The Art of Selection
Selecting a Champion
Pigeon selection is one of the most debated topics of our sport. Too many theories distract from what is of real importance. In this article I will present my method for selecting superior breeding pigeons, or at the very least, pigeons with the greatest potential to be superior breeding pigeons. This article may also step on a few of the experts' toes along the way. Keep an open mind and let common sense be your guide.
Champion breeding pigeons come in all shapes and colors - big, small, ugly, pretty. It is difficult to look at a pigeon and judge its value. The following rules will help a fancier narrow down the field and make educated decisions about breeding potential:
#1. The #1 thing I look for in champion pigeons is long lines of champion pigeons. There are no “one hit wonders” for me. The pigeon must have generations of major winners in the pedigree. Uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents, cousins etc. must have won in major competitions. If this is not the case, I am not interested. One hit wonders are not the pigeons to build your future around.
#2. Whenever possible, I try to determine how others have done with the family of pigeons under consideration. If many fanciers have had immediate success the bloodline could be very special.
#3. I buy from the champion or as close to the champion as possible. The advantage of generations of big winners in the family is that you may be able to purchase pigeons related to the true superstars and still have the genes in your favor to breed major winners for generations to come. Long lines of champions should continue from this bloodline. Many lofts have the misconception that champion racers do not make champion breeders. This is the biggest mistake one can make. In my 35 years of racing and breeding pigeons I have witnessed over and over that true champion racers continue to be champion breeders. This may be because my racers are from long lines of champions. If a pigeon has racked up major wins over several years, he or she will breed super pigeons. This holds true especially for long distance pigeons that have won multiple times at tough races. You do not know what a pigeon that has never raced has genetically, but you do know what a champion has for genes. A champion racer has champion genes. The old expression applies in this case.."the apple does not fall far from the tree". Let me stress that if a pigeon does not come from a long line of champions I do not want him.
#4. One of the greatest fallacies many American fanciers believe is that crosses will not breed. Allow me to set the record straight. Some of the most influential breeding pairs in the history of the sport were total out crosses and raised pigeons that went on to breed champion after champion for generations. There are many examples of crossed pigeons being super breeders so the cross should not be discounted. All things being equal I like an inbred pigeon that I can cross. However, if they breed a champ there is always room in the breeding loft for a crossed star racer.
Now we look at common factors and physical traits to be used in selection in order or importance. The pigeons must have passed #1-4 above to get to the actual bird in hand selection.
A. I have handled many of the greatest breeding and racing pigeons in Belgium over the last 17 years. What do these pigeons have in common? All the champions have super rich, supple, smooth like fine silk, feathering that is easy to remember when you feel it. Feather is born not made. Fanciers frequently ask me “what do you feed the birds to get such amazing feather?” It does not matter what I feed them. Super feather is genetics not some oil seed or bath salt. Select super feather when selecting breeding stock.
A1. Tied with the first factor is buoyancy, buoyancy, buoyancy. A pigeon should handle like he or she is so very light in the hand. Supple silky feather surrounding a cork body is a must. When I was a kid I had an amazing breeding Fabry cock. Like his champion ancestors, this pigeon always handled year round like he was ready for a race. It does not matter if the champ has been locked up for years. He or she should handle like cork. If you hate training like I do, breed from pigeons that live naturally in racing condition. Select buoyancy when selecting breeding stock.
B. Conformation is another mistake many fanciers make. We are not selecting for the show pen. Champion pigeons are flexible. I have seen many good pigeons eliminated because they have a weak back. Our birds are not carrying pianos, they are flying. Most fanciers can not determine the difference from a weak anatomically incorrect back from a flexible back. Champion pigeons (especially long distance pigeons) are very flexible. Champion pigeon bodies almost roll around in your hand. Flying for long hours takes a flexible body. If you watch a pigeon fly in slow motion the body is in a constant state of flux with the air currents. The tail is acting as a rudder to keep the pigeon stable. A stiff lobster type back on a pigeon adds weight and limits flexibility causing the bird to fatigue faster.
C. Character and athleticism. Champion pigeons are athletic. How can we tell if a pigeon is an athlete? Champs move around in flight with little effort. They snap from the floor to their nest with one quick wing beat. They fly around the loft with ease and lack of effort. The true champion shows confidence and has his eyes fixed on you at all times. A winner never looks dull and is always alert. I like to see the facial expressions on a pigeon. The eyes are mirrors to the soul. Again, when I refer to "eyes" I am looking at expressions from several feet. My good friend and America’s all time greatest pigeon fancier Tony Melucci once said to me “A champion pigeon can fly through a key hole”. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
D. "Horses for Courses". Pigeon racing is tough enough without limiting yourself to a certain type or looking for that all around family. Again color does not matter. I do not see color when I select potential stock. Select by color and you will be in for a beating on race day. If you want to race long distance races you need to select pigeons from long distance champion lines. They should be medium sized at best. You may see a large long distance pigeon now and again but do not limit yourself. 90% of all long distance pigeons are medium to small in size. Watch the Boston Marathon and notice that the Kenyans usually dominate the race. They are on the average 5’2” to 5’6” and maybe up to 120lbs. Sprinters are much more powerful looking and have some size. Sprint or middle distance pigeons look like the body builders of the pigeon world but they can not stay in the air for 14 hours. "Horses for Courses" type and style for certain kinds of racing. Distance pigeons have more wing and less body, big oars on a small boat. I had a fancier call me looking to fly a family of only barless blues. I explained to him that winning is difficult enough without strictly limiting your chances for success.
Let’s recap: Long line of champions, great feather, buoyancy, flexibility, character and Horses for Courses.
Notice that I have not mentioned eye theory, wing theory, palate, wind pipe, tongue slit, throat vein, vents, foot scales, squared under wing feathers, horns on the bottom beak and my favorite farce pulling on the pigeon’s beak. Do some of the above apply? They might but if you get caught up in them you will lose track of what is really important. I will now explain my eye theory.
I am always asked things like…Do you look at the eyes? Do you use eye sign? What is your opinion of eye sign? For starters if all things are equal on two pigeons and one has a richer so called breeding eye, I select the richer colored eye. If I had a the choice between two pigeons and one had the most spectacular breeding eye in the history of the sport and the other came from a long line of champions with great feather, buoyancy, flexibility and character, I would choose the latter. The pigeon with the amazing eye will be used as a pumper only.
All that you need to know about eye sign is to breed opposite eye colors together. This is to keep diversity in the line. Also, since pearl is recessive to yellow, you’ll need variation in the pigeons. If you breed pearl to pearl over and over you can get washed out white eyes that are not pleasing and do not take the sun well. Darker and yellow eyes tend to take the bright sunshine better for longer periods.
I will now finish with a little secret the Piet DeWeerd used for selection. As most know Piet is world renowned as a pigeon selector. How did Piet do it? Why were the results with the pigeons that he selected so spectacular?
Piet DeWeerd selected pigeons by going to the top lofts and buying off the best pigeons. It is that simple. Go to the top lofts and buy from the best pigeons. Piet had no secret or special selection process. If someone could select champions by touch (or by eyes etc.) they could look at thousands of $5 pigeons and become a millionaire selecting.
Widowhood racing has been around for nearly 80 years or more. When traveling in Belgium a few years ago I watched a film made in the 1930’s for the World’s Fair. Racing widowhood was featured and identical to how we race now right down to the nest fronts. The misconception was widowhood was a big secret until the 1950’s.
Racing straight widowhood (only cocks) is the easiest and efficient way to race pigeons. Every other system favors the hens. Widowhood favors the cocks. To race old birds you must race a system. That’s right every system is more favorable than the natural system. The last five years up to 2015 we have raced celibate hens. The Celibate hens have flown better than the widow cocks. We now do both and I actually favor the hens.
Many fanciers claim that their hens excel for them so they do not want to change to widowhood. The natural system favors the hens, celibacy favors the hens, and double widowhood favors the hens. Get my point. If you race a system that favors the hens your hens are going to be your better performers. Straight widowhood favors the cocks. For many years I have said I could put everything needed to know about widowhood on one page. The following article does just that.
The number one question and dilemma is should I mate the cocks, raise babies, just eggs, one baby etc. Here is the answer. It really does not matter. This is what I do. My cocks see the hens for the first time shipping night of the first race. I keep it very simple. My reasoning is with no hens I can train and fly the cocks whenever. I use stock hens and extra unbroken hens for the cocks. With no mating and rearing young I can keep the cocks very lean to escape the hawks. My cocks do not waste energy rearing youngsters or driving hens. As for the molt my cocks have usually dropped one maybe two flights by the last race so feather is not a problem. Now the system made simple.
#1. The cocks should spend 30 minutes with hens the first few races before crating for the race. They are left with the hens for two hours after a short race up to overnight on a long race. This is not real important. After week three just open next boxes for 15 minutes before crating for the race. Remove the cocks that are not racing before the hens are brought in. Toss the cocks that did not race to the hens in the morning or place the cocks that did not race back in the loft once the hens have been removed for the day.
#2. The day before shipping (Thursday for me) for a short distance race is the day to feed for the race. On Thursday afternoon if shipping is Friday feed all they want of a mixture of 20% Barley, 70% European mix and 10% Safflower/hemp/flaxseed.
#3. On Friday the day of shipping for a short race, feed 3/4 ounce per bird European mix in the am. Feed ¼ ounce per bird Safflower/hemp/flaxseed about 1:00 pm. Never feed too late into the afternoon or they may dehydrate. Water is always fresh with nothing added day of shipping.
#4. Give a warm bath on day of shipping about one hour after 1:00 pm feeding. The bath relaxes them and helps them stay calm all night on the truck, plus it brings on form. Skip bath if rain is predicted.
#5. Short distance races feed half European mix half depurative mix on day of return to build back reserves. Sunday through Wednesday 100 % depurative, Thursday morning 75% depurative, 25% European. Thursday afternoon see above.
#6. Day of return one gallon of water must contain 1 tablespoon glucose, ¼ teaspoon vitamins and electrolytes (any brand made for chickens will do), ¼ teaspoon iodized salt along with a good friendly bacteria.
#7. For long distance races 400 miles and above, feed the birds 50% depurative and 50% European mix Saturday through Tuesday. Feed mornings and evenings. Wednesday and Thursday with Thursday being day of shipping feed 50% European mix and 50% Safflower, Hemp, rape and flax mix. Feed birds all they want then pull extra feed out.
Vitamins and electrolytes on Wednesday with fresh clear water on Thursday. Pigeons should get vitamins and electrolytes day of return and the day before shipping.
Tuesdays and Thursdays all season for one feeding mix one ½ to one tablespoon flaxseed oil (Buy at Health food store) on grain and add brewers yeast, Belgium pink minerals, Whey protein natural or vanilla flavor and 1/8th. teaspoon of iodized salt.
Grit should be in front of pigeons at all times. Plus one little pot of Belgium Pink Minerals. One little pot of brown mineral block. One little pot of oyster shells and one pot of mixed commercial grit.
#8. Mid season if performance is falls off. Let the cocks come home and spend over night with the hens. The following week, bring in the hens 24 hours before shipping. Put in nest bowls and nesting material. Ship cocks and let them spend over night with the hens when they return. Now go back to regular widowhood. They will be in great form and mentally be ready again.
#9. Keep changing things to keep pigeons fresh.
Always have well fed hens waiting for cocks to return from race.
#10. Keep hens on wire and do not let mate. Feed rich European mix the day the hens will see the cocks. You do not want them to think about eating when the cocks come home.
Feed widow hens barley 5 days per week. Not real heavy, keep them a little hungry.
Treat hens with same medications at the same times as the cocks. Do not let them re-infect cocks. If hens mate up do not use them for the cocks. No hen or sharing of a hen is better than a mated hen. Use stock hens that have been separated to add spark. Use yearling hens, they mate less.
#11. Ship cocks every other week from 300 miles on.
Use your judgment on how they act. If they are acting great pool them.
#12. Training: Let cocks out to free exercise for an hour four to five mornings and two or more evenings per week. You can give a toss to cocks that did not race on the day of the race if needed. Toss one long toss (70 miles) mid-week for the first month of the race season. If they have raced 300 miles or above they can go two weeks without being raced or tossed. They will get all they need around the loft. Do not have the hens waiting when they return from a mid week toss. Seeing the hens too much causes a loss of form.
#13. Keep calm. Do not go in loft while birds are resting. You must do all loft chores while they are out exercising. Widowers just eat, exercise and rest. This is the name of the game. No disturbances!!!!!! Loft should be comfortable and warm. No open areas that cause the birds to fear something outside. Keep moisture out and dryness in by closing loft down on cold or rainy days.
#14. A good sound health program must be followed with canker and respiratory medications given every other week Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday. Rotate the two and use different drugs each cycle. I rotate flagyl, ridsol and emtryl for canker. I rotate, suanovil and doxicycline for respiratory. Baycox for coccidiosis if needed or much dampness and rain is going on for an extended period. Worm the birds around week six or seven. Using different drugs each cycle helps fight resistance to the drug.
Please realize that this health program is designed for the beginner or someone not comfortable recognizing very subtle changes in pigeon health.
McLaughlin Lofts treats instinctively when we feel it is necessary. We rarely iif ever treat the breeders or pigeons in flight pens that may be for sale. We try to treat the race team as little as possible or not at all. If it is not broke we do not try to fix it. Our breeders receive the occasional worming and all natural health products. The least amount of medication the better to build the immune system. During racing you can treat for canker and respiratory to maintain form though out the season. We have not treated the race team in two race season. If your pigeons are kept in dry spacious lofts and have super health, stick to natural products like Apple Cider Vinegar, garlic, vitamins and minerals. The health program below is outstanding. If you are not completely sure of the health of your pigeons it can be followed exactly as written and you will have major success. We also only vaccinate for PMV and salmonella one time at weaning and PMV every other year in a pigeons life. We vaccinate for Salmonella every year.
Natural Products Needed:
Before Breeding - Treat all Pigeons on property:
A. Worm with Quest Gel Horse wormer. One tube makes 8 gallons. Use a blender to mix and do not get wormer on hands. Kills all internal and external parasites. Does not dissolve easily without blender. Leave wormer for 24 hours.
B. Ridsol S 10% 3 teaspoons per gallon for seven days.
Followed by three days Red Cell 1 teaspoon per gallon or chicken vitamin 1/4 teaspoon to gallon.
C. Baycox one teaspoon to the gallon for two days
D. If health is not perfect treat 10 days Amoxicillan 4 grams (4000 milligrams) per gallon. Follow with 1 teaspoon Red Cell mixed with 1 teaspoon Primalac or Probios to the gallon for four days. Primilac and Red Cell three days per week all breeding season. Apple Cider Vinegar one ounce to the gallon three to seven days per week all breeding season.
Before Old bird racing:
A. Worm with Quest Gel Horse wormer. One tube makes 8 gallons. Use a blender to mix and do not get wormer on hands. Kills all internal and external parasites. Does not dissolve easily without blender. Leave wormer for 24 hours.
B. Ridsol S 10% 3 teaspoons per gallon for seven days.
Followed by three days Red Cell 1 teaspoon per gallon.
C. Suanovil 1 teaspoon with Tylan 1/2 teaspoon per gallon for 7 days followed by Red Cell 1 teaspoon per gallon three days.
D. Baycox one teaspoon per gallon for two days.
If health is not perfect treat 10 days Amoxicillan 4 grams (4000 milligrams) per gallon. Follow with 1 teaspoon Red Cell mixed with 1 teaspoon Probios to the gallon for four days. Primalac and Red Cell three days per week all racing season. Apple Cider Vinegar one ounce to the gallon three days per week all racing season.
Fresh water only day of shipping. During race season every other Monday and Tuesday rotate, week one: Ridsol S 10% three teaspoons per gallon, two weeks later one Flagyl tablet per bird that raced. On alternate weeks, Suanovil 1 teaspoon per gallon, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Every two Sundays give Baycox one teaspoon per gallon. Worm the birds one day only mid-season with with Quest Gel Horse wormer. One tube makes 8 gallons. Use a blender to mix and do not get wormer on hands. Kills all internal and external parasites. Does not dissolve easily without blender. Leave wormer for 24 hours.
Minerals must be in front of all pigeons at at all times, Belgian pink minerals, Natural mineral block, grit, oyster shells and magnesium block. Change at least weekly.
On day of return from every race: One teaspoon Red Cell or 1/4 Teaspoon chicken vitamin/electrolyte, Two teaspoons Primalac or Probios, one tablespoon Glucose, 1/8 teaspoon iodized salt all added to one gallon. Red Cell is our iodine supplement of choice.
Tuesdays and Thursdays all season mix one tablespoon of Flaxseed Oil on one can of grain and as much Vanilla Whey Protein as grain will hold.
A. Treat with Ridsol S two teaspoons to the gallon for 7 days when all babies are weaned.
B. Vaccinate for Pigeon Pox, PMV and use Sal-Bac vaccine for Paratyphoid one week apart in June.
C. Treat with same schedule as the old birds.
If young are infected with Adeno-virus (young bird sickness). Give Amoxicillan 4 grams (4000 milligrams) per gallon for ten days. Follow with 1 teaspoon Red cell mixed with 1 teaspoon Probios to the gallon for four days. Red cell and Primalac or Probios three days per week all racing season. Apple Cider Vinegar one ounce to the gallon three days per week all racing season. Fresh water only day of shipping. Feed chicken or pigeon pellets during Adeno-Virus time so any upchucked grain will not be eaten by other healthy pigeons. Do not race or train sick or lethagic pigeons.
At the very first sign of any young bird sickness start with Virkon S. See "Secrets" page. If they are not better go to above.
After race season (old and young birds) and breeding. Baycox 1 teaspoon per gallon for 2 days. 3 days of Red Cell, followed Ridsol S 3 teaspoon per gallon for 5 days. Red Cell for two days. Worm with Quest Gel Horse wormer. One tube makes 8 gallons. Use a blender to mix and do not get wormer on hands. Kills all internal and external parasites. Does not dissolve easily without blender. Leave wormer for 24 hours.
Use Ivermectin Sheep drench 3 cc’s per gallon in the bath water every third week year round. Kills all lice and mites.
Dark System Explained
The Dark System manipulates the length of the day artificially to cause the young birds to molt their body feathers very rapidly while not molting the flight or wing feathers. This system tricks the pigeon’s biological clock to think winter is coming. Think of a late bred raised in the fall. It will molt the body very fast but not drop many flight feathers.
Do not panic if some of the Dark System pigeons continue to molt flight feathers. Some molt the body and will also molt the wing. Some young never drop a flight and other stop after molting a flight or two.
When a pigeon is on a short day length it will only drop the body feathers, which includes the head, neck and shield and not the wing flight primary and secondary feathers. This gives the pigeon the best possible chance of surviving through a harsh winter with a full wing and a fully feathered mature body. The pigeon grows and matures during the body molt. This big burst in size, strength and maturity is nature’s way to best protectthe pigeon. Like reptiles that grow during shedding of skin, pigeons grow very rapidly during the body molt.
Here are a few reasons that make the Dark System such an advantage for racing young birds:
#1. The young birds are sexually mature.
#2. The young are adults in every way except they do not have the adult flight feathers.
#3. The young birds have adult pigeon immunity and are not effected as readily by respiratory, Adeno Virus, Circo virus etc.
#4. The young can be raced on a double widowhood system.
#5. The young have a full wing and are not stressed by racing during the body moult.
#6. The young pigeons are ready every week unless the race is a real disaster.
Here are the disadvantages to racing young birds on the Dark System:
#1. The young will reach maturity so fast; they may be too old physically and mentally when training begins. Losses could be great.
#2. Lack of ventilation during the darkness period could lead to many health problems.
#3. Problems with pigeons going into the old bird season with several baby flights still on the wing.
#4. The young tend to begin to molt the body and wing feathers six to eight weeks into the young bird season.
Here are the misconceptions about the dark system:
#1. You do not have to mate right after Thanksgiving. The pigeons finish the molt in 9 weeks, so if a round is weaned in April and then another in May there is still time to finish the body molt before the young bird season.
#2. The pigeons fly terrible as old birds. Some fanciers report this others have no problems. This could be due to the young being pushed too hard or not finishing the wing molt before the spring old bird season. My suggestion would be, to only race the hens as young birds on the dark system if you are worried. Most likely cause of a drop in results as an old bird is due to the young birds win because of the system. In old birds you are tricked into thinking the birds are better than they really are.
Let the young cocks remain on natural light. Use the cocks as widowers during old birds.
#3. The pigeons can suffer health problems during the darkened stage if the birds are crowded and the ventilation is poor. Install exhaust fans in the roof of the loft that run at all times to draw stale air out. Cut some openings in the floor for the airflow to come from the bottom of the loft without light coming in.
#4. The loft does not have to be totally dark. As long as it gets dark at the same time every day the birds will molt fine. My pigeons can still go down and drink when the loft is closed up. I will explain how the system works followed by how to prevent the problems that may come about.
Dark System Procedures:
Wean the young into a section that has been designed to allow ventilation but can be darkened to somewhat darker than dusk.
#1. Let the sun come up in the morning and darken the loft 9.5 hours later. By doing this the pigeons have the sunrise to adjust their biological clock. Remember you must open the loft at night for it to get light in the morning. If this is not possible you must adapt the system to your schedule. In this case open the loft up and close it up leaving the light for 9.5 hours. You must do this at the same time every day. The strict timing is very important for the pigeons to adjust to the dark system.
Letting the sun rise naturally for the babies is the best system but I have used both with success. If you cannot have a normal sunrise make sure you only train or exercise always during the pigeons 9.5 hours of light.
#2. Feed a high protein grain and give vitamins, mineral and grit regularly. Feed very heavy because the molt will be rapid.
#3. Use garlic or Jedds Avian Solution and friendly bacteria builder in the water four days per week as a natural antibiotic.
#4. Let the pigeons out as much as possible and start them flying young.
#5. Start short tosses as soon as they are flocking. Begin across the yard and down the street and go in very short increments. The young must be trained very young for them to be able to learn. Once they are trained out to 25 miles you do not have to worry but losing them. The dark system pushes the young bird through its learning phase very quickly. On the dark the young become adults at 13 weeks of age instead of five to six months when not darkened.
#6. Once the young are trained out to 25 miles several times, stop them, let them molt and restart again for young bird racing later on.
#7. Two weeks before you begin the second phase of training for the young bird season, put the pigeons on natural day length. After two weeks on natural light start your training the same as you start for every young bird season. The pigeons were already trained out 25 miles earlier in the year, but start slow again unless the pigeons are routing real well.
#8. If possible separate the sexes. You must determine if you want to excel early or late. Leave the sexes together for the first couple weeks of racing if there are many young bird specials at the end of the season. If you want to dominate early separate the sexes two weeks before the first race.
#9. If you do not have the space leave the sexes together the entire season.
What to do during the Race Season?
#1. If the sexes are separated allow them to spend 30 minutes together before shipping.
#2. After returning from the race leave the sexes together for two hours.
#3. The separated sexes must be trained and exercised separately during the week.
#4. After week two of the race season add three hours of day length (by turning on the lights) everyday for the rest of the season. Use natural daylight bulbs that provide the full spectrum of sun light. This causes the young to believe it is mid summer when the wing molt is so very slow. The young will begin to drop the first few flights but the season will be over before the young reach the third or fourth flight. Around 18 hours of light is best.
#5. Race and win!
What to do After the Race season?
#1. After the race season return to normal day length for one month. This will cause the pigeons to begin the molt really fast. The pigeons will start another body molt along with the completion of the wing molt.
#2. When the month is complete run the lights 18 hours per day until the wing molt is finished. use Natural day light bulbs to provide the full spectrum of sun light.
#3. If you did not race the young cocks on the system there is no need to run lights after the month.
The young hens will finish the molt the following year. If you need to race the hens and or cocks that were on the dark try to get them through the molt for old birds by using lights. 4. Feed high protein (16%) with extra flaxseed, safflour, plus plenty of vitamins and minerals until the body moult is finished.
#1. How about racing on the “Dark System” with only half your pigeons? As you wean the youngsters place the young hens on the "Dark System” and the young cocks on natural light. The young cocks will be going through the motions anyway because their future is in the widowhood loft. The young hens can be pushed and raced hard because only the top ones will be bred from and the remaining hens will be used as widow hens.
#2. Want a secret ingredient for super feather, unlimited stamina and superb health. Mix flaxseed oil on the grain and add Brewers Yeast, Whey protein (never use chocolate it is poisonous to birds) and minerals. The flaxseed oil is loaded with Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and must be supplied to the pigeons from their diet. The brewers yeast and whey protein adds essential amino acids.
#3. Looking for youngsters to grow like weeds with the most amazing feather and muscle. A few times per week feed your breeders grain coated with flaxseed oil and mixed with Whey Protein ( never use chocolate is poisonous to birds). Whey Protein is the purest form of protein and comes from yogurt and cheese production. For years the manufacturers tossed it out. Now it is the craze in the athletic world for high performance.
#4. Young birds look sluggish and are not flying. Try adding 50% high quality barley. They will be flying around the loft with endless energy in about a week. Continue 50% barley right through training and early races.
#5. Are vitamins and minerals necessary? Soils are depleted of all the minerals, crops are not rotated, grains are harvested too early or too late, long storage, etc. Multivitamins and minerals are a must. Give several times per week. Let the birds have free choice by putting many types in small cups that are changed weekly on race return day.
#6. Salmonella is a problem that many pigeons battle. The healthy and less stressed the pigeon the less likely salmonella will be a problem. Here is the tip. Apple Cider Vinegar one ounce to the gallon lowers the pH in the gut, which makes the salmonella bacteria less likely to thrive. This vinegar also has many trace minerals in it. Use it everyday during the winter months and two to three days per week during racing and breeding.
#7. Ivermectin the wormer is not very effective against roundworms. Ivermectin is a great wormer but use another that will get the roundworms. Once the worms are eliminated the ivermectin may keep them worm free. Use Moxidectin for worming!
#8. Ivemectin Sheep Drench 3 cc’s to a gallon in the bath water will kill all parasites, lice, mites, flies, depluming mites etc. Give twice monthly and the birds will be pest free. It can be used as a spray, 10 cc’s to the gallon on the loft walls and nests to kill parasites and it is not harmful or will give off any fumes. Never get Ivermectin on your skin or it will penetrate into you. If you are spraying it wear protective gear like a mask and overall suit. Never inhale mist. We have not used anything but ivermectin for parasites in several years. One bath will totally eliminate the stubborn quill mite.
#9. To lengthen a pigeons racing career always give a minimum one day of rest for every two hours on the wing. Do not even let the bird out to fly, no road work. Your birds will all be very fresh come season’s end.
#10. If a pigeon is lost for a long period like a month to a year, treat it like gold. Anyone who has ever had a pigeon live wild and then return usually has a champion on his or her hands. Let the pigeon go through a normal molt before being raced hard and watch the vitality it has and the possessiveness it displays.
#11. Home attic fans that are thermostatically controlled are a super idea
for loft. My fans are set to go on when the under side of the roof reaches 95 degrees.
#12. Rabbit pellets can offer the birds the best greens possible in an easy to use form. Try a couple of handfuls per section per week. Your pigeons and your results will be glad you did.
#13. Remember that are squab grows so rapidly the first 25 days that one missed feeding will stunt it. Feed the breeders several times per day or place the feed in large feeders. It is so very important that the babies are being pumped by the parents at sun up and sun down.
#14. Have an old cock that you are afraid he will go sterile soon? Never take him away from a hen. Leave him mated all winter. Being around the hen will help keep his testosterone level a little higher then if he was separated from the hens. A couple more productive years may result.
#15. Do you have an old sterile and nearly crippled cock? Let this old boy live with your widow hens. He will keep the focus of the hens so they will not mate with other hens. He is also too old and blind to pick one hen and start a family. This works!
#16. Widowers look dull and tired? How about giving the hens on Thursday along with nest bowls and nesting material and leaving them with the girls until the Monday after the race. Now separate and see how invigorated the cocks are for the next several weeks.
#17. Adeno virus is a problem in most combines during young birds. When it is first heard that adeno has struck local lofts give 1 heaping teaspoon of Aureomycin concentrate to the gallon of water and continue this until adeno has passed. The aureomycin concentrate helps settle the gut and keeps everything in check and the birds will continue to digest their feed and not upchuck. This is a big secret I have used for several years with very little problems of adeno in my young bird team. If the birds are hit hard with adeno virus give amoxicillan. At first signs of upchucking the birds can be fed pellets which is easily digested and will not be consumed by healthy young if upchucked. See "Secrets" page about Virkon S.
#18. How about giving the young birds pepper leaves from the garden along with basil leaves, garlic chives and dandilion greens. They love it and your young birds health will improve.
#19. I purchase garlic bulbs and liquify them in the blender with a little water. I pour the mix into ice cube trays, freeze and throw a cube in each waterer. Take some time and make a big bag of garlic ice.
#20. All my waters are 5 gallon buckets with the tops cut down and a two inch drill hole punch is used to make three holes. I make a plywood cover with a 2 X 6 block fastened on the underside with screws, to keep the top in place. Each waterer is measured to hold slightly more than a gallon.
#21. Never use garden lime in the pigeon loft. It is high alkaline and that is exactly what salmonella needs to survive. There are plenty of Belgian loft whites on the market and they are not dusty. Rub them into the wood for a great white finish and nothing sticks to the wood.
#22. Grated floors are excellent except during the racing season. Many Belgians removed the grates in their racing lofts after a couple of years of trying. They claimed the birds did not come into proper form. If the Belgians are doing it I am doing it. If you do have grates place solid floors over them during the race season.
#23. Widowhood, double widowhood, widow hens, natural? What is the best? Here is the scoop. There is no better system than straight widowhood racing only cocks. This is the #1 system known and if one comes along that is better for racing old birds I will let everyone know about it. Every other system favors the hens.
#24. Do birds drink during a long or tough race? In the heat pigeons stop and drink or even land in the water to drink during a race. I would not be surprised if they drink several times during a long day. My cock “Dragon” that won the New England Open 600, in 95 degree heat on the day by a huge margin had sea weed on his band. So do not try to fool yourself. If they are hot and see water they will drink during the race.
#25. Why all the losses during young bird season? The biggest cause is the young birds are not trained young enough. Pigeons learn best when young. If you wean in January you better start training those young by old bird season or your losses will be great. Light and dark systems push the birds to maturity so they must be trained out to about 35 miles long before the molt is finished. Treat for respiratory an canker before you start training.
#26. You can feed your breeding pigeons any type of feed and raise beautiful youngsters as long as you have many types of minerals in front of the breeders. Vitamin deficiencies do not affect the pigeons nearly as much as mineral deficiencies. Brown, black and pink minerals, oyster shells, grit mix and magnesium blocks will lead to spectacular young.
#27. Need to save one of your champions that looks like he or she may die. Put a 500mg capsule of amoxicillan down the birds throat. You will have to wet the capsule so it will slide down as you push it with your little finger. This is a last resort but in many cases the bird will turn around. The 500 mg is a high dose and can be repeated a few days in a row. I have had super results doing this.