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Successful young bird racing (part III)

There have always been fanciers who knew exactly what to do to win young bird races. Way back it used to be mainly men who were known to be the real animal lovers. People 'who slept with the pigeons' and were able to build up such a strong relationship with them that they returned home for the fancier it was said. But times have changed.
The young bird specialist of today would nowhere near fit that description. He would just laugh at the methods of the fanciers of the old days. The 'animal lover' of the past has made way for the expert in whose heart there is no place for sentiments.

One of those sentiments is feeding. Less successful fanciers are often too soft with the birds. They have 'too big hands' or in other words, they feed too much.

During the racing season there should never be food in the young bird loft. Many fanciers complain about frightened youngsters who won't do as they want. The main cause of this is that they keep leaving food in the loft and that's WRONG!
Livestock have to eat; therefore food is a means to control animals. Horses, dogs, dolphins and pigeons, it makes no difference! The beautiful eyes of a human being don’t carry them away, but they do fall for the food.
Pigeons should never be really starving but, on the other hand, they should always be pleased to see the handler and the feeding tin. Food and handler should be one.

The appearance of the fancier should be the signal to get food or a treat and consequently a sign to enter the loft!

Of course there may always be the obstinate ones who do not understand the game and do not storm in like others. It is very easy to turn such birds into undisciplined birds for the rest of their lives.
What should you do to create such awful birds?
Wait for them to trap after a lot of begging and calling and then... feed them!! Reward their obstinate behaviour!
There is no better way to spoil them forever.

On the other hand, it is not that difficult to turn such birds into tame, willing pigeons you would enjoy having around. Instead of rewarding them for bad trapping they will have to be taught a lesson: 'NO FOOD FOR YOU TODAY'!
More to the point, if you have 50 youngsters, of which 46 react to you when you call them, don't feed those four who will not listen. Not one seed.
The next day already you will get results, and they will do what you want them to do: Listen and trap!
I have a sort of trap before the young pigeon loft which could be described as a combined 'reservoir/supertrap' (see photo). At the back of it there is a window. It is ideal to put off those pigeons who are determined not to come in.
It happens that people who visit me are astonished when they see a pigeon outside in that 'reservoir' at night.
That was NOT because I hadn't paid attention. I knew very well that I had left a bird outside. The pigeon was being punished!
What I do?
When the pigeons are in, I will shut the window at the back of the trap and this will not be opened until the next day. Those who did not come in with the others are made to sleep outside. That's not too hard, that's necessary. The birds really won't get ill from being outside for one night.
You have to be disciplined with pigeons. You should not have to adapt to their behaviour, but they have to adapt to yours!
You are the general; your pigeons are the soldiers. And a soldier who is not disciplined will never be a good soldier. Disciplining is part of every domesticated animal and disciplining often means: 'If you don't want to listen you will have to put up with the result.'

Of course you must start disciplining early but not too early.
A young bird in my loft is confronted with 3 different periods.
Until they are about 2 months old the birds get a lot of freedom, they are left to explore their surroundings as much as they like. The more they have been outside the less they are likely to be frightened by whatever things. It is indeed a disadvantage that those little curious babies have to touch everything with their beaks, just like a child does, using its mouth when it is born. The birds peck at everything, pull it, touch it and enjoy themselves. That's dodgy when you have gutters, flat roofs etcetera around, but you have no choice. Freedom during the first few weeks is important. If you start straight away by giving them limited freedom you will have disciplined birds early but you will lose them easily. That's why the period of limited freedom should not be started too early on.
After that period of freedom and food in abundance comes the next phase. That's when the birds are about 3 monts old.
For a whole week they get so little food that they rush up to me the moment they see me. This does not hurt them, on the contrary.
To cut back their food for a few days is the best cleansing system for the stomach and the intestines there is.
I use this temporarily system as a training to make it clear to the birds who is in charge and what I want: Manners and discipline!
And I must say: They learn a lot during these days.
They want to fill their stomachs but there is insufficient food. And they will be made aware of the fact that they depend on me for that food. That's something they should remember for life.
This period of hungry feelings will give tremendous benefits later on. Of course after that learning period of a week one can't go back to the old habits.
After that training period the birds should be disciplined. From now on the food they get is sufficient, but no more than that.
From now on I do not leave them hungry, but just a bit peckish. They will also be allowed (or forced!) to fly twice a day and when they have flown out they will be called to come in immediately.
I do not allow them to linger on the roofs any more. Roofs are the territory of town-pigeons, not of our racing birds.
Some fanciers always carry food in the pockets of their overalls.
They always wear the same overalls when they are near the pigeons that always get bits of food, even if it's only a few grains. Such people know what they are doing.

I do not think that the composition of the food is of that importance which does not mean one cannot make mistakes.
Food for young birds can be too heavy, (too much protein) but I have never believed that it all depends on one percent more or less of certain grains. Too many champions have got too many different ways of feeding to make me believe that it makes such a difference.
After weaning my birds get 'regular mixture', so no barley or depurative for birds which are still very young. There are to many little seeds in depuratives.
Little seeds should be avoided when birds are real young. They are tempted to go for these little seeds first and the result is that they have to pick too much and, therefore, have trouble filling their little crops.
It is better for them to swallow the bigger grains. A mixture of the heavier type of food without purifiers but with peas for the protein will benefit the youngsters.
This feeding method changes when the birds are about 10 weeks old and the disciplining and training starts.

From then on they get the same mixture seven days a week.
In the past I handled differently. Then they got diet shortly after the race and gradually I put more energy in the food by means of grains containing fat such as corn.
But that was in the past.
I changed my way of feeding since the Adeno/coli problems came up.
It is a proven fact that when there is the pressure of Adeno or Coli birds will be less vulnerable when you do NOT change the food.
For the same reason the water should be clear. If there is something in it like tea or vitamins this may cause the birds to drink less due to a taste they do not like. This may upset the ‘water household’ inside the body, which may contribute to be more vulnerable to Adeno/coli.
On the day of basketing I give them a double portion in the morning so that there is some food left before they are being basketed in the evening.
The advantage of doing this is that they can eat when they feel like it, but they will not do this just before basketing.
In this way the pigeons will never be hungry when I want to get them ready, and they will never suffer from a full crop either.
A full crop can be deadly. Whether it is filled with food or water does not matter.

1. Young birds get plenty of food that is rich of protein and plenty of freedom the first three months but no food containing small seeds.
2. A period of a week's training follows. Food is given then, very sparingly and kept light.
3. Later they get limited freedom and have to come in right after flying out. No more sitting on the roofs from now onwards and the food mixture is the same always.
4. On the day of basketing I make sure they don't leave hungry, but not with a full crop either.
Does it have to be like that? Not necessarily, but my youngsters have won everything for many years, so I can't be far wrong.