Once again, the quail have taken more than their share of my time! Just when I had them all settled in, I added a few more a couple weeks ago, which meant more pecking wars and hours of monitoring my attempts at safe setups. Below is the process (a big thanks to some chicken-owning family members for guiding me through some of this):
Day One: Introduced new quail by letting all free-range around the yard under my supervision against cats and other predators (all wings clipped to prevent escapes that would only end in death-by-predator). Figured out which were male much quicker than last time and passed them on to a neighbor who will raise them for meat.
Night One: All quail in original pen for a "safe" overnight.
Day Two: Found new quail badly pecked in the morning - one's eye was swollen over and heads of both were bare. My only hope of their survival was letting them free range, but I had plans for the day. So, I took my chances, let them have run of the backyard, and left for church. That afternoon, I brought my chicken experts to the backyard for a consultation (all quail were accounted for - we rarely get backyard intruders). The injured ones were safely hiding for recovery and the former crew were hanging out together eating my freshly planted pea seeds. Basically, this free-ranging was just allowing them to separate, not letting them adjust to each other. My sister and brother-in-law informed me that they needed to be forced to be in close proximity, where they could see each other but not be able to reach each other to avoid injuries. They also said they would need to stay that way for a couple weeks. Great! That means building a temporary setup that is stable enough to last a couple weeks against predators. A walk through the basement brought a brilliant idea - that metal cube organizer I have kept since college - I knew it would come in handy someday! I rearranged the cubes so that I had two sections for quail, put bricks on top of it to make it hard to overturn, and called the project finished.
Night Two: No problems with the setup. Our dog chased a stray cat away first thing in the morning.
Day Three - Day Twelve: Uneventful. Injuries healed over.
Day Thirteen: I decide it is time to come up with a permanent setup for the quail that has enough square footage for six quail to roam happily, cozy laying spaces with egg retrieval access, and ease of access for changing bedding, feeding, and watering. I went to the basement and looked over our scrap wood, leftover metal fencing material, and leftover plastic chicken wire. After dragging everything out and assessing the space, I am suddenly able to come up with a creative solution that doesn't require all the material and work of building an entirely new setup. I realize that I can connect the cube organizer (that is too covered in quail filth to ever use as an organizer again anyway) and the original quail pen - allowing a space to run outside and a sheltered space with nesting holes for eggs. I can also then add a roof to the original pen for protection from rain and snow without taking away their access to the sunshine and the rest of the natural world. I still need to make a few improvements to make the passageway between the two fully predator proof, but I believe I have a setup that will work long term.