Pre Season Raising Quail Warmup

The season for raising wild quail is just around the corner – baby chicks are usually available around mid May.  So, it’s time to get everything inspected, repaired and ready!  Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit to do to get everything ready to go for a successful season.

Rainwater Collectors and Quail

Blue and Silver Rainwater Collector for Raising Quail
Rainwater Collector for Raising Quail

Bobwhite quail don’t have a huge need for ground water.  They fulfill most of their water needs from either dew or metabolic water.  That said, the Texas Summers can be very hot and dry and providing a little water may mean the difference between life and death.  Also, a watering location provides an excellent location for a game camera to keep tabs on the wild quail population as well as their predators.

 

 

 

 

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Forbs Feed Quail

Green Forbs Feed Bobwhite Quail
Forbs Feed Bobwhite Quail

Forbs and their seeds are the primary feed for wild quail.  Forbs are essentially wild flowers and can be very abundant in Texas.  It all depends on the amout of rainfall – it doesn’t take much rainfall to get them to sprout and bloom but it does take some.  During the early Spring months, we monitor the forbs production and then make plans from there on how and if we will feed additionally in the quail feeders.

 

 

 

 

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Controlling Invasive Plants for Quail

Quail Habitat Manipulation of Brown Natural Grasses
Quail Habitat Manipulation

Non native grasses, like King Ranch Bluestem are hell on quail.  The KR Bluestem is so dense and compact that the quail can’t get around in it.  Additionally, KR Bluestem does a terrible job at producing seeds AND seems almost impossible to eliminate once it has started.  This is a picture of a small tract where we disced heavily several years ago.  The KR Bluestem has grown back in most areas except where we disced down to bare earth.  In those areas, we are seeing emergence of native grasses.  I plan to continue my experiments with the destruction of our KR Bluestem this year.

 

 

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Quail Feeders and Bobwhite Quail

Bobwhite Quail
Bobwhite Quail Pipe Feeder

I’ve built and used several different types of quail feeders over the years.  I’ve come to understand that they don’t do much except to support the wild quail during their first week after their release.  WE’ve been fortunate that most years have produced a decent crop of forbs so the bobwhite quail have sufficient feed available to the without the need for supplemental feeding.  We are currently in the middle of a 10 year drought so we’re watching carefully and are prepared to supplement the feed if needed.

 

 

 

 

Custom Quail Feeders

White Plastic Quail Bucket Feeder
Bobwhite Quail Bucket Feeder

This type of electrified bucket worked OK – it sure kept the critters off!  In the end, it wasn’t as durable as I wanted and I’ve discontinued using this design.  Honestly, I think a regular broadcast deer feeder works the best but you do have to contend with everything else in the area that likes what comes out of a deer feeder.

 

 

 

 

Quail Predators

Black and White Night Picture of Bobcat Predator
Bobcat Predator on Bobwhite Quail

Predator control is one aspect of rebuilding a wild population of bobwhite quail.  We don’t have a lot of predators but we do have some.  It’s been said that a bobcat can wreak havoc on a covey of quail by destroying all of them and only eating a few.  I’m a big fan of game cameras to monitor the wildlife population and then formulate actions based on what I see.  However, I am loath to kill every predator out there as I do believe that this upsets that balance of nature and I’ll only end up paying the price at some later date with some larger problem.

 

 

 

 

Raptors and Quail

Predator of Brown and White Hawk
Bobwhite Quail Predator

Raptors are another bobwhite quail predator and this is an interesting picture of one coming down to peer into the surrogator.  We do have several pairs of hawks on the ranch but we also have magnificent habitat in the areas where quail are being found.  So, I’m not horribly worried about the raptors taking out my quail and have been pleased with the balance.

 

 

 

 

Surrogator Repair and Maintenance

Surrogator Repairs of Black Paint and Rusted Metal
Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Repairs

Early Spring is always the time for surrogator repairs and they always need a little love and attention.  The surrogator is incredibly well built and sturdy and the repairs each year are mostly clean up and preventative maintenance.  Nothing a little buffing and painting can’t easily take care of.  I’ve been very pleased with my surrogator and hope it continues to last for many years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Reason I Raise Wild Quail

Releasing Bobwhite Quail from Surrogator while Orange and White Brittany Watches
Releasing Bobwhite Quail from Surrogator

Lastly, the reason I got started doing all of this several years ago.  I bought a hunting dog and then almost ruined her on pen raised quail.  Now, she get’s exposed to hyper training at least 3 times each Summer.  I have her sit at the end of the surrogator during the quail release and she doesn’t move.  She get’s very excited and I do turn her loose to hunt them afterward but this is an excellent training regime for steadiness.

 

 

 

 

Very Steady Hunting Dog

Well Trained Orange and White Brittany Hunting Dog
Well Trained Quail Hunting Dog

Yet another shot of Jill waiting patiently while the wild quail become even wilder.  She’s just turned 4 years old and is quite steady on command.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Pre Season Raising Quail Warmup

Spring is here and it’s time to get ready for another season of raising wild quail.  The list of things to do and check get’s longer every year as I implement more practices to improve the habitat.  This will be my 4th year of raising wild quail and I’m very much looking forward to it – Jill is too!

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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.

Habitat Improvement for Quail Restoration to Raise Quail

Bobwhite quail habitat management and improvement is the most important aspect of running a surrogator to raise quail.  The Surrogator works like a charm if you follow the instructions and a few tips learned from those that have gone before you.  However, for a 6 week old bobwhite quail chick to survive to adulthood and then successfully breed and raise young, you’re going to have to have good habitat for raising wild quail.  Improving your bobwhite quail restoration habitat may prove to be even more challenging that getting the Surrogator to work for you.  I recommend a studied, varied and incremental approach to bobwhite quail habitat management so that you can be successful with your efforts to raise quail.

Rain Water Management for Quail Restoration

Green and Silver Rain Water Collector for Raising Quail
Rain Water Collector for Raising Quail

Water for bobwhite quail restoration comes from three sources – metabolic water, dew and ground water.  It is typically used in that order and as long as you have reasonably good natural feed available, your bobwhite quail will do fine and you will be successful in your efforts to raise quail.  However, bobwhite quail chicks have an extremely high protein requirement that is usually met by eating small bugs.  Bugs and insects need standing water to thrive.  Not much, just enough to lay and hatch their eggs but nevertheless, standing water is needed.  We use a simple set of rain water collectors to provide year round water for the other wildlife and also to provide small moist ground areas to promote bugs and insects for raising wild quail.

 

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Rain Water Collection to Raise Quail

How to Raise Quail with a Blue Barrel Rain Water Collector
How to Raise Quail with a Rain Water Collector

In order to raise quail in any area that is even moderately dry, you will need to manage your rain water.  The size and type of the rain water holding tanks is less important than the collection area on our ranch.  As long as they are reasonably sized to the collection surface, almost any type of clean container will suffice.  We suffered through a tremendous drought in 2011 and dramatically increased the size of our collection surfaces to insure that our rain water collection tanks stay as full as possible with as little rain as possible.  This led to a successful season in 2011 for raising wild quail.  The rain water collection tanks aren’t important but including them in your bobwhite quail restoration plan is important.  We’ve used expensive ones from Tractor Supply and we’ve also used cheap used blue plastic barrels.  The wildlife and the rain don’t care – as long as they hold water.

 

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Non-Native Grass Management

Discing Dry Brown Pasture for Raising Quail
Discing Pasture for Raising Quail

Grass control is also very important in any plan to raise quail.  One of the reasons for the decline in bobwhite quail over the past 10 years is a loss of habitat and food to non-native grasses.  Many places have either non-native or unsuitable grasses that need to be replaced with native grasses.  How do you tell the difference?  Most native grasses are “bunch” grasses that grow in bunches.  Most non-native grasses are “runner” grasses that have runners that allow them to propagate easily.  Non-native grasses are also thicker and almost impossible for bobwhite quail to move around in.  Native grasses provide plenty of room for bobwhite quail to move on the ground and also provide a bountiful crop of seeds for quail to eat.  You will need plenty of this type of area to be successful raising wild quail.  There are numerous approaches to removing non-native grasses and different approaches work for different grass types. Do your research as part of your quail restoration efforts.

 

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Forbs and Grasses for Bobwhite Quail Restoration

New Green Forb Plant Growth for Quail Restoration
New Plant Growth for Quail Restoration

Forbs, otherwise known as wildflowers, are a critical source of feed and seeds to raise quail.  In Texas, there are typically sufficient forb seeds already in the soil that you only need to disturb the soil sufficiently to get them to germinate and sprout.  In some cases, you might need to purchase additional native grass and forb seeds but they can be very expensive.  This can easily blow your budget in your bobwhite quail restoration plan.  It’s worth doing a small experiment in your experiments raising wild quail just to see if there are already a sufficient number of native grass seeds in your soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Water Management for Raising Wild Quail

Rain Water Traps in Dry Brown Pasture Help Raise Quail
Rain Water Traps Help Raise Quail

Rain water is a precious resource and should be conserved where possible.  We identify and manage small seeps and rainwater sumps around the ranch as much as possible.  This is a critical part of our bobwhite quail restoration plan to improve the bobwhite quail habitat and raise quail.  Rain water collected, or even just stopped from running down the hill, forms ground water which keeps seeps and springs running for longer periods of time.  The goal is to stop and capture as much rain water as possible and return it to the ground underneath your property before it has the chance to run off into a river and then eventually, to the ocean.

 

 

 

 

Summary of Bobwhite Quail Habitat Management to Raise Quail

Rain water collection and management can be an easy way to improve your bobwhite quail habitat and should be a part of your bobwhite quail restoration plan to raise quail.  Rain water collectors are easy and inexpensive to build.  Managing rain water seeps and sumps is a bit more challenging but provides a very effective way to increase your year round ground water.  Improving non-native grasses into native grasses and forbs is a critical aspect of habitat improvement and a requirement for habitat improvement and your plan to raise quail.

This is a tremendous article on bobwhite quail habitat management by Quail Unlimited.

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