Success in breeding, conditioning and showing pigeons is a year round undertaking that involves many different elements - from proper loft conditions and a stress free environment to feed preparation and supplements, vaccinations, parasite control and so on. Over the past 30 years I have made many adjustments to the way I manage my birds and it has been a slow progressive process. Today I have a system that has given me the best results I have ever achieved and I would like to share that with my fellow pigeon enthusiasts.
Last year I experienced one of my poorest breeding seasons in recent memory and this had followed some very productive years. This forced me to look at changing the way I manage my birds. Some of the issues I was faced with were a lack of fertility from my cock birds, youthful hens that either would not lay or were producing very poor quality eggs and a lack of thriftiness in some of my birds. Birds were sent to the University for Study and it was found that some of the birds had a bad infestation of tape worms. I was shocked as I wormed my birds each fall with Ivomec. No disease or virus was detected and the birds seemed otherwise normal. I began to rethink why I had this problem and could only figure that I had allowed my feeders to free fly after the breeding season and they had been re-infected by wild pigeons that had entered the loft. However I felt that there was more to this than just the round worms. I began talking to many successful breeders and racers from around the world as well as to vets including Dr. Gordon Chalmers. With the changes I made I have just completed the best breeding season I have had. From 40 pairs of Jacobins I have bred 200 young birds in a 4 month breeding season with 38 of these pairs producing youngsters for me. Cockbirds that did not fertile are now filling. Everyone one of my hens has laid consistently and the eggs are of excellent quality and my birds are very healthy and in great condition. The following is the health program I have adopted.
Firstly my birds are not crowded. My lofts are clean and dry with lots of sunlight and fresh air. My birds get fresh water and a balanced clean feed mix that changes with the season to meet their requirements. Fresh grit with a high calcium content (oyster shell and limestone) during the breeding season is always provided This was always the case for my birds but without these basics you will struggle regardless of what you do.
I do not medicate my birds needlessly. I have also stopped using chlorine in any form in the drinking water. To start with I followed the recommendation of some fellow breeders in the U.S. and I went on the Chisholm Trail Program. I am sure that there are other products that will work also but I am just sharing that this is what I have done and this has worked so very well for me. This program offers a powder that is rich in vitamins and minerals as well as beneficial gut bacteria and it is now available through a supplier in Canada. This powder is mixed with the feed. I use an equine product called "Red C" that can be purchased at most feed supply places that sell horse products to bind the powder to the feed. "Red C" is a vitamin and trace mineral supplement used in performance horses. I add a quarter cup of Red C and a half a cup of Chisholm Trail powder and mix with 50 pounds of feed. I now give this to my birds 365 days a year.
In addition I use a product called "acid pack 4 way" at a rate of one teaspoon to two and a half gallons of water two to three times a week. This is a product commonly used on young pigs so it can be purchased at most feed companies that supply pig feed. I think this stuff is great. It has a really good smell, keeps the water crystal clear and keeps the proper acidity level in the gut of the pigeons so they can digest properly. The droppings of the birds stay firm and have little odor also. I no longer use chlorine in the water as it also kills the good gut bacteria that allow the pigeon to digest properly and fight off intestinal ailments. In addition to this I worm my birds with Ivomec twice, 21 days apart with the last treatment being a month before I mate up my birds in the spring and I repeat this in the fall after I have completed the breeding season, when all the babies are weaned. I am also very careful not to allow wild or stray pigeons to gain access to my loft, so I have restricted free flying time to when I am there to watch. I also do a flock treatment for canker two weeks before I pair the birds up and may treat again for canker in the hot months, but only if a problem flares up. It is good to note that you can use the "acid pack 4 way" in the water along with any medication you may need to use and it can actually help the meds work more effectively. I am completely convinced that these changes have done wonders for my birds. If you have any questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.