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Keeping Your Bobwhite Quail
Holding pen requirements for mature birds (16 weeks or older).

Floor Space
Determine how many birds you want to have on hand when constructing your pen. A rule of thumb is 1-1.5 birds per square foot; height is not a factor in the equation. This will tell you how big to build your pen. Do not overcrowd your pen if you want well-feathered birds that fly well. (This is not experimental; it is very well studied.) All your birds may not survive if you test the ratio.

Isolation is the key to good flight birds, not the size of your pen. A good strain properly imprinted and raised in isolation is the answer for good flight birds for your dog training, field trials, and hunting. Locate the pen away from traffic, dogs, and people. The pen should be located in an area that will get shade at the hottest time of the day.

Quail Holding Pen
Work with the wire you have purchased. When constructing a pen, don’t build the frame and then get wire only to find out that you must cut a foot off its width that becomes waste. If you buy ½” x 3’ wide galvanized hardware cloth, build your floor 3’ wide and sides 3’ high. Keep in mind that 8’ will fit in the back of a standard pickup truck if you have to transport it. Keeping quail on ½” hardware cloth, up off the ground, will allow quail droppings to pass through and reduce parasites and disease organisms. I like to use hardware cloth on the sides and top. Quail like to go in an upward flight when startled and hardware cloth on top helps cushion the head bumpers. This is also good for predator protection. You must consider keeping predators out, not just keeping birds in, when constructing your pen.
The actual frame of your pen can be constructed of 2”x2” wood simply butted together and screwed. This simple frame will become stronger when your wire is fastened. All wood used should be treated to resist weather elements. All screws, nails, staples, hinges, and latches should be galvanized or stainless steel. Have shelter at one end of your pen to give you a dry place to put your feed and give the birds protection from extreme heat, rain, and wind. Put water at the other end to avoid mess and disease. Insert cover into the pen, such as pine tops, corn stalks, etc., to provide cover and escape routes from predators and each other. Provide a dusting box with sand or dirt in it and spray them 2-3 times a week with a fine mist of water. This prompts them to preen themselves and improve feathering. Build a perch into your pen design to allow them to fly upward to build wing and leg strength. Do not mix age groups! Place only same age birds together. The pecking order is Nature’s way of determining who is boss in any flock of birds. Any time you add new birds into an existing flock, the struggle for dominance will occur.

There are a lot of different types of feeders on the market today. They will all feed your birds, but take a good look at them before you buy. Can the birds get into the feed and dust themselves or is it wide enough to allow quail droppings in it? This feed will end up wasted on the ground instead of in their stomachs. Quail are scratchers and will propel their feed in all directions if given the chance. This means that you should get feeders that are designed for game birds that have very little opening to access the feed or permit fecal contamination.

Feed can be purchased at your local feed store. Game bird feed comes in a 50 lb. bag. Feed should be stored in a cool, dry place. Your local feed store owner will help you with his selection of game bird feeds. Feed should be available for your birds at all times. Do not practice restricted feeding with birds, as it may produce feather molting. In addition to this, kitchen surplus/scrap such as lettuce leaves, watermelon rind, etc. will keep them busy and prevent them from pecking at each other. Work around the birds as efficiently as possible. Observe them for health while you feed and water them and then leave.

Waterers should have a wide base so they are difficult to tip over when the birds get startled. They should have a simple design so they are easy to clean, inside and out. Waterers should be cleaned on a routine basis. Keep in mind that waterers can be a real pain to keep thawed in the winter. Have extra waterers available so they can be alternated to clean and thaw in winter.

Stress is the number one factor in death of captive game birds. Stress over space, feed, water, shelter, or predators is most unhealthy for birds. A healthy, feathered bird will always perform well for you. Keep your birds healthy and you will keep yourself, your birds, and your dogs happy.

Bob Warner