After a brooding period of 4-6 weeks, depending on weather conditions, place quail in grow-out pens. Locate grow-out pens away from breeders and common disturbances, such as road traffic, children’s play area, animals, etc. By fencing in grow-out areas, you will keep out many intruders.
Management During Grow-Out
These suggestions aid in successful grow-out:
- Do not crowd the birds. Watch for cannibalism. A good time to debeak is when moving them from the brooding area to the growing out area.
- Provide several feed and water stations. If growing out on ground or litter, place each feeder and waterer on a wire platform. The birds are around these areas in greater numbers than anywhere else in the pen. Wire stands isolate the birds from a concentration of droppings.
- Provide shelter and hiding places for protection from weather and each another. Corn stalks in shocks, pine tops, panels, etc., give the birds places to feel more secure and helps reduce cannibalism.
- Grow meat-purpose quail on wire-floored pens. Outdoor pens should have the openings facing south. Permanent or portable pens are satisfactory. Wire floors for both are recommended. Elevated pens with wire floors require drop curtains around the bottom to prevent drafts.
Wire floored pens can be made in sections. Wired sections allow dropping removal when necessary. The height of the wire floor should be at least 4-6 inches above the ground. Keep the width of floor supports as narrow as possible to prevent buildups of droppings on the top edges. The purpose is to separate the birds from the droppings and thus, reduce the incidence of more common health problems. The height of the pens is governed by what is convenient.
Check the birds only as often as necessary to ensure that feed and water are available. Check also at these times for any evidence of health problems.
Place birds designated for release in flight pens one month before release. Birds are considered mature at 16 weeks of age.
Hunting preserves demand a strong, aggressive, fast bird. To get this type bird, you must condition the bobwhite quail. Allow the bird to preen and condition itself as it would in nature, but while still in captivity.
Flight pens require dirt floors, well-drained soil, ground cover, feed, and water throughout the area. Ideally, widths are 12-15 feet and lengths are in excess of 40 feet. A 12- x 12-foot catching area is needed in each pen. Pen height must permit entry of a tractor to turn soil in pens. Feed stations are designed to prevent rain from wetting and ruining feed. Place feed and water stations on wire stands.
Prevent birds from scalping and injuring themselves when flying, by covering the top sides and ends with open-weave mesh, burlap or cheesecloth. Open-fiber or nylon mesh allows maximum ventilation and light while safely confining the birds. The ends of the pen must be marked with sacks or similar material so the birds know the limits of the flight area.
More than one flight pen allows for bird rotation, which helps avoid a buildup of health problems.
Locate flight pens away from dogs and people. Isolation, not pen length, is the key to having a flighty bird.
When not in use, frequent deep plowing of flight pen soil is recommended. Plowing exposes the soil to the sun and improves disinfecting.
Planting a crop in the flight pen for additional food and cover is practiced successfully by some producers. The crop must not keep out too much sunlight. If the ground is shaded and remains moist for long periods, buildups of molds and various internal parasites, such as worms and coccidia may occur. Food poisoning (botulism) is more common in shaded moist pens, particularly if grain is scattered on the ground.
Do not overcrowd the flight pen. Two square feet per bird is a minimum allotted space for flight-pen birds.
Do not sell nonflight-conditioned birds to hunting preserves unless requested. Nothing is more disgusting to an experienced hunter than having sluggish, wobbly, bob-tailed quail attempting to fly on a covey rise. Hunting preserves may want a few of these birds for the beginner, but mostly, they want the fastest thing on wings.