Notes On Keeping Mearns Quail

From The Game Bird Gazette Magazine

by Mellisa Evans

One of the most interesting and remarkably colored of all the quailmearns quail is the Mearns Quail Cytonx montezumaie which is distributed in nature from Mexico, north into Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

There is a great difference in appearance between males and females of the Mearns Quail. Unlike males, the hens are much less colorful although very attractive.

Mearns quail have a delightful set of vocalizations during the breeding season, one of which is a descending sequence of low, quavering whistles. Males also emit a call to attract females that is sort of a high pitched insect-like buzzing sound.

Many breeders have found Mearns to be more susceptible to disease than some of the more common quail species, which is one reason more are not present in collections. Many successful breeders keep them on wire, allowing droppings and spilled water to go trhough and not remain in the cage. This helps to minimize exposure to potential disease causing organisms.

There are many pen designs that can be used for this mearns quail although one with a low top is often recommended due to the tendency of some strains to fly straight up and injure themselves. These quail can be kept in single pairs or bred in colonies. A pen that is 4 feet Pair of Mearns Quailwide by 10 feet long and 2.5 feet high can be adequate for 5 pairs. Tops and bottoms of the pens can be 1/2 inch hardware cloth and it's always good to have a solid barrier along the sides (if pens are adjacent to each other) to prevent disturbance from other birds. Many breeders also keep them in larger pens in which case it may be desirable to use 1/2 inch netting all the way around so it gives and is softer when a bird flies into it. If not kept on wire, it is recommended that the ground be covered with sand. Keeping the quail dry and clean can be a real key to preventing disease and being successful with this species.

The adults will do well on a normal quail diet which may include: a high quality gamebird crumble (Purina, Mazuri or other comparable quality), cracked corn and wheat, and other smaller grains or seeds.

Chicks will normally start out and grow quickly on any good quality game bird starter crumble which can be ground to an even finer consistency so they can more easily eat it. Hard boiled eggs and chopped greens may be added. Tiny mealworms may be used to help get chicks started, but only sparingly as it can lead to their picking at their own toes. Also, don't overfeedMearns quail hen mealworms as you want to encourage them to eat the dry feed and greens.

The chicks are very delicate and should be brooded with others of their own size. In describing his methods for brooding this species, well known breeder, Vito Bucco, said, "Place them in a 2 foot square cardboard box with two 45 watt heat lamps and monitor and adjust the lights until a temperature at the bottom of the box of 100 degrees is maintained. A small water fountain is placed in the box, the water trough at the bottom being low enough so the tiny chicks can reach over and drink without difficulty. There should be an area in the box where the chicks can move away from the heat source and get a little cooler when they want. Small marbles should be placed in the water trough (or other drown proof waterers) to prevent the chicks from getting in and drowning." Learn more about Mearns quail and their propagation in the Game Bird Gazette magazine.

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