There has been much discussion at our house about whether or not to let our quail have free range of the yard while we are outside to keep predators away. Currently, they have free range of their pen. The issue that stands in the way of allowing them free range of our yard is figuring out how to get them to go back into the pen for their own safety when needed. Thus far, we have had trouble getting them still enough to clip their wings so that they can't fly out of the yard.
Take today, for instance. I admit that I still have not found a great way to clean the quail pen. I moved the lid off of one corner, just enough to be able to scoop out the dirty wood chips with my shovel. It wasn't long before one flew out into the yard and calmly hid behind the pen, so I ignored her for a time in the interest of finishing cleaning without losing any quail. Within minutes, I had another escape out of the roost and fly over the fence into our neighbor's apple orchard (thankfully, a friend). We managed to track her down, catch her, and clip her wings. However, in the course of finishing the cleaning of the pen, we had a handful of others escape around the yard (including hiding in the doghouse - bad decision), and one more fly over the fence into the orchard. Our trusty bird dog tracked it down and sent it into our forsythia. Everyone is safely back in the pen now, albeit somewhat traumatized, some with clipped wings. It was a fun Saturday afternoon distraction, but I must come up with a better system for cleaning the quail pen!