Ready for training (road work)

This morning when I let the hens out at 8:30 for their morning exercise there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the temperatures were still cool, right at 0° C and there was frost on the roof with a raw breeze blowing out of the SE. Brrrr, we’re only 17 days away from our first scheduled race. Considering the temps I was surprised the hens flew as well as they did, I didn’t see them for almost an hour and then they continued to zip over the loft from time to time, taking of again for 5 minutes or so at a time, for another hour. The cocks finally got out to fly at 11:00. They are still out as I write this.

One day at a time, they are flying themselves into race condition around the loft and show that as soon as we get a few warmer days I can take them up the road to sharpen their orientation faculties. Don’t make the mistake of road training your pigeons if they aren’t flying around the loft willingly for 40 minutes or more, they aren’t ready and forcing them to fly won’t condition them either. If they aren’t ready and you begin giving them roadwork, you’ll hurt them physically and mentally, likely ruining your season before it even starts.

Look for the reasons they aren’t flying. Are they too heavy? Are they to thin? Do they have dark coloured breasts? Does the feathering feel hard and dry?  All signs of lack of condition.
What can we do. First I would put them on a light mix and give them all they want. Just plain barley won’t do either, way to one sided, not ideal, you wouldn’t eat just potatoes for a week straight, would you? Find a mix similar to Beyers Recup, it’s light and balanced. For the last month, just after the babies were weaned, mine have been on Beyers Vandenabeele Mix and the Beyers Recup.

I would almost bet that these birds are getting way too many peas. Pigeons don’t fly on protein, they fly on carbohydrates and fat. They need a good quality protein after the race for a few feedings to repair any muscle damage, but there are better,more efficient ways of providing them with good quality protein than feeding them peas. They can’t process a diet higher than 18% raw protein, any in excess of that amount is a waste of money , the pigeons system will attempt to convert the excess protein into carbohydrates and that certainly overtaxes the kidneys and liver in their attempt to rid the body of all the extra nitrogenous products, one of the signs is the blue flesh on a pigeons breast instead of a nice rosy, pink colour.

Check the lofts ventilation, make sure it’s working correctly. Make sure they aren’t sitting in a draft, there is a huge difference between a well ventilated loft and a drafty loft. If you don’t feel comfortable in your loft, neither do your pigeons. Last but by no means least are your lofts dry. Wet, damp lofts promote fungal growth, a pigeon breathing fungus spores will  have major problems with its lungs. Fungal infected lungs are very difficult to clear up. Fungal growth in a pigeons lungs can and will cause permanent damage. While we are on the subject of lungs, keep your lofts clean, if possible scrape everyday, especially on those damp days when  the droppings don’t dry. Droppings release ammonia and if you have ever had a whiff of straight ammonia, I don’t have to explain to you what happens to a pigeon lungs if it’s breathing low levels of ammonia for days or weeks at a time.

Take some dropping samples to a vet, it doesn’t have to be a pigeon or poultry vet specifically, the can all do the basics, have them check for worms and cocci. The cost isn’t all that excessive and will tell you exactly what ‘s going on. I would prefer a vet’s advice over the advice from some old hand at the club, he’s guessing and we can all guess. I do have a PET PEEF with our Canadian vets. There seems to be a real lack of knowledge on their part, on doing throat swabs for canker (trichomonas gallinae) and checking under the microscope. Have only come across one in all the time I have been involved in the sport and he moved on, don’t think it was anything personal.

In many areas pigeon racing has become a very competitive sport and only pigeons at the top of their game have a chance of placing at the front. Treat and care for them like the athletes they are and they will reward you. The top lofts and managers don’t take days off, they make sure their charges are in good condition all year round, they don’t have magic potions and secrets. Their secret is paying attention to the details all year round and their drive, that is, their will and desire to be  the best they can.