The nutrient requirement of Japanese
quail have been studied extensively in the Department
of Zoology, National University of Singapore, and a
review paper of the nutrition of Japanese quail has
been published by Shim and Vohra (1984).
The nutrients that comprise a quail
diet are water, protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals,
and vitamins. Although all are essential, adequate
water may be considered the single most important
nutrient. Fresh clean water should be provided
continuously to all birds, especially under the
tropical environment. Quails require at least twice,
as much in weight of water as they require in weight
of dry feed (Farrell et al., 1982). They may require
more water if there are excess salts in the feed or
during ho t dry season.
Protein provides the amino acids for tissue growth and
egg production. The dietary protein requirement of
quail is influenced by metabolizable energy content
and the ingredients used to formulate the diets. The
earlier investigators raised their quail f locks
successfully on turkey starter diets containing about
25-28% crude protein (Wilson et al., 1959; Woodard et
al., 1973; NAS, 1969). Lee et al. (1977a & b) have
shown that a dietary crude protein level of 24% is
needed in starter diet for quail and t he protein
content may be reduced to 20% by 3rd week of age.
Protein is the most expensive
nutrient and must be provided from a high quality
source. Protein quality is generally based on the
amino acid composition of the feedstuff and the
availability of these amino acids from the feedstuff
through digestion in the gut of the quail. Amino acids
are considered as the building blocks of proteins. Out
of 19 total amino acids required by quail, 13 are
considered as essential amino acids, because they
cannot be produced in the quail's body and must be
supplied in the diet, and 6 are considered as
nonessential, because they are synthesized by the body
and need not be supplied in the diet. The 13 essential
amino acids are: arginine, cystine, glycine, histidine,
isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine,
phenylalanine, th reonine, tryptophan, tyrosine and
valine. Feedstuffs differ qualitatively and
quantitatively in their amino acid composition. Quail
diets consist mainly of plant materials. The most
commonly used plant products are maize, soyabean meal,
sorghum and rice or wheat bran. Methionine and lysine
are generally low in plant products. Animal protein
products such as fish meal, meat and bone meal etc.,
are good sources of most of the essential amino acids,
but they are usually more expensive than plant protein
ingredients. Synthetic methionine and lysine are
usually added to the diets to balance the amino acid
composition (Shim and Lee, 1984a & b; 1988a & b).
The amount of food intake depends upon the
metabolizable energy (ME) content of the diet, age of
the birds, their reproductive status and the ambient
temperatures. An energy requirement of 2,600 to 3,000
kcal ME/kg diet for growing quail has been reported
from temperate regions (Farrell et al., 1982; Young et
al., 1978), whereas, findings under our tropic
condition indicated an energy requirement of about
2,800 kcal ME/kg for growing quails (Shim and Lee,
1982a) and 2,550 kcal ME/kg for laying quails (Shim
and Lee, 1982b). Though raising the dietary energy
levels from 2,600 to 2,800 kcal ME/kg did not
influence the gain in weight, it affected
significantly the efficiency of feed utilization as
the feed consumption was reduced significantly (Shrivastavand
The main energy source is provided
by the grains and cereals which are the main
ingredients in most feed. Fat such as animal tallow,
lard or other vegetable oils are added to the diet if
high energy is required by the quail.
Vitamins may be categorized as fat soluble, (A, D, E,
and K) and water soluble (the B-complex vitamins).
Many vitamins are quite stable, but some deteriorate
rapidly on exposure to heat, sunlight, or air. Housed
quails are entirely dependent on the vitamins that are
present in their compounded feed in the correct amount
and proportions, for they have no access to the
natural supply of these nutrients. The principal
vitamin functions and requirements are as follows:
The principal feature of vitamin A is its function in
ensuring adequate growth and as a means of assisting
in the birds' resistance to disease. Vitamin A is
essential for normal vision, egg production, and
reproduction. Laying quails receiving insufficient
vitamin A produce fewer eggs and eggs produced
frequently do not hatch. For egg production and
fertility of females, a level of 2,500 I.U. vitamin
A/kg diet was required (Parrish and Al-Hasani, 1983).
The hatchability and survival of newly-hatched c hicks
were better with 3,200 I.U. vitamin A/kg diet.
True vitamin A exists only in animal
kingdom. It may be formed by synthesis in the body of
the bird from the precursor, carotene, which present
in green vegetable matter or yellow corn. Because it
increases exposure to air, grinding of feed materials
will hasten the deterioration of this vitamin during
storage, particularly if storage areas are warm or
hot. As a result, the feed industry does not depend
upon the bird's receiving their vitamin A from
ingredients in the diet. Dry or stabilized vitamin A
is added to diet to meet the requirements of the bird.
The supplementation of 4,000 I.U. vitamin A per kilo
of diet for quails may be adequate for their optimum
growth, production and reproductive traits.
This vitamin has several forms, but D2 and
D3 are the most important. Vitamin D3
is utilized by birds, man, and four-footed animals,
while vitamin D2 is of value to man and
four-footed animals. Thus D3 becomes
essential for quail. Vitamin D aids the absorption of
calcium and phosphorus form the intestinal tract and
the deposition of calcium on eggshell.
Vohraetal. (1979) observed that
dietary deprivation of supplementary vitamin D3
did not affect body weight of male and female Japanese
quail despite a reduction in feed intake. However, the
production of eggs was reduced from 74% to 20%. In
another experiment, the mature male quail remained in
good physical condition on practical diets devoid of
vitamin D3 for 1 year. But a mortality of about 90%
was observed in females and 16% in males even when
both were in negative calcium balance of about the
same order (Chang and McGinnis, 1967).
Vitamin D is associated with
sunlight, for sunlight provides irradiation that
stimulates the manufacture of vitamin D in the skin of
the bird. Unfortunately, laying quails are seldom
exposed to direct sunlight, so the body synthesis of
vitamin D is limit ed. The quail producer normally
adds vitamin D to the quail diet in required amount to
meet productive objectives rather than relying on
synthesis or feed ingredients.
A deficiency of vitamin E causes a disease of the
nervous system in chicks known as 'crazy chick
disease' (encephalomalacia). It is also essential to
breeding stock for the good hatchability of their
eggs. Encephalomalacia occurs when the diet contains
unsaturated fats that are susceptible to rancidity.
Several antioxidant compounds, in addition to vitamin
E, are usually added to prevent the fat from going
The essentiality of vitamin E for
quail was demonstrated by Price (1968), Cunningham and
Soares (1976), Kling and Soares (1980) and Shim et al.
(1983). A deficiency of vitamin E in semi-purified
diets containing isolated soybean protein and starch
did no t affect the body weight, feed consumption, or
egg production of Japanese quail. However, it caused
sterility in males, which was overcome by restoring 40
I.U. vitamin E/kg to the diet for about 2 weeks. The
fertility and hatchability of quail eggs were severely
depressed after the birds were fed a conventional diet
containing glucose and soybean meal, but deficient in
vitamin E for 20 weeks. No encephalomalacia or
muscular dystrophy were observed in quail fed vitamin
E deficient diets for 35 weeks.
Whole grains and alfalfa meal are
the best natural sources of vitamin E. Synthetic
tocopherols (vitamin E) are available, and these are
usually added to quail starter and breeder rations.
Vitamin K is an essential element in the synthesis of
prothrombin, a chemical necessary for blood clotting.
A deficiency can lead to the rupture of blood vessels
and causing excessive bleeding. It is present
naturally in all green foods, especially rich in
lucerne meal. The needs are small, and 2 i.u./kg will
suffice under normal conditions. A synthetic,
water-soluble form of vitamin K3 is generally added in
Vitamin B complex.
The B vitamins are well distributed in cereals and
grains, and deficiencies are normally unlikely to
occur. The main functions of the B vitamins are to
assist the quail in achieving its optimum growth.
Thiamin (vitamin B1)
is needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates. Charles
(1972) reported classical symptoms of polyneuritis in
newly hatched quail chicks from a flock fed turkey
breeder diet calculated to contain 3.2 mg thiamin/kg.
These quail responded positively to thiamin injection.
Breeding Japanese quail may have a higher requirement
for thiamin (Shim and Boey, 1988) than breeding fowls
which is reported to be 0.8 mg thiamin/kg diet (NRC,
Riboflavin (vitamin B2).
Ramchandran and Arscott (1974) suggested a minimum
requirement of 8 mg riboflavin/kg diet in absence of
vitamin B12 and vitamin C, but it decreased to 4 mg
per kg in presence of these vitamins. The
characteristic symptoms of riboflavin deficiency were
slow growth, high mortality, impaired gait and posture
which is known as 'curled toe paralysis' in quails.
Feathering was absent other than down at the end of
two weeks of riboflavin deficiency.
Shim (1985) studied the maternal
riboflavin deficiency on reproductive and embryonic
development in Japanese quail and found high mortality
in the riboflavin deficiency group. The 4 and 8 mg/kg
of riboflavin were sufficient to maintain normal egg
product ion. Data obtained in weekly hatches showed
that the addition of small quantities of riboflavin
supplement to the basal ration increased the incidence
of curled-toe paralysis whereas larger amounts
Nicotinic acid. Park
and Marquardt (1982) fed a nicotinic acid-free diet to
4 week old quail and found a subsequent depression in
growth, but no other classical deficiency symptoms.
However, newly-hatched quail chicks diet within 9 days
of this deficient diet. The age of the birds
determines the severity of symptoms of nicotinic acid
deficiency. A marked depression in growth, closure of
eyes, reduced activity and a marked atrophy of the
pectoral muscle were observed in quail on nicotinic
acid deficient diets. Ramchandran and Arscott (1974)
suggested a level of 40 mg per kg diets for normal
Pantothenic acid. A
supplementary level of 7.5 mg calcium pantothenate/kg
diet was needed in purified diets for prevention of
mortality and for normal growth of quail chicks, but
10-30 mg was needed for normal feathering (Curler and
Vohra , 1977). On the other hand, Spivey-Fox et al.
(1966) found the requirement to be 40 mg/kg diet for
quail up to 5 weeks of age.
Breeding quail needed 15 mg
supplementary calcium pantothenate per kg diet for
optimal fertility and hatchability. Eggs from
pantothenic acid deficient hens were characterized by
embryonic mortality late in incubation period,
haemmorhagic embryos, oedema and embryos with crooked
legs (Cutler and Vohra, 1977).
Japanese quail required higher levels of dietary
choline to support maximum growth, prevent perosis (Ketola
and Young, 1973), maintain maximum egg weight (Latshaw
and Jensen, 1971), egg production and hatchability (Latshaw
and Jensen, 1972) than chickens. Mature quail differ
from laying fowls as they require performed choline.
The suggested requirement of quail for egg laying is
about 3,100 mg/kg diet.
Folic acid. Folic acid
deficiency in growing quail caused poor feathering,
high mortality, leg weakness and cervical paralysis.
These symptoms were similar to those observed in
turkey poults. Quail chicks also suffered from a mild
anaemia , and a curled toe syndrome. The folic acid
requirement of growing quail was between 0.3 to 0.36
mg/kg casein-gelatin based diet (Wong et al., 1977).
Biotin. Dobalova et
al. (1983) reported the need of supplementary biotin
for gain in body weight of quail and for increase in
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin).
vitamin B12 is required for the development
of normal red blood cells. For better hatchability,
sufficient pantothenic acid and vitamin B12
are also essential.
Substantial quantities of vitamin B
complex are found in all the ingredients in feed. It
should be stressed that vitamin B12 is
found only in foods of animal origin. The levels
required by quails for the major B vitamins are shown
in Table 1.
Besides protein, carbohydrates,
fats, and vitamins, many other elements form a part of
the quail's nutritional requirements. Minerals can be
divided into macrominerals and microminerals.
Macrominerals are required in large amounts, and are
often struct ured parts or acid-base elements. These
are: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur
and salt (NaCl). The microminerals are associated in
activation or integrated parts of enzymes. These
include: cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese,
selenium and zinc. Minerals make up 3 to 5% of the
quail's body. Since minerals cannot be synthesized,
they must be provided by the diet.
Calcium and phosphorus.
The main function of these two minerals is in the
make-up of the bones of the body. Calcium is also
essential for the deposition of egg shell. It is not
only that calcium and phosphorus are required in
sufficient quantity but also in the correct
proportions. For the young growing quail the ratio
should be 1:1 to 2:1. The young quail needs a minimum
of 0.8 per cent of the diet as calcium and 0.45 per
cent as available phosphorus, whilst the laying quail
needs about 2.5% to 3% of calcium since this is the
main constituent of the egg shell (Nelson et al.,
Miller (1967) observed no difference
in body weight or bone ash of quail up to 6 weeks of
age as long as the diets contained 0.58% to 1.18%
total phosphorus and 0.44% to 2.3% calcium. Lee and
Shim (1971) found that 0.5% calcium was adequate for
the growing quail and a level of 4.9% calcium retarded
growth. Ong and Shim (1972) observed that growing as
well as laying quail were in positive calcium balance
as long as the diets contained 0.8%, 1.5%, 2.6% or
3.5% calcium. A level of 3.5% dietary calcium reduced
Minerals are present in many of the
ingredients in the diet. Fish meal, meat and bone
meal, milk products are good supplemental sources of
calcium and phosphorus. Oystershell, limestone,
tricalcium phosphate or calcium carbonate are usually
added to the feed to supplement these elements.
is an essential constituent of tissues and body
fluids. Its ions serve as activators of important
enzymes involved in intermediary metabolism. When it
is absent from the diets, quails grow slowly, exhibit
convulsions and may eventually die (Harkabd et al.,
1976). Deficiencies in laying rations produce a rapid
drop in egg production. The magnesium requirement was
recommended to be 300 mg/kg diet. In the studies of
Vohra (1972), magnesium requirement for survival and
growth was met by supple menting 150 mg magnesium per
kg diet, or 50 mg magnesium per liter drinking water.
Sughara et al. (1982) found no detrimental effects
from feeding 1,000 mg magnesium per kg purified diet.
Natural feedstuffs contain adequate
amount of magnesium. Some limestone (the dolomites)
contain a high percentage of magnesium and are to be
avoided because excess magnesium is laxative and
interferes with calcium usage.
Manganese. The main
function of manganese is to prevent perosis, a
condition where the Achilles's tendon slips off its
groove behind the hock joint, pulling sideways and
backwards. It is also required for normal growth, egg
shell deposition, egg production and good
hatchability. It is supplemented in the diet in the
form of manganese sulphate.
Iron, Copper and Cobalt.
These trace elements are essential for the formation
of haemoglobin. Nutritional anemia occurs when there
are deficiencies of these minerals. The red blood
cells contain iron. Copper is necessary for iron
utilization when haemoglobin is formed. Harl and et
al. (1973) reported the iron requirement of growing
Japanese quail as 90-120 mg/kg, and of copper as 5
mg/kg diet based on EDTA extracted isolated soybean
Cobalt is the integrated part of
vitamin B12 which involves in haemoglobin formation.
The amount of these elements in the diet is quite
specific; excesses may be toxic. Usually, only small
amounts are added in the feed. Mackova et al. (1981)
studied the effect of supplementary 50, 100, 250 and
500 mg cobalt sulphate per kg diet on vitamin B12
concentration in liver and caeca. The concentration
was highest with 1200 mg cobalt sulphate/kg diet.
Selenium. Selenium is
an essential element for growing quail even in
presence of vitamin E. Diets consisting of amino acids
and 100 mg d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate/kg needed to be
supplemented with 0.1 mg selenium as selenite for
proper survival of quail (Thompson and Scott, 1967).
Impaired reproduction was observed
in Japanese quail fed a diet low in selenium and
vitamin E from hatching to maturity. Oviposition rate
and fertility were not affected, but the hatchability
of fertile eggs, viability of male and female adults
and newly hatched chicks were reduced. Dietary
supplementation with either 1 mg selenium or 30 I.U.
vitamin E/kg diet prevented the impaired reproduction
(Jensen, 1968). Selenium supplementation of the diet
at 0.2 mg/kg diet prevented nutritional pancreatic
atrophy and resulted in significant elevation in
SeGSHpx activity (Shim, 1985).
Zinc. Japanese quail
are quite sensitive to a dietary deficiency of zinc.
Zinc deficiency in quail chicks was characterized by
slow growth, abnormal feathering, labored respiration
and an in coordinated gait, low tibia ash, and a low
concentration of zinc in liver and tibias. The zinc
requirement for normal growth, feathering, tibia
length and conformation was 25 mg/kg diet (Spivey-Fox
and Jacobs, 1967). Harland et al. (1975) studied the
protective effect of a high prior zinc intake for
rapidly growing quail to a subsequently fed low zinc
diet. The birds fed an initial level of 75 mg zinc/kg
grew significantly better than those fed initially 25
mg zinc/kg. Bone might store zinc and it might be
mobilized during zinc deprivation. A reduction in zinc
absorption in adult quail by high levels of calcium
was reported by Kienholz et al. (1965).
Salt (Sodium chloride).
This is needed for protein digestion and these
elements are also involved with acid-base equilibrium
in the body. The growing Japanese quail fed a purified
type of diet containing 0.042-0.051% sodium had poor
growth , high mortality, adrenal enlargement, elevated
haematocrit, and depressed plasma sodium suggestive of
an aberration in fluid and electrolyte haemostasis. A
dietary sodium level of 0.1% overcame these
difficulties (Lumijarvi and Vohra, 1976).
Natural feedstuffs usually require
supplemental feeding of salt (NaCl) to satisfy the
quail's requirement for sodium and chloride and this
is normally added to the feed at amounts of 0.25 to
0.35 per cent. Too much salt produces a laxative
effect and results in wet droppings and also wet