Habitat management and mother nature don’t always cooperate fully so sometimes supplemental feeding with quail feeders is required. There are a huge variety of quail feeders available that pack a ton of experience behind them. I tried a couple of them and didn’t experience the success I expected. So, I took a different approach and started asking people who were successful, without anything to sell, what they were doing.
Homemade Quail Feeders
The best model I saw was built out of PVC pipe with holes drilled in the end caps for quail feeders. Looks simple – and it is – but don’t be fooled, it wasn’t that easy. First, I couldn’t find 8″ PVC so I had to settle for 4″ PVC. Still, this is enough to make 40 lb quail feeders when it is 5 feet long. Next, the small matter of the small holes – how big, what angle, how many, how high from the ground – lot’s of questions!
Prototype 40lb Quail Feeders
Then, the question of mounting the quail range feeders. Where, how, alone or with water, movable or permanent? My first prototype that was easily portable and also had a watering station was way over engineered.
Watering System for Quail Range Feeders
The watering system no the range quail feeder turned out to be more hassle than it was worth. Pictures showed it being used once but it certainly provided an excellent opportunity for fun and frolic for the coons.
Prototype Range Quail Feeders
What to do about the varmints? We have deer, coons, squirrels and hogs. It can quickly cost more to protect the quail range feeder than the feeder and a sack of feed is worth. I had an unused plant cage from my tomato garden that I tried.
End Caps for Quail Feeders
Can you train a bobwhite quail to a quail range feeder? It was easy enough to give it a try. I built a very short model, loaded it with chick starter feed and put a solid board underneath it so feed wouldn’t fall through the screen in the surrogator. This also helped me experiment and learn about the size, angle and distribution of the holes in the end caps for quail feeders to trickle the feed. Worked like a charm!
Working Model Quail Range Feeders
The evidence speaks for itself – the newly released wild bobwhite quail loved the feeder. Unfortunately, the large numbers bobwhite quail decreased rather quickly but based on call counts I think that has more to do with a natural distribution of the wild bobwhite quail in the wild than anything else. The quail feeder worked and continues to work.
Quail Watering System Failure
The watering system on the other hand – that was just folly and a pain in the butt. The wild bobwhite quail didn’t use it and the deer and coons just disturbed it – every week.
Chewed End Caps for Quail Feeders
Put an end cap for quail feeders on that rascal – and don’t forget! I forgot for two weeks. Since we didn’t have any rain and the feed was still flowing from the trickle holes, I thought everything was fine. It wasn’t. The third week I went out to check, instead of chick starter feed coming from the trickle holes, I had hair! Seems as though a squirrel had climbed down inside and died – nasty! Good riddance to a squirrel though.
Revised Range Quail Feeder Cage
I certainly don’t need to continue using my tomato cages to protect the wild quail feeder – too bulky and it still had a hole in the top where the varmints could get in. I had some scrap pieces and wired together a small cage around the bottom – just enough to keep the critters away from the feed and allow the quail in to feed – much easier to build and manage.
Modification of End Caps for Quail Feeders
After quite a bit of experimenting with the hole size and distribution in the end caps for quail feeders I think I’ve gotten it just right. Wild quail feed flows smoothly without flowing too fast. I also learned to use a rake to clear the ground around the base of the quail range feeder to help the wild bobwhite quail find the feed.
Newest Revision to 40 lb Quail Feeders
I also learned that the range quail feeder does not need to be as portable as I originally thought. I removed the sliding pole and hose clamped it directly to a t post. Now the 40 lb quail feeders have a cost of less than $20 and I can afford to put one at every wild bobwhite quail release location and other locations where I see and hear activity.
Quail Range Feeders Near the Release Site
Putting a range quail feeder right next to the wild bobwhite quail release site seems to work very well. I was a little worried about the size of the holes in the cage but it appears that it does not bother the bobwhite quail.
Protecting Your Range Quail Feeders
Ah, the varmints and critters still seem to think this is a Luby’s. Who doesn’t have some sort of hog problem in Texas? The only thing I did to secure the cage around the quail range feeder was to push the little 3 inch spikes into the ground – obviously not enough as the hogs were able to loosen it up and get under. It still prevents major destruction but I do need something a little better. I’m not a fan of feeding hogs for free.
Varmint Stand Off at the Range Quail Feeder
After the hogs had done their initial work, the smart coon found a way inside. Unfortunately, he also found a way back out. With the Texas drought in it’s third year, everything is looking for a little food.
Quail Feed Distribution and Modification of End Caps for Quail Feeders
I adjusted the holes in the end caps for quail feeders slightly and now have a great flow of bobwhite quail feed. It also helps that the cage rubs against the quail range feeder column so any disturbance of the cage or column causes additional feed to flow – that helps prevent the feed from locking up inside the range quail feeder column.
Wild Quail Surrogator Survey
Summary of Quail Range Feeders
Quail habitat management is a critical part of having success raising and releasing wild bobwhite quail. Supplemental feeding using a quail range feeder – something like 40 lb quail feeders – seems to be beneficial in keeping the wild bobwhite quail in the area near where they were released. Being successful with a range quail feeder take experimentation. I highly recommend using a game camera to monitor your progress and document what is happening while you are gone. This provide evidence that you can then take action on to modify your quail range feeders to increase your success.
This year’s first batch of quail chicks have almost 4 weeks in the surrogator so I figured it was time to get caught up on some of the “extra” things we’ve been doing to raise and feed wild quail. We implemented a form of predator control on some of the quail range feeders, tried a callback device to attract the released bobwhite quail, used game cameras to monitor and measure our progress feeding wild quail, repaired the surrogator and prototyped a wild quail feeder to find the best feeder for quail chicks. It’s been a busy Spring leading up to loading our first batch of quail chicks. <a href="”> [ Read More → ]
This year’s first batch of quail chicks have almost 4 weeks in the surrogator so I figured it was time to get caught up on some of the “extra” things we’ve been doing in our raising and feeding wild quail. We implemented a form of predator control on some of the quail range feeders, tried a callback device to attract the released bobwhite quail, used game cameras to monitor and measure our progress feeding wild quail, repaired the surrogator and prototyped a wild quail feeder to find the best one for feeding wild quail chicks. It’s been a busy Spring leading up to loading our first batch of quail chicks.
Coon Zappers to Protect Quail Range Feeders
We have several typical deer feeders that spin cast a mixture of corn, protein, scratch bird seed and quail chicks starter feed each day. We intend these to also serve as quail range feeders. These feeders work very well for our deer population and also attract quite a few doves. They have yet to prove useful for feeding wild quail. They operate with a battery powered spinner throwing gravity fed feed. It is easy for the deer to lick the spinner or the coons to turn the spinner and empty 200 pounds of feed in a week. We decided to fight back – feeding wild quail is pretty important around here – and implemented what we call the “coon zapper” – a sort of miniature electric fence around the spin caster. It is powered by a 12V battery charged via solar charger with the charge held in a “Varmint Buster” capacitor and a custom wire cage around the spinner.
The custom wire cage and stand-offs around the spinner on the quail range feeders took the most experimentation and prototyping. My Dad finally hand crafted some plastic standoffs and used heavy copper wire to form the “electric fence” around the spinner. This version has withstood the test of time quite well so far and I think will be sufficient for feeding wild quail.
The battery that powers the Coon Zapper is an ordinary 12 volt rechargeable battery. This is more than sufficient to load the capacitor and knock the snot out of you if you touch it. I have video of Dad touching it to test it and it even makes him jump back a step or two.
The entire Coon Zapper / Varmint Buster rig fits easily on the control panel housing of the quail range feeders and has a dedicated solar charger to keep the battery charged. My Dad built this unit while experimenting over a period of six months and we’re quite proud of it. The net result is that NO animals even get close to the spin caster anymore. At best, we have game camera pictures of a deer sniffing it from about a foot and we haven’t seen a single coon on the wild quail feeders since it was installed. We’re guessing that the animals can smell the ozone or electrical charge and avoid it. That said, the coons are still hungry and have just started to congregate more heavily around our other feeders – yet another problem to solve…but feeding wild quail has become a lot more feasible now.
Callback Device for Feeding Wild Quail
I started using a quail callback device in February. The goal was to call the bobwhite quail back to the wild quail feeders loaded with quail starter feed. The callback device is one of the best and works very reliably. I have it configured to sound covey calls at dawn and dusk. It makes approximately 6 calls with 2 minutes intervals at both dawn and dusk. If you’re out there when it goes off, the wild quail go nuts calling back to it. Unfortunately, I never saw any quail actually come to the feeder loaded with quail chicks starter feed located near the callback device.
The quail callback device is very configurable and can be used in a variety of situations. I’ve talked with people who use them for calling back pen raised field trial bobwhite quail and also recovering/trapping pen raised hunting bobwhite quail. In all cases, they report good success. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the same measure of success feeding wild quail but I suspect that I just haven’t figured out the proper method yet.
Game Cameras to Monitor Wild Quail Feeders
I use several game cameras to monitor what is happening at the surrogators, waterers and quail range feeders. I use a Bushnell model that is very simple and reliable. Mine is an older model but the newer ones seem to be slight modifications and improvements on their origianl, good design. These game cameras are powered by 8 AA batteries and will last as long as six months. They are small units and I mount them to Moultrie tripods rather than strapping them to a tree. I’ve never had a problem with these cameras except when I forget to turn them on.
The game camers work on SD memory cards. Rather than replacing the SD memory cards each time and bringing them home to “harvest” for pictures, I use an Apple iPad and a Camera Connection Kit to read the SD memory card right in the field. The iPad reads the pictures into it’s internal memory and then offers to delete them from the SD memory card. I then synchronize the iPad with my home computer to archive and work with the pictures. I also use my iPad to write a journal to track what we’re doing with raising quail, monitoring the wild quail feeders and managing the quail habitat.
Visitors While Feeding Wild Quail
The game camera captures some very interesting visitors at the quail range feeders. As I mentioned, since the coons and deer no longer have an all-you-can-eat buffet at the deer feeders/wild quail feeders, it appears that they have teamed up to raid my wild quail feeders of the delicious quail starter feed.
Several weeks ago, I captured my first image of a bobcat on the ranch. I’ve seen him three more times since then – each time looking somewhat like the little old ladies waiting for the Luby’s buffet to open on a Sunday morning. While the coons do give me some cause for concern, they haven’t been shown to be aggressive quail predators other than opportunistically raiding nests. Bobcats on the other hand, are very aggressive bobwhite quail predators and can easily clean you out.
I’m not sure why the buzzards decided to visit the quail range feeder – maybe the particular smell of the quail starter feed. This is the only time in two years that I’ve seen them at a wild quail feeder. They didn’t seem to bother the feeder other than to crap all over the top of it. These are the only birds I’ve seen at the wild quail feeders – not much success so far feeding wild quail – not giving up though.
Wild Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Repairs
Over the winter, I took the time to do some repairs to the surrogator. I’d had it out in the weather for six months raising four batches of wild quail chicks and it performed very well. There were a few places where screws had broken off and those were replaced very easily with a small washer and a coated rain gutter screw. In this case, most of the screws that broke were screws that held the cage bottom mesh.
There was also very little paint degradation and rust on the surrogator. I took care to power wash the surrogator between each cycle and the original paint job held up very well. There were a few places on the bottom of the cage where it was directly against the ground and possible rubbed on some rocks where bare metal came through the paint. I used some tough Rustoleum paint and just covered the bare areas.
The Best Feeder for Feeding Wild Quail Chicks and Quail Starter Feed?
A tip of the hat to a friend that answered a forum post on ThatQuailPlace.com in response to my question from last month regarding the failure of the bobwhite quail to come to my quail feeders. He opined that “training” them to an enclosed quail feeder might make a difference. I also talked with a couple of other people regarding their success feeding wild quail and the most interesting story I heard was about a quail feeder made from a 6″ PVC pipe capped on each end and attached to a T-Post driven into the ground. It’s been horribly hot and dry hear in Texas and our usual crop of forbs has not produced any seeds for the bobwhite quail this year. I also think that the very dry weather is going to have a big impact on the brooding success since there aren’t many bugs for the quail chick to eat. So, I had an idea. I’m going to combine a couple of those ideas to see if I can create an enclosed quail feeder that will be the best feeder for quail chicks. The quail chicks are already trained to the nipple waterer in the surrogator. The bobwhite quail are also trained to the gravity feeding trough with quail starter feed in the surrogator so I might be able to train them to another type of feeder as well. I have an extra nipple waterer that was attached to the bottom of the quail feeder I bought from Wildlife Management Technologies for feeding wild quail. I can combine the extra nipple waterer with a T Post and PVC feeder and possibly attract them to quail chicks starter feed and feed the quail that way. There is a long list of challenges to resolve in this approach but the first on is the actual design of the feeder distribution and training of the quail. So, I made a small prototype feeder to put into the surrogator during the last week before their release. I’m using 4″ PVC from Home Depot because it is cheaper and more easily available than the 6″ PVC. I purchased an end cap and drilled four 7/32″ holes at a 45 degree angle. I’d been warned not to drill at a 90 degree angle as that would allow water to get back into the feed and clog it up. I’m calling this one the enclosed quail feeder.
I mounted the end cap to a 12″ x 12″ piece of plywood in the hopes that the feed would trickle out and be easily findable by the quail chicks. I also underestimated the length of the lag bolt that was needed – luckily, I had a slightly longer one in my workshop stash. I’m using a piece of plywood on the enclosed quail feeder because the bottom of the surrogator is 3/8″ mesh and any quail starter feed that came out of the enclosed quail feeder would just fall through and be of no use to attract and train the bobwhite quail chicks. The plywood will serve to hold the dropped grain and make it easily findable by the quail chicks.
This is the final version of the enclosed quail feeder mounted to a base. It is approximately 12″ tall with four 7/32″ holes to dribble quail starter feed. I’m taking a hand saw with me when I install it because I want the height of the enclosed quail feeder to be exactly the inside height of the surrogator – thus eliminating the need for a top cap and the purchase of an additional $7 end cap. I think I’m onto something and may have the best feeder for quail chicks.
Surrogator Location Selection for Raising Quail
One week prior to loading the bobwhite quail chicks, I took the surrogator out and set it up. I had four cycles of quail last year and, based on call counts and the few birds we’ve seen, I think Location #1 was probably a bust, Bobwhite Wild Quail Location #2 and Bobwhite Quail Release Location #3 were very successful and Quail Raising Location #4 was moderately successful. The quail habitat near Location #1 didn’t turn out to be as good for wild quail as I originally estimated – there was more non-native KR Bluestem grass than I thought there was but it didn’t really bloom and become visible until the late Summer rains. KR Bluestem is not a good grass for feeding wild quail. Locations #2 and #3 are in moderately wooded areas where it is tough for the non native KR Bluestem to grow and the native forbs and grasses have a better chance to thrive. Location #4 was intended to provide a “house covey” of bobwhite quail near the ranch house and we have started to see and hear wild quail from that release within the past few weeks. This year, I’m going to reuse Bobwhite Wild Quail Location #2 and Bobwhite Quail Release Location #3 to build on last year’s successes and then put two more releases very near those location to attempt to concentrate this year’s releases of bobwhite quail and get a better handle on how the wild quail populations handle the quail habitat and predators.
A reminder about setting up your surrogator – keep those zip ties handy – they are critical tools to keep the surrogator tight and predator resistant.
With the success we’ve had with the coon zapper on the quail range feeder, I’m planning on implementing a similar, smaller version around the wild quail feeders to feed wild quail and keep the varmints at bay. I’m also going to relocate the quail call back device near the feeder loaded with quail starter feed and begin running it during the last week of the surrogator cycle to see if the bobwhite quail chicks will associate the sound of the call back device to safety and food. I have two game cams and will continue using one game cam to monitor the active surrogator and one to monitor the quail feeder – this will allow me to monitor the wild quail that come to feed and the general predator count. I’m going to install the enclosed quail feeder to see if it performs as expected as the best feeder for quail chicks.
Next month’s update will summarize Release #1 from 2011 and the progress I’ve made with the quail feeders.
I’ve noticed a lot of inquiries about wild quail feeders and feeding wild quail chicks and adults. I have some experience with feed, feeding and feeders at all stages of life for wild bobwhite quail and I’ll outline what I’ve learned below. I also need to close the chapter on last year’s final quail release cycle with a video of the wild bobwhite quail release.
Releasing Wild Quail Cycle #4
We were fortunate to get a last cycle of wild quail fully raised and released before the weather turned cold, and more importantly, before bird season started and took over my time on the weekend. We only lost 14 birds while raising quail in this cycle, proving again, that week old bobwhite quail chicks have lower mortality than day old wild quail chicks. One of the additional advantages to week old quail chicks is that you can shorten the cycle from five weeks to four weeks or leave the cycle at five weeks for a little extra growth. I’m not in a hurry and I believe, as you can see from the video, that the birds fly better with an extra week of growth and are thus able to evade predators a little better as they are released from the surrogator into the wild.
Wild Quail Feeders – Lessons Learned
My bobwhite quail breeder recommended Purina Game Bird Chow as the starter feed for wild quail chicks. Research shows that quail chicks need almost 95% protein in their diet during their first 6 weeks. In the wild, they get this protein from eating bugs.
I buy my quail feed at Tractor Supply and I also buy Scratch to feed the adult bobwhite quail. Expect to spend a little more for the Purina Brand quail chick starter feed but I think it’s worth it.
Quail Chick Starter Feed
I ordered the bobwhite quail chick supplement sold by Wildlife Management Technologies when I purchased my surrogator last year. I’ve been told by reputable breeders that it isn’t necessary. That said, it is supposed to contain some nutrients and probiotics to help the quail chicks in their first few days. Since I start with week old birds I don’t use this anymore.
WMT also recommends placing a couple paper plates of feed on the floor of the surrogator to make it easier for the wild quail chicks to get to the feed and start eating. Day old bobwhite quail chicks are very small and having feed readily available with the added supplements does seem to help them.
This is a picture of week old wild bobwhite quail chicks just after they were introduced to the surrogator. They made a bee line for the feed and had cleaned the entire two plates in about an hour. It’s worthwhile to note that the recommended paper plates are the “Chinette” or similar brand that is thicker and rougher than a slick, thin paper plate. The thin ones are too slick for the little chicks to get any traction on.
Feeding Bobwhite Quail Chicks in the Surrogator
The surrogator has a feed tray that holds almost exactly fifty pounds of starter feed. Fifty pounds is sufficient if you start raising quail with day old chicks but expect to add feed in the last week or so if you start with older birds – they eat more.
The tray easily funnels feed and I’ve never had a problem with moisture gumming things up. However, I do find it very curious that the quail chicks tend to eat from one end of the feeder or the other – it is never an even distribution so it is very important to check and redistribute the feed every week when you tend the quail chicks.
The bobwhite quail feed runs the full width of the surrogator and the birds have no problem self feeding. I also find it very interesting that most of the dead birds are found in the brooder end of the surrogator and seldom in the loafing end.
This is the result of over 100 wild bobwhite quail chicks consuming and digesting 50 pounds of quail feed over five weeks. It’s a palette of quail poop several inches thick – those little birds are eating and pooping machines! This residue will be gone within six weeks. It is actually quite good for improving the bobwhite quail habitat as well.
Wild Quail Feeders – Dos and Don’ts
There are many many brands of wild quail feeders available. This one holds well over 100 pounds of feed and has a protected feeding area. However, I have heard stories that snakes and rats tend to like the protected feeding area as well. It’s important to note with wild quail feeders – you are providing a fixed location where the quail will concentrate and predators that eat bobwhite quail will discover this rather quickly.
This wild quail feeder is protected with “hog panels” and “t posts” to prevent the cattle and wild hogs from causing too much damage. It is also covered with sticks and twigs to attempt to protect the quail from predation by raptors.
We also have wild turkeys and have built a special elevated platform for the turkey feeder. It is a gravity feed self feeder and it works well for the turkeys. The higher legs on this model make it unsuitable for feeding wild quail. The raccoons love this feeder as it is the easiest for them to self feed and they can clean it out in a matter of a week. Coon control/patrol is a necessary part of quail habitat management.
I purchased the WMT wild quail feeder/waterer combination when I purchased my surrogator. It is a heavy duty, gravity fed feed with with an over simplified watering system. The watering system, not shown, is simply a plastic five gallon bucket with a thin plastic hose that connects to the same watering mipple system that the quail chicks use in the surrogator. I do understand the idea but it is definitely not coon proof.
I fill the quail feeders with ordinary scratch feed available at almost any feed store. The WMT wild quail feeder is water tight and I’ve never had a problem with moisture.
What Really Happens at Night at the Wild Quail Feeders
Quail feeders attract a lot of non-quail. Wildlife, in general, are quite smart and figure out a way to raid the feeder. In this case, a deer has learned to kneel down and lick the feed out. It’s amazing that they will go to this level of effort because the holes in the feeder that let out the feed are only about 3/4 of an inch in diameter and they are will protected back inside the legs. It seems like a lot of effort for a little benefit – especially when there are several dedicated deer feeders within 50 yards.
Those damn coons! Raccoons LOVE quail feeders and tend to throw very regular parties. I’ve seen as many as eight at this feeder and as many as 15 at the turkey feeder. Their little paws are perfectly proportioned for reaching into the tiny holes and scraping out the feed for the party.
Coons are also very prolific – and this pair decided to make a date night at the feeder one night. I have a game camera dedicated for this feeder and got a whole 30 picture sequence of coon love. This was the most candid shot.
“Where are the quail?”, you ask? “I don’t know”, I answer. I ran the quail feeder near the surrogator and then in areas where I saw released birds for many months. I had a dedicated game camera at the feeder at all times. Nary a quail was seen at the feeder. Based on my limited experience, I would have to say that they dont’ work. It may be that we have sufficient wild seeds in the wild quail habitat for them and they don’t need any supplemental feed. I even purchased a quail callback device and that never attracted any quail either. I finally just got tired of collecting pictures of deer and coons and let the feeder run empty.
I have not given up though. I have several new options that I’m considering for this year’s cycles and will document them over the next few months. I’m loading my first batch of quail chicks on Saturday May 21, 2011 and will have more stories to tell as the Summer and Fall progress.