Terrible but typical (flight or fight) head Injury on a quail - What to do

This is luckily something that has rarely happened but when it does it is an excellent wake-up call to remind me that I still have plenty to learn about these wonderful little birds! So it was a rather horrible shock to open up the lid of the quail dormitory and find the ceiling splattered with blood and one of my female quail, Nuggets, with a horrible head injury and both eyes swollen and closed.

The first thing to remember if you are faced with a similar situation is 'don't panic'. Your bird, if it trusts you, can also pick up on your emotions, she/he is looking to you for reassurance. I am the World's worst and most pathetically squeamish person in a case of bleeding wounds, particularly my own but over the years I have had to steel myself! So I'm hoping the following article will share not only how to deal with an emergency but also, that a bird can look near death at one minute and be back eating and running about a short time later. For this reason I'll take you through what I did day by day to show you the improvement as it happens. Needless to say at the time, I did not photo cleaning the wound. I was too busy doing it and as Andy was holding the bird there was no one to film, plus my concern was for poor old Nuggets.

Injury - Observation & Assessment

Firstly, I inferred from the patterns of the bloodstains on the ceiling that the bird had repeatedly jumped and hit her head. As my quail have all been sleeping together in this house over the Winter, my first thought was to look at the male. Sure enough his beak and front were slightly stained. So I reasoned he had been trying to mate with Nuggets and she in turn had been spooked into damaging her head. I therefore removed Nuggets into our house and decided that from now on to protect the other females, the male would sleep alone.

Unless There is an Immediate Emergency, Always Treat Stress First

Nuggets with her head lolling downwards, feathers ruffled as if cold even though she was now in the warmth of the kitchen. She also immediately began to scratch a typical little quail sleeping form in the hay as if to say 'just let me sleep'. She had obviously read the latest research on melatonin! As the blood was drying on the wound and she seemed drowsy, I ignored the former and attended to the symptoms of stress Nuggets was obviously exhibiting. As she was quite conscious and had no problem with breathing, I used my usual emergency electrolyte formula of a small amount of organic cane sugar dissolved in warm water. To get her to drink as her eyes were closed, I just introduced her beak ever so slightly into the egg cup. She drank thirstily, interestingly not in the usual sipping way of quail but rather like a pigeon. I let her have a good drink until she began to splutter slightly.

Nuggets here today, 4 days after the injury, showing you how well she can drink from an eggcup and also more importantly how well her left eye has healed. This was the one we actually thought she had lost!

N.B. If you have an injured/stressed bird to deal with and are worried about getting electrolyte into it then please go immediately to my emergency electrolyte article at the bottom of the page. This is a comprehensive article on first aid for stress and shares what an electrolyte's function is, how to administer one in extreme cases and follow-up treatment in the case of the bird not responding.

In general though, what I am doing here is to rebalance the bird's system and thus get its body back up and functioning as quickly as possible. An electrolyte carries the electrical impulses which the body uses to 'communicate' within itself, in essence to tell itself what to do. Thus a sudden shock, stress attack, overheating, hypothermia, sudden or prolonged physical exertion can cause electrolytes to be rapidly depleted. The effect of this imbalance on the functioning of the muscles, heart and nervous system, produces the symptoms displayed by birds under stress. Again if you are unsure what you are dealing with, go to the article below. Be aware that stress is a killer and that your bird is as likely, often even more so to die of this than the physical injury of a wound. Stress can be fatal within 24 hours.

Wound - Treatment & Immune System Support

Once the stress symptoms had been dealt with I now decided to treat the wound. I was really hoping that her eyes were only suffering from the trauma of the injury and were closed because they were stuck together as the wound had bled. I gently applied warm mineral water on an organic cotton wool pad and succeeded in getting the right eye partially open. The left eye looked much worse, although both eyes were swollen and had slight peck marks around them.

The effect of her having had her head down in the hay meant she kept looking like she was wearing a camouflage kit, as bits of bedding were stuck to the wound but this was a minor consideration. It was so important that Nuggets should have a perceived place of safety and that her physical healing, which essentially comes from within should be supported by her environment.

Once I had her one eye open I now decided to treat the wound, this I did with a home-made antiseptic and anaesthetic  wash. It's a treatment I use for all wounds, cuts and abrasions. This comprises a warm bowl of water containing the following essential oils: five drops of True Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) two drops of Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). Lavender oil has properties which include being a powerful skin healer and regenerator, relieving anxiety and is also an antiseptic. Tea tree's properties include being a very strong broad spectrum antibacterial as well as a great support for the immune system and it is also an anaesthetic. I buy my oils from a local organic shop, which sources from aromatherapy laboratories in France, where we live. I would always look for organically certified oils and it is sometimes more economical to buy them in sets as the one below which contains both of the above as well as other oils I use on my birds and which you will find discussed within my written articles.

As these are oils they naturally float on the top of water but I use an organic cotton bud to break up the drops and spread them across the surface.

Seen here, the day after her injury she is already looking more perky though still keen on being safe in her box, where she had her food even though I also put food outside the box to show her it was a safe place.

Her right eye is already beginning to heal even though her left eye is still closed. She is thus having difficulty with depth perception and feels a lot safer in her box! She also still has the slightly 'fluffed up look and her wings are slightly droopy. If you look at her expression she also doesn't look the usual confident Nuggets!

By the end of day 2, I realised that the dried blood around the back of her head, though not on the wound itself was beginning to annoy her. She had started to leave the box to eat her food and was beginning to scratch at the back of her neck. I therefore, took some warm mineral water and with a cotton wool pad removed as much as possible of the blood on her feathers without touching the wound nor exerting undue pressure.

I also had managed to get her left eye lids cleared and realised that the eye was intact, which was marvellous. It also meant Nuggets found it much easier to see where her food was and to scatter it around!

You can however see in the photo, that the left side of her face is still slightly swollen.

She is on her usual 100% organic diet of sprouted triticale, a little cooked pasta, a mix of root and leaf vegetables. This she supplemented by going around the skirting boards under the cupboards and eating all the spiders!

I also, seeing she looked so calm yesterday, now gave a further treatment on the wound of melted raw virgin organic coconut oil. This I applied with an organic cotton bud.

Organic pure virgin coconut oil is a magical substance, which contains lauric, capric and caprylic acids, these have wide ranging properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and soothing qualities. It is a great support for the immune system and has both healing properties for the skin and promotes the regrowth of feathers/hair. We use it in cooking as well as in making cosmetics.

So there you have it, a happy ending to what, at first sight looked like something really tragic. The fact that our male quail started to call for the first time this year on the afternoon of the day we found Nuggets injured, showed me that the courting season had begun. Until I have figured out how male quail fits into the natural environment I am endeavouring to create and whether or not they do/can revert to connubial bliss, I shall keep them separate at night.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful then think about sharing it using the icons below and please feel free to ask questions, comment or share your own experiences of treating your flock.

Thanks for dropping by and all the best,


Emergency Treatment, Follow-ups and Keeping Calm

The great thing about this emergency treatment is that it is concocted from simple foodstuffs you probably have to hand in your kitchen cupboards...read more

Using therapeutic clay on a deep infected wound

Montmorillonite or (French Green) clay is one of the most amazing natural minerals and around the World there are similar therapeutic-grade clays for you to use, wherever you may live...read more

Treating wounds, cuts and abrasions - first aid for organic poultry

As I had to deal with the aftermath of a cock fight today, I thought I'd share the treatment...read more

Treating an injured quail Part 1 - Nutritional support for sprains, strains and nerve damage

Here's Drusilla she is one of my coturnix quail and over the past few days she has started to limp, holding up her foot and hopping...read more

Treating inflammation and infection with cabbage poultices

Recently I had occasion to use this poultice on two cases simultaneously, my quail and my neighbour's hen's suspected bumblefoot.. ...read more

Simple Home-made anti-bacterial and pain-killing wash for wounds

Using two of the easiest to source organic essential oils, I share what happened after Andy said; 'watch that blade it's just been sharpened'...read more

© 2016 Sue Cross


  1. Great article. I'm curious if perhaps your male and a particular female have mate bonded. I find my quail become monogamous, and then start chasing away the other females in the pen. This leads to the females flying into the wire to get away, and being pecked. I now keep only pens with pairs, or all female groups.

    1. Thank-you Aliss for your kind comments, much appreciated. Are yours coturnix quail because I frankly believe they are monogamous but so much of their natural behaviour has been lost over centuries of domestic breeding. At the beginning of domestication the males were used purely for fighting, so they would obviously chose the most aggressive. The afternoon of the same day I found Nuggets injured, my male began to call and my other quail are now starting to lay and have made a communal nest, so that all sort of fits in. Last year one of my quail went broody and hatched her eggs but the male, who I had borrowed pro tem and who seemed to have bonded with her, only stayed with her guarding the nest for the first week she was nesting and did not help sit the eggs. After that he seemed to lose interest! In fact she, on occasions, drove him away from the nest. I read two academic studies on coturnix and in them the male only bonded before the sitting of the eggs began. In the Quails Among the Gum Trees blog in Tasmania, they had two coturnix quail raise chicks together but they were mother and a daughter from the previous year's hatch. It is all very interesting and anything you could add would be greatly appreciated. All the very best, Sue

    2. Yes, mine are coturnix quail. I had a female go broody too, and hatch out seven chicks. Sadly, she died the following year, and none of my other females have been interested in sitting a nest. My males do guard the eggs and sit on them a bit, but lose interest when the females don't respond. I've found that if I have several females in with a male, by the second year at the latest, the most dominant female "chooses" the male, and they bond until one of them dies. Usually it's the female, and the male definitely grieves her for awhile before he's ready for a new bonded mate. I've had two friends also raise coturnix in a natural setting like I do, and they've also found the males bond with a female in a monogamous pairing. I think if you give them a natural way of life, their natural instincts start coming out. I really appreciate your blog. It's so hard to find info on raising quail naturally!

    3. Thank you so much. I really appreciate how you care for these animals so well and kindly naturally. A nasty head injury like this happened to a chicken of mine and a quail and they both survived. I brought the hen to the vet and I treated the quail naturally. Do you have any natural remedies for cancer in poultry, or is that one step to far?

      Thank you ever so much!

    4. Hi there, Thank you so much for your kind words they are appreciated! I just see cancer as another condition but I do need some background, could you give me more details on your hen? Also are your hens on a 100% organic diet because this would be my first step, to get them on one and thus to cut down on any possible added chemical burden to the system. My philosophy is that if you provide the environment the hen will self-medicate. One of the things I have noticed with hens is their propensity with apples to eat the pips first. Apparently this is in line with the old adage 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' but interestingly hens do not eat apple skin, this is where most of the phytic acid is stored and that inhibits the uptake of essential nutrients. You may have read recent of cancer treatments (actually they are not that recent but have just reached Main Stream Media) these involve something referred to as Vitamin B17 or amygdalin aka cyanogenic glycoside, when crushed this turns into hydrogen cyanide. The idea of using this as a vector for cancer treatment is that: cancer loves sugar, the pip itself is coated with sugar, the cancer cell is attracted to the coating, the pip is absorbed by the cancerous cells and thus the cancer releases the cyanide into itself - much in the way of a 'smart' bomb. You may have read of cancer treatment with other fruit kernels such as apricot and almond - in fact one of the lowest areas for cancer is among tribal peoples whose diet consists of a daily consumption of apricot kernels. I would read up on this for starters but if it interests you as a treatment, I would leave the hen to decide on the amount - I would offer her the apple (or half), with the pips and see what she does. I would also check out recommended dosages. Similarly and dependent on the cause of the cancer there are other natural treatments but I really would need some background to your hen because there are several alternatives. Hope this is of use and all the very best, Sue