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.

 

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Wild Quail Release #4 and Wild 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.

 

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Wild Quail Feeders – Lessons Learned

Bobwhite Quail Starter Feed
Wild Quail Starter Feed

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.

Wild Quail Starter Feed and Adult Bobwhite Quail Feed
Bobwhite Quail Starter Feed and Adult Wild Quail Feed

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

Wild Quail Chick Starter Feed and Supplement
Bobwhite Quail Chick Starter Feed and Supplement

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.

Bobwhite Quail Starter and Supplement Feed in Paper Plates
Wild Quail Starter and Supplement Feed in Paper Plates

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.

Wild Quail Chicks Eating Starter Feed
Bobwhite Quail Chicks Eating Starter Feed

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

Wild Quail Feeder in Surrogator
Bobwhite Quail Feeder in 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.

Wild Quail Feeder Capacity in Surrogator
Bobwhite Quail Feeder Capacity in Surrogator

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.

Wild Quail Chick Eating From Feeder in Surrogator
Bobwhite Quail Chick Eating From Feeder in Surrogator

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.

Results Left from a Wild Quail Feeder and Surrogator
Results Left from Bobwhite Quail Feeder and Surrogator

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

Commercial High Capacity Wild Quail Feeder
Commercial High Capacity Bobwhite Quail Feeder

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.

Protecting a Bobwhite Quail Feeder from Predators
Protecting a Wild Quail Feeder from Predators

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.

Wild Turkey Feeder
Wild Turkey Feeder

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.

WMT Bobwhite Quail Feeder and Waterer
WMT Wild Quail Feeder and Waterer

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.

Scratch Feed in WMT Bobwhite Quail Feeder
Scratch Feed in WMT Wild Quail Feeder

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.

Update – I friend helped me come up with any idea for the best feeder for quail chicks and I’ve built a prototype to try it.  It involves an enclosed quail feeder loaded with quail chick starter feed to train the bobwhite quail chicks before releasing them.

What Really Happens at Night at the Wild Quail Feeders

Visitors to the Wild Quail Feeder
Visitors to the Wild Bobwhite Quail Feeder

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.

Party at the Wild Bobwhite Quail Feeder
Party at the Bobwhite Quail Feeder

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.

Romance at the Bobwhite Quail Feeder
Romance at the Wild Bobwhite Quail Feeder

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.

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Bobwhite Quail Cycle 4 for 2010

Fortunately, I was able to get one more batch of young bobwhite quail chicks and run a last cycle quail raising in the surrogator.  It is mid September now and we are very quickly reaching the end of the quail hatching season.  Running another surrogator cycle raising quail required the traditional cleanup, brush clearing and setup.  I’ve got it down to just a couple hours now and I’ve become much smarter about selecting my locations to minimize brush clearing and still get it near a good quail habitat.

Raising a Week Old Bobwhite Quail
One Week Old Bobwhite Wild Quail

Again, I’m using one week old birds instead of one day old bobwhite quail.  I’m convinced that the quail raising mortality is lower and that they fly and survive better upon release.

 

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Family Bobwhite Quail Raising
Loading Wild Quail in a Surrogator

I can’t stress strongly enough that you should make this a family affair.  We bring all of them – kids, cousins, parents, nephews – who ever wants to join us.  Raising quail is a ton of fun for the little kids to load the baby bobwhite quail chicks out of the transport box into the surrogator.

Young Bobwhite Quail Eating Chick Starter
Wild Quail Eating Scratch

These week old chicks were hungry immediately.  When quail raising, it is very important to make sure that they have plenty of the right type of feed.  They attacked the chick starter that I put out in paper plates.

Raising Wild Quail in a Surrogator
Bobwhite Quail in a Surrogator

This is the surrogator locked and loaded and ready for raising quail.  The white powder is Sevin Dust to minimize ants and bugs.

Two Week Old Wild Quail
Bobwhite Quail at Two Weeks Old

Week old bobwhite quail grow amazingly fast.  They are two weeks old in this picture and already feathering out nicely.  You can see my quail raising “helper” in the background.  She’s been gone most of the summer learning blind retrieves and is very happy to be able to participate and help out – more on that later….

Three Week Old Bobwhite Quail
Raising Quail Three Weeks Old

There isn’t much change week to week from two weeks old until six weeks old other than growing feathers, eating, pooping and getting bigger.

Wild Quail Escaped
Raising Quail Escaped

One thing to keep in mind when raising quail using older bobwhite quail chicks to start with – you need to be very careful when opening the surrogator to clean and feed.  They can fly – and they definitely will.  This is a three week old quail that escaped and promptly roosted in a nearby tree.

Bobwhite Quail Hunting Dog on Point
Hunting Dog Needed for Raising Wild Bobwhite Quail

This is why it is very helpful to have a hunting dog – they can find the bobwhite quail you’ve already released.  She’s on point to a small covey of quail from the previous cycle quail raising release.  It was a thrill to finally find wild released birds and I’ll post more about that episode next time.

If you are an avid quail hunter, you’ll find this to be an interesting video on hunting bobwhite quail.

Raising Quail Five Weeks Old
Wild Quail Five Weeks Old

As you can see, the quail chicks are nearing the end of the cycle of raising quail.  They’ve been quail raising in the surrogator for four weeks and are now five weeks old.  They are strong, healthy and quite noisy.

My next post will cover the release of this cycle of bobwhite quail, how we found the released quail and my opinion on the value of quail feeders.

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