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Recently I was asked if I would help several fanciers get a better understanding of the double widowhood system. It was suggested we set up an email group so together they could ask questions and I could send back my thoughts.
I thought this could turn into a series of blog posts and replied that I would be willing to do so.
So here was their first question:
Jan 4, 2018
R has paired his widowhood team and they are down on youngsters about a week old. Where does he go from here? My thinking is to move one of the youngsters and the hens to the young bird loft when the youngsters are about 15 days old and leave the pairs separated until closer to the race season? I also have several questions related to lighting and moult. I think the last thing R wants right now is to trigger a moult in his widowhood team. Correct?
Obviously, R has paired these birds either at the end of Nov. or early Dec. 2017. If that’s the case I would assume he used lights to extend their daylight. I, do the same I extend the daylight to 14 hours 2 weeks before pairing for the cocks and only 7 days for the hens. I found that two weeks of extended daylight for hens was problematic as many were pairing up. Some, laid in the bowls a day or two after putting them together with the cocks. Wasted time and energy for the hens as the eggs would be infertile and the hens would have to start the cycle all over again.
I left the lights on after pairing till 80% or so were on eggs. Turned them off in the race loft fearing exactly the question X asked, the moult. The extended day was left as is (14 hrs.) in the breeding loft, no worries if they moulted.
Get those youngsters weaned around 18-21 days, if the hens lay an egg or two at this stage let them at it, they likely will only sit on them for a day or so before the pairs are separated and that’s not long enough to stimulate the moult. Toss the eggs when you wean the youngsters. I have hens lay eggs after separating all the time in their own loft and from my observations it hasn’t caused a problem.
Wean the youngsters to their own loft, at 18-21 days they will readily learn to eat and drink on their own. Don’t extend their (YB) day length at this stage, keep everything natural.
The same day I wean the youngster, I separate the hens to their own section where mine have spent the winter and will spend their time during the race season. If there are few pairs that were a bit behind in laying and have youngsters too young to wean, just leave them with the cock, in the race loft, to raise the babies. This has never caused a problem in my lofts, usually it’s only for a few days and the other cocks are still worried about their own families and leave the other pairs alone. As soon as you can, split them up and wean their youngsters, they will be eating and drinking right along with the older ones in a day or so.
After separating and weaning the youngsters I believe it is imperative to get the race birds settled down and in a routine again. No more light, a half hour or so if you’re late from work and want to check or feed the birds won’t be a problem. Get everything back to as close to normal as you can.
The separated race birds have been on a breeding mix while feeding their babies. A mix containing a high percentage of peas, I would assume. Get them on a light mix, I use Beyers Galaxy Sport Light and leave them on it right through training, you will find they come into good condition and exercise readily, some general info on the Galaxy mixes is available at the link below. http://www.beyersbelgium.be/en/news/galaxy-mixtures-the-system-of-the-future/
Just watch the hens they will have to be fed less than the cocks. At this point, I hand feed the hens and when one or two go for a drink I stop. If overfed they will pair up. Controlling their feed works. If they do begin to act broody, cut the feedback a bit, you will be amazed at, how little feed they need. Hens use feed more efficiently than cocks. If fed right, the ability of a good quality, to recuperate week after week, is astounding. They certainly are not the weaker sex.