Johnny House - A Home on the Range - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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I said earlier that I prefer a solid floor in my Johnny House. Now let me explain why. First, with a solid floor I can place about a one-inch thick layer of clean sand in the bottom of the house. This gives the quail sand to preen and clean their feathers. The sand also absorbs moisture from the droppings and makes for a more sanitary environment. Secondly, I add a double handful of hay and place it in a corner of the house. The hay, along with the sand floor, enables the birds to stay much warmer during extremely cold weather and a happy bird is a healthy bird.

Managing the Quail
The first thing you need to do is to get the quail into the Johnny House. I usually place the birds into the house one at a time by feeding them into the funnel. To do this, just open the door of the house and place the first bird inside. Next, put the remaining quail in through the funnel. As each bird gets started up the funnel it will see the remaining bird inside and not hesitate to go on in. This allows the birds to get familiar with the funnel.

I like to leave all the birds in the house for about a week. During this time they can begin to bond as a unit and get familiar with the surrounding landmarks and horizon. After this, I return and let about one third of the birds out. If you are using a Total Recall (digital recalling device) on the house, now is the time to turn it on. The unit is designed to give a sequence of “covey-up” calls at various times of the day. When the unit begins to call, the released birds begin to make their way back toward the house. If you do not use the digital caller you will have to depend totally on the remaining birds to do the job. I repeat this process several times until all the birds have made several trips in and out of the house.

When you go to release birds for working your dog you will notice that wherever the first bird goes, the rest want to follow. This can work for you. Let’s say that the first bird flies out straight to a briar patch about 50 yards out in the field. I like to let four or five more follow him and pitch in while they can still see him in flight. Then I pull the release door shut to stop the flow. Once all the first birds have set down, I reopen the door and see if the next batch will pick out a different spot. This way I can often get a good spread without having them all pitch into the same patch of cover. If the first bird sails out of the house toward an undesirable place, just pull the release door shut until he is no longer visible and try it again.

I like to leave at least one or two birds in the house to give the returning birds a stronger desire to get back inside.

One last note. All this is fine during the fall and winter months, but once the days get longer and spring approaches the hormones start flowing. This means that the cock birds will begin to get feisty and the covey behavior breaks down.
At this point I clean out the house and get it clean for next season.

About half way through the season I perform a quick house cleaning. To do this I take a flat point shovel with the handle cut off, and remove all the old sand and hay. Then I replace it with clean sand and put a double handful of hay to one of the corners.

At the beginning of the season it is also a good idea to get a block of “bar bait” and place it underneath the house. Bar bait is a waxy block that contains a grain treated with rat poison. This can be purchased from your local feed and seed store. Repeat this when you perform your mid-season cleaning.

During this article I have used quail as the focus species. However, Hungarian partridge and Chukar partridge “recall” very well also. In very harsh northern climates you may find it more to your benefit to use one of these species. The only changes you would have to make on the house would be to increase the funnel dimensions accordingly. For instance, the standard quail funnel is 14 inches long and is 4 inches in diameter at one end and 3 inches in diameter at the other. For Huns and Chukars the funnel would be 6 inches in diameter at one end and 4 inches in diameter at the other.

The other equipment is easily adapted as well. If you use a LessMess feeding system the directions will tell you the proper height for each species of bird. The Total Recall (electronic recall device) is also available in both the Hungarian and Chukar partridge.

Recall pens are not for everyone. However, if your time and space are limited, Johnny’s House may the way you can keep some birds Home On The Range.

For more information about Johnny House plans or the equipment mentioned in this article, contact Quality Wildlife Services at 1-877-242-2482 or visit the website at
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