Bobwhite Quail

male northern bobwhite quail
The Male Northern Bobwhite Quail

Northern bobwhite are the best known specie of quail in the United States, named from the loud call of the male. A popular game bird, it was originally resident east of the Rockies and north to southern Ontario and New England; it has been successfully introduced in parts of western North America, the West Indies, and New Zealand. It is 21 to 26 cm (8.5 to 10.5 in) long, with a slight crest. Males of the northern populations are reddish brown above and white, barred with black, on the belly. The throat and a line above the eye are white; a broad black line extends from the eye backward and around the throat. This white area is replaced by buff in the otherwise similar females. In subspecies from the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico, the face, throat, and variable amounts of the rest of the underparts are black.

Monogamous, after the breeding season, bobwhites gather into coveys—groups that may number over 100 birds—dispersing during the day for feeding and reassembling at night or in adverse weather. The members of the covey seek warmth and protection by huddling in a circle, with their heads turned outward. If frightened, bobwhites (like most quail) prefer to run from danger; when flushed, they fly rapidly with a loud whirring sound, but quickly drop to earth.

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Information on Raising Bobwhite Quail

Bobwhite Quail are generally seen in the wild in the Midwest and Southern United States as well as parts of Mexico. They're small, chunky birds and usually travel on foot and stay in a limited area. These quail are primarily seed eaters, although they do eat some insects in the wild.

Bobwhite chicks are very small, only about the size of bumblebees. Their meat is very good and considered a delicacy. These birds have around 19 different types of calls and several different varities, such as; the Jumbo Wisconsin and Georgia Giant. Breeding of the bobwhite quail can be a very profitable business.

The young chicks require a high quality food to remain healthy and grow. Many quail farmers raise breeders, in order to hatch the fertile eggs and sell the day old chicks to grow-out farmers. They in turn raise the chicks to the age of about 17 weeks and after having them flight ready, sell the birds to game preserves. These preserves are only interested in high quality flight prepared bobwhite quail.

Young quail chicks between 4 to 6 weeks of age are susceptible to the poultry disease "coccidiosis". This will usually happen if the chicks are continually exposed to wet litter, wet ground or the consumption of their droppings. Good maintenance habits and a good starter food will help prevent this disease. The chicks will throw water around by their watering devices and food troughs. Having the proper devices in place is also a good idea.

A Few Requirements For Raising Bobwhites

Raising Bobwhite Quail requires a:

  • Flight Pen; if being raised for game preserves.
  • Grow-Out pens; if being raised for meat or flight.
  • Incubator; if hatching eggs
  • Brooder; if raising past 1 day old

A quail barn or hut is nice to have but not necessary.

There are several practices used for the Bobwhite Breeders:

  • Having a flock of birds in a large ground pen. We really don't recommend this.
  • Colony Breeding; which is having a smaller number of birds in above ground cages with a ratio of 2 to 3 females to 1 male. Not the greatest idea with the Bobwhite quail, they become very aggressive during breeding season. Wouldn't expect much success with this method, probably a lot of dead birds.
  • Breeder cages, We think this is the best option, with 1 male and 1 female. However, there is the option of 2 to 3 females to one male.

Thoughts on Raising Bobwhite Quail

male northern bobwhite quail being raised on wire
Male Northern Bobwhite Quail Raised on Wire

Bobwhite Quail are the choice of many breeders. Well known for the call of the males and they also adapt well to the captive environment. They can be raised on wire or ground pens. The Bobwhite Quail mature at around 16 weeks of age and start laying eggs between 21 to 25 weeks of age. Incubation period for Bobwhite Quail Eggs is 21 to 23 days. When they start laying, has to do with environment and management.

Best Breeding Setup For Bobwhite Quail

Breeders can be separated as pairs, trios and some Quail Breeders will also do Colony Breeding with the Bobwhite Quail. If you choose the colony method for the Breeding of your Quail. You should really keep an eye on them. The males are prone to fighting during the breeding season and often killing or injuring one another.

I think it is best to have pairing cages for the Bobwhite. You should start pairing, about 4 to 6 weeks before expected laying. You should also start these Quail on a breeder diet at this time. Depending on your climate for Raising these Quail the breeding season will usually start sometime in April and go through September. Your Bobwhite Breeding Stock should not have to be rotated for 3 years.

When raising this bird in a proper environment, with the right pairing, diet and good management skills. The female is capable of laying 100 eggs or more per year.

If you are thinking about Raising Quail, or are trying to decide on a Specie of Quail To Raise. I would recommend the Bobwhite Quail as a possible first or second choice..

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