The Off Season

Question:

It is the end of the racing season – what do I do with my pigeons now?

Answer:

The off-season is most probably the most important period in which you prepare your pigeons for next year's success. The question is quite a mount-full so I will try and break it down into different stages:

Culling of pigeons

I hope you have kept record of all the performances throughout the year, not only of your pigeons but also what you did to them and what you gave them by way of medication, vitamins, training and nest positions – always keep record of everything you do. We all tend to say "I will not forget" but I promise you a week, month or a year later, depending on your age, you will not be sure what you did to deserve that fantastic or bad race you had.

Culling of your young birds (yearlings) must never be too severe – lot of these pigeons will peak as 2 and 3 year olds for you. If you had yearlings that showed no promise through the season and at no stage came into racing condition, you can cull them.

Two and three years and older pigeons sometimes do not want to perform in their second and third year due to previous illness or injury – they must go. Only keep the best of your two year old and older pigeons.

Stock

I believe that if your best birds are not in the stock loft they will never be in your racing loft – so what am I trying to say is, select two or three of the best racers and take them to your breeding loft where they will hopefully produce their potential or even better.

Remove all stock birds whose babies did not perform for you – if you have bought expensive birds out of good background (pedigree) and their offspring do not want to race, select one or two of their offspring and breed of them – sometimes the second generation breed excellent racing pigeons.

If space is a problem cull the pair that will not produce. It is now the ideal time to go through all your stock and see if any of them bred something worthwhile. If not replace them with some of your best racers. If you do not want to sacrifice too many of your racing team, you can also breed a round out of these good performing racing pigeons and race them again next year. After all the non-performing pigeons have been removed from the racing loft.

I now give all my racing birds the opportunity to raise one or two babies' reward for racing well that season. They will race well for you the coming season. If space again is a problem, sell these babies to a beginner at a fair price – I promise you a lot of winners have been bred in the racing loft.

Please under no circumstances sell or give away racing pigeons that did not perform well for you – cull them. The chance of success for a beginner is definitely there, but the percentage is usually very low. If these birds of yours have an ailment, and that is the reason why they did not perform for you, you are only transferring this ailment into another loft.

Vet

I think it is highly recommended that at the end of a racing season you take two or three of your bad performers to a pigeon vet (there is a difference) ask him to examine the pigeons and send them away to a laboratory for internal examination – this is the easiest way to find out if you have an ailing disease in your loft, like for instance E-coli, Paratyphoid or fungus.

Hygiene

After the last race it is very important to clean your loft thoroughly, wash it with a disinfectant and spray out the loft against parasites. Also dip all pigeons physically against parasites in luke-warm water and always add a bit of liquid soap. The soap softens the water and gives the dip a better penetration into the feathers, which will also last longer.

Feeding

If you take my advise and breed a round of babies out of your selected racing team, feed them a good breeding mixture with a hopper of protein (peas) and an open loft, and they will rear excellent babies. After breeding feed your birds a good quality off-season mixture with a bit of linseed, add it every day.

You can dampen the food twice a week with Plume Plus and twice a week with Redcell – after dampening add a mixture of Brewers Yeast, milk powder, and stamina over the feed. All this will ensure excellent feather quality.

Medication

Some fanciers will tell you not to use medication in the off-season, which I think is completely wrong. Keep on treating your birds on a monthly basis against Canker – try to use a different product every second month e.g. one month Metridazole and the next month Rondidazole. Please do not over do it – if you treat them correctly 2 or 3 days will be sufficient.

Citric Acid works excellent every now and then. All birds must receive a bath once or twice a week with bath salts or Virkon-S in the water plus Cydectin – We tried Cydectin and it works excellently for internal worms and external parasites.

Give your birds a course of Doxycycline once a month for 3 days – it will not leave fret marks on feathers and will keep the pigeons in excellent health.

Once your birds start the heavy moult I will stay away from any dewormers in the drinking water and rather use a product like Mediworm if it is necessary. Aloe powder and garlic juice twice a week in the drinking water is excellent for all pigeons in the moulting season and no harm will come to them. There is a range called Herb Pigeon on the market, which we used, in the racing season with excellent results and I am definitely going to add this to my off-season program.

Each and every year after the moult and judging pigeons on various shows, I find that a lot of racing pigeons in the off-season have developed an air succulent disease, in other words when you pump the birds lightly in your hand, forcing the air through the air bags, you hear a rattling noise from the air sacs. Please be aware of this – a lot of birds are lost in the beginning of the season, which has picked up this ailment through the off-season.

If you have birds after the moult with this problem and you cannot cure them, you may as well cull them, because you will definitely lose them.

Please make it your first priority this season to inoculate all youngsters against Paramyxo virus – use a cheap product like Talovac and do them a couple of days before weaning. After you finished breeding do all your young birds again with Nobivac or Colombovac. Do not wait to long and do not look for an excuse not to inoculate your pigeons. This is a very devastating disease and can ruin your next season – do not say, "I have never had it, I will never get it".

Youngsters

As soon as your new crop of young pigeons are training around the loft for 30 minutes or more (and they must have the desire to train, if not, something is wrong. Do not toss them first eliminate the problem) it is advisable to take them out on short tosses, let them pick up experience of the surroundings and try and get 4 or 5 single up tosses at 20km before the start of the moulting season.

By Faunty Gillmer

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