Young Bobwhite Quail

Summer is the season to load and raise young bobwhite quail in the Surrogator.  What I’ve learned in the past about how to raise quail, I’ve run 4 five-week cycles but it’s really a push and you can’t miss a single week and pick-ups of fresh wild quail chicks has to be carefully timed.  My bobwhite quail breeder has chicks available from approximately May 15 through mid September.  I’ve decided that it’s much easier and more fun to run 3 cycles per Summer and not try to rush things.  It also helps that I don’t have to be tending wild quail chicks during September and October when I’m trying to hunt other birds while I’m waiting for my natural population of wild bobwhite quail to grow.


Fresh Bobwhite Quail Chicks

Brown and White Bobwhite Quail Chicks in Yellow Straw and Cardboard Box
One week old Bobwhite Quail Chicks in shipping box

My bobwhite quail breeder delivers 125 week old bobwhite quail chicks nicely packaged in a cardboard box with pine shavings.  I prefer week old birds instead of day old quail chicks since the mortality can be higher during their first week of life.  I’m always amazed how quick and active the chicks are even at one week old.  It has become a ritual in my process of how to raise quail to invite friends with small children to help me load the baby bobwhite quail chicks as kids always seem to love catching them from the box and loading them into the Surrogator.  Since I typically release a batch of wild quail and reload the batch on the same day, they also enjoy seeing 100 or so wild bobwhite quail released from the Surrogator.






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Clumping Wild Quail Chicks

30 Brown and White Wild Quail Chicks Clumped Near a Silver Feeder
Wild Quail Chicks will clump together to stay warm

Young bobwhite quail chicks can’t generate sufficient body heat to keep themselves alive.  Without an external heat source, they will clump together and smother the chicks on the bottom.  Heat regulation is a critical aspect of successfully raising wild bobwhite quail in a surrogator.







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Heating Unit for Young Bobwhite Quail

How To Raise Quail - Silver Metal Heater with White Ceramic Dispersion Disk
How To Raise Quail – Heaters are required for bobwhite quail chicks younger than 3 weeks old

The heating unit for young bobwhite quail that is supplied with the Surrogator is ingenious.  It is absolutely critical in how to raise quail.  It has a temperature regulator, a thermostat and a heat dispersion disk.  While you can build your own Surrogator, this small piece is definitely the big secret to the success of the Surrogator.  The wild quail chicks don’t need much heat beyond 3 weeks of age but without it during those first 3 weeks, the results can be disastrous.









Young Bobwhite Quail Eat Grasshoppers

Green Grasshopper is Food for Wild Quail
Food for Wild Quail consists of all manner of high protein sources – including bugs and grasshoppers

Young bobwhite quail eat mostly bugs to satisfy their need for a high protein diet.  Bugs generally need rain and moisture to reproduce.  I use the grasshopper/windshield method of measuring the natural food available to young bobwhite quail.  During last year’s drought, we literally had ZERO bugs.  This year, we’ve been fortunate to have some rain and moisture and the bugs have returned.  Part of my habitat plan is to expand our rain water collection systems to provide additional moist areas around the ranch so that there will be more moist bug reproduction areas to support the wild quail that are reproducing on the ranch.






Summary of Young Bobwhite Quail

Summer is the time to get busy and run batches of wild bobwhite quail chicks through the Surrogator.  In my method of how to raise quail, I prefer 3 five-week cycles but 4 cycles is possible and if you start with week old quail chicks instead of day old quail chicks you can shorten your cycles from five weeks to four weeks.  I don’t do that because I prefer to have them more fully fledged when they are released.  The heating unit is a critical part of the Surrogator’s success.  Wild quail chicks need an external heat source during their first 3-4 weeks of life and the Surrogator’s heating unit is a champ.  Young bobwhite quail rely heavily on bugs to fill their need for a high protein diet.  Bugs need rain and moisture to reproduce and a casual survey of the number of grasshoppers is a good way to estimate brooding success for you previously released wild bobwhite quail.



A New Cycle of Raising Wild Bobwhite Quail

I always look forward to a new season and cycle of raising wild bobwhite quail.  This is my third year and I’m finally starting to see and hear the fruits of my labors.  We had a terrible drought last year and I doubted that any of the approximately 700 birds I’d released had survived.  I was starting to wonder if I knew how to raise quail!  Although I didn’t make it out for call counts in May, every time I’ve been over to the ranch, I’ve heard wild quail calling from the tress – almost throughout the entire day.  What a treat to know that my efforts to raise bobwhite quail are paying off!


10 Day Old Bobwhite Quail Chicks

10 Day Old Brown and White Bobwhite Quail in Yellow Straw
10 Day Old Bobwhite Quail

I prefer 10 day old bobwhite quail chicks rather than 1 day old chicks.  I like their hardiness and the fact that I don’t have to suffer that first week’s mortality.  The slightly older birds seem to perform better in the surrogator and fly better when released.  Some other people I talk with also use this approach to shorten their cycle from 5 weeks to 4 weeks and get another batch in over the Summer.  I’m not in that much of a hurry and prefer the quality over the quantity because I think they make better wild quail.






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Heat Control and How to Raise Quail

White and Grey Heater with Red Thermostat for How To Raise Quail
Heater for How To Raise Quail

Even though the bobwhite quail chicks are 10 days old, they still require supplemental heat – just not as much.  This, I’ve come to understand, is one of the biggest and most valuable secrets of the Surrogator.  Heat control is a critical element in how to raise quail. The heating unit has heat control as well as a thermostat to help regulate the internal temperatures.  The little ceramic dish on top of the flame is also brilliant – it pushes the heat downward and conserves gas.  When I start a cycle with 10 day old bobwhite quail chick, I start the thermostat at 3 instead of 5 which is the recommended second week temperature setting.  We use less gas this way but the wild quail chicks do eat more food over 5 weeks.





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Bobwhite Quail Chicks Clumping

Brown and Grey Baby Wild Quail Clumped in Silver Cage with Black Net Wire
Baby Wild Quail Clumped

Even 10 day old bobwhite quail chicks clump when you first load them in the surrogator.  They do this even through the heater is running.  This is what would happen if there were not a heater and the chicks on the bottom would suffocate.  It doesn’t take a lot to know how to raise quail but you do have to pay close attention to the basics.  It doesn’t take them long to realize their new situation and begin feeding.  They always seem to be hungry!






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Bobwhite Quail Helper

Young Girl Helper with Glasses in Orange Shirt Holding a Baby Bobwhite Quail
Helper with Baby Bobwhite Quail

One of the biggest benefits of raising wild bobwhite quail with a surrogator is having my daughters along to help me.  It’s not always exciting and frequently involves some hard work but the time we get to spend together learning and raising bobwhite quail is precious.  My daughters seem to like the loading and releasing weeks more than anything else and are developing a passion for wild quail.







Summary of A New Cycle of Raising Wild Bobwhite Quail

I’m always excited about another cycle of raising wild bobwhite quail.  I’m hearing lots of birds this year that have come from previous releases or are the offspring from previous releases.  I prefer 10 day old chicks instead of 1 day old chicks for their better performance and hardiness.  I’ve learned a lot about how to raise quail and temperature control is critical even with 10 day old chicks.  Even the slightly older birds tend to clump and this can cause suffocation.  If you’re raising wild quail, take your kids with you – it is a tremendous opportunity to get to know them, teach them about our great outdoors heritage and pass on our passion for bobwhite quail.



How NOT To Raise Bobwhite Quail in a Surrogator

Raising bobwhite quail in a Surrogator doesn’t work – so say most of the experts out there. There is even quite a bit of bobwhite quail research from universities that have scads of data that confirms that raising wild quail in a surrogator doesn’t work. OK, so why do I keep doing it and where are those bobwhite quail on my ranch coming from? Let’s look at why it works for me but doesn’t seem to work for the researchers who study bobwhite quail.

First, let’s define “works”. If “works” means you are going to have a bunch of bobwhite quail to hunt this Fall then I tend to agree. I started with that expectation and was quickly disappointed. The math just doesn’t work very well. If “works” mean that you can restore and replenish the population of wild quail on your place then yes, it does work – but it depends on more than just the surrogator. If “works” means get’s the quail from 1 week to 6 weeks with a high survival rate and reasonably good chance of bobwhite quail survival in the wild then yes, it does work.


The Surrogator Works

Camo colored bobwhite quail surrogator in a clearing
Bobwhite Quail Surrogator

The surrogator works just fine to raise bobwhite quail chicks from 1 week (or one day if you chose) to five or six weeks of age. I prefer to start with week old wild quail chicks and raise them to six weeks rather than day old chicks to five weeks. Starting quail this young does require some special attention, including supplemental heat in the quail surrogator. The surrogator is well designed, simple to operate and does it’s job quite well. I typically put in 125 chicks and release 90 to 100 at the end of 5 weeks. The surrogator works just fine for it’s intended purpose.






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Learn How to Raise Quail in a Well Tended Surrogator

Young bobwhite quail in a surrogator
Bobwhite Quail in a Surrogator

The bobwhite quail chicks actually thrive in a surrogator that is well tended and maintained. The instructions that come with the surrogator are simple and easy to follow. But, like any generic instructions, a little tweaking can improve your results and decrease your efforts. Nevertheless, as designed, the surrogator, when well tended according to the instructions works just like a charm. Can you build your own? Sure you can – the surrogator is not that complicated. There is one part that is hard to find – the quail surrogator heating unit. However, there are a few design details and specialty parts that you will have some challenges. Also, if you want your surrogator to be easily portable and last for many years without a lot of maintenance, then I recommend buying one. See my video for more details on how the surrogator is designed and built.


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Predators Do Have an Impact on Bobwhite Quail

Bobcat caught on a game camera looking at wild quail
Wild Quail Predator

Nobody really knows the details of what happens in the brush at night – except the bobwhite quail and the predators that haunt those places. Do predators have an impact on the wild quail population? Sure they do. Will predator control make a difference? Probably but in my experience, the effort in predator control is fairly high for the results that you can actually produce. You do need to have a predator control program in place but I think the impact on the released quail is actually fairly low.




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Why Are You Raising Wild Bobwhite Quail?

White Brittany on Point at Wild Bobwhite Quail
Dog Likes Wild Quail

Back to the definition of “works”. Your definition of “works” is going to be dependent on your “why”. Mine originally was to hunt wild quail that year. Well, after several months on not seeing or finding a single bobwhite quail that desire was crushed. It was 4 months into my first year before I ever saw a released quail. It was only in the Spring following the first year that I really understood the impact of my efforts and the long term value of what I was doing. The following Spring I did quail call counts – and man did I hear a bunch of birds! Why hadn’t my dog found those birds on my weekly surveys walking around the ranch? I’m not sure but I suspect that we easily over estimate the abilities of our dogs to find quail. I suspect, after doing this for several years, that even the best of bird dogs only find a small percentage of the available quail. In summary, I’m raising quail to hunt, but more importantly, so that I can hunt behind my dog, with my kids whenever the mood strikes me – all without the pain and time involved in getting and then going to an expensive lease where I have no control over what might be there. You might call it my own private huntable preserve. Once I got clear on my “why” then my “works” became much more achievable.




Raising Wild Quail Does Work

Wild Quail Raised for Hunting
How to Raise Quail for Hunting

Yes, raising wild bobwhite quail does work – and here’s your proof. There was only a single cock bobwhite on the ranch when I started 3 years ago. After learning how to raise quail, I now have several findable coveys of wild quail and can harvest quail whenever I want. More importantly, I hear them in the Spring, see them with babies in the Summer and bust coveys in the Fall – with my children and friends – behind young and old dogs. Yes, the Surrogator does work!






Summary of How NOT To Raise Bobwhite Quail in a Surrogator

You should only believe the research if you want to hunt your released bobwhite quail this Fall. The surrogator does work as intended but your results and success will depend on how well you tend the surrogator, learning how to raise quail and what your goals are. The surrogator does work to increase wild, natural populations of bobwhite quail.