Bobwhite quail announce their presence by clearly shouting their name. The high-pitched "Bob Bob White! Bob Bob White!" coming from the brush is a giveaway that a small bird resembling a chicken is scrambling along the ground somewhere nearby. According to Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology, the Bobwhite quail is an important game bird that lives in the Midwest, Southeast and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Raising them for release, says the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, is a popular pastime for both hunters and conservationists.
Move your quail to flight pens at least one month before release. Birds are ready for release at 16 weeks. Flight pens should be tall and wide, and far away from dogs and other intruders.
Investigate your state and local laws on raising game birds. You can best do this by checking with your state's department of agriculture, county cooperative extension office or local game warden. Many states have laws regarding the owning, raising, releasing and marketing of game birds.
Purchase your quail breeding pairs or quail eggs from reputable breeders. According to the Mississippi State Cooperative Extension Service, this is not the place to save money. Purchase very good quality birds and/or eggs from only those sources that have been recommended to you by someone you trust. If you are in need of a recommendation or guidance on where to find the best breeding pairs, check with your state chapter of the Game Bird Association or another breeder's association. You will have problems with dying or diseased birds, birds with low weight or weakness issues if you are not careful about the breeding pair you purchase.
Set up the area where you will be raising your quail. From the time they are 6 weeks old to the time of release, each quail will need approximately 2 square feet of space, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Young birds, between 1 and 14 days old, will do best with linear-type feed troughs and water jars. Once they reach the age of 2 weeks, switch to circular feeders and watering systems to make better use of your space. Bobwhite quail are cannibalistic, so you must include sufficient "pecking" materials for the birds so that they do not peck at one another. Placing whole oats, tomatoes, cabbage and turnip greens along with some hay and corn stalks will give the birds ample opportunity to satisfy their need to peck without injuring one other.
Feed your quail a high-quality commercial food blended especially for the Bobwhite quail, as these birds have specific nutritional needs. Carefully select your feed, as lower-priced, off-brand feeds are loaded with filler and by-products harmful to your birds. The feed should be "bite-sized" and uniform in size. Bobwhite do not like grain that is either too big or too small. If the feed is not uniform in size, the birds will only choose certain grains for their size and will not get a balanced diet. Use pellet feed, not mash, as mash is powdery and will collect in the birds' feet and bills. Insure that your birds have access to feed and fresh water at all times.
Clean your birding area daily. Don't allow litter, spoiled food, fecal matter, parasites and mold to form in and around your bird's nesting area. Infections are common and can spread quickly if not avoided or brought quickly under control. Two of the biggest problems in raising Bobwhite quail are "quail disease," which is ulcerative colitis, and the Coccidiosis parasite. If your birds do become infected with either of these diseases, or another infection due to injury or illness, penicillin, zinc bacitracin or bacitracin methylene disalicylate can be administered under a veterinarian's supervision.
- feather image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com