colorful plumage or for meat and eggs.

They are not very different from chickens only that they are small and require small enclosures like cages for shelter.

In this article, I am going to cover everything you need to know about mountain quails.

Background of the mountain quail

Also known as Oreortyx pictus, the mountain quail is a bird endemic to the West of the Rocky Mountains from some parts of British Columbia in Canada to some parts of Washington.

It is not in records who the ancient ancestral parents of the mountain quail are, but, it is believed that they were developed through natural selection from other quail species.

These birds are older than their cousins the Bobwhites.

Characteristics of Mountain quails

These quails are popular for their body weight. In the new world quails, they are perhaps the largest weighing about 0.5kg but cannot outweigh the Jumbo Quail species.

Mountain quails are beautifully colored birds having an array of grey, chestnut and white color patterns. These critters have horned feathers that rise above the head like antennae.

Looking them from a distance you can easily confuse them with the Great crested cockatoo. They have crested feathers on the head.

Eye color is black while the legs are grey or black. On each foot there are four well-spaced toes with short claws to help them scratch the ground for food.

They are very skittish and those that roam in the wild are commonly heard chirping more than they are seen.

Mountain quails are extremely shy and will spend most of their time up on mountains looking for tasty insects and edible plant matter.

Their favorite habitat is among the scrubs and wooded areas. They choose to make shallow nests under trees or hide them in dense shrubs where they are plenty dead leaves.

Temperament and Hardiness

Mountain quails are very aggressive and flighty. These birds are not the kind to tame as pets. Perhaps, you can add some to your aviary for color but not otherwise.

These critters are not the best to mix with other quails because chaos will erupt at any time. They will do well in closed quail cages and bird aviaries where they cannot jump and crash on the ceiling and land dead.

Take care not to put more than one mountain quail male in one cage. They may crash to death or lead to serious injuries.

One male should serve at least five hens.

Mountain quail is a hardy bird and can do well in mixed climates. They are tolerant to cold and will do fairly well in hot climates.

They are not choosy and will eat up almost anything you toss to them as long as it is small in size `for them to swallow without choking.

Egg laying and uses

Mountain quails are good for meat because they are heavy and big than other quail breeds. A mature quail can offer about 0.5kg of meat when butchered.

These birds have high quality meat that is more nutritious and rich in flavors than the normal chicken meat.

If you happen to have some extra birds, let them fatten you up and keep your freezer well stocked with white quail meat.

Mountain quail eggs are tiny but juicy and make a good mouth bite snack for your kids. They reach laying maturity late meaning you have to wait for 6 months to get the first bunch of eggs.

The egg color is cream patterned with brown, chocolate and dark spots all over. These birds will lay anywhere on beddings and you can easily tramp on the tiny eggs as you walk in the quail coop at night.

The first eggs are not good to hatch because they have a low hatch rate. Mountain quail chicks are precocial meaning they can search for food right after hatching.

These quails also practice a monogamous lifestyle meaning they are faithful and stick to one mating partner for life.

Lifespan of the Mountain quail

Mountain quails have a lifespan of 3-4 years in the wild. On their own, these wild birds have the responsibility of looking for their own food.

In the jungle, they are faced with a number of threats that most probably do not let them live for long like their domestic sisters.

However, quails raised in captivity can live for more than ten years and end up succumbing to old age. Meat quails will live for not more than 6 months and they will be butchered as soon as they attain the right market weight.

Hens or female quails may not live for very long because they are likely to suffer from reproductive tract issues brought about by prolonged laying.

Threats facing the Mountain quail

Although the Mountain quail has not been listed on the watch list as endangered, they have some threats that wipe them up in large numbers.

Habitat loss

Destruction of forest and woodlands renders these critters homeless. Large tracts of wooded areas are cleared each year to pave room for crop farming or provide wood as a raw material.

Mountain quails rely on the wooded forests to look for tasty insects that thrive under dead leaves and seeds that fall from trees for food.

Destroying forests denies these birds the place to live; search food and lay raise their brood.


Mountain quails are hunted by birds of prey like hawks and small animals like raccoons and possums for food.

To evade predators, these birds will try to fly by doing several wing beats and gliding for several meters and then hide under scrub and bushes.

Ground snakes also sneak into their nests where they steal eggs.


Sometimes, there is an outbreak of diseases that spread to the Mountain quails territory and swipe down large numbers.

Your domestic quails are safe if they do not interact with other wild birds that may bring diseases to them.

Draught and Famine

Although mountain quails are hardy and survive even in deserts where water and food is scarce, sometimes things go haywire.

The change in the weather pattern brought about by global warming has made the weather become too harsh for these birds.

At times it does not rain denying seeds the opportunity to germinate and provide green food for quails. Also, water becomes scarce and they end up dehydrating to death.

Health Issues

Mountain quails are hardy doing well in cold and hot climates. They are strong and robust quails that are not affected by common poultry diseases.

However, they are infested with common chicken mites and lice that hide under their compact plumage. These parasites suck blood and damage the growing feathers.

Using small amounts of diatomaceous earth powder in their dust bathing sand can help get rid of these harmful ecto-parasites?

Quails are also infested with internal worms. Use an effective wormer on a regular basis as recommended by a qualified vet.

Also, you can raise the quail cages and coops above the ground to prevent the birds from collecting eggs that fall with droppings on the ground.

Raising Mountain quails

Quails start from the tiny eggs. To raise these birds successfully, you need to have the right requirements to keep snow mountain quails.

So, where do you start?

Incubating mountain quail eggs

Before you power on your egg incubator or a quail egg hatcher, make sure you have fertilized eggs because they are likely going to hatch into baby quails.

Fertile eggs can be bought from well-known quail breeders or they can be those laid by your quail hens that have mated with a male quail.

For those who do not have egg incubators, you can use some chicken breeds like Cochin bantams and Silkies to hatch them and help raise the young.

Normally Mountain quail eggs will take between 22-25 days to hatch unlike Coturnix quail eggs that take an average of 17-19 days.

You can also choose to buy Mountain quail chicks from hatcheries like McMurray if you do not have the means to hatch some.


After hatching, quail chicks are moved to the brooder where they will remain for the next 6-8 weeks until they are full feathered and able to regulate their body temperatures.

Always ensure that the brooder temperatures remain at optimum temperatures of 95 degrees. If the warmth exceeds the above temperatures, the chicks may bake to death.

When the temperatures are low, they chill and get too cold succumbing to hypothermia. Use a thermometer to tell the temperature or observe the bird’s behavior.

If the baby quails are evenly scattered in the quail brooder, the conditions are optimum. When they are huddled together under the heat source they are cold and when they are far away from the heat source and crowded in one corner, it is too hot for them.


Unlike chickens, mountain quails are game birds and require feeds that contain protein at the level of 28-30%.

Common chicken feeds you get from your local store do not have this protein content. But instead when you go to your feed store, ask for a game bird feed that is rich in protein.

Apart from food, quails require plenty of clean drinking water to keep their bodies hydrated and cool. Because quail chicks are very small, they can easily drown in common waterers and die.

Instead, use soda bottle caps as your quail waterer because they will hold enough amounts for these tiny critters to drink.


Quail coops are very important because they will shelter these birds from harsh elements and keep them away from predators.

Because quails are small and flightily, they don’t require large coops with high roofs. Birds living in such coops, they will easily fly when frightened and break their wings and necks to death.

Mountain quails can be raised in stacked cages that occupy small space and make it easy to monitor their behavior.

If you intend to let them graze, construct a quail run that has hawk netting or a chicken wire all around and over to prevent them from flying away. Choose a netting that has tiny spaces that cannot let the birds escape.

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