Birds make bird dogs and are invaluable tools when developing young dogs. They help lay the ground rules for handling wild birds. The three most common training birds found at most clubs and kennels are pigeons, quail, and chukar, all of which have benefits and drawbacks. That’s a topic for another time.
Pen raised birds help complete the transition from yard training to the field. I primarily use quail but also use chukar each year as well when it’s time to shoot a few birds over point. Some prefer to use birds as they teach new behavior, I prefer to use birds after certain commands have been introduced and the dog has a good understanding of said command. Before the real training begins I do let birds out and allow young pups to find them on their own and bump a few. If the dog’s a natural and will hold point until I flush, I’ll let him chase. If the dog won’t let me flush or even worse, attempts to root them out, they won’t get as much bird work at this point and I’ll wait until they’re a little older and have had some whoa training under their collar. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before that rogue pup will catch a bird. Not only will he think catching one is great fun but so was the game of chase you guys had shortly after. Using a bird launcher can really help you avoid running into this scenario. Pen raised birds are a cheap investment in comparison to the dividends paid out down the road.
The quail recall pen I built cost me $130 and can hold 10-12 quail. I usually buy 12 as I tend to lose one as I’m putting them into the pen for the first time, and another may not recall etc. My pen has a 4′x4′ floor and is about 6′ high.
Here’s the tools I used:
Jig saw (with a coarse blade for the wood and a fine blade for the plastic roof sheet)
a miter box makes it go twice as fast.
Here’s the materials I used:
20- 2x3x96″ studs
2- 3/8″x4x8′ sheets of plywood
1- 5-6″ wide 8′ long deck plank/board
1- 144×26″ plastic roof sheet (think tin-roof, but plastic)
1- box of 1.5″ galvanized fence staples
1- 1/2lb box of 3.5″ decking screws
1- 4x4x120″ pressure treated beam
1- roll of 0.5×1″ galvanized welded wire fence
1- set of door hinges (2)
1- small box of metal roofing screws
Here are my hasty drawings (not quite to scale).
These plans give you some wiggle room regarding how high to make the roost area which will affect the length of the roof trusses (hence the ?? measurements). They do not include the shelf on the top of the walls to give the birds something to stand on in the roost, that’s something you can easily decide how you want to do. The pressure treated 4×4 is chopped in half and mounted on the bottom to keep it from rotting around the bottom and to help slide it around easier. The wire fence is for the floor and around the roosting area. I install the wire floor before I attach the entire floor to the walls. I used extra wire fence to create a funnel for the birds to return to. The inside end is only about 4.5″ in diameter, this keeps out predators. Make it 5″ or a tad more if you plan on getting chukar ever. (If you can get them to recall.)
Quail are usually readily available in early June. At that point they’re still juvenile and I wait until July before I start using them for training. This gives them time to establish the pen as home. I’ll occasionally catch a few and return them through the funnel so they learn how to get back in for later down the road.
Here’s a few shots of one of mine that the plans were based off of.