Much as we humans are equipped with the skills and techniques in breeding quail, the fullness of quail life and mating behaviors can best be observed and studied in their natural habitat.
In their wild habitat: In their native surroundings, quail are not hampered from flight by the roofs of quail coops and cages. They are known to be very fast flyers. Whenever they get spooked, they instinctively fly straight upwards and seek cover. They naturally live on trees and hide among shrubs and bushes. They are free to roam and find their own mate.
The coming of spring triggers the mating ritual of quail. The adult male becomes more aggressive in his courtship of the female with birdsong and constant fluttering about. Males become active rivals over the attention of one particular female, but once a female favors one male, a fixed pairing happens. Mating quail are dearly regarded and renowned for being monogamous. Together, a pair selects a nest site and builds it together from vegetation like twigs, straw, and grass to welcome the coming chicks.
Once paired, a female quail exhibits docile, nesting behavior as a true mother preparing for her babies. Wonderfully, the male assist her in all the stages of chick-rearing. They even stay together in the nest and watch over their young at night. Both parents carefully feed their chicks with bits and pieces of mealworms and teach them to peck and scratch for food as they grow older. This is truly a domesticated sight to behold.
The mating and breeding of domestic quail: Under the care of human breeders, quail tend to behave somewhat differently. No amount of nutrition and care you give them can compensate for the lack of spontaneity that comes with the new social behavior they have to adapt to under captivity and domestication. Once quail have incubated and hatched, they are transferred to brooders. However warm and comforting we make these houses, they are still cages and pens which confine and contain. A wise and conscious hobbyist would try to create the most natural environment for these birds, imitating the type of vegetation they would thrive in.
As is the practice of breeding quail, they are kept in trios of one male to two females, totally defeating their monogamous nature in the wilds. Mating quail in this condition results in many eggs mass-produced, but the males become rough in their behavior towards their young and the females lose their nesting behavior. Once again, a wise and conscious hobbyist would isolate certain pairs which have bonded in their own quail cages to mate, nest, and brood. This would help propagate existing quail breeds. This would also restore and nurture the instinct of these captive birds to reproduce naturally and care for their young mutually.
Sometimes, we humans think we know best but this may be one other exception when nurture gets in the way of nature. Striking a balance between nature and nurture should be every quail breeder and hobbyist’s goal if they desire to keep the mating behavior of quail breeds as natural and fascinating as it was meant to be.
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