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. We continuously read the simplicity of the pigeon game, such as a good loft, good pigeons, excellent health, no drafts and sound management and motivation. Seems easy enough, however, when considering ways of controlling pigeons, I consider the basics of a good loft. Is it spacious, provides adequate sunlight and is it well ventilated?
Good Loft: More pigeons need more air, which means drafts. When you hear that a loft has no drafts, you can assume the loft has very few pigeons. Controlled temperatures, humidity and drafts only pertain to the race team. Many of my pigeons live in open flight pens year-round, and their health is excellent.
Good Pigeons: Today, everybody has fairly, good pigeons. However, this was not the case 20+ years ago. Everyone likes to reminisce about the great pigeons of yester-year, and in the history of the sport, there have never been better pigeons than today. Although selection and competition have steadily improved the pigeons, keep in mind that not everybody shows improvement and can ruin a family of pigeons in two generations.
If you enjoy one loft racing, buy winning pigeons from many fanciers, under different systems and climates. Be leery of someone who totally dominates their competition, as a loft that dominates the competition, does not have competition. Look at the Antwerp region of Belgium, where nobody dominates. Top fanciers have standout seasons and pigeons, but no domination. Learn to read a race sheet, look at prevailing winds and consider who has the best pigeons in the race. The longer the distance, the more pigeon and less system comes into play.
Good Health: Pigeons that are not stressed and not over-crowded, tend to be much healthier than pigeons in a crowded environment. By giving them plenty of space, care and sound nutrition, your pigeons will glow year-round, and sickness will not be a problem. You must find the carrying capacity of your loft to determine what number per section is best. A few less pigeons, with increased health in the loft or section, will raise excellent young and show better performance on the race team.
Once the pigeons are healthy, it is simple to continue their health with natural products. Again, start with the basics and ensure that the pigeons have been wormed and are parasite free. Canker is the next issue, but a good, natural immunity to canker, is important. Do not treat more than what is needed and keep the breeders wormed and free of external parasites. Success will follow if vaccinations are up to date. The race team may need more regular treatments for Canker and Respiratory unless you are determined like me to go completely medication free. The less the breeding pigeons are treated with antibiotics the healthier they will become over time. My favorite natural products are apple cider vinegar, probiotics, oregano extract and fresh ground garlic. An array of mineral supplements consistently given to the will also keep them healthy.
Sound Management: Pigeon care must be a priority 365 days of the year. The best lofts focus on care year-round, as we cannot just shelve them until next season. The care provided in the off season, while the pigeons are molting, will benefit during the racing and breeding seasons.
Motivation: Pigeons are territorial and fly for the love of their loft, and their territory within the loft. This goes hand and hand with not over-crowding the loft. A pigeon that owns several nest boxes has more motivation than a pigeon that owns a V-perch. Motivation and tricks may work for short races. Long distance depends on the pigeon’s innate love of home and desire to defend the property it owns in the loft.
One Loft Racing: Today the focus for many fanciers is “one loft racing” or out of area futurities. The fancier only has a short time with the babies before they are in someone else’s care. The first 30 to 40 days of a pigeon’s life are crucial to the future of the one loft entries success.
Things to Keep in Mind: A) One missed feeding will stunt a baby. Rich, high protein and high-fat feed must always be available. Long periods between the babies being fed by the parents can also stunt the babies. If you winter-breed, you must run the lights for at least 18 hours a day. Getting lazy while the babies are in the nest, will lead to disastrous results.
B) Minerals, Minerals, Minerals: You can feed the breeders an adequate mix with endless minerals, and your babies will be gorgeous. Feeding the best grains available, but without the minerals, will stunt the growth of the babies. Throughout the entire year, our pigeons will always have minerals available. These minerals include Belgian Pink vita-mineral, brown mineral blocks, Jovati Minerals or All in One, pick pots with mineral blocks inside, magnesium blocks, black minerals, grit mix, calcium chips, etc., etc.
We occasionally buy new brands of minerals to make sure the pigeons are not missing anything. This year we raised nine rounds from our best pigeons. They raised babies throughout the entire molt, and the pigeons handled excellent at any stage of the process. This was not only due to the quality of the pigeon and natural healthy but, a result of the minerals. If your breeders start to break down or go light during the breeding system, they are mineral deficient. Five to seven rounds bred from healthy pigeons, with endless minerals, is no big deal, and our breeders raise babies through the heat of the summer, with no ill effect.
C) Vaccinations are the next step import step of the owner, prior to sending the pigeons to the one loft race. PMV at weaning and, Salmonella Vaccine, given just before shipping is adequate.
D) Shipping. If you are sending four babies in a box, use a four-bird box. Do not try to save $50 on shipping for pigeons being entered into a Million Dollar Race. I once received up to nine pigeons in a four-bird box, that needed to be shipped to Africa. My first thought when I looked was “they have no chance."
E) Buy a bulb syringe at the pharmacy or from the pigeon supply house. This is a rubber tear-drop shaped syringe designed to clear mucous from an infant’s nose or mouth or one designed for pigeons. I place about an ounce or more of water in every youngster, as I place them in the box. The rubber syringe is easy to use, and the babies will not suffer from dehydration during travel to the race.
McLaughlin Lofts has applied the above methods to our babies every year and have had top scores in many one loft races and futurities. This includes firsts in races within the series. Until Next Time, Frank McLaughlin