As we all know this applies to everything we do in life and it is just as important when it comes to being successful in breeding, showing and keeping pigeons in general. It does not matter how nice your loft is or how much you spend on buying top birds, fancy feed or anything else, if you do not spend the time with your birds! If you do not take the time to study the standard and compare your birds to the ideal you will never be able to breed better quality. If you do not spend the time to study your birds to know each ones strengths and weaknesses you will never be able to put pairs together that will produce superior offspring. But even more important is the little day to day things that need attention. Like emptying and cleaning the feed and water dishes, or feeding more than once a day so the babies are nice and full before a cool night sets in. This can prevent lots of chilling. Now I know that not everyone has enough time to get everything done in a day. Family and work obviously come first so we each must decide how much time we can set aside for our birds and then only keep what we can properly care for. I cannot begin to tell you how to care for your birds. I can relate to you what I do each day and throughout the year with my pigeons and some of the problems I have managed to avoid or correct just by taking an extra moment to check something or by stopping to think before leaving for the day.
Each morning I mix my feed fresh. I empty the water bowls and rinse them out, dump out the left over feed from the previous day and give fresh grain. If I notice a certain compartment of birds is eating different types of grain I will change the mix to accommodate them. As I am feeding each group I am always scanning the birds looking for individuals that may not appear normal or healthy. Because I know my birds and I know pigeons, I know how a healthy one should behave. So if I see one that does not come to eat right away, or that is not alert, or is not resting on its usual perch - I immediately pick it up, look at its eyes and in its beak for signs of canker or mucus and for proper colour. I smell its breath to detect any odor that should not be there. I check the body condition by feeling the breast and I look at the vent for signs of loose droppings, staining or lumps. I will also scan the floor and perches to see if the droppings appear normal, which is an excellent sign of health in a flock. I also am constantly smelling the air to see if I can detect any odors such as ammonia, sour or foul smells which tells me if there is a wet spot in the loft, a sick bird, mould or wet feed or anything else. In my lofts I expect there to be no bad odor. Clean fresh air is all I want to smell. I am also constantly listening for any unusual sounds such as sneezing or loud breathing. Once you get experience your senses can tell you so much and it can become a huge asset to keeping your birds healthy. If I find a bird that I feel is not quite right I immediately remove it from the population and confine it in a quiet, warm, stress free environment and do what I can to correct the situation. I then stop what I am doing and wash my hands before I handle any more birds or feed.
After I am done feeding and watering I then take my record book and start going through every compartment, nest by nest. I check and record everything. I mark down any eggs that have been laid, candle the ones for fertility that are old enough, check any that are due to hatch, and throw away eggs that are no good after the hen has had a chance to rest for 10 days. I will let some older hens rest longer. If an egg is hatching I will make sure to come back and check it again in the late afternoon and evening to see if it needs help. I am always careful never to rush the hatching process and never help the baby if there are signs of bleeding from the membrane. Once the babies hatch I will then check the next morning to make sure they are fed. If I am not satisfied I will hand feed the baby to give it strength with Parrot hand feeding formula and if need be switch it to parents that I know will feed it. I will also check each baby in the nest every day and make sure they are developing properly and band and record the numbers and parentage when they are old enough. If need be I will switch babies to different nests to match them up for size. I am always careful to record every move I make so I can keep track of where the baby came from at least until it is banded.
As the youngsters get older and near weaning age I watch to see if they are eating and drinking on their own. If I am satisfied that the young bird is ready to wean I will make sure I have a nice group of them and then wean them at the same time into a compartment where there are no older birds to harass them. I then watch very closely for the first few days to make sure they are drinking and eating. I pick each one up at the end of the day and check to see if it has feed in its crop. If I am not comfortable after a couple days that the baby is eating and drinking on its own, I may then just put it back with its parents and leave it for another week before I try to wean it again.
Once into the breeding season if I have any pairs that are not producing such as hens that are not laying or cocks that are not filling I will re-mate them to get better results. As I go through my birds each day I will look for potential problems before they happen, such as poorly made nests, which I will remake, or babies that are getting old enough to start to eat but are still not on the floor. I will then put a small feed and water container in the nest so the baby learns to eat and drink from its parents. I am always listening for babies that are squeaking excessively. This is either an indication that they are not getting enough to eat or else they are getting harassed or even scalped by other birds.
At the end of the breeding season I separate all the cocks from the hens and vaccinate, delouse and deworm all the birds individually. This is a good time to give the birds a thorough checkup as you will be handling each one anyway. I also take this opportunity to trim toe nails.
I use wood chips as bedding and once a week I scrape perches, rake out fly pens and remove feathers and any wet material from the nests and loft floor.
I keep about 125 pair of pigeons and I spend about 60 minutes a day caring for them and more time if I am pairing up, getting ready for shows or evaluating quality. However the important thing besides feeding, watering and cleaning is to be able to just check them more often. I go through them in the morning after I feed, again in the afternoon when I get home from work and again last thing before dark. This way you can prevent many problems before they happen.
Keeping pigeons is a wonderful hobby. The time I spend caring for them is not work but rather relaxing time when I can unwind and just enjoy. When it starts to feel like work then it is no longer a hobby. Each person needs to decide just how much time they have to spend with their birds. It is not fair to the birds or yourself if you cannot do it properly. I find when the birds are healthy and the lofts are clean I have a great sense of satisfaction. If anyone has any questions they can always feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am here to serve the fancy.