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FEEDING

Feeding is one of the hardest skills to master as a new pigeon flyer. If you cannot master the art of feeding your pigeon, you will be flying in the also-ran category. Many new fanciers have the tendency to overfeed their bird, and many races are lost through this improper feeding. If you overfeed, you can lose the best bird in the world if you send it to a race as a soft, plump bird ready for the table - not the race. You notice I said "bird". A pigeon is an individual and it is up to you to spend enough time to know it - how to feed it, train it, and make it want to race home.

Now to the "birds". Many new fanciers overfeed their birds. Don't let your pigeons trick you into thinking they are still hungry. What they are really doing is checking to see if you are a pushover or the boss. Be strict with your feeding, but certainly not to the point of starvation, and they will know you are the boss. They will thank you for this through their race performance.

Start by measuring the amount of feed you give your birds. One ounce per bird per day is a good starting point. I hardly ever give a bird more than 1 1/2 ounces of feed per day, unless they are feeding babies. Give them 1/3 to 1/2 this amount in the morning and the remainder in the evening. Always have a little barley in the evening feed and if they are really hungry, they will eat the barley before drinking water. After a few of the birds have gone to drink, remove any remaining feed. Birds don't fly or race well with a full crop, so always feed after a fly, not before. When you call the birds into feed - those that don't come in don't get any feed until the next feeding time. Pigeons will soon learn who is in command at the loft. If only a few of the birds come when you call them then you are feeding too much. You also don't want them so hungry they won't fly around the loft, but rush into the loft for feed then you are not feeding enough. Too hungry or too fat - birds don't fly. Don't change the amount of feed in a hurry. Gradually work any change into their routine so you do not upset them.

Tame birds are easier to handle and more comfortable in the loft. It also makes working with them a pleasure. Scared pigeons are not fun to work with. I always have a little treat that I hand feed feed every bird when they are in their perches for the night. This shows them that I care for them and it helps make the birds tame. If you go into the loft and the birds are afraid of you, you have already lessened their performance on race day. The pigeons should trust you and be happy to see you. Love of home and the proper feed - this is a winning combination.

Feeding Tips - Tipplers vs Racing Pigeons

I asked Stan: How do you feed your tipplers for sustained flights? Answer: "In any case, my tipplers are fed a "depurative" type of feed for training that is barley, kafir, wheat, and safflower. They will fly about 5 hours or so on this type of feed twice a week only....long time flying...feed them more carbohydrate grains and not too many peas, and also give them oily seeds such as rape, niger, flax, oat groats, and peanut hearts though not much of the last two..."

What about oat groats? "Oat groats are high in protein and fat and give the birds a boost. However, the birds should only be given this boost prior to a contest and not in a large amount. A little goes a long way! Oats groats are given along with other with other seeds or grains that are high in fat. The fat content offsets the high protein being that the by-product of fat is moisture. If protein is fed on the day prior to a contest then the birds digestive system must convert the protein to carbohydrates for energy and in doing that the moisture that is used for digestion causes the bird to become thirsty... meaning that it won't continue flying much longer...Why not try a diet that is high in protein at first and then high in carbohydrates the last few days prior to a race?"

My reply to Stan: A high protein mix after a competition is what I do. By midweek the birds are on a 1/2 protein - 1/2 carbohydrate mix. By the end of the week, the birds are on a carbohydrate mix with added fat depending on the race distance. So, I think we both feed the same way, except that I have never used oats groats. I just bought a #25 bag of them for my birds. I agree with you that fat contains moisture, and that most things should be fed in very light quantities to pigeons, since they only weigh a pound or so.

BREEDING PIGEONS

Proper use of breeding methods (inbreeding/linebreeding) is mandatory to produce quality pigeons. Useful breeding combinations include: father/daughter; brother/sister; cousins; 1/2 brother x 1/2 sister; father/granddaughter; uncle/niece, etc. Also cross differnt inbred/linebred stains for hybrid vigor. In all breeding, mate only the highest quality pigeons together.

Since I have a limited amount of white breeders, I need to introduce a cross now and then to strengthen the genes. To do this, I use one of my non-white birds which is also an outstanding pigeon. I mate cross this bird in and then mate father/daughter or mother/son as the case maybe, to breed the color back out. The mating of f/d or m/s will produce some all white birds which can be used to mate back to other of my white racers and strengthen their genes. This breeding process can be used over and over again whenever necessary. If you also mate the white offspring from the f/d or m/s mating, you should get all white birds. This mating of brother/sister in intense inbreeding and the progeny should be severely tested before using in any breeding program. This same breeding process can be used to uncover/recover recessive genes as in the case of recessive red and other recessive traits.

Genetics is why the breeding of two champion racers does not ensure champion young birds. In fact, only 10% or so of birds bred make good racing pigeons. As some colors are recessive to other colors in pigeons, then likewise racing ability (winners) is also recessive. You must mate two birds carrying the recessive trait together to produce another bird with the same traits. The vast majority of pigeons sent to races are blue. Blue in pigeons is recessive to red in pigeons. Recessive color must also equate with racing ability.

Only breed out of top racing pigeons,preferably thso who have excelled at races for several years. What you are looking for are birds that are consistent - in the points; in the money; uptown birds. If you breed out of birds that haven't raced, you are into experimental (hopeful) breeding, which can be fun, but rarely produces a champion bird. Breeding a loft full of hopefuls weakens your future as a pigeon racer. Know the quality of your breeders (their racing record + bloodline) and you have a pretty good idea of the quality of your young birds before they hatch. You can also help by giving the best possible feed to your birds while they are breeding. Feeding your breeders poorly can be the same as breeding from a loft full of hopefuls. The best thing you can have in your loft is a pair of breeders which will breed you a champion bird. Keep your eyes open and your senses alert, or you may miss your champion.

I stress the fact that the racing and homing ability of a pigeon is a recessive trait, and so are most of the qualities that make a pigeon useful for breeding. If this wasn't the case, we would have many more champion racing pigeons. There are hundreds of thousands of pigeons hatched every year that are trash birds. Whose fault is it that this many birds are bred every that are losers? How many birds do you lose every year and how many do you cull in a given year because they are losers? How many really good pigeons do you raise every year? Don't be a pigeon fancier who breeds hundreds of birds a year in the hope that one or two of them will turn out to be a winner. Know what you are breeding from and why you are bredding from them, and you won't have to breed hundreds of birds to get a winner.

Notes

Use no drugs on youngbirds, use weakens natural immune system. If you breed from birds that had illnesses as ybs, and you cured them from some malady, chances are the parents will pass this trait of getting sick on to their young. Young birds should cure themselves of illnesses. Survival of the fittest is the only way to develop a healthy and winning team of birds. Drug resistant strains of bacteria which affect birds and humans are on the rise due to the misuse of drugs. Use no drugs and only the strong will survive. Keep your loft secure, safe, sanitary, spacious, good air transfer, and dry.

Only 10% or so of birds bred make good racing pigeons. It must equated with genetics. As some colors are recessive to others in pigeons - then likewise racing ability is recessive to loser pigeon. Genetics is why the breeding of two racers does not always produce a racing pigeon. If racing ability is recesssive, then you must mate two birds carrying the recessive traits together to produce a racer. It must take two recessives to make a racing pigeon. Is that why the majority of pigeons sent to races are blue? Since blue is a recessive color - does recessive color equate in any way with racing ability? Lack of racing ability ( only 10% or so really have it) and overcrowding have something to do with youngbird losses.

Young bird losses occur because of poor genetics (lack of homing ability) and overcrowding. Take for example what pigeons do when there is not enough food for them in the wild. If you take two groups of pigeons and feed them both the same amounts - the size of the groups will remain the same. However, if you decrease the amount of food in one group and add it to the other group, one group will shrink, and the other group will grow in size according to the amount of food available. This example also works when the amount of space each pigeon has is taken into account. Pigeons know when there is not enough food and space for them in the loft and will naturally thin their ranks until the correct amount of food and space is made available to them.


Questions and Answers

Question: Jef asked, why wine? Answer: First, I use more of it than my pigeons do. Second I use it in their electrolyte mix. I add wine to the simple electrolyte mix by Basil Gossman and others. I use one teaspoon salt, four teaspoons sugar, and one tablespoon wine. Basil recommended adding this amount of salt and sugar to two liters of water. I disagree with this and use ten liters of water for my mix. This amount of water may seem like the mix is too diluted/weakened, but I don't think so. I think the mix was too strong with only two liters of water. After all, a pigeon only weighs a pound or so, and anything that small doesn't need much of anything to affect it.

Wine has added sugar, plus some acidity, and yeast. All of these ingredients aids the pigeons digestion. I give this to the birds once a week and after a race. Also sometimes before a race depending on the distance.