How To Make A Good Quail Habitat?

Bill Barnhill remembers the era when a healthy quail population attracted hunters to the panhandle of Florida for international field competitions. According to some estimates, the species’ population in the United States has decreased by 85% since that time. So it came as no surprise when 100 people crammed into his hunting lodge eight miles northwest of Crestview, Florida, for a recent workshop on quail habitat to learn how to bring the northern bobwhite quail back. Here are just a few things they discovered.

What causes the fall of quail? The principal cause is habitat loss. Coveys thrived in the 1940s on small farms near field borders, hedgerows, fencerows, and windbreaks. Small fields, however, were replaced by industrial farms with big, open fields, and native, open grasslands were devoured by development. After decades of fire suppression, undergrowth deprived quail of food, shelter, and a place to nest.

What is necessary for quail to prosper? Wildlife biologists claim that this includes habitat for foraging, nesting, and raising young. Young birds eat insects, however adults eat mostly seeds and a wide variety of plants, fruits, and berries. Quail can only pick up seeds from bare ground since they are poor scratchers. To keep themselves safe while they graze, chicks require overhead cover. Good habitat mostly consists of a variety of bunch grasses, broadleaf plants, low woody bushes, and enough bare ground to travel around without difficulty. They offer insects, high-protein seeds, warmth, protection, and overhead cover. One bird per acre can be sustained on good plots within a quarter-mile of one another, but the majority of populations are well below this density.

On your property, how can you assist quail? Owners of forest land can create quail habitat while managing their timber stands, particularly longleaf pine. Longleaf’s canopy allows more sunshine to reach the ground, and it can be burned early in its development to manage for species that are good to quail. Along fencerows, landowners can plant native trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs. In order to maintain vegetation density and encourage the growth of plants that bobwhite prefer to consume, prescribed burning, disking, and animal grazing are used.

How does conservation aid? In order to produce quail habitat on his 1,500 acres of loblolly and slash pine, fourth-generation forest owner Barnhill began planting grasses and forbs and burning his land 15 years ago. With technical and financial support from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Working Lands for Wildlife partnership, he planted 110 acres of longleaf pine forest last year, adding to the 165 acres he planted the year before. For more than 40 years, Barnhill and his father have worked with the organization to put conservation techniques on their property. This has aided in constructing the habitat, but to increase the population to the proper level, he explained, some birds will need to be transplanted.

enhancing hayfields and pastures

Native warm-season grasses (including big bluestem, Indian grass, and tiny bluestem) and legumes can be planted in combinations to enhance pastures and hayfields, which provide ideal nesting habitat. These grasses form clumps as they develop, giving quail easy access to the food and cover they offer. Warm-season grasses are beneficial to livestock breeders as well. A grazed pasture can also benefit from the establishment of an undisturbed 15 to 25-foot field boundary made up of warm-season grasses and blocks of shrubs (such plum thickets and blackberry).

For best quail advantages, however, even warm-season grasses must be managed. Overgrazing eliminates significant legume food plants while reducing the amount of cover that is available. At the end of the growing season, allow 10 to 12 inches of grass stubble on average when refilling your pasture. Cattle can be utilized to develop a variety of vegetative structures that offer quail habitats for roosting, nesting, and foraging. In order to promote legumes, annual weeds, and insects, it is crucial to manage these areas utilizing rotating strip disking and prescribed fire on a three- to four-year rotation if grazing is not being done. After the main quail nesting season, between July 15 and August 15, these meadows can be harvested for hay.

When used as hay, many of our cool-season grasses, including tall fescue, orchard grass, and timothy, severely restrict the ability of bobwhite quail to reproduce. Early June or late May are the times when the majority of these grasses produce their best hay. This is also when quail and other grassland birds are building their nests. Till July 15, leave a perimeter around the field that hasn’t been cut (at least 50 feet wide).

Quail Habitats: Types

After covering the fundamentals, I’d like to share my three favorite quail habitat types with you. Whether you like it or not, the modern quail keeper has a lot of options. Quail were once housed in modest cages, just as they are now. Quail can also be housed in pasture quail tractors, just like pastured poultry, as regenerative agriculture gains favor.

Whatever approach you decide to take for the habitat, bear in mind that quail are incredibly delicate animals that necessitate periodic inspections regardless of the habitat. There should be no openings in your habitat where predators could enter (even tiny ones). The ideal flooring is always made of wire because it enables them to excrete their waste on the ground rather than on it. And a place to take a dust bath is always necessary.

What types of environments do quail prefer?

Residence of the Quail They live in a variety of environments, including grasslands, meadows, savannas, and others. They prefer to reside in regions with thick grasses or low shrubbery. Numerous species can also be found on farms or in agricultural fields.

How much land do quail require?

Every 40 acres, at the very least, of property must match the needs of quail in terms of habitat. According to a relatively recent study, you need an average of 800 birds and 2,500–3,000 acres of adequate habitat for quail to maintain a healthy population (Stephens 2008)

What does a quail enclosure require?

AS: Let’s discuss cages and space requirements. A two-tier system that fits inside a closet appears in one of the images I saw on the Epic Quailblog! How avian would that house be?

EQ: The quick response I give to this question is often one square foot per bird, at the very least, though more is preferable. Coturnix quail require between 0.5 and 1.0 square feet of room in a wire-floored setting, according to the majority of quail aficionados. I prefer grown birds to have at least one square foot of space each. Because they are smaller and have not reached sexual maturity, younger birds can be kept in smaller spaces as they grow.

Your male-to-female ratio also affects how much room is needed. The fewer hens a male has to share his territory with, the more hostile he becomes. Males can be territorial at times.

What do quail prefer to have in their cage?

Quail do not roost like chickens. They do fly, but they also like to spend a lot of time on the ground. They frequently build nests in the materials you give them at night.

The type of quail you have might take pleasure in excavating straw or grassy material, much like they would in the wild.

Providing a secure surface for them to nest upon and lay their eggs will make them very happy if they are in a welded wire cage.

Additionally, if you keep your quail in wire-bottomed cages, you should generally avoid using shavings of any kind because they can easily fall through the sides and bottom of the enclosure during vigorous scratching.

What should quail not be fed?

You should not worry about overfeeding quail because they are not greedy and will only consume what they absolutely require.

Quail consume a fair quantity of food despite their small size, and the larger types, such as Italians, Cortunix, and Japanese (all members of the cortunix family), can handle layered pellets and mixed corn. To make the pellets easier to chew, you could try to smash them into smaller bits. To give them a protein boost in the winter, you can add a sprinkling of chick crumbs.

Naturally, you’ll want to provide a little variety for your visitors. To ensure that the hens are consuming a balanced diet, the main dish should be consistent. However, it is important to vary the meal with leftovers from the kitchen. Pasta, cake, rice, sweetcorn, and lettuce are among the foods that quail eat. Basically, you will rapidly understand what they enjoy and don’t like because if they don’t like it, they won’t eat it. Giving them salty foods like crisps is not a good idea, and you must make sure to never give them any meat.

Water needs to be maintained pristine. In the winter, you should check it frequently to make sure it doesn’t freeze. The condition of the feathers can be improved, and adding nutrients like apple cider vinegar can help rid the birds of worms and other parasites.

Quail are quite interested and will quickly learn to peck for water. While they are learning this, it is suggested to give a small dish of water just in case. Quail will rather readily learn to drink from rabbit drinkers. During the winter, be sure to check every morning to see if the water is frozen.

From our online store, you may purchase feed. You can also buy chicken feed locally if you want to be ecologically friendly and save on postage. We sell organic feed made by the Organic Food Company; visit their website to get in touch with them and locate a regional distributor.

What kinds of plants favor quails?

Some native plants that are popular in gardens and are favored by quail include ceanothus, ribes (native currants), lonicera (native honeysuckles, which are shrubby rather than vining), rhus (such as lemonberry), fragaria (California strawberry), lupines, sambucus (elderberry), Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon), Atriplex lentiformis (native sages).

Because they enjoy eating the acorns, quail prefer to be close to oak trees. The majority of natural and introduced grasses don’t work well for them as cover or seed. The majority of the plants they favor are drought resilient because they are native to California’s summer dry settings.

Plants are less likely to catch fire if their leaves have more moisture than average. Many native plants to California have dry, rigid leaves that burn quickly. The “defensible space” that extends up to 30 feet from your residence should not be used with them.

Low-growing species and variations of these plants are less dangerous than taller ones when employed as landscaping elements outside of the defended space. Browse the various resources listed in the Bay Nature Magazine web-only article “Fire Ecology Resources” by Matthew Bettelheim at for more details regarding fire-safe landscaping.