Over the last ten years we have been hearing about young bird sickness as a general condition that affects birds at some point during the first six months of their lives. I will try to explain the three possible afflictions of young bird sickness and offer some insight on how we can limit and control these problems. In a later article I will address PMV, Salmonella and Pox, which are also a young bird problem, but do not fall under the category of young bird sickness.
Pigeons have been in existence for an eternity, surviving on their own before there was more knowledge about keeping them healthy. I am a firm believer that you can race successfully, even without flock-treating the pigeons with antibiotics. The commitment to natural health and an antibiotic-free flock, takes time and will not happen overnight.
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:
How many in the sport realize that we are dealing with pigeons? Yes, they are pigeons, a very hardy and resistant creature that has millions of years of evolution behind it. I must laugh when I hear how fanciers are treating their pigeons like they have the constitution of butterflies. Some fanciers worry that one missed step will lead to disaster. My top breeding pigeons are allowed into
uncovered flight pens every day of the year. From snowstorms to torrential rain the pigeons go into pens whenever they choose.
When I started racing pigeons, back in the mid 1970’s, we have we had very few choices for medication. I remember Emtryl for canker, Pipezine for worms, Aureomycin, Sulmet and Terrimycin for just about everything else.
Breeding top performing racing pigeons takes some skill, luck, and excellent stock. With that said, many US fanciers are always on the quest for pigeons that are pure, inbred, line bred, straight, etc. Many are looking for endless generations without the introduction of a cross. What do the real champions do?
Have you ever wondered why pigeons, who perform well in a certain one-loft race, tend to breed pigeons that are also successful in the same race? Can grandchildren demonstrate similar results as well? Why do pigeons from the race team tend to breed better young for local racing?
Occasionally, I look through the “Tips and Secrets” that I wrote on my website and realize I have forgotten to do some of the basics, that was once deemed necessary. I have come to realize that my mind is not the best place to store all the important information. Good notes can prevent you from missing the most basic needs of our pigeons.
There is a saying..."if you become a master at feeding pigeons, you will become a master at racing pigeons." This is very simplified, but the body weight going into a race is extremely important.
Common Sense and Pigeons go hand and hand. Nearly 50 years ago, when I was a 10-year-old just starting out, we would visit local fanciers. I soaked up all information like a sponge, but always asked "why?” Many times, the old champ could not give me a reason, and I hated not knowing why. At a young age, I realized that if they do not know the answer, then maybe I should attempt to figure it out myself. I used common sense, observation and trial and error. If someone does not know why they do something, then I would question applying their method.
I felt it was time to point out a common error many, even, long-established fanciers, make at weaning. I have been hearing for years that some lofts, during weaning, force their babies to eat large grains or peas exclusively, prior to feeding any other seeds or pellets.
If your pigeons are extremely healthy, going into the breeding season, and you as the owner provide every possible grain, pellet, vitamin and mineral, there is no reason why the breeding pairs cannot raise six to nine rounds without any detrimental effects. At McLaughlin Lofts, we allow our very best pairs to raise their own young, starting in February and, in some cases, finishing in October or even November.
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.
Please realize that this health program below is designed for the beginner or someone not comfortable recognizing very subtle changes in pigeon health. We are McLaughlin Lofts do not flock treat the birds ever. We only use Natural Products and will individually treat a sick pigeon. For my thoughts on Health please see three Short Articles by Frank. Below is for a very new fancier that cannot recognize subtle changes in health. This is the system from the past.
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.
Mother Nature give birds and animals the best possible advantage to survive through the harshest times of the year. When winter arrives, pigeons must be in best position to manage the lack of food and extremely high predation. They cannot have any disadvantages place upon them by molting.
Before the Dark System or Light System, we only had moderate control of the molt of flight feathers during racing. One option that I have used for the last 50 years continues to be used today by many. You can delay the molting of a flight by removing 1/16 of an inch off the tip of the flight that you do not want to be molted. This must be done as soon as the previous flight is molted or better yet before the previous flight is molted.