Are you interested in establishing a huntable population of game birds on your property? If so, building a quail surrogator may be just what you need.
This self-contained field unit acts as a surrogate parent for the first 4 to 5 weeks of a bird’s life, providing food, water, warmth, and protection. By raising wild birds in their natural habitat and away from human influence, they develop natural survival instincts and are more likely to flee or fly from humans and dogs during hunting.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of building your own quail surrogator and give you tips on how to establish a successful early release program.
So let’s get started!
How To Build A Quail Surrogator?
Building a quail surrogator is not as complicated as it may seem. Here are the steps you need to follow:
Step 1: Gather Materials
You will need 1/4″ hardware cloth, wood for the frame, and cedar shavings for the floor. You will also need a small enclosure for feed and water, quail-sized feeders and waterers, and a heating unit.
Step 2: Build the Frame
Construct a frame out of wood that measures 20’x4’x8’H. Make sure the bottom of the run is at about 3′. Cover the sides with hardware cloth to prevent birds from imprinting.
Step 3: Add Enclosure
Attach a small enclosure to the frame to hold feed and water. Make sure it is vermin-proof.
Step 4: Add Roost
Build a roost inside the building. This will provide a place for the birds to rest.
Step 5: Add Cedar Shavings
Cover the floor with large size cedar shavings. This will help keep the area clean and dry.
Step 6: Feed Birds
Feed the smallest size feed you can find, such as turkey feed or game bird feed with higher protein. You may need to grind the feed further until the chicks are 4 weeks old.
Step 7: Purchase Chicks
Purchase 125 day-old quail chicks from your local bird supplier. If a local source is unavailable, we can provide you with a list of bird sources that will ship birds to you overnight delivery.
Step 8: Operate Unit
Place the chicks in the surrogator and operate it according to the instruction manual. The unit requires minimal weekly maintenance, and birds are released at 4 to 5 weeks.
Why Build A Quail Surrogator?
Building a quail surrogator can be a great way to establish a huntable population of game birds on your property. The surrogator acts as a “surrogate parent” by providing food, water, warmth, and protection for the first 4 to 5 weeks of the bird’s life. During this time, chicks raised in the unit become imprinted to the location where the surrogator is placed. This means that the birds’ natural homing instinct will motivate them to live and reproduce where they were raised and released.
The greatest mortality of game birds occurs in the nest and before three weeks of age. Chicks raised in the surrogator are protected from predators and the elements at a time when they are most vulnerable. Research has shown that game birds develop their natural survival instincts around 5 weeks of age, so raising them in the surrogator until that point can greatly increase their chances of survival.
Additionally, building your own surrogator can be more cost-effective than purchasing a commercially available one. With some basic materials and a heating unit, you can construct a surrogator that will serve its intended purpose just as well as a more expensive model.
Materials And Tools Needed For Building A Quail Surrogator
To build a quail surrogator, you will need the following materials and tools:
– 1/4″ hardware cloth
– Wood for the frame
– Cedar shavings for the floor
– Small enclosure for feed and water
– Quail-sized feeders and waterers
– Heating unit
– Screws or nails
– Staple gun
– Wire cutters
Make sure to choose high-quality materials to ensure the longevity of your surrogator. The wood should be sturdy and able to withstand outdoor conditions. The hardware cloth should be strong enough to keep predators out, but with small enough holes to prevent birds from escaping. Cedar shavings are ideal for the floor because they are absorbent and repel insects.
You will also need basic tools such as a saw, screws or nails, staple gun, wire cutters, and a drill to assemble the frame. The heating unit should be purchased separately and installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Once you have gathered all the necessary materials and tools, follow the steps outlined above to build your quail surrogator. With proper care and maintenance, your surrogator should provide a safe and comfortable environment for your quail chicks to grow and thrive.
Caring For Quail In The Surrogator
Caring for quail in the surrogator is essential to ensure their survival and well-being. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Clean Regularly
The surrogator needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of feces and other waste. The instructions recommend power washing it after every cycle, but this can be difficult to do. Instead, clean the surrogator once a year after the season.
2. Protect Against Predators
Quail are vulnerable to predators, so it’s essential to protect them from harm. Check and tighten any missing screws to prevent unauthorized entry by varmints and critters. Ensure that the surrogator is placed in an area that is inaccessible to ground predators.
3. Provide Water and Feed
Make sure that there is always water and feed available for the quail. Use quail-sized feeders and waterers, and ensure that they are always clean and full.
4. Maintain Temperature
Quail require a warm environment to thrive, so make sure that the temperature inside the surrogator is maintained at the recommended level. Use a propane tank to keep it warm during colder weather.
5. Release at the Right Time
Quail should be released at 4 to 5 weeks old, after they have learned how to survive on their own. Ensure that the release site has plenty of native brush and water sources to support their survival.
By following these tips, you can help ensure that your quail thrive in the surrogator and are successfully released into the wild.
Releasing Quail Into The Wild
Releasing quail into the wild can be a tricky process. It is important to note that simply raising quail in captivity does not guarantee their survival in the wild. Studies have shown that pen-raised quail do not learn the necessary survival behaviors from their wild counterparts. Therefore, it is best to release quail that have been raised in a surrogator as close to the time of hunting as possible.
When releasing quail into the wild, it is important to choose an appropriate location. The area should be suitable for quail habitat, with plenty of cover and food sources. It is also important to release the birds in an area where hunting is legal.
Before releasing the birds, it is important to acclimate them to their new surroundings. This can be done by placing them in a holding pen for a few days prior to release. This allows the birds to become familiar with their new environment and reduces the risk of them wandering too far from the release site.
When it comes time to release the birds, it is best to do so early in the morning or late in the evening when predators are less active. Open the surrogator door and allow the birds to exit on their own. Do not force them out as this can cause unnecessary stress.
After releasing the birds, it is important to monitor their progress. Keep an eye on them for several weeks after release to ensure they are adapting well to their new environment. If necessary, provide supplemental feed and water until they are able to find their own sources.