Starting A New Season of Raising Quail

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Love the process of raising quail?  We do, too!  Whether it’s repairing a surrogator, maintaining a healty environment for the quail, preparing quail feeders and more, we know that there is a lot to do and learn about.  If you are looking for help and guidance or just to share your experiences, explore our site and bookmark us so you can check in and see how things are going as we raise our wild quail.


It’s that time of year to start raising quail again. It’s been a nice resting season between October and May but I’m excited to get started with my quail restoration again. The quail surrogator has been sitting in the barn waiting of repairs and my previous surrogator locations have been growing weeds and brambles during the rest period. It’s time to get my prep work completed and get the surrogator ready to load some baby quail and begin my third season of raising quail.

Equipment Maintenance for Raising Quail

Black and Red Quail Surrogator Rust Damage
Fix Your Quail Surrogator Rust Damage Every Spring

The surrogator that I use for raising quail is very well painted and protected but any piece of equipment that sits out in the weather exposed to animal feces and urine is going to show signs of rust. Most of the rust on my quail surrogator occurs along the bottom support pieces. It isn’t bad rust, mostly just surface rust. I think that may be because I do have an annual preventative maintenance program to clean it up and get the quail restoration surrogator repainted.









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Equipment Restoration for Quail Restoration

Black and Silver Metal Quail Surrogator Repairs Started
Wire Brush Away Rust to Start Your Quail Surrogator Repairs

I use a wire wheel and a lot of elbow grease to grind off all of the exposed rust spots from the quail restoration surrogator that I use for raising quail. Rust has generally been to extent of my maintenance problems. I have had to replace a hinge or two but usually do that in the field as the need arises. I don’t try to perform rust and paint maintenance between cycles because I usually empty, clean, move and refill the quail surrogator all in a single day. With the hot Texas Summers, I’m anxious to get the work done and the surrogator refilled. In this case, I had more rust than last year and spent a couple of hours working with a wire wheel buffing out all of the visible rust spots.








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Final Maintenance Touches Before Raising Quail

Quail Surrogator Repairs Finished with Black Spray Paint
Use Black Rustoleum Paint to Complete Your Quail Surrogator Repairs

After I buffed out all of the rust spots, I used Rustoleum black paint to repaint the exposed areas. I used this same paint last year (same can of paint!) and it held up well over the past year. I did a better job of buffing this year so I expect my repairs to withstand the elements even better this time around during another cycle of quail restoration. There were also a number of nicks and dings in my quail surrogator that exposed bare metal so I used this opportunity to cover those as well to prevent any additional rust from occurring during this season while I’m raising quail.






New Transport for the Quail Surrogator

Camoflage Wild Quail Surrogator Loaded in a Green Mule for a New Season of Raising Quail
The Wild Quail Surrogator Fits Loaded into a Mule for a New Season of Raising Quail

We moved the entrance gate at the ranch and built a barn so the roads out to the quail surrogator locations aren’t as easily accessible via truck as they have been in previous years. So, I loaded the quail restoration surrogator in the mule to see if everything would fit – and it did with the exception of my water barrel to fill the surrogator water barrel. I love that the surrogator XL breaks down so easily for transport. This makes it even easier to manage my operation of raising quail.






Ready to Begin Raising Quail – Again!

Camoflage Quail Surrogator, White Gas Bottle and Green Water Tank Show a New Season of Raising Quail Ready
Quail Surrogator Locked and Loaded for New Season of Raising Quail

I am going to reuse previous year’s quail restoration locations this year. I have 5 previous locations that I’ve used for raising quail and of those, three seem to perform better in the long run than the others. Since there are already wild birds from previous releases in these areas, I can assume that the habitat is sufficient for the quail and that releasing new birds into that habitat with the existing populations will help them survive even better after release. Just seeing my quail surrogator installed and ready makes me excited to begin the raising quail season again.






Summary of Starting A New Season of Raising Quail

I’ve begun my annual cycle of raising quail and scheduled and completed my annual quail surrogator maintenance. My quail restoration maintenance mostly it involves buffing out rust posts and repainting with a rust proof spray point. I’m using a mule this year instead of my truck to move and install my surrogator. The surrogator XL fits just fine in a mule with the exception of my water supply barrel. I’m reusing past locations that have proven to hold wild birds after release instead of starting new locations and running the risk of higher mortality after release.



Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Release – Reversing the Bobwhite Quail Decline

There is a lot of talk in recent years about the Bobwhite Quail Decline – also being called idiopathic decline.  Something is definitely harming the wild populations of bobwhite quail.  As I see it, we have a couple choices – do nothing or do something.  I’m not willing to “do nothing” because I truly enjoy stomping through the woods with friends behind a good dog.  In the “do something” category we also have some choices.  One choice is to participate actively in quail organizations which raise and donate funds to other organizations that research and rehabilitate wild quail populations.  I do that as well.  Another option is to raise and release your own bobwhite quail to release in the wild.  I am actively raising bobwhite quail with a quail surrogator.  It’s not hard and it’s a lot of fun.  Yeah, I like the little birds – a lot!  I am raising quail for hunting but the primary goal is to reestablish a native wild population of bobwhite quail.  What follows is my first post that covers, end to end, a wild quail release cycle using a quail surrogator.

Test Run Your Quail Surrogator

Each year, before I begin my cycles of raising wild bobwhite quail with a Surrogator, I like to complete a test run of the surrogator to make sure everything works properly.  I usually setup the surrogator in that barn yard and run the water, feed and heat for a week to make sure there are no leaks and that everything works properly.  One of the keys to a successful bobwhite quail cycle with a surrogator is that you do not disturb them except once weekly.  This prevents the bobwhite quail from becoming accustomed to people and preservers their “wildness”.

Loading Quail Chicks

Family Helpers Raising Bobwhite Quail in a Surrogator
Reversing the Bobwhite Quail Decline with the Next Generation

One of the biggest benefits of raising wild bobwhite quail with a quail surrogator is involving the entire family.  We do our quail raising near San Antonio, Texas.  This not only provides a great learning opportunity but also a great family event with some work and lots of laughter.  My daughters and nephews get a chance to learn about quail, why they are important, why we enjoy them and what it takes to successfully raise wild quail.  They also get the opportunity to get outside, away from the video games and TV and spend a day in the woods.




My Youngest Help for Quail Raising near San Antonio Texas
The Next Generation of Rancher Learning Wild Quail Release in Texas

The youngest may have the shortest attention span but the definitely seem to enjoy it the most.  The starting point of a quail surrogator quail cycles is loading day old or week old chicks.  These can be purchase from quail breeders in your area or through the mail – although I’ve never taken that approach.

Raising Five Day Old Bobwhite Quail in a Surrogator
Young Quail with a Mission to Reverse the Bobwhite Quail Decline in Texas

These are five day old quail chicks freshly loaded into the quail surrogator.  It is very important to provide them with adequate heat as they can’t effectively regulate their own body temperature yet.  Without heat, they will clump together to conserve body heat and the ones on the bottom will suffocate. Even in the hot Texas Summers quail raising near San Antonio, Texas, we need to provide additional heat for a couple of weeks.

Weeks One, Two and Three in the Quail Surrogator

Quail Surrogator with Two Week Old Wild Quail
Two Week Old Bobwhite Quail to Release in the Wild

The end of week one of raising bobwhite quail in the quail surrogator is relatively uneventful.  I start with five to seven day old birds instead of one day old birds.  The slightly older chicks have a lower mortality and benefit from an extra week of age when they are released.  The only activity needed at the end of the second week is to clean out any dead chicks, confirm adequate flow of the feed, confirm adequate water volume and flow and to turn the heat down a couple notches. This is also the time to open the barrier between the brooding end of the bobwhite quail surrogator and the loafing end.  This allows the chicks a little more freedom of movement and room to grow.  I will occasionally have a few dead chicks this week but not many.

Raising Wild Quail near San Antonio Texas
Wild Bobwhites in a Quail Surrogator

The end of week two in the wild quail surrogator is also relatively uneventful – again – check the feed & water, clean out any dead chicks and turn down the heater again.  My highest mortality occurs during this week and I’m not sure why.  Typically, I’ll lose 5 to 10 chicks this week.

Raising Bobwhite Quail to Release in the Wild
Raising Quail for Hunting in a Quail Surrogator

The end of week three  in the bobwhite quail surrogator is also pretty easy.  Check the feed, water and turn down the heat.  I seldom lose any chicks during this week.  I also use this visit to scout out my next quail surrogator location.  This time has also proven to be a very good time to notify friends and family of the upcoming release in two weeks.  It’s fun and you’re going to need a little help cleaning and moving the wild quail surrogator!

Wild Quail Feeders

Wild Quail Feeder in a QUail Surrogator
Quail Feeder Loaded in a Quail Surrogator

If you start with week old chicks, it now becomes very important to watch the feed levels.  As you can see from the picture, in my quail surrogator, the chicks almost always eat from the same end.  Thus, it becomes very important to spread the feed out each week so that they don’t run out of feed, even when there is feed in the quail feeder.  I also make it a point to clean out the lower feeder tray each time to make sure that feed is flowing smoothly.  I’ve also had cycles where the chicks were very hungry and the feed levels were very low at this point in the cycle.  When I started with day old quail chicks, a 50# bag of chick feed was sufficient for a five week cycles.  When starting with week old chicks, I almost always need to add more feed during this week or the next.

Prorotype of a Training Wild Quail Feeder
Training Prototype for a Wild Quail Feeder

One of my experiments is developing an effective and inexpensive wild quail feeder.  I’ve prototyped a model based on some suggestions from other quail raisers and breeders.  I’ve had very little luck attracting the wild quail to the prototype wild quail feeder so one approach is to “train” them to the wild quail feeder.  That experiment is still in progress.

The Last Weeks in the Bobwhite Quail Surrogator

Bobwhite Quail to Release in the Wild
Almost Ready to Release, Breed and Reverse the Bobwhite Quail Decline

Week four of raising bobwhite quail in the quail surrogator is a time of rapid growth.  The bobwhite quail are almost ready to release in the wild.  I almost always need to add additional feed and water during this week.  I seldom have any dead quail chicks at this time.  I also schedule time during this visit to clear a new location for the next cycle of the wild quail surrogator.  I’ve typically scouted a couple new locations the previous week, selected what I think is the best and then bring along some trimmers, saw and rake so that the new location is ready immediately after the release.

The end of week five in the quail surrogator is when I release the quail.  If I’ve started with week old quail chicks, they tend to fly very well and exit quickly.  If I’d started with younger birds, some of them will need a little “help” exiting the bobwhite quail surrogator.  It always amazes me that they know how to fly since the low height of the quail surrogator prevents them from flying while inside.  Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.  This is also a great time to share your hard work and investment with family and friends.  This event is something that is seldom seen and generally appreciated by everyone that get’s a chance to see it.  It’s also very handy to have some “help” to move, clean and reset the wild quail surrogator.  It’s not hard work but it is bulky and you’ll need some help getting it loaded and unloaded from your vehicle.

Raising Quail for Hunting

I started out with my Surrogator project to raise quail for hunting.  I wanted to release wild quail and then hunt them with my dog.  I vastly underestimated what it would take to accomplish this task and one and one half years later I find myself only part way through the process.  That said, we are starting to see wild pairs and “bumblebees” or baby quail out in the wild.  So, some of the things we’re doing are working and that pleases me.

Summary of Bobwhite Quail Decline and What YOU Can Do

I have noticed a bobwhite quail decline when I’ve hunted wild quail.  There are several things we can do – raise money, fund research and raise our own to supplement the wild population.  I am raising quail for hunting.  Using a quail surrogator to raise wild quail isn’t easy but it is simple and the quail surrogator works like a charm.  The instructions are simple and easy to follow and I almost always release over 90% of the chicks in put into the quail surrogator.  The next important step to insuring a native, reproducing wild quail population on your place is to begin a quail habitat management program – and that’s a little more challenging!