Keeping bobwhites on the ground question
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Personally, I favor keeping them on ground. Downside is it is harder to keep clean - on wire the droppings will fall through. But, they do enjoy scratching and digging in the dirt, dustbathing, etc, and I would rather do the extra work of cleaning, moving the structure, etc to provide them with a more natural and enjoyable setting.
I would rather they have that experience - provides more stimulation for them too.
You can keep any live critter sealed up in a cage away from any possible disease, parasites, etc, and they will be safer, just like you can keep your kid off the ground and only allow them indoors where there is no dirt, no breeze, etc....they won't catch cold but they will be worse off than if exposed to dirt!
no antibiotics unless you have an illness and you know what you are treating. You can do a float test if you are worried about worms, but there is a normal parasite load that a healthy critter can withstand. It helps if you do not keep them on the same ground that has been used for quail for years, there can be a build up of cysts.
there are herbal wormers that are effective (tested with fecal float tests) - try Molly's herbals. No withdrawal period. There are chemical ones, where you can't eat meat or eggs.
Edited by lalaland - 2/17/16 at 3:20am
You can definitely keep quail on the ground in Texas for most, if not all, of the year. What you need to do is tractor them around your property, moving them every day or three. The number of days you can leave them all comes down to stocking density. If you've got 6 quail in a 2x3 pen, you'll want to move them daily, but 6 in a 3x6 pen might be OK with moves every third day. The issue you will run into is having enough land. You shouldn't move the quail back on to the same ground for at least 4 months, though 6 months to a year may be better. That gives the land time to integrate the fertility you've deposited there and, more importantly, breaks the parasite cycle.
Keeping them on the ground with frequent moves will also keep you from dealing with poop. The birds put it where you put them and they'll scratch it in. You won't have to collect and compost the poop in order to get the benefits. You'll want a wire bottom, most likely, in order to deal with snakes.
Commercial meat is raised with a constant supply of low-grade antibiotics. That allows the animals to spend less energy fighting off sickness and more energy putting on weight. It works, but it has severe ramifications. By giving a constant supply of antibiotics, you don't kill all the bacteria and viruses. This allows for antibiotic-resistant strains of those bacteria and viruses. You also load the animal with the antibiotics. Even though there is a withdrawal period before slaughter (though I'm very skeptical that it's always followed), you'll end up with some of those antibiotics in the meat and bones. That means that we eat a constant, low-grade antibiotic diet if we eat meat from conventional farms.
The antibiotics are also passed through the animal in the urine and feces, going into the environment and medicating our wildlife. If you do medicate, I'd suggest only doing it when you have a sick animal and you'll have to follow the directions carefully, both to kill the virus and to make sure it's cleared before you eat the eggs or meat. I'd also give it more time than they say.
Good animal husbandry will virtually eliminate the need for antibiotics. I use only unmedicated feed and I've only had to use antibiotics once. That was when I moved, integrated two flocks and the weather turned brutally cold. The chickens were upset by the move and the integration and the weather was a contributing factor. I was letting them moult, so I had lots of time to let it clear their systems. I know farmers who have grassfed beef who haven't had sick animals for years. The cows are always outside.
In the end, you'll have to decide how you want to keep the animals, from both a housing and medication standpoint. The birds would be much better off in wire cages if you don't have the room to tractor them properly and they end up on the same ground every month. The parasite loads will build up, your birds will be overwhelmed, and you'll need to constantly medicate.
I know you were hoping for a longer answer, but this is all I've got at the moment ;)
You should listen to this podcast: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/quail-q-n-a
Jack's just outside Ft Worth and he's got a lot of experience with birds.
Edited by Em Ty - 2/17/16 at 8:33am
I'm not sure if you're asking if that will be OK for any earthworms you have in the ground or if you mean will it work OK to kill off parasitic worms. I don't think it would harm either, but your definition of a light spray may be much different than mine.
I like the idea of either tractoring animals or keeping them on wire-bottomed cages. Either method will reduce or eliminate parasites. I have no experience with stationary pens except my chicken coops, where I used a deep-litter method. That involves adding shavings over time to build up up to a foot or more of bedding. The chickens will scratch through it, eating bugs and turning it over. Quail probably won't be good at that.
Hopefully someone with experience with what you want to do will chime in.
This is what I'm trying to do, so far so good: deep litter in a 6x8ft pen, with really fluffy, constantly turned compost as litter. I'm tossing in kitchen & garden scraps, and my pair of bobwhites are having a field day. I've got a cleanout at the bottom of the deep side, where I can shovel it out after a season or two. I'm refreshing from the top, and have plenty of overturned pots, logs, and chunks of bark for seeds & game pellets. They much prefer to scratch than to eat out of feeders.
So far, in the wind-protected part of their shelter/run, their water dish does not freeze overnight when in the 20's, if it's nested down into the compost layer. I'm hoping to switch to nipple waterers in the spring, but really interested in the bob's reaction to switching from a hanging bottle waterer to the low water dish. They store fresh greens in the bowl overnight, which I did not expect at all. Has anyone seen birds do that? I'm saving up for a webcam for their feeding station now.
Yes, I'm just starting out, and am in an urban area. Hoping that the more natural habitat will encourage them to lay this spring, though they are an older retired pair. They've never been on the ground before, and AFAICT they are really happy, and not having any trouble adapting. From what I've read, as long as I keep the top level terrain diverse enough to provide cover, that's big enough for a small covey, with no more than 2 males.