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The Recall Pen
The covey instinct
The bobwhite loves companionship. The quail covey remains together for several reasons. One of the reasons is safety. The more eyes a covey has, the less chance for a predator to catch them unaware of there presents. They also roost together. The bobwhite is one of the few birds that roost on the ground. Itís a beautiful site to see a covey of these birds in a circle with all their heads facing out. This instinct makes them great for a recall pen. When you let birds out of your pen, the ones in the pen will communicate with the ones out, and with their natural instinct will covey up again. If your pen is constructed right you will have no problem using this covey instinct to your advantage of training youíre dog.
The size of pen you build depends on how many birds you want to have on hand. A rule of thumb is 1 to 1 1/2 birds per square foot. Height is not a factor. If your pen is 3' wide and 6' long you could hold around two dozen birds. I prefer two compartment pens. There are advantages to the two-compartment recall pen over a one compartment. One side holds the recall birds and the other side holds the release birds. I prefer side by side with a hardware cloth divider. Use Ĺ inch hardware cloth on the bottom, sides and top. This will keep your birds in and predators out. Framing should be constructed of 2Ē x 2Ē wood treated to handle the elements of weather. Enclosed shelter should be at one end. Shelter end should have wood floor so birds can gather in bad weather. At the end of both compartments should have a door. This is where you will release your birds. You will also need doors to feed and water your birds. Pen should be off ground at least 2 inches. This will allow droppings to past through wire floor. All nails, screws, staples and latches should be galvanized or stainless. You must install a funnel on each compartment of your pen. This is where your quail will recall back to both sides of your pen. Giving the name the recall pen.
The funnel for your pen should be constructed of 1/2 inch hardware cloth. The funnel doesn't need to be long. What it has to be is wide enough at the entrance for the bird to feel at ease enough to enter and narrow enough that the bird can't escape. Yes, they can get back out if your funnel is not built right and installed properly. I like a funnel 8 inches long, 5 inches at the entrance and 3 inches at the exit. These sizes can vary a little but this has worked for me over the years. The funnel should go in an upward motion so that when the bird is inside the pen the exit end is higher then head level. This will cause the bird to spread his wings to jump up to the funnel and he can't spread his wings and get through the funnel at the same time. This angle is accomplished by cutting a piece of hardware cloth 15 inches by 8 inches and creating a cone with a 5 inches at one end and 3 inches at the other. Fasten your cone together with hog rings or lace it with wire. Cut a hole the size of your funnel on the side of your pen and fasten the funnel flush with the outside with hog rings or lace with wire. The entrance of the funnel should be even with the bottom of the pen so when the quail is walking out side his head is at the middle of the entrance. Fasten the exits top with a piece of wire fasten to the top of the pen. This will keep funnel from sagging over the years of reentry. Put a piece of thicker wire in the middle at the end of your funnel inside the pen. Make sure it swings upward when the bird enters the fennel. Once the bird is in the pen the wire is hanging down in front of the cone. This will also help in the birds trying to escape. On the outside of your funnels you should hog ring a hardware cloth flap and have a tie at the bottom. This will keep out the predators and is easily lifted when you want to recall. Make a ramp or place a rock in front of funnel if it is to high off the ground for birds to walk up to.
Use 12 week old birds or older for your recall pen. They are the size you need to work good in your funnel. You can put younger birds in your pen but beware; I have had them escape through the funnel. You must separate sexes during mating season (April-August). You have to remember during mating season mature birds will pair up and set up house outside the pen. Put males in one side and females in the other. This way whichever side you let out that day the opposite sex will recall the other sex. It's Mother Nature working again. The rest of the year you don't have to worry about this. Get all you birds at one time and the same age. Remember to always have birds the same age group together. If you mix age groups the older birds will peck at the younger ones. If you have to replace some birds do not mix even if they are the same age. This is another advantage of having two compartments. Put all your existing birds in one side and put the new birds in the other. They will try to peck at each other but with wire in between them itís hard to do.
Food and Water
Food and water should be in front of birds at all times. Restricted feeding will induce molting. Feed a quality game bird feed in your recall pen. Clean water is always a must for healthy birds. Use proper game bird feeders and waterers. Feed should be kept in shelter area so it doesnít get wet and soggy.
Allow quail to get acquainted to their new living quarters. Say at lease a couple of days to a week. Then let a few birds out on one side in the morning. Then go back later in the day to see if they are in the pen. If they are, which they should be. Unless one of are predator friend stop them on their way home. Then the next day let some out on the other side. Then as they are recalling let more out each time to you let a complete side out and then the other side. When you are first releasing your birds donít do any training. When you do start training donít push your bird far from your pen till they are use to their new surroundings. Always give your birds enough time to get back home before dark. If it gets dark before they get back they will roost on the ground. Remember to always have feed and water in your pen. They will always know where they can get feed and water if it is always there. Birds have to get out of the pen regularly. You can't keep them in the pen all week and then let them out on the weekend and expect them to have their wings conditioned.
Locate your recall pen near your training field, but away from where you plan on doing your most training. In other words you don't want your dog to find the pen when you are trying to train him on birds you set for him in the field for actual training. Keep your pen away from heavy woods or thickets. A bird that can hide in the woods or thickets will hinder what you are trying to accomplish with your dog. Donít allow your dog to come in contact with the pen. This is an unnatural condition and you have to strive for natural conditions for training your dog. Locate your pen so it is able to get shade at the critical time of the day. Have fun your dog is worth it!