Today I let the chooks into the aviary to allow them to dig over the ground in the quail aviary (a not uncommon occurrence... they do a great job of breaking up any areas before they get heavy clods of quail poop hardening up, and they clean up any spilled feed that the quail have missed.
Only I didn't pay careful enough attention to the birdlock (two doors, for safety.... you go in one, close it before opening the next one, after making sure no birds are in there with you) & one quail got outside. No problem. I closed the chooks & other quail in the aviary & went to pick up our escapee. Nine times out of ten when a quail gets out here (mainly when I'm splitting up youngsters by sex) walking over calmly & quietly, I capture them in one go, two at most, by doing the following (lengthy explanation, but takes less than 5 seconds)... tame quail that aren't living freely in an aviary with limited human contact will be even simpler to pick up & may run towards you:-
- Walk towards escapee from side-on... ideally herd him to a wall / corner where he can feel a little secure, rather than trying this when he's in the open
- Stretch both arms out at approximately 45 degrees to the body with fingers spread out
- Use hands (fingers still outstretched) like giant slow paddles & slowly move hands towards the quail
- Watch carefully to see where the quail is looking & whether it's trying to push itself more to ground or body is looking like it's about to take off
- Move each hand more or less the same speed, but adjust as you go to have the quail pushing itself to the ground
- Practice will have the speed you need to proceed perfected (until you're out of practice !)
- As your hands near the bird, stop moving the one going towards his head & pick him up using the one that is "behind" him
- Put the picking up hand over his body with fingers outstretched (not his rump & not his neck / head region) & then firmly hold his wings against him by wrapping your hands around him... you will now have your palm over his back & your fingers around his body.. thumb holding one wing down & fingers holding the other wing down
- You can now bring the other hand down & use that to support him... you can pick him up with one hand & place him on the other one, or you can use both hands to pick him up. Just don't let go of his wings... they're FAST.
So... being out of practice, the speed I approached him with hands was too fast on first go. HOW HIGH CAN JAPANESE QUAIL FLY?
He flew straight up, and over the top of the walk in aviary, and over the aviary, and about twenty metres in a straight line at the same height as the top of the aviary, before landing. Quail land a bit like a crash landing, but that's fine as they're quite hardy generally. No part of his body touched the aviary at any time.
I went to collect him from just inside the fence that was, I think the only reason he allowed himself to land. Again, out of practice the speed I used was too much. He flew straight over the top of the box trailer, for about 20 metres, perpendicular to his original flight path, and straight over the 6 foot fence, into the front yard. Again, he maintained a height well above my head for the entire flight path.
I made my way out to the front yard & located him trying to hide in some lawn clippings. Being mostly an open area out front, he took off pretty soon after he spotted me, without any chance of getting near him first. He flew much lower this time, but easily cleared the low fence & headed over the road in one go. I was starting to admire him at this point. He'd never have had the opportunity to fly such a distance before & he was doing a fine job.
I followed him over the road, where he wandered up someone's driveway, luckily against a low stone or brick wall (I didn't notice the materials it was made of, as I was watching him like a hawk) & he went straight through the gaps in their metal gate.. with a lock on it. **Sigh** Luckily, inside their locked gate there is then an enclosed are, with high wooden fences and a garage all surrounding his new location. I rang the bell & my over the road neighbour unlocked the gate & I was able to pick him up using my usual method without a hitch. This time, of course, I'd slowed down completely & followed the basics listed above. Too easy.
So... when someone tells you that Japanese quail are not really free range birds... THAT is why.