LESSONS LEARNED FROM 2004-2005

This is not intended as a formal essay but is merely a set of notes on various topics reflecting experiences since I wrote the original document.


1. facilities

The bird pen in photo on  original page  and as I have previously described is framed with 2X4 studs. It is wrapped with half inch hardware on the exterior. An idea I picked up to improve bird flight preformance is put nylon netting on the inside in the same manner as the hardware cloth is put on the outside. This helps prevents the primary feathers of the birds from frazzling which happens when they fly up against the hardware cloth. Having primaries in better condition improves their flight performance. I have not implemented this idea myself because I learned of it after I already had my birds in the pen, but I will try it next year.

It became apparent, from reports of neighbors, that I might be losing a few birds due to them wandering off. It has been an extremely low loss level, but with birds costing so much I wanted to try to lessen it. My technique was to put a johnny house set up near the front of my property. I call it my "outpost" johnny house. Its purpose is to pick up birds that seem to be straying straight off my property. Not having access to electricity there I used a solar powered electric fence unit.
 

2. feed

In the past I have been using a game bird feed that bore a greater resemblance ( & content) to what quail eat in the wild. Most commercial rations are not like that. The one I used was primarily a mixture of many types of whole seeds with a little calf manna pellets added and also another pellet which, I assume, contained vitamins, trace elements, and minerals. Birds are selective. Their preferences by a wide margin are sunflowers seeds and Canadian cowpeas (similar to small soybeans). Oats were completely ignored; I feel that they are used as a filler and, in my opinion, are not eaten by wild quail except if nothing else is available. The pellets were not consumed very much by the birds and ended up being powder because of insects eating into them. In light of these results I decided to mix my own this year which ended up using wild bird feed (seeds) sold for bird feeders. I added some scratch feed as a filler (birds do like the cracked corn) and also a little bit of sunflower seeds in addition to that already in the mixture since that is their favorite. I would also add peas, but I have been unable to locate a source for them.

Most folks feel that commercial quail rations must be used because they are complete with all the vitamins, etc. I feel that my birds pick up all of that when they are loose in the fields and woods. They are chased out of the pen daily. To repeat from original article the major problem with commercial feeds is the lack of animal protein that results in birds that don't smell like wild birds. Another idea in regards to feed that I will try next year is to raise crickets and mealworms as supplements for the first couple of months when birds don’t get as much opportunity for insects. The daily releases start with only a small percentage of the birds released each day. After a few months all except two or three are driven out daily.

An irritant to keep you on your toes is that you have to check inside the feeders frequently to be sure mice have not built nests in them. Several times I have found nests with baby mice.
 

3.birds

Most folks have birds being able to fly well as their primary concern. Not as many are concerned about scent given off. My program described in original article and the above addresses both of these. For the past two years a new issue has emerged for me. This issue is important to me, and apparently is not addressed by most game bird breeders. I want birds that call back well and that survive and reproduce in the wild. My supplier raises birds from day old chicks. He gets them from someone who hatches huge numbers. That supplier gets his eggs from still another source. He changed sources for his two years ago, and the results have had a negative impact on my operation. I feel this impact is of genetic origin …perhaps too many generations out of the wild or from strains developed for size and flight abilities. I treated this as a random fluctuation the first time it happened, but now I am concerned about it.

The first negative was that the birds didn't seem to know how to (or didn't want to) produce the call back whistle. I had to resort to using the electronic call back much more than I have used it in the past. In the past, by late evening, I could always hear numerous covey calls all over my place; that hasn't occurred this or last year. I have noted that they do seem to make it sometimes in the pen when others are released, but it is very soft and cannot be heard more than a very short distance. Normally, with no wind, covey calls can be heard over a quarter mile. The other issue has been that in the past by during April I would start hearing "bob-white" from my pen. That would be my trigger to stop working dogs on them and to release all permanently (re-entry cones blocked). I would partition off three pairs and keep them. The results of this described in original article. The new issue for the last two years has been (1) never heard a single "bob-white, " (2) fewer eggs laid, (3) hens would not set.

The above suggests that for my type of operation flight conditioned and weather seasoned birds are not sufficient. It is important to know the about the other factors mentioned above. Unfortunately I know of no way of assurances in those matters other than just to try the birds and see what happens. Do be aware of changes in sources of eggs or chicks from your adult or young bird supplier.