We have had the pleasure of raising bobwhite quail for over a year now. They are tiny little birds with big voices and toy-sized eggs which hatch into bumblebee-sized chicks. They are kept in one of our portable "tractors," a fully enclosed pen which is moveable to put them on fresh grass as needed. At least, it was fully enclosed. As I am walking toward the house after a day at work, I hear more noise than usual coming from the forsythia bush in our yard. I'm used to a sparrow or two, but instead I find about 20 quail (which would be all of them!) in the leaves around the base. I go inside, greet my husband, and tell him about the birds in the bush. "that's not good..." he replies. Upon inspection, it seemed one of the doors to their pen had come loose, and they had all escaped. For chickens, bunnies, or the occasional other small escapee, we have a good sized net on a long pole. While this usually works pretty well, quail can fly. Really fly, not just a few feet like a chicken or tame duck. While we enjoy the bobwhites, we had talked about getting Cortunix quail in the spring if we want to market dressed quail or quail eggs. So we had already decided the bobwhites were pleasant, but not economically profitable to raise. Although not very common around our house, they are also a native species for our area. And at best we'd only be able to net a few before the rest realized the power in thier small wings and flew out of reach. So the decision was to let them be free, but leave the door open to the pen for them to come back if they need food or shelter. The kitties were becoming very interested in the new yard birds, so we deliberately startled them, trying to spook them into the cornfield where they would be relativley safe. Of course, some went in to the cornfield, some across the road and into the woods, and stragglers ended up on the roof of the produce stand, the chickens' run, and my kitchen windowsill! Until dark, we could heaar them calling to each other, regrouping their small covey. And no quail appeared on the porch as cat food, so we are hoping they have retained enough of their wild instincts to fear predators and stay safe. Although when I see them in the yard or the field, I'll be throwing a scoop of feed their way. Because once they tasted freedom and space to put thier wings to the test, they don't seem too likely to take me up on my offer of the open cage door.
Female quail on my kitchen windowsill- she's hiding from the cats!