Bobwhite Quail Feeders

I’m not a fan of feeders for bobwhite quail. I’ve tried several designs and it never appears to provide a benefit that is great than the cost. There’s also a valid argument about providing a banquet of quail to predators as they gather near a feeder that isn’t entirely wrong. I didn’t see predators eat my quail at the feeder but I sure saw a lot of predators give it a visit! Here’s what I’ve learned.

The folks at Wildlife Management Technologies sell this unit. It’s one of the more comprehensive units I’ve seen and includes an integrated nipple waterer that can connect to a water tank. The quail access small holes inside each leg to get to the feed.

I used this unit for about a year but never saw any quail visit it. I think that the very small access to feed that prevents other critters from raiding the feeder also prevents most quail from ever finding the feed.

I built this feeder myself based on what I learned from the WMT unit and a design that my quail breeder uses successfully. It addresses the supposed flaw in the WMT unit by generously exposing the feed rather than hiding it. I also incorporated the nipple waterer but quickly realized that was a folly. My main goal with this feeder was to provide newly released chicks with some extra support for their first few days in the wild. It worked but only for a couple days after each release. Maintaining it longer than that was a waste of time and feed. I also built a small prototype feeder that I placed in the Surrogator while the chicks were young so they’d be familiar with the feeder design. I’m proud to say that I think this did have an impact on the usage of the feeder. Nevertheless, in the long run, this approach wasn’t worth the effort to build & maintain it.

As it turns out, just protecting the feeder from other critters is the hardest part. Sometimes, the whole damn family!

This is the best I came up with and even it’s not impervious to critters and more hassle than it was worth.

It has a solar powered 12V battery connected to a large capacitor which is then connected to an insulated ring of wire around the outside to deliver an electric shock. This is common on deer feeders and works well.

It was devilishly fun to build but worth the effort over time to keep it maintained and full of feed.

I’m sure quail feeders work somewhere but I’m not convinced that they’re an important part of my quail restoration and management efforts. Since we live in Central, TX and don’t graze the ranch, we have an abundance of seeds and forage for the quail.

Releasing Bobwhite Quail from the Surrogator

The bobwhite quail chicks have been in the Surrogator for 6 weeks. They’ve grown from tiny chicks to young adults. The Surrogator has done all it can for this batch of chicks and it’s time to let them out!

If you started with 125 quail chicks and you’ve been moderately successful, you should release around 110 birds. Any less than that and you have some work to do tuning your Surrogator and/or process.

The first step is to gather all your helpers – this is going to be exciting!

Then, open the lid on the loafing end, scare/chase the birds from the brooding end. I find it helpful to also lower the middle gate to prevent confused birds from going backwards instead of out.

They’ll start with a trickle – leaving home is perilous and quail are wary birds. Be patient, the rest will figure it out very soon.

You can even grab a couple for your helpers to hold and examine.

Remember to hold them gently – they are tough but fragile, too.

Big Payoff Right There!

They won’t fly very well yet. And, they can’t land very well either! So, quite a few of them will congregate in the nearby bushes as they covey up for protection and begin figuring out how to survive in their brand new world!

Bobwhite quail are primarily ground birds so it is normal to see them on the ground after they are released. If you listen closely, you can hear them still peeping and a few beginning to call back.

I think the release is really exciting so I place a few cameras on stands around the Surrogator to catch photos from different angles.

And sometimes they will all want out at the same time! Explosion of Quail!

I also like to bring my bird dog, Jill. For a trained dog, this is a tremendous training opportunity for steadiness. How’s that for steady?

It’s also a bird dog bonanza hunting them up and pointing them afterward!

If you place a quail feeder nearby, it is likely that some of the bobwhite quail will stay around the Surrogator for a few days.

Well, where did you think that 50# of feed and 15 gallons of water went? You’ll need to move your Surrogator now to avoid any disease or pests. Truthfully, it’s not very smelly and I move mine just enough to get a clear base and let Mother Nature take care of the rest.

6 Weeks in the Surrogator for Bobwhite Quail Chicks

Bobwhite quail chicks live in the Surrogator for 5-6 weeks. The instructions say start with 1 day old quail chicks and keep the in the Surrogator for 5 weeks. I’ve found that starting with 1-week old birds reduces the “infant mortality” that naturally occurs during the first week. Likewise, I find that keeping them in the Surrogator for 6 weeks, instead of 5 weeks, provides them with some additional time to better develop their flight muscles. They’ll need them once they’re out in the wild!

You can easily find bobwhite quail chicks via Google and most breeders will ship them in the mail overnight.

Loading

Your first step in loading the bobwhite quail chicks is to round up a bunch of little kids – sons, daughter, nieces & nephews work very well. They will be concerned, excited and a little bit worried – facial expressions left to right!

These bobwhite quail chicks are probably 1-day old chicks. Tiny!

You’ll need to “tend” the Surrogator weekly to remove any dead chicks, clean any moisture-clogged feed, top up the water barrel and adjust the heating thermostat.

Week 1

Bobwhite quail chicks grow fast!

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

At 5 weeks of age, these bobwhite quail chicks could be released. I prefer to hold them for 1 additional week so they fly better when released. Using 6-week cycles only allows me to run 2 cycles per summer where 5-week cycles allows me to run 3 full cycles during the summer. The start and end date for you will depend on how often and how long your quail breeder has chicks for you.

Week 6

6 weeks in the Surrogator and out they go!