Quail 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.

Much is still unknown and unsolved in diseases of quail.

  1. 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.quail disease
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.


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.

   2.  Coccidiosis

This internal parasite affects the digestive tract of quail. 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.


When the lining of the intestines is invaded, the birds go off feed, become weak-legged, pale, and can die if not treated.Coccidiosis


  • 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.

   3. 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, sulfurcolored 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.


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.


No medication is presently approved  for treatment of the disease.

     4. 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.Sharon Crosetto worms in poop2

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.

Have you noticed something unsure of in your quail flock. Ecochicks Quails Ltd has partnered with qualified poultry veterinarians and offer  free advise on quails diseases and parasites. Call us on 0727087285 or email [email protected]


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