So the permanent housing for the quail has not been determined yet, let alone built. I am trying to balance out the fact that it needs to be easily portable, both for some kind of "quail tractor" as well as the fact that occasionally it might have to move into garage as we can get terribly cold, and yet sturdy enough to survive our local "critter" population. As a result, they have been in a large cage - or separated a bit, as the case is now due to 4 males and two females.
Occasionally, like today, I put out on of those low pens one sets up for puppies or rabbits (maybe 3' high) and cover it with a sheet in the garden area. The quail love to burrow into the dirt and shavings and the top serves as a pretty good block to anyone getting out. The set-up has worked pretty well.
I was out in the front yard cut out little oak seedlings when Nighean Dhonn comes tearing out the front door. "One of the quail got out Dad, and I think it is between the houses!" Sure enough, the dog had nosed open the cage (I had failed to attach it with clothes pins like I usually do) and one had slipped out and flew over the fence.
Quail are not great flyers. Ours can get maybe 7' in the air and go for about 10' - enough to get a quail out of danger but not enough to let them fly away. But the hops, combined with their sprints, are enough to save their lives.
For a small little bird, quail run quickly. They are small, so they fit into places that larger birds like chickens cannot - like under bushes or even under fences. Their lack of size also makes them hard to grab, and learning to corral them as they get ready to fly is an art.
Our quail moved from between the houses to a flight up and almost to the roof next door before coming down back down and then slipping under the neighbor's fence. The gate was next door and they have always said come in if we needed to get something out of their yard. We slipped in and found the quail in their garden, hiding between plants. A couple of quick darts and a grab and the quail was headed back for his pen.
Just in time for Nighean Dhonn to come tell me that a second quail had flown over the fence into the other neighbor's yard.
Got to meet my neighbor finally (I sure this added to my allure - "Hi, I am the guy that practices sword and runs rabbits around in his yard. My daughter's quail is running in your yard - mind if I hop in and get it?"). The second quail was a bit hard to corral - I have learned that if I can get them under something they are less likely to fly away and, with my neighbor's help, Number two was captured (got to introduce the neighbors to quail) and on his way back to his cage as well.
One of the cardinal rules of weightlifting (one which I consciously break) is that one does not do much cardio (e.g. running) beyond sprints. Today I got my fill of wind sprints in chasing quail: back, forth, up, down, short spurts of speed. For a such a small bird, they are quite the evader.
I shall need to make sure whatever cage design I end up with has no gaps...