Guest Post on Raising Wild Quail

Keeping Quail Safe, Secure and Happy

Raising quail can be an enjoyable experience, whether you’ve raised many quail before or if it is your first time trying your hand at caring for quail. Looking after quail is not particularly difficult; however there are a number of things to consider in relation to quail as they get older. Many people will keep quail chicks then release them into the wild when they are old enough to fend for themselves, but this is not for everyone; if you intend to keep them for longer there are some important pieces of information that should be remembered.

 

Daily Care

Looking after quails should not be viewed as a chore, and daily care of quails is an amazingly simple task. Quails should be kept in a house built specifically for their living area, which should be joined to a large enclosed run. Daily they should be let out of their house into the run, this rule holds true for all seasons of the year as they are very robust birds capable of coping with cold weather. Ensure they can still return into the house should they feel cold or want food, and never let them out of the run for numerous safety reasons. They can fly well, and even if they seem tame they could still fly away, causing them to get lost. Also they can be hard to catch once they are out in the open, so this is another reason to keep them within the confines of a run.

Weekly Care

Cleaning out the house and run of the birds should be done once or twice weekly; they are relatively clean birds, and as they tend to spend most of their time outside in a run their bedding should only need to be changed every few days. Whilst you are cleaning the house you can take this opportunity to handle and check all of your quail to ensure they are healthy and not showing any signs of illness or health issues, and to help with their general level of tameness.

 

Feeding the Quails

Quails have a decent appetite for their size, but they will not overeat, so they can be left with excess food as they will not eat it if they don’t want it. Their main diet will consist of mainly of corn and can be mixed with crushed pellets or whole pellets if they are slightly larger quail, such as the Cortunix family of quail. Another addition to the diet of the quail can be kitchen leftovers such as pasta, rice or even lettuce. They will not eat anything they do not want, so you will quickly learn the likes and dislikes of your quail. Never feed them meat, salty items, or garden cuttings as these are not something they can easily digest. Ensure the quails have access to fresh water at all times, you may also wish to consider adding some citricidal to the water as it is a natural antibiotic which will help keep the quail safe from diseases carried by wild birds.

Safety and Security

There is no way to keep the quail you are caring for 100% safe, but there are some precautions you can take that will help to keep them as safe as possible. At night, close the door of the house they stay in so as they cannot move into the run and attract any possible predators. Also check the run for any security issues it may have. Dependant on where you live there may be many predators around. If you live on a farm you may find there are certain types of farm insurance available to cover any damage to the property or animals you keep within your farm, which may be beneficial if you plan on keeping a very large number of quails. Most insurance companies will state what animals they cover if this is an option, so it may be worth enquiring if it is something you are specifically interested in.

Quail can be a delight to keep, whether you intend on just keeping a few or whether you plan on keeping a large number; they are easy to care for and simple to keep happy. Remember to never let them roam freely outside of an enclosed run, and to keep fresh water and food available at all times, as well as a warm shelter for them to hide in if they need or want to. Most of all, enjoy your new quail companions.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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Quail Feeder Update – Success and Failure

Lot’s of new information to report on my quail feeder.  The new model – buzz bucket – worked well to deliver feed and attract birds while repelling varmits in the quail habitat.  It did experience some problems with durability in the wild.  The old model – pvc pipe – showed new signs of value in a particular use right after a release at the surrogator.  I had some issues with the buzz bucket model so I’ve taken it down and brought the buzz bucket quail feeder back to the shop to rethink the purpose and methods as part of my strategy to raise wild quail.

 

Buzz Bucket Quail Feeder Damage

White Plastic Quail Feeder Showing Damage from Gnawing Squirrels
Quail Feeder Damage from Squirrels

The buzz bucket quail feeder suffers from a lack of robustness.  The lid shows signs of animal gnawing – I suspect squirrels – and this leads to water getting inside the bucket and harming the feed.  It’s curious that the electric fence on the buzz bucket did not repel the squirrels nor did the game camera capture them. This is a set back in my efforts to improve the quail habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feed Flow in a Quail Feeder to Support Raising Wild Quail

Quail Habitat Improvement with a White Plastic Quail Feeder and Red Grain
Quail Habitat Improvement with a Partially Empty Quail Feeder

The feed delivery speed from the buzz bucket quail feeder was optimal.  Feed flowed smoothly but at a slow enough rate that it didn’t normally attracts any varmits.  A 50# sack of scratch lasted well over 5 weeks.  The feed flowed smoothly around the internal battery compartment and wires. It is important to manage costs downward in my efforts to raise wild quail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quail Feeder Success!

Wild Bobwhte Quail Near a White Plastic Quail Feeder
Wild Quail Using a Quail Feeder

The buzz bucket quail feeder regularly attracted wild bobwhite quail to feed.  The feed flow rate was sufficient and the feed delivery holes large enough that gravity and wind continued to deliver feed on a daily basis.  The primary purpose of this quail feeder is to conduct ongoing quail counts of the wild bobwhite quail population.  Rains have been sufficient this year to produce very healthy stand of wild grasses and seeds that the wild bobwhite quail do not need supplemental feeding in the quail habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Impediments to Quail Habitat Improvement

Brown Whitetail Deer Eating From a White Quail Feeder
Whitetail Deer Raiding a Quail Feeder

I did have occasional varmit raids on the buzz bucket quail feeder.  It is my practice of raising wild quail when tending the feeder to hand scatter feed which produces an abundance of feed on the ground.  What is curious in this picture is that the electric fence that protects the buzz bucket appears not to be working.  This was my first indication that the buzz bucket feeder needed to be brought back to the shop for a rethink and redesign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Varmits Raiding Quail Feeder

Whitetail Deer Eating from an Early Model White PVC Quail Feeder
Improving Release Habitat with an Early Model Quail Feeder

The PVC tube quail feeder works very well as a post release attractant to support the newly released wild bobwhite quail.  Since it lacks any varmit protection, it is subject to varmit raids.  The PVC model quail feeder is simple, inexpensive and very easy to use.  I maintain a T post at each surrogator spot specifically for the PVC quail feeder.  Upon release of the quail from the surrogator, I take the remaining feed and put that into the PVC quail feeder.  I then fill it to the top with scratch feed and let it trickle out over a few weeks.

 

 

 

 

Improvements to the PVC Quail Feeder

Simple White PVC Quail Feeder Showing Yellow Grain Works Well
The Early Model Quail Feeder Still Works Well

The size of the feed delivery holes in the PVC quail feeder is important.  I’ve finally gotten them large enough to consistently deliver feed via gravity.  I started with a 1/2″ drill bit and then generously wiggled it around to enlarge the feed delivery holes.  This results in a slow trickle of feed via gravity and wind that takes approximately 4 weeks to empty the quail feeder. While this does not have a big impact on quail habitat, it does improve the chances of newly released wild bobwhite quail.
 

 

 

 

Summary of Quail Feeder Update – Success and Failure

The buzz bucket quail feeder worked well but needs improvement to serve it’s purpose in my quail habitat management plan.  It has problems with being water tight and protected from varmits.  The buzz bucket quail feeder also has an unreliable electric fence.  The quail feeder does deliver feed nicely and a full feeder can last as long as 4 weeks.  The PVC quail feeder also showed new promise as a specific tool to support newly released wild bobwhite quail from the surrogator.  The enlarged holes deliver feed reliably for approximately 4 weeks.  The PVC quail feeder has no varmit protection but the feed delivery is slow enough that thee varmits are usually only there for the first round of extra feed scattered on the ground after filling the quail feeder with the remains from the surrogator.  Both feeders are showing signs of value and improvement in my long term strategy to raise wild quail.  I’m making progress on my quail feeder and very pleased with the result and what I’ve learned.

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You can also read a bit about our initial experiences designing the surrogator and figuring out how to raise these chicks the most efficiently.