Egg-bound quail – Finch

This isn’t a photo of Finch. Just a quail of the same species. We can’t find a photo of her.

We have a quail named Finch (don’t ask, we had a lamb named Kitty too), she is a King quail (confirmed with a quick call to my daughter) who lives in our aviary. She lays eggs in the Spring despite not having a partner at all. A few days ago, my daughter discovered that she was egg bound and probably had been for several days (it can be hard to tell with aviary birds).

Egg binding is really serious for birds, it kills a lot of them. Basically, the egg gets stuck in the oviduct and can crack and rot inside the bird. It can be hard to spot in the early stages, the bird might be just a bit slower than usual and off her food a little. Usually, they quickly progress to fluffing up, then death if nothing is done to help them.

Again, not Finch. This Xray shows what egg binding is.

We got Finch out of the aviary and gave her a warm soak in a salty water bath (think Sitz bath, for those of you who have had kids), then dried her off and put her in a quiet cage with a heat lamp and a soft towel. She didn’t manage to pass the egg, so we decided to see what we could do.

We turned her over and saw that the egg was ‘crowning’ and was unusually large (poor girl), so we greased her bottom up with lots of fresh aloe and tried to encourage the egg to pass (very, very gently). Eventually I used a razor blade to cut the part of the membrane that seemed to be over the egg, thinking this would clear the egg and let her retract the prolapse. It took a while, but we were able to work the egg out by greasing her with aloe, soaking in warm salty water and gently moving the egg back and forth to make the dried up membrane let go of the shell. The egg had a crack in it when we eventually got it out. The crack had been there for a while as the egg had started to rot. We immediately got worried; this is usually a death knell for egg bound birds. Another look at her behind showed that the prolapse was still swollen and sore looking. Under the lamp, we could see that she had another egg in there. This is not a good thing, and usually leads to a quick death, but I managed to encourage her to gently push the egg out by massaging her abdomen (the bit behind her hips, but under the wings). The fact that she had two eggs in the tubes, and one of them was cracked mean’t that we fully expected her to die within hours. We had given her a single drop of Meloxicam (a painkiller and anti-inflammatory for birds and other animals) before we began the operation, but we gave her another drop, thinking at least she would die in comfort. We put her in her enclosed cage with heat and water and some chicken crumbles (easy to digest for sick grain eaters) and left her to decide her own fate. Two hours later, she was still alive. She still seemed strong, so we added some oral antibiotic to her water and hoped for the best.

Aloe, cut up and ready to smear
Finch in her heat lamp cage

That was two days ago, and I wish I had taken photos of the operation, because she is a miraculous bird. She has sucked all but a tiny part of the prolapse back inside and is shedding the dead parts of her oviducts. She is eating small amounts of crumble and canary seed with pain killer added to it. We are soaking her bottom in salty water once a day to clean off the gunk and slathering her up with aloe twice a day to keep infection down and help with the inflammation too. She may still die (it’s hard to tell what’s going on inside there), but she has survived beyond all expectation and proven herself one tough little bird.

Finch getting ready for a soak
The prolapse after 2 days, during the soaking process

Afterword; Finch died at day 5. She probably had an infection inside and damage to her oviducts. She hung on longer than I thought possible and has my respect for how tough she was. She is now a part of the funeral forest.

A new home for Finch’s tough spirit

Local insects and animals – the brown quail

You can only see her head in this photo; we had to hold her securely as she really wanted to get away from the camera.

Yesterday we had a visitor in an old chook pen which has been empty for some time. My daughter heard a commotion, went to check the pens and found a little bird. The little quail was fluttering about trying to escape from the pen so my daughter caught her and bought her up to the house to be checked over (we weren’t sure how long she was in the pen for). Thankfully she was Ok, but the encounter reminded me to check the empty pens regularly.

The brown quail is an unassuming bird at first glance; dull brownish plumage and a tendency to freeze when they hear anything make them hard to spot, but up close they reveal brilliant maroon eyes and soft satiny feathers. Their tiny little feet and legs remind me of chickens, but much more delicate.

They have an omnivorous diet of seeds, green shoots and insects, much like a miniature chook really. Brown quail live in social groups called coveys, breeding between December and January in tiny nests on the ground. Both sexes take turns incubating the eggs and the young leave the nest as soon as they hatch. The babies look like tiny brownish cotton balls with match stick legs, huddled under their mother or father for protection and warmth.

The babies are so beautiful.

The marking of brown quail are apparently very diverse.

I am glad we have a population of these delightful little birds in our backyard and I will be sure to provide plenty of low stubble and insect habitat for them to use.