More Bobwhite Quail Habitat Improvement Tips

Now for the hard work – bobwhite quail habitat improvement!  I just realized last week I’m going to need to spend more time on bobwhite quail habitat.  that I’m 5 years into my project to rebuild our wild populations of bobwhite quail and now is time to invest more in quail habitat.  Basically, I’m halfway through my original 10 year estimate.  But, I’ve already met my preliminary goal of taking my dog and finding quail whenever I want to.  I can consistently locate 4-6 coveys on 200 acres – at almost anytime of the year.  So, I’m confident the surrogator works and that the remaining quail reproduce naturally.  Now, the goal is to improve the habitat so that they will stay around and continue to grow in population.  Little did I know that I’d left the hard part – bobwhite quail habitat improvement – until last! Even the experts agree that quail habitat is important.

Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Maintenance

Green Water Tank with White Plastic Connections for Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Repairs

Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Repairs

My surrogator is five years old and still holding together nicely.  But, little parts break every year and need to be replaced.  My experience tells me to watch the parts and pieces very carefully.  I had one cycle this year where the pilot light on the heater turned off.  This happened in the first week of a cycle and I lost half my bobwhite quail chicks.  DO YOUR MAINTENANCE!

Get Some Help!

Young Girl in Green Clothes Underneath Green Tree as Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Helper

Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Helper

Checking and managing the bobwhite quail chicks during the cycle is pretty easy.  A little looking, scraping and hauling and only takes about 15 minutes.  But, releasing and reloading the surrogator at the end of each cycle needs help.  I prefer to coerce one of my daughters into helping me – free donuts usually works well for this one!  Any, take some help and introduce someone new to bobwhite quail!
Would you like to see and hear how I use a Surrogator to raise wild quail?


Bobwhite Quail Predator Management

Black & White Image of Bobwhite Quail Predators

Bobwhite Quail Predators

Predators serve a useful and necessary part of the food chain – even when they eat your quail.  All wild populations need to exist in balance and I’m not a fan of eliminating every predator – that would just lead to other problems.  I find that using my game camera as a survey tool to understand how many bobwhite quail predators I have is a very useful approach.  I also run a game camera on our watering spots just as a confirmation.  This fox and his mate have been on the ranch for several years.  I’m SURE he and his lady friend gobble up some of my quail out in the wild.  That’s OK as long as it’s just him and his lady – and I’m pretty sure we only have the pair so I’m not that worried.

Starting Bobwhite Quail Habitat Management

Furrows of Brown Grass Plowed as Quail Habitat Improvement

Quail Habitat Improvement

The biggest challenge I have with bobwhite quail habitat is our invasive, non-native grasses – specifically King Ranch Bluestem.  It was a wonderful and useful crop in the 50s when there were big problems with clear cutting pastures and dust bowls.  We’re smarter now and use native grasses.  But, this KR Bluestem just grows too thick for bobwhite quail to be able to navigate through.  We need bunch grasses and more bare dirt.  KR Bluestem is a beast to remove and there is no good way to remove it.  We are not fans of using fire and we don’t graze our ranch.  That leaves me with either herbicide or mechanical methods.  I’m not ready to apply that much herbicide so I’m experimenting with mechanical methods.  In this plot, I’ve shredded, plowed and disced back as close to bare ground as I can get.  Early results tend to indicate that the native grasses will outcompete invasive grasses if given enough support.

Bobwhite Quail Habitat Management Requires BIG Tools!

Red Tractor and Rusty Disc for Equipment for Bobwhite Quail Habitat Improvement

Equipment for Bobwhite Quail Habitat Improvement

The standard stocking rate for bobwhite quail is approximately 1 per acre at maximum and 1 per 2 acres at normal.  If I’m going to make a dent in the unusable bobwhite quail habitat, it’s going to take some larger equipment.  Even then, I’m going to proceed with experimental plots before investing heavily.  In my case, I got a 55 HP tractor and an old disc for free to help me tear up the invasive grasses and plant food plots.  I didn’t imagine this in the beginning and it’s turning out to be more expensive and laborious than I originally planned.  Nevertheless, I’m now in it for the long haul and willing to do what it takes.

And some Antique Seeds

White Label on Brown Bag of Bobwhite Quail Wild Grain Seeds

Bobwhite Quail Wild Grain Seeds

My model for bobwhite quail habitat resembles what Pheasants Forever has figured out in brood strips.  So, I’m building a giant brood strip in a long draw on our ranch that seems to have the best soil and drainage.  But, I also want to minimize the impact of whatever I do to improve the habitat so I selected an older grain seed that is also drought tolerant and more suited to the poor soil we have on our place.  I selected a grain seed call Hegari.  It was tough to find and cost more to ship it than it cost to buy.

Growing Grain for Bobwhite Quail Management

Planting Green and Brown Hegari for Quail Habitat Improvement

Planting Hegari for Quail Habitat Improvement

My test plots for growing grain to improve the bobwhite quail habitat taught me a lot!  I did have some success in certain areas and the grain heads fully matured.  But, in areas very close to the successful ones, I had dismal failure.  But, now I know what soil and moisture that Hegari prefers and can expand from there next year.  And yes, I’m actually finding bobwhite quail broods in the grain plots!


Also Feeds the Damn Deer!

Deer Eat White Seeds on Green Plant Seeds Before Bobwhite Quail

Deer Eat Seeds Before Bobwhite Quail

I start planting the brood strips in early June and I think I was too late.  Only about 50% of the plants developed heads.  Of those that did develop seed heads, almost every one was eaten by deer.  I can’t just kill all the deer on the ranch so I’m going to have to get smarter about grain planting in my brood strip. I’m sure there is a specific combination of timing and density that will lead to an ideal bobwhite quail habitat – and I’ll keep working until I figure it out.

Invasive Grass Control for Bobwhite Quail Habitat Management

White Dog and Brown Grush Pile Result of Controlling Invasive Grass for Bobwhite Quail Habitat

Controlling Invasive Grass for Bobwhite Quail Habitat

We also have way too many cedar trees on the ranch.  I spent most of last summer cutting cedar trees every week and barely made a dent in them.  When I cut them last year, I just left them to lat to se what happened.  Not much it turns out.  But, I did notice that the downed cedar trees killed all the grass underneath them.  So, when it came time to stack the cut cedars this year, I took that as an opportunity to kill some KR Bluestem grass as well.  I located very dense areas of KR Bluestem infestation and then stacked cut cedar tree right on top of those dense patches.  It’s too early to tell if it worked but the early signs indicate that it will knock a dent in them.  My plan is to disc the edges of each giant stack each year and push the drying trees ever inward into the pile so that it get’s smaller and the newly uncovered ground has a chance to restore with native grasses.

Summary of Bobwhite Quail Habitat Management

I’ve more than met my goal to have an abundant population of wild bobwhite quail on our ranch.  I think I can improve the bobwhite quail habitat with small, nominally invasive activities that will remove the non-habitable portions of ranchland and replace it with habitable portions that contain the native grasses that bobwhite quail love in their habitat. It’s going to require more than just loading and unloading a surrogator though – it’s going to require some tractor and chain saw time!
Bobwhite Quail | Quail Habitat | Raising Quail | Quail Feeders


Quail Habitat Improvement

The 2013 bobwhite quail raising season is over.  I’ve made some great progress with my quail habitat improvements over the Summer.  I’ve also run into numerous issues with quail feeders during the season – time to do some more thinking and experimenting.  The quail hunting is picking up as I’m regularly kicking up 4 to 6 coveys of wild bobwhite quail when hunting on the ranch.  I’m not harvesting them yet but it does my heart good to see the dog point them and then bust them.

Old Ways to Improve Quail Habitat

Antique Brown and Grey Disc on Grey and Brown Trailer

Antique Disc

While we’re fortunate to have a place int e country to enjoy, we aren’t made of money either.  My dad found this antique disc plow and after he cleaned it up it looks like it will work just fine to help us battle the King Ranch Bluestem grass that covers approximately 40% of our pastures.

Old Tools and New Tools

New Hite Tractor and Old Brown and Grey Disc as Quail Habitat Improvement Tools

New and Old Quail Habitat Improvement Tools

Before we had a “real” tractor, we were able to borrow a Bobcat to use as a tractor to see if discing the KR Bluestem would help remove it.  The Bobcat doesn’t have a 3 point hitch so I just drug it around with a chain.  It worked well enough to break through some of the dense KR Bluestem coverage and provide some early indications of wether this strategy of controlling the grass will work.  It was hot, dusty and dirty!
Would you like to see and hear how I use a Surrogator to raise wild quail?


Discing Thick Grass to Improve Quail Habitat

Killing Bad Brown and Green Grass to Improve Quail Hunting

Killing Bad Grass to Improve Quail Hunting

We have a large open pasture area that is thoroughly infested with KR Bluestem.  This area has the potential to provide excellent quail habitat and quail hunting if we can control the non-native grass.  I drug the disc around about 6 times in each oval attempting to disc it down to bare dirt.  I was successful in some places and not in other – it all depended on how thick the grass was.  Now we’ll let it sit for a couple seasons to see if the native grasses will batlle back against the KR Bluestem re growth.

Digging Ponds to Improve Quail Hunting and Quail Habitat

Digging Black and White Ponds in Green Grass Pasture to Improve Quail Habitat

Digging Ponds to Improve Quail Habitat

Our location doesn’t have any live water on it.  We have suspected for quite some time that we have decent water flowing underneath and we do know that rain runoff flows through in large volumes in several draws.  We hired a bull dozer man to dig 11 test ponds at various locations around the ranch.  This is an example of one pond in a draw area.  This poind probably won’t hold water over and period of time but will stop and collect the run off and allow it to percolate back into the ground instead of running off into the Gulf of Mexico.  Every little bit helps when improving the habitat for quail hunting.

Cool Water for the Quail Hunting Dog

Orange and White Quail Hunting Dog Likes New Ponds filled with Muddy Brown Water

Quail Hunting Dog Likes New Ponds

Five inches of rain had a big impact on the 11 ponds we dug!  Even better, the quail hunting dog really appreciates the various opportunities to jump in and cool off while working the ranch and quail hunting.  We don’t expect this particular pond to hold water over the long run but we won’t know until we give it a try.

Bobwhite Quail at the House

Brown, Black and White Adult Male Bobwhite Quail Checking out New Quail Chicks on Green Surrogator and Grey Brick

Adult Male Bobwhite Quail Checking out New Quail Chicks

I normally don’t run surrogator cycles at my house.  But, this Summer when working in the yeard I heard several bobwhite quail calling from the nearby trees.  So, I ran a last, late cycle at my house behind the workshop since I had to bring the Surrogator home anyway for winterizing.  Low and behold, one of the quail that had been calling from the trees came by to check out the new additions to the neighborhood!  Once I release this batch of bobwhite quail, I’ll begin experimenting with quail feeders again since it is close and easy to monitor and improve.

Rat Snakes and Quail Feeders

Black Brown Rat Snakes Like Silver Quail Feeders

Rat Snakes Like Quail Feeders

Rat Snakes love bobwhite quail and quail feeders!  At least once a year, I’ll find one of these nasties hiding below the quail feeder underneath the bobwhite quail surrogator.  It always gives me a shock and I squeal like a little girl!  They’re hard to kill as well but I now have a long pointy screwdriver in my quail bucket just for when I find one of these guys raiding my quail feeders.

Releasing Wild Bobwhite Quail at the House

Final Brown and White Bobwhite Release of 2013 from Green Surrogator on Green Grass

Final Bobwhite Release of 2013

No matter how many times I do it, I alwasy get a special thrill out of releasing another batch of bobwhite quail from my surrogator.  I’ve run this program for 4 years now at the ranch and consistently bump 4 to 6 coveys of wild quail – including mams with babies so I know they are successfully reproducing.

Quail Hunting Dog 3, Bobwhite Quail 0

Orange and White Quail Hunting Dog Raids the Quail Feeder

Quail Hunting Dog Raids the Quail Feeder

Jill, my quail hunting dog, was really impressed with the bobwhite quail release I did in the back yard.  It usually takes a day or so for the released bobwhite quail to scatter from the surrogator area.  While I did put the surrogator outside the dog fence, I couldn’t stop some of the released quail from coming back into the yard – I guess my yard is pretty good quail habitat.  The dog thought this was magnificent!  The afternoon of the release, she “fetched” two bobwhite quail.  The following morning, there was still game to be had so she brought me another one.  Sure, it’s a loss of a bird but look at that dog – so eager to please!

Summary of Quail Habitat Improvements

I learned a lot this year about raising wild quail.  I’m seeing evidence that all of my hard work over the past 4 years is paying off with wild quail reproducing on the ranch.  Getting the non-native grass under control and building more water collection ponds will be a big step forward in improving the quail habitat.  I did a final surrogator release in my yard at my house and if I continue that, will provide a great laboratory to experiment with quail feeder designs.  Dog likes that idea as well!
Bobwhite Quail | Quail Habitat | Raising Quail | Quail Feeders


Bobwhite Quail Habitat and Feeders

I’m into the middle of my annual season to raise bobwhite quail for quail hunting.  I’m actively running surrogator batches, improving the  habitat and experimenting with wild quail feeders.  It’s a marvelous adventure that allows me to spend time with my dog and my kids – how could things get any better?

Full Stock Tank for Water Conservation

Silver Sky Reflected in Brown Water Stock Tank Overflowing in Green Grass as Quail Habitat Water Conservation

Quail Habitat Water Conservation

Texas has been in a long term drouth for several years and we’re having a wet Summer.  It’s also cooler this year due to the frequent rainfall.  Water conservation is a big aspect of quail habitat management and something we watch and manage carefully.  Bobwhite quail get their water from metabolism, dew and then surface water – primarily in that order.  The collection and storage of rainfall in stock tanks is very valuable but the challenge in our arid country is finding ground suitable to collect and hold the rainfall.  But, when you do, it is wonderful – to overflowing!

Cutting Trees to Build Improve Quail Habitat

Dead Brown nad Live Green Cedar Trees as part of Building Habitat

Building Quail Habitat

We also actively manage the invasive plant species to improve the quail habitat.  This will also provide easy walking when quail hunting.  Western Cedar or Juniper Ashe trees are highly invasive and will take over cleared pastures within 10-15 years if left untreated.  Juniper trees aren’t actually as thirsty as most people think but they do have a big impact on water conservation.  Here’s why.  The leaf needles of the trees hold up to 1/3 if the rainfall.  The dead leaves underneath the trees hold another 1/3 of the rainfall.  Thus, only 1/3 of the active rainfall actually makes it into the ground – the rest is evaporated.  Clearing large trees is a challenge but I have a tractor with hydraulic shears on the front that will make short work of trees up to 14 inches in diameter.  And, I have to say, it’s a blast chopping those suckers down!
Would you like to see and hear how I use a Surrogator to raise wild quail?


Small Water Holding Ponds

Small Brown Creek Water Pond in Shady Green Glade for Bobwhite Habitat

Small Water for Bobwhite Quail Habitat

Clearing cedar and other invasive species can have a big impact on getting ground water spring to percolate and flow again.  These small creeks and springs provide an excellent place for quail to brood protected from hawks and other raptors.  Getting your springs flowing again is a great indicator of good quail habitat management.

Fence Brush Management for Bobwhite Quail

Brown Dead Vines and Green Cedar Trees Left After Clearing Fence for Habitat

Clearing Fence for Quail Habitat

Another aspect of quail habitat management is preserving their favorite locations.  If you remember when you were a kid and there WERE quail, you found them on fence rows near a dirt road with grain fields on the side.  Keeping the fences cleared is a normal part of any ranch management but spraying the trees growing on fence lines instead of chopping them down preserves the bobwhite quail habitat and lessens the work without having an impact on the fence itself.  It’s not practical everywhere but where you can take this approach, it will benefit the bobwhite quail.

Steady to Flush!

Orange and White Dog Watching Brown Bobwhite Quail Releasing for Quail Hunting

Releasing for Quail Hunting

My poor dog – she get’s this “steady to flush” training three times every summer when I release my surrogated birds for quail hunting.  I’m not actively hunting and harvesting them yet but we do hunt them and then I use a starter pistol instead of a real shotgun.  Yes, it’s a bit disappointing for the dog but leaves more to breed and hunt in the future.

Training Feeder

White PVC Tuve on Brown Plywood in Black Net Cage as Quail Feeder Training

Quail Feeder Training

I’ve had some success with wild quail feeders.  Most of the success has been supplementing the quail just after release from the surrogator.  To increase my success, I start training the quail by using a smaller quail feeder inside the surrogator during the first 5 weeks so they are familiar with the sight and use of the quail feeder.  I’m not sure it is a huge benefit but I’ve sen more quail at the quail feeders since I started doing it and it is such a simple thing to do.  I’m learning that it is seldom one thing but a combination of several things that leads to success raising wild quail successfully.

Sharing a Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Whitetail Deer and Brown Bobwhite Quail Sharing Feeders

Sharing Quail Feeders

My post release quail feeder attracts a lot of attention and for the most part, I’m happy to share until you become a pest.  The deer like to snoop around and feed on the tailings and the bobwhite don’t mind them either.

Feeder Raiders!

White PVC Tube Homemade Feeder with Coons

Homemade Quail Feeder

Coons, on the other hand, have become my quail feeder nemesis – especially when it becomes a “family affair”.  These little critters not only feed, they raid and empty the feeder by shaking out too much feed.  I’ve tried numerous approaches to keeping them away – none successful yet.  But, I keep experimenting and will find the solution.

Electrified Feeder

White Plastic Bucket with Yellow Standoffs for a Feeder

Range Feeder for Quail

My highly electrified long term quail feeder was somewhat successful.  It did attract wild quail and they did feed but it had some problems with leakage and moisture.  I’m taking a different approach now as I found that while this quail feeder was effective, it wasn’t efficient to manage and use over the long term. That said, this has proven to be a good location to start quail hunting due to the prevalence of food.

Summary of Bobwhite Quail Habitat and Feeders

Management of quail habitat for bobwhite quail is tough work and requires sustained efforts.  Quail surrogators work well to produce six week old bobwhite quail but they will only stay, survive and thrive if the quail habitat is sufficient and better than that available nearby.  Quail feeders work but need to be designed and implemented with a specific purpose.  Additionally, other wildlife will visit quail feeders and need to be managed appropriately
Bobwhite Quail | Quail Habitat | Raising Quail | Quail Feeders


Fall Witchgrass









Fall Witchgrass


Texas Persimmon Trees

















Texas Persimmon Tree


Clearing Ashe/Western Juniper Trees







Ashe Juniper Trees

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.





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.





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.



Would you like to see and hear how I use a Surrogator to raise wild quail?


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!

Bobwhite Quail | Quail Habitat | Raising Quail | Quail Feeders


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.

Young Bobwhite Quail

Summer is the season to load and raise young bobwhite quail in the Surrogator.  What I’ve learned in the past about how to raise quail, I’ve run 4 five-week cycles but it’s really a push and you can’t miss a single week and pick-ups of fresh wild quail chicks has to be carefully timed.  My bobwhite quail breeder has chicks available from approximately May 15 through mid September.  I’ve decided that it’s much easier and more fun to run 3 cycles per Summer and not try to rush things.  It also helps that I don’t have to be tending wild quail chicks during September and October when I’m trying to hunt other birds while I’m waiting for my natural population of wild bobwhite quail to grow.


Fresh Bobwhite Quail Chicks

Brown and White Bobwhite Quail Chicks in Yellow Straw and Cardboard Box

One week old Bobwhite Quail Chicks in shipping box

My bobwhite quail breeder delivers 125 week old bobwhite quail chicks nicely packaged in a cardboard box with pine shavings.  I prefer week old birds instead of day old quail chicks since the mortality can be higher during their first week of life.  I’m always amazed how quick and active the chicks are even at one week old.  It has become a ritual in my process of how to raise quail to invite friends with small children to help me load the baby bobwhite quail chicks as kids always seem to love catching them from the box and loading them into the Surrogator.  Since I typically release a batch of wild quail and reload the batch on the same day, they also enjoy seeing 100 or so wild bobwhite quail released from the Surrogator.






Clumping Wild Quail Chicks

30 Brown and White Wild Quail Chicks Clumped Near a Silver Feeder

Wild Quail Chicks will clump together to stay warm

Young bobwhite quail chicks can’t generate sufficient body heat to keep themselves alive.  Without an external heat source, they will clump together and smother the chicks on the bottom.  Heat regulation is a critical aspect of successfully raising wild bobwhite quail in a surrogator.







Heating Unit for Young Bobwhite Quail

How To Raise Quail - Silver Metal Heater with White Ceramic Dispersion Disk

How To Raise Quail – Heaters are required for bobwhite quail chicks younger than 3 weeks old

The heating unit for young bobwhite quail that is supplied with the Surrogator is ingenious.  It is absolutely critical in how to raise quail.  It has a temperature regulator, a thermostat and a heat dispersion disk.  While you can build your own Surrogator, this small piece is definitely the big secret to the success of the Surrogator.  The wild quail chicks don’t need much heat beyond 3 weeks of age but without it during those first 3 weeks, the results can be disastrous.








Would you like to see and hear how I use a Surrogator to raise wild quail?


Young Bobwhite Quail Eat Grasshoppers

Green Grasshopper is Food for Wild Quail

Food for Wild Quail consists of all manner of high protein sources – including bugs and grasshoppers

Young bobwhite quail eat mostly bugs to satisfy their need for a high protein diet.  Bugs generally need rain and moisture to reproduce.  I use the grasshopper/windshield method of measuring the natural food available to young bobwhite quail.  During last year’s drought, we literally had ZERO bugs.  This year, we’ve been fortunate to have some rain and moisture and the bugs have returned.  Part of my habitat plan is to expand our rain water collection systems to provide additional moist areas around the ranch so that there will be more moist bug reproduction areas to support the wild quail that are reproducing on the ranch.






Summary of Young Bobwhite Quail

Summer is the time to get busy and run batches of wild bobwhite quail chicks through the Surrogator.  In my method of how to raise quail, I prefer 3 five-week cycles but 4 cycles is possible and if you start with week old quail chicks instead of day old quail chicks you can shorten your cycles from five weeks to four weeks.  I don’t do that because I prefer to have them more fully fledged when they are released.  The heating unit is a critical part of the Surrogator’s success.  Wild quail chicks need an external heat source during their first 3-4 weeks of life and the Surrogator’s heating unit is a champ.  Young bobwhite quail rely heavily on bugs to fill their need for a high protein diet.  Bugs need rain and moisture to reproduce and a casual survey of the number of grasshoppers is a good way to estimate brooding success for you previously released wild bobwhite quail.

Bobwhite Quail | Quail Habitat | Raising Quail | Quail Feeders



Quail Feeder Update – Success and Failure

Lot’s of new information to report on my quail feeder.  The new model – buzz bucket – worked well to deliver feed and attract birds while repelling varmits in the quail habitat.  It did experience some problems with durability in the wild.  The old model – pvc pipe – showed new signs of value in a particular use right after a release at the surrogator.  I had some issues with the buzz bucket model so I’ve taken it down and brought the buzz bucket quail feeder back to the shop to rethink the purpose and methods as part of my strategy to raise wild quail.


Buzz Bucket Quail Feeder Damage

White Plastic Quail Feeder Showing Damage from Gnawing Squirrels

Quail Feeder Damage from Squirrels

The buzz bucket quail feeder suffers from a lack of robustness.  The lid shows signs of animal gnawing – I suspect squirrels – and this leads to water getting inside the bucket and harming the feed.  It’s curious that the electric fence on the buzz bucket did not repel the squirrels nor did the game camera capture them. This is a set back in my efforts to improve the quail habitat.











Feed Flow in a Quail Feeder to Support Raising Wild Quail

Quail Habitat Improvement with a White Plastic Quail Feeder and Red Grain

Quail Habitat Improvement with a Partially Empty Quail Feeder

The feed delivery speed from the buzz bucket quail feeder was optimal.  Feed flowed smoothly but at a slow enough rate that it didn’t normally attracts any varmits.  A 50# sack of scratch lasted well over 5 weeks.  The feed flowed smoothly around the internal battery compartment and wires. It is important to manage costs downward in my efforts to raise wild quail.













Quail Feeder Success!

Wild Bobwhte Quail Near a White Plastic Quail Feeder

Wild Quail Using a Quail Feeder

The buzz bucket quail feeder regularly attracted wild bobwhite quail to feed.  The feed flow rate was sufficient and the feed delivery holes large enough that gravity and wind continued to deliver feed on a daily basis.  The primary purpose of this quail feeder is to conduct ongoing quail counts of the wild bobwhite quail population.  Rains have been sufficient this year to produce very healthy stand of wild grasses and seeds that the wild bobwhite quail do not need supplemental feeding in the quail habitat.







Impediments to Quail Habitat Improvement

Brown Whitetail Deer Eating From a White Quail Feeder

Whitetail Deer Raiding a Quail Feeder

I did have occasional varmit raids on the buzz bucket quail feeder.  It is my practice of raising wild quail when tending the feeder to hand scatter feed which produces an abundance of feed on the ground.  What is curious in this picture is that the electric fence that protects the buzz bucket appears not to be working.  This was my first indication that the buzz bucket feeder needed to be brought back to the shop for a rethink and redesign.








Would you like to see and hear how I use a Surrogator to raise wild quail?



Varmits Raiding Quail Feeder

Whitetail Deer Eating from an Early Model White PVC Quail Feeder

Improving Release Habitat with an Early Model Quail Feeder

The PVC tube quail feeder works very well as a post release attractant to support the newly released wild bobwhite quail.  Since it lacks any varmit protection, it is subject to varmit raids.  The PVC model quail feeder is simple, inexpensive and very easy to use.  I maintain a T post at each surrogator spot specifically for the PVC quail feeder.  Upon release of the quail from the surrogator, I take the remaining feed and put that into the PVC quail feeder.  I then fill it to the top with scratch feed and let it trickle out over a few weeks.





Improvements to the PVC Quail Feeder

Simple White PVC Quail Feeder Showing Yellow Grain Works Well

The Early Model Quail Feeder Still Works Well

The size of the feed delivery holes in the PVC quail feeder is important.  I’ve finally gotten them large enough to consistently deliver feed via gravity.  I started with a 1/2″ drill bit and then generously wiggled it around to enlarge the feed delivery holes.  This results in a slow trickle of feed via gravity and wind that takes approximately 4 weeks to empty the quail feeder. While this does not have a big impact on quail habitat, it does improve the chances of newly released wild bobwhite quail.




Summary of Quail Feeder Update – Success and Failure

The buzz bucket quail feeder worked well but needs improvement to serve it’s purpose in my quail habitat management plan.  It has problems with being water tight and protected from varmits.  The buzz bucket quail feeder also has an unreliable electric fence.  The quail feeder does deliver feed nicely and a full feeder can last as long as 4 weeks.  The PVC quail feeder also showed new promise as a specific tool to support newly released wild bobwhite quail from the surrogator.  The enlarged holes deliver feed reliably for approximately 4 weeks.  The PVC quail feeder has no varmit protection but the feed delivery is slow enough that thee varmits are usually only there for the first round of extra feed scattered on the ground after filling the quail feeder with the remains from the surrogator.  Both feeders are showing signs of value and improvement in my long term strategy to raise wild quail.  I’m making progress on my quail feeder and very pleased with the result and what I’ve learned.

Bobwhite Quail | Quail Habitat | Raising Quail | Quail Feeders


You can also read a bit about our initial experiences designing the surrogator and figuring out how to raise these chicks the most efficiently.