Bobwhite Quail Habitat and Feeders

I’m into the middle of my annual season to raise bobwhite quail for quail hunting.  I’m actively running surrogator batches, improving the  habitat and experimenting with wild quail feeders.  It’s a marvelous adventure that allows me to spend time with my dog and my kids – how could things get any better?

Full Stock Tank for Water Conservation

Silver Sky Reflected in Brown Water Stock Tank Overflowing in Green Grass as Quail Habitat Water Conservation
Quail Habitat Water Conservation
Texas has been in a long term drouth for several years and we’re having a wet Summer.  It’s also cooler this year due to the frequent rainfall.  Water conservation is a big aspect of quail habitat management and something we watch and manage carefully.  Bobwhite quail get their water from metabolism, dew and then surface water – primarily in that order.  The collection and storage of rainfall in stock tanks is very valuable but the challenge in our arid country is finding ground suitable to collect and hold the rainfall.  But, when you do, it is wonderful – to overflowing!

Cutting Trees to Build Improve Quail Habitat

Dead Brown nad Live Green Cedar Trees as part of Building Habitat
Building Quail Habitat
We also actively manage the invasive plant species to improve the quail habitat.  This will also provide easy walking when quail hunting.  Western Cedar or Juniper Ashe trees are highly invasive and will take over cleared pastures within 10-15 years if left untreated.  Juniper trees aren’t actually as thirsty as most people think but they do have a big impact on water conservation.  Here’s why.  The leaf needles of the trees hold up to 1/3 if the rainfall.  The dead leaves underneath the trees hold another 1/3 of the rainfall.  Thus, only 1/3 of the active rainfall actually makes it into the ground – the rest is evaporated.  Clearing large trees is a challenge but I have a tractor with hydraulic shears on the front that will make short work of trees up to 14 inches in diameter.  And, I have to say, it’s a blast chopping those suckers down!
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Small Water Holding Ponds

Small Brown Creek Water Pond in Shady Green Glade for Bobwhite Habitat
Small Water for Bobwhite Quail Habitat
Clearing cedar and other invasive species can have a big impact on getting ground water spring to percolate and flow again.  These small creeks and springs provide an excellent place for quail to brood protected from hawks and other raptors.  Getting your springs flowing again is a great indicator of good quail habitat management.

Fence Brush Management for Bobwhite Quail

Brown Dead Vines and Green Cedar Trees Left After Clearing Fence for Habitat
Clearing Fence for Quail Habitat
Another aspect of quail habitat management is preserving their favorite locations.  If you remember when you were a kid and there WERE quail, you found them on fence rows near a dirt road with grain fields on the side.  Keeping the fences cleared is a normal part of any ranch management but spraying the trees growing on fence lines instead of chopping them down preserves the bobwhite quail habitat and lessens the work without having an impact on the fence itself.  It’s not practical everywhere but where you can take this approach, it will benefit the bobwhite quail.

Steady to Flush!

Orange and White Dog Watching Brown Bobwhite Quail Releasing for Quail Hunting
Releasing for Quail Hunting
My poor dog – she get’s this “steady to flush” training three times every summer when I release my surrogated birds for quail hunting.  I’m not actively hunting and harvesting them yet but we do hunt them and then I use a starter pistol instead of a real shotgun.  Yes, it’s a bit disappointing for the dog but leaves more to breed and hunt in the future.

Training Feeder

White PVC Tuve on Brown Plywood in Black Net Cage as Quail Feeder Training
Quail Feeder Training
I’ve had some success with wild quail feeders.  Most of the success has been supplementing the quail just after release from the surrogator.  To increase my success, I start training the quail by using a smaller quail feeder inside the surrogator during the first 5 weeks so they are familiar with the sight and use of the quail feeder.  I’m not sure it is a huge benefit but I’ve sen more quail at the quail feeders since I started doing it and it is such a simple thing to do.  I’m learning that it is seldom one thing but a combination of several things that leads to success raising wild quail successfully.

Sharing a Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Whitetail Deer and Brown Bobwhite Quail Sharing Feeders
Sharing Quail Feeders
My post release quail feeder attracts a lot of attention and for the most part, I’m happy to share until you become a pest.  The deer like to snoop around and feed on the tailings and the bobwhite don’t mind them either.

Feeder Raiders!

White PVC Tube Homemade Feeder with Coons
Homemade Quail Feeder
Coons, on the other hand, have become my quail feeder nemesis – especially when it becomes a “family affair”.  These little critters not only feed, they raid and empty the feeder by shaking out too much feed.  I’ve tried numerous approaches to keeping them away – none successful yet.  But, I keep experimenting and will find the solution.

Electrified Feeder

White Plastic Bucket with Yellow Standoffs for a Feeder
Range Feeder for Quail
My highly electrified long term quail feeder was somewhat successful.  It did attract wild quail and they did feed but it had some problems with leakage and moisture.  I’m taking a different approach now as I found that while this quail feeder was effective, it wasn’t efficient to manage and use over the long term. That said, this has proven to be a good location to start quail hunting due to the prevalence of food.

Summary of Bobwhite Quail Habitat and Feeders

Management of quail habitat for bobwhite quail is tough work and requires sustained efforts.  Quail surrogators work well to produce six week old bobwhite quail but they will only stay, survive and thrive if the quail habitat is sufficient and better than that available nearby.  Quail feeders work but need to be designed and implemented with a specific purpose.  Additionally, other wildlife will visit quail feeders and need to be managed appropriately

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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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Finishing the Wild Bobwhite Quail Feeder

This is the second and concluding part of my post about building a wild bobwhite quail feeder that can withstand the ravages of deer, coons and other critters.  While the cost of wasted feed is a true dollar cost, the real cost is that the wild bobwhite quail don’t return to a feeder once it has been raided by critters and this makes it very difficult to have an accurate count of raising quail.  My primary purpose in building the feeders is to improve my method of counting the quail rather than to try and supplement their feed.  I will place the feeder in a primary quail habitat location.  The key difference with this wild bobwhite quail feeder is that it contains a small electric fence to keep the critters away.  This approach has worked successfully on deer feeders and I’m hoping that it will be successful on my wild bobwhite quail feeder.

On/Off Switch for the Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Switch for Bobwhite Quail Feeder
Silver Electrical Switch for Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Since the wild bobwhite quail feeder is electrified, it makes sense to have an On/Off switch to prevent getting shocked when tending the feeder.  If you’re raising quail, it is important to regularly tend the quail feeder.  I’ve seen situations where the electrical device attached to a feeder did not have a switch it the operator/tender regularly got a nasty shock.  I want to avoid that situation since the feeder will be located in a very brushy area which tend to be very good quail habitat.

 
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Wiring Harness for the Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Brown and Yellow Internal Wiring Harness for Raising Quail Feeder
Internal Wiring Harness for Raising Quail Feeder

The internal wiring harness on the wild bobwhite quail feeder is simple.  There is a line running from the solar charger into the batter case, two lines running to the On/Off switch and a single line running to the bucket handle.  The entire system is grounded to the bucket handle which hangs from a metal rod attached to a metal T Post which is driven into the ground.  As part of my quail raising process, I put a T Post at each location where I place the surrogator which is near ideal quail habitat.

 

 

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Bobwhite Quail Feeder Electric Fence

Yellow Quail Feeder Insulators
Quail Feeder Insulators

The “electric fence” on the wild bobwhite quail feeder is built using stiff electric fence wire and six electric fence insulators.  The insulators are attached equidistant around the bucket approximately 2 inches up from the bottom of the bucket.  This will allow enough room to drill feed drainage holes to allow the feed to trickle to the ground while still deterring any critters from messing with the bucket itself.  The bucket will hang freely from a piece of rebar attached to a T Post and be allowed to swing in the wind.  The electric fence should help me retain more feed and lower my cost of raising quail while also making it easy to locate and tend when it is placed in prime quail habitat.

 

 

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Electric Fence Connections and Raising Quail

Silver Quail Feeder Electrical Wiring
Quail Feeder Electrical Wiring

The most challenging part of building the wild bobwhite quail feeder was the exit and re-entrance of the electrical wire, through the insulator so that the connections would be waterproof to the inside of the bucket.  This required some careful drilling and tricky pliers work but was accomplished without drilling any additional holes.  It is important to account for quail habitat and rain water spoilage and minimize it to help reduce the costs of raising quail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Completed Feeder Ready for Placement in Quail Habitat

Assembled White Quail Feeder
Assembled Quail Feeder

The fully assembled and completed wild bobwhite quail feeder.  It consists of a solar charger to charge a 12V battery, a large Coon Zapper capacitor, a simple On/Off switch, six electric fence insulators and a couple feet of electric fence wire and a five gallon bucket.  Total cost of the materials was approximately $75.  Yes, in terms of feeding wild quail that is expensive but in terms of having an accurate and effective way to determine wild quail population easily I think it’s worth it.  None of my previous methods have worked very well due to raids by critters which leads to an inability to get an accurate count of the birds, in their quail habitat, that I’ve released from raising quail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of a Wild Bobwhite Quail Feeder

My wild bobwhite quail feeder is completed and another important milestone in my process of raising quail and improving the quail habitat.  I’ve installed an On/Off switch to prevent getting shocked and grounded the electrical system to the handle which will ground via the T Post.  I’ve used regular electrical fence building materials to install a ring of charged electrical wire around the perimeter of the bucket.  The wild bobwhite quail feeder cost approximately $75 and is now ready for it’s first field test.

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