Quail Raising, Diseases and Parasites

The average quail producer cannot read about a disease or look at a picture and make an accurate diagnosis in the field without training, equipment, and experience. Seldom, without training, can you diagnose more than a few internal parasites with the unaided eye. Properly equipped and experienced poultry service people are of invaluable assistance to you in the field.

When your birds experience a serious problem, use a laboratory where equipment, trained personnel, and experience are available. You may guess right in the field about an evident problem, but a less obvious problem can be overlooked unless special tests are conducted at a diagnostic laboratory.

Much is still unknown and unsolved in diseases of quail. Advances are being made daily in methods of treatment and management. Diseases too are also advancing; new ones replace solved ones, and resistant forms of the old diseases provide a daily challenge to research workers. The need for more research is great.

“When you think you have the disease problem well in hand and you become complacent in your management and sanitation, look out; nature is about to teach you a lesson.”

Little space is be devoted in this circular for discussion of specific diseases and infernal parasitic problems. However, the following diseases and parasitic problems are the most prevalent and need some discussion; there are many others that can also affect quail.

Ulcerative Enteritis (Quail Disease)

This is the most common and destructive disease of captive reared quail. Losses in young birds may reach 100 percent if not controlled. It is most commonly seen in ground- or litter-reared quail, but can occur in wire-reared birds. It is caused by a bacterium found in the intestinal tract.

If all birds on a given farm were inoculated with the disease the same day, the peak of mortality would occur in 5-14 days. However, this is not the normal situation. Since individual birds usually contact the disease organisms over a period of time, some mortality may occur almost continuously.

A laboratory diagnosis is best and is usually free to residents of Mississippi when performed at state supported laboratories. Take a few sick-appearing birds and a few that died during the night to the laboratory.

You can identify ulcerative enteritis yourself by opening a sick or dead bird. Usually, ulcers are observed on the internal surface of the small intestine. Secondary infections may also be present but are difficult to identify; thus the laboratory examination is still the best and most accurate.

Disease is usually transmitted by ingesting contaminated droppings. Recovered birds can remain be carriers of the organisms and serve as a source of infection for uninfected birds. Isolate known infected stock from uninfected stock.

Pens, cages, and particularly ground or litter runs may remain infected over a long period of time. Thorough cleanup of premises is essential to prevention. Raising birds on wire is usually effective in helping to prevent the problem, but is no guarantee that the birds will not be affected.

Treatments vary in effectiveness according to prior management and sanitation practices on the farm. Under unsanitary conditions, even the most effective drugs can be overwhelmed. Resistant disease organisms may also develop on a farm after misuse of one drug over a period of years.


This internal parasite affects the digestive tract of quail. When the lining of the intestines is invaded, the birds go off feed, become weak-legged, pale, and can die if not treated.

Coccidiosis normally attacks birds at the age of 2-6 weeks and birds that are on litter or ground environment. Older birds usually are more resistant to the problem even if immunity has not fully developed. And if they do contract coccidiosis, it is not as severe as in younger birds.

Preventing coccidiosis from becoming a problem is basically a management job. Wet litter and buildup of droppings around waterers and feeders is a common source of overwhelming infections. Wire sections made to hold feeders and waterers aid greatly in prevention.

All litter- and ground-reared birds are exposed to coccidiosis; however, quail will develop immunity to the problem. Whether or not the birds get sick from exposure is directly related to the sanitary condition of the pen. Where conditions are clean, the exposure is less severe and the birds develop immunity without getting a clinical case of coccidiosis. Unsanitary conditions often result in clinical cases that are treated at high medication cost and loss of birds.

Some feed companies put a drug in the feed to prevent coccidiosis (commonly called a coccidiostat). The coccidiostat is designed for use under good sanitary conditions. It is designed also to allow birds limited exposure to coccidiosis so they will develop immunity without becoming overwhelmed and getting sick.

The idea is to develop immunity early, without a clinical case or loss of birds. Whether you are successful in accomplishing this on your farm depends greatly on your sanitation program.

Histomoniasis (Blackhead)

Histomoniasis is a protozoan disease of fowl that causes high mortality in game birds. The causative organism enters the bird’s body in the egg of a common intestinal parasite called the cecal worm. After entering the bird, the protozoa relocate to the liver where they produce necrotic lesions and liver damage.

Typical symptoms include listlessness, drooping wings, loss of appetite, yellowish, sulfur-colored droppings and high mortality. In flocks with multiple species of birds, some species are more severely affected while other species appear immune to the disease. Turkeys and quail are greatly affected but chickens are more resistant to the histomoniasis. Chickens can act as carriers. Therefore, it is recommended that you avoid mixing species of birds within your flock.

Upon necropsy, cecal pouches have thickened walls and contain hard cores of yellow, green or gray material. Cecal worms may be present in the cecae. Lesions on the liver appear as irregular round, depressed, sunken areas. These areas vary in size but are often 1 – 2 centimeters in diameter.

No medication is presently approved in the U.S. for treatment of the disease. Nitarsone (Histostat) and dimetridazole (Emtryl) have been shown to be very effective against the disease and may still be available in some areas. The most effective method for solving the problem is the elimination of cecal worm infections that allow entry of the protozoan agent. Maintain single species flocks, reduce insect and earthworm populations, and use recommended wormers regularly to reduce infestations of the cecal worms.

Capillary Worms (Capillaria spp.)

Worms that affect the quail by entering the layers of tissue of the crop are called crop worms, capillary worms, threadworms, and even stronger names by producers plagued with the infestation. At the diagnostic laboratory they are referred to as capillary worms.

Capillary worms are not usually noticed with the unaided eye; however, if you remove the crop from an infected bird and tear it, you can see tiny threadlike worms span across the tissue fragments.

Capillary worms accumulate on premises over a period of time and result in high mortality. They cause a thickening of the crop wall. The birds give the appearance of starvation and in the final stages gasp as if having difficulty breathing.

The problem can be controlled or prevented by the following management practices and using an effective wormer on a regular schedule:

  • Raise all meat birds on wire. The worm eggs are picked up out of the ground and droppings. When on wire, birds are unable to pick them up. Floor- and ground-reared birds are subject to infestation. By complete cleanout of sand, litter, etc., prevention is possible. Most growers do not clean thoroughly enough, and eventually a buildup of the worms results. Wire racks under feeders and waterers 3 to 6 inches off the ground help birds avoid contact with droppings. Clean out regularly under these racks.
  • Raise all birds on wire, even those for hunting preserves. Place these birds on the ground only when you put them in the flight pen for conditioning. Have more than one flight pen and rotate their use. Plow the ground deeply and often when not in use. Have flight pens on well-drained soil.

source:  www.msstate.edu


  1. By Richard Calhoun


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