Building a Backyard Quail Flight Pen
The saying goes birds make a bird dog, right? Well I've got two bird dogs, but was missing birds from the equation, so I decided to build a flight pen in the backyard to start raising some birds to train more with. I'm definitely not a builder, but overall the pen came together pretty well with a limited amount of tools and resources. I am very satisfied with how it turned out.
I ultimately decided on a pen that was 6' wide x 18' long x 8' high. I wanted to give the birds some room to be able to get up, spread their wings and fly some to become strong flyers (a must for training dogs, especially young ones).
After a few trips to Home Depot and a few hours of scouring pen ideas on the internet I was ready to get the project started. I began by framing the wall sections on the ground one by one before constructing the overall pen. I made (5) 6' x 8' sections with a center brace at the 4' horizontal mark. I'd use two of these sections for the front and back walls, and the other three would be used for the side wall. The pen was going to be lag bolted to the back side of my barn, so I only had to create one 18' side wall. The walls were made with 2x4 treated studs, and I used 3" deck screws to frame them up.
Once the walls were framed, I stapled the netting and chicken wire on them while they were on the ground before the whole pen was together. I figured it would be easier to do this on the ground laying flat than when the 8' walls were standing. I used 1"x1" multi-purpose netting to cover each 6'x8' section, then on the bottom 4' I used 2"x2" chicken wire to keep anything from breaking, or chewing through the netting. Side Note: I actually planned on doing the whole pen in chicken wire until a coworker mentioned he used to raise quail and pheasants and that the ceiling needs to be a netting material with some give so they don't break their necks when flying. So I ended up doing the entire pen in netting and adding the chicken wire on the bottom 4' around the pen for protection.
(Tip: Fold the chicken wire over the sides so they press between the walls)
I also put the door together while the wall sections were on the ground. It's a 2' wide hinged door. Just cut the 2x4's down to size and framed the door and put it on the hinges.
After the walls were complete and properly netted, it was time to stand them up and bring them all together into one! Luckily I have a good neighbor who was willing to help me bring it all together and lag bolt it to my barn. This would have been difficult by myself.
We started by lag bolting (be sure to pre drill your lag bolt holes so the wood doesn't split) the two front and back walls to the barn first. We quickly noticed that the ground was un even from where the walls sat up against the barn, to where they extended out to - the ground dropped off a few inches. We fixed this by shimming (3) 2x6 sections underneath the corners to raise them up level to the side connected to the barn. I used a 4x4 8' treated post at the corner of each front and back wall to connect the side wall sections to.
From there we added the (3) remaining 6'x8' sections one by one to create the 18' side wall. We also had to shim (3) 2x6 sections underneath these as well to raise them up level. We used lag bolts to connect the sections together.
The pen was now constructed so It was time to add netting to the top of the pen. To do this I lag bolted 2x4s on the top horizontal line to the barn so I could staple the netting to it. I also added (2) cross braces going across the top for more stability.
After the roof was on I went around and added 2 rows of deck boards at the bottom of the pen for an extra level of protection and security for the birds inside.
Many may argue that quail are safer on a raised platform to keep them from predators and disease. I settled on a ground design because we don't have much for predators in the area I live in (It's rare to see a raccoon. No foxes, sometimes we'll hear a coyote, and the area I'm in is too dry for ground weasels.) I plan on cycling through birds at a pretty fast rate, so disease doesn't worry me much. There's actually a lot of quail growers that claim quail do just as well in ground pens in a natural environment compared to a raised pen (I spent a lot of time researching this). Time will tell on both issues, so the jury is still out on that one.
I have read some stories of predators prying open the bottom corner of doors and entering a pen that way, so I added a hasp latch at the bottom of the door to prevent it from being pried open.
I built a sun shade/overhead shelter with the remaining 2x4's and some pallets.
For birds I decided on Tennessee Reds (non native species to Michigan). These birds are strong flying, easy to care for and the biggest deciding factor was they can be shot year round in Michigan for training dogs, unlike its similar cousin, the bob white (a native bird to Michigan), which can only be shot during bob white season. Be sure to check your states regulations when deciding on what birds to raise. I would not recommend Coturnix (Japanese quail) because they are poor flyers.
List of Materials and Associated Costs
Treated 2x4x8 studs ($5.98) x40 ($239.20)
Treated 4x4x8 Posts ($11.47) x2 ($22.94)
Treated 1-5/32x6x8 Deck Boards ($5.47) x8 ($43.76)
1LB Box of 3" Deck Screws ($6.78) x3 ($20.34)
Galvanized Lag Bolts 1/4x3-1/2" ($0.96) x24 ($23.04)
Door Hinge ($2.98) x3 ($8.94)
Galvanized Locking Door Bolt ($4.98) x1
Galvanized Hasp Latch ($7.56) x1
Chicken Wire Fence 2"x2" Mesh, 60" x150' Size ($62.99) X1
(This was wayyy more chicken wire than I needed, but it was all that was available at the time)
Jobe's 7'x100' 1"x1" Multi-Purpose Netting ($49.99) x1
(Netting Link - https://bit.ly/3k0fr9E)
Box 1000 of T15 Staples ($4.49) x2 ($8.98)
Total Cost - $492.72
T-25 and Philips head bits
I hope this helps for anyone who may be looking for some direction on building a pen and starting their own flock! You can definitely alter the design to fit your needs. If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me a message! And if you make a pen, I'd love to see it!