What Kind of Sand Should You Use for Your Quail?

Quail enjoy taking frequent dust baths to clean their feathers and skin and remove excess oil and dirt. Providing a container filled with sand for your quail allows them to engage in this natural behavior. But not all types of sand are suitable for quail bathing. Using the right sand prevents potential health issues like crop impaction.

Why Do Quail Need Sand?

In the wild, quail naturally bathe in loose dry dirt or sand to clean themselves. The sand absorbs extra oil on their feathers and helps remove mites small bugs or debris. Dust bathing is an important part of their regular grooming ritual.

When keeping quail in captivity a container of sand allows them to exhibit their natural dust bathing instinct. Watching quail enthusiastically burrow and flutter around in sand is entertaining and enriching for the birds. Providing adequate opportunity for dust bathing is considered a key part of humane care for these creatures.

If denied proper access to sand, quail may try dust bathing in their food and water sources, potentially contaminating them. Having a designated sand bath avoids this issue. Their regular bathing helps keep your quail healthy, clean and pest-free.

Criteria for Good Quail Bathing Sand

When selecting sand for your quail aim for

  • Loose and dry – Avoid sand that is moist or packed firmly. It should flow freely through your fingers.

  • Fine grains – Coarse sand with large grains could irritate quail eyes, nose, skin or feet. Very fine sand like play sand or children’s sandbox sand is ideal.

  • Unscented and chemical-free – Do not use scented, dyed, or chemically-treated sand. Plain sand is safest.

  • Pure sand – Select sand without additives like crushed shells or calcium carbonate which may cause crop impaction if ingested.

  • From a trusted source – Sand from your own yard could contain harmful contaminants or bugs/mites. Purchase sand specifically sold for bathing/sandboxes.

  • Non-clumping – Some sands form clumps when wet that could impact the crop if swallowed. Avoid clumping sand.

Providing 2-3 inches of appropriate sand in a sturdy container allows quail to bathe freely. Place it in a sheltered spot to prevent the sand from getting soaked by rain or snow. Change the sand as needed when excessively soiled.

Recommended Sand Types for Quail Bathing

  • Children’s Play Sand
  • White Sand
  • Builder’s Sand
  • Sandbox Sand
  • Horticultural Sand

Any fine, pure sand designed for play areas or horticulture is generally safe, as they are screened for hazards. Some quailkeepers use food-grade diatomaceous earth as an alternative dust bath option.

Sands to Avoid for Quail Bathing

Some common sand types are less suitable for quail bathing:

  • Calcium/Mineral Sands – These contain crushed oyster shells, calcium carbonate or other minerals. The additives pose impaction risks if ingested during bathing.

  • Clumping/Hardening Sands – Some sands form clumps or harden when exposed to moisture, which can be problematic if eaten. Avoid sands specifically marketed as clumping/hardening.

  • Industrial Sands– Sands for construction, landscaping, aquariums or sandblasting are too coarse for bathing. The large grains could hurt quail.

  • Craft/Color Sands – These often contain dyes, chemicals or scents inappropriate for bathing.

  • Salt Sands – Formulated for ice prevention, salt sands contain calcium chloride or other salts, posing toxicity risks.

  • Unsanitized Sands – Sand from the beach or your yard may harbor parasites, bugs or toxic substances.

Always read sand bag labels carefully and research the sand type before purchase to ensure suitability and safety. When in doubt, pick a sand specifically marketed for children’s play areas.

Setting Up a Quail Dust Bathing Box

Offering quail an appealing, dedicated spot for dust bathing prevents them from bathing where they eat and drink. You can use any sturdy non-tip plastic container large enough for several quail, such as:

  • Cat litter boxes or cement mixing trays
  • Storage containers, buckets, or bins
  • Plastic shoebox-sized containers
  • Purpose-built dust bathing trays

Cut a quail-sized entry hole on one side so they can easily access the sand. Place 2-3 inches of appropriate sand in the container. Site it in a sheltered area protected from rain or snow.

Some keepers add a sprinkle of food-grade diatomaceous earth or crushed oyster shell over the sand to give an appealing texture. Just avoid excessive additives that may cause crop issues if eaten.

Offer one dust bath box per every 15-20 quail. Clean waste daily and change sand weekly or whenever visibly dirty. Providing a quality dust bath fosters natural behavior and healthy birds.

Alternative Dust Bathing Substrates

If suitable sand is unavailable, some alternative substrates can be used:

  • Dry potting soil – Ensure it is fertilizer/chemical-free.

  • Dry coconut coir – Use an additive-free, unscented product.

  • Dry peat moss – Ensure it is sandy and not clumping.

  • Dry hay or straw – Use only clean, dust-extracted material to minimize mold risks.

  • Rice hulls – These small, grain-like hulls sold as bedding mimic sand well. Avoid clumping types.

  • Shredded paper – Use ink-free plain paper, not glossy sheets.

These options generally increase risks of crop impaction over sand. Take care to offer grit and monitor for signs of blockages if using substitutes. Sand remains ideal.

Can Chicks or Baby Quail Use the Same Sand?

It is not recommended to allow chicks or young quail under 4 weeks old to use the regular adult dust bathing sand. Their curious pecking greatly increases the chance of accidentally ingesting sand and developing an impacted crop.

For young birds, provide a brooder “dust bath” tray with 1/2 inch of clean chick feed scattered over paper towels. This allows dust bathing behavior without ingestion risks. Once older than 4 weeks, chicks/quail can be introduced to finer sand baths.

With some simple precautions, offering adult quail a box of appropriate sand allows them to bathe as they desire, supporting natural behavior and health. Provide sand baths daily, select sand wisely, and protect young birds to safely meet their dust bathing needs.

What Kind of Sand Should you Use for Your Quail


Which sand is best for quail?

They naturally fling dirt and sand on themselves to protect their bodies from mites, just like chickens do. It’s important that they are able to give themselves a dust bath everyday. What is the dust bath made of? Usually, the dustbath is made with playground sand, which is really just broken down rocks.

Can you use sand for quail bedding?

You can use pine shaving, straw, or even sand for bedding in your coop. Quail need a place to dust bath often. It is good to provide a nest box but with a mind of their own, quail will choose to lay their eggs wherever they would like!

What is the best substrate for quail?

I use a mix of leaves, grass clippings from the lawn, straw, and mulch for bedding. It works wonders, and the quail seem to enjoy it.

What is the best flooring for quail?

Avoid wire and concrete floors as this predisposes to damage to the bottom of their feet. Clean dry sand can be provided as flooring over concrete, covering with a layer of dry leaves, sugar mulch or grasses over part of the sand.

Do quail prefer sand for dust bathing?

Quail enjoy dust bathing on a daily basis in sand. Sand not only helps quail keep clean by preventing parasites such as mites, but also provides them with a place to retreat when they feel frightened or think they are in danger. Because quail make a mess when they dust bathe, it is best to keep the sand tub away from the water container.

What kind of sand do you use?

Many of us use a very fine sand. Sold at places like Home Depot as play sand. A 40 # bag is only a few dollars, it’s clean and lasts quite a long time. Just give them a nice somewhat shallow container. I use a plastic shoe box. Put an inch or so in it , and they will dive in! Tucson, Az. Here’s the first box I used.

How should you house a quail?

To house a quail, provide a calm, warm yet cool, quiet, and undisturbed place. Quail should be housed away from predators including pets. A suitable place to house quail is under a tree during summer or in a garage/shed during winter. Add bedding to the home.

Does quail need bedding?

Quail do not specifically need bedding. However, they do need several items to keep them happy: a water container (not too big or deep for easy access and to prevent drowning), a feeder (easily accessible for the quail), and hiding spots.

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