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Creating a Natural Habitat for Bobwhites

post #1 of 2
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I've been given a pair of adult Bobwhites, previously used for breeding, who have been on wire or in crates all of their lives. This is an urban environment, and I'm hoping to give them an enclosed aviary space where they can be on the ground, and basically retire with some comfort. Would love some feedback on what I've been doing, and what I'm trying to do.

Currently, I've sheltered them on dry pine shavings mixed with a little compost, inside a dog crate lined with poultry netting, with an enclosed coop attached to one end. Crate and coop are inside more poultry netting surrounding a 6x6 raised garden bed. There are myriad predators in the immediate area, most notably domestic cats. I have an LGD who is quite protective of the quail already, so I'm less concerned about possums & hawks, mostly working on finding ways to cat-proof this enclosure. The bed itself is quite fluffy with compost, and the quail have burrowed in with enthusiasm. They are having such a great time scratching and eating bugs, that they are singing a lot more than I expected, & I'm really looking forward to seeing them flourish in a larger environment.

I'm a DIY, recycle, scavenge & reuse kind of builder, and am now looking at this 6x6 box as a low compost heap with 2ft wooden sides scavenged from crate furniture, with upright corner posts, wire on the sides, and netting across the top. There are a lot of native plants in my yard that appear on the list of food sources for them, so my plan is to create a "terrain" with plenty of cover inside the bed, continue to feed/water in the coop, and adjust the coop to more safely contain them in severe weather situations. The coop is also where their dust bath is, which they are using daily with rousing choruses of joy. :)

Is 6x6x6ft big enough for 2 adults on deep litter, and would it be big enough if they decide to raise some chicks this summer?
Do bobwhites adapt to nipple watering systems easily? I'd like to work out a passive solar water tank & line before next winter.
Should their feed be scattered, rather than from a bowl or feeder? They are really eating more of the acorns, greens, bugs, seeds, & veggie scraps than the game bird pellets they were accustomed to, and trash their feed bowl so fast, I'm wondering if it would be better to give them feed scattered on a bed of sand or ceramic tiles or something.
Do any of you handle Bobwhites to a "tame" state, or are they always too easy to spook for that? These two were apparently handled quite a bit, but I've only moved them using slow gentle herding from one container to another, since they're so fragile.
Is there a guide for how to pick them up without injuring them?
She is way more brave and outgoing than He, but he is doing really interesting things like hiding fresh foods under bark, moving branches around to create cover, and is so aware of my movements that I haven't been able to photograph him. She seems to be the one to find and try new foods, and often coaxes him with a call and response, very quick and musical if it's something she really likes, like chopped pumpkin. Is this typical for a mated pair?

Their original owner thinks they may lay again this spring, and it's possible their instincts could emerge and they'll try to hatch them. She's always removed all eggs, but they've always been in a larger production covey, on wire, on a farm where there were lots of other birds making a lot of noise around them. I'm reading everything I can, and most everything is a) aimed at Coturnix, and b) all eggs are incubated. Has anyone had success with Bobwhites raising their own young?

Thanks for reading. Really looking forward to any comments!

post #2 of 2

It sounds nice. I think the cage size sounds fine, though you might want to be ready to remove any chicks as they get bigger, should they start fighting. Unfortunately I don't know much about bobwhites either.. You can try scattering a bit of their feed and see if that makes them more interested in it, but as pellets can go bad rather quickly if they become moist, I'd only scatter what they actually eat, unless you have a very dry place to scatter it.

I've seen posts on this forum with completely tame bobwhites, but as far as I remember, all of those have been raised as pets pretty much since hatching. I doubt you'll be able to get grown-ups tame - you might be able to get them to take special treats from your hand, but probably not more than that.

As for picking them up - I have button quail, they are smaller than bobwhites and I catch them with a net, then put my hand in the net and behind their back and hold it around their wings, keeping their wings in. You might need two hands with a bobwhite. Hold the wings gently but firmly. The buttons are quite good at escaping whenever I hold them too gently, you do not want that.

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