Treatment of Late-Comers

The treatment of late-comers is something that should receive our attention and therefore I will deal with this problem in this article.

Most fanciers would say that they are not interested in late-comers since they are useless. Only the birds which can win, interest them, and late-comers must therefore be discarded or get lost. This sounds like the reasoning of a very successful fancier who only has champions, but every fancier will at sometime, get a bird back from a race or toss completely exhausted and in very poor condition. It could even be a great champion.

The problem is what do you do with such a bird when it is really in the racing season. You will certainly want to get him into race condition again. If it receives special attention, it could recuperate and be ready to be raced again, but when it is left to itself, it could be a nuisance in the race team.

Any bird which returns a few days late from a race in an exhausted condition, should not be allowed to go out with the race team for exercise. There are various reasons for this, first of all, it is not in a condition to train with the other birds at all, and even if it is left out with the other birds, will want to return to the loft.

You therefore keep it in the loft whilst the other birds train, since it is important that it should. But if such birds have had a very hard race and returned on the second or third day, they are inclined to become swollen if not allowed to fly, and therefore they must be allowed to get some exercise. For this reason they are allowed to circle for the last five or ten minutes with the other birds, before they are called in. When you make a study of the birds during the racing season, you will realize that once they are fit, it becomes a matter of retaining their condition and no longer a matter of getting them fit.

The feeding of late-comers is very important since they are the ones which need the food to rebuild their muscles. I prefer to feed them very lightly on the first two days after their return and by light feeding I mean grains which are easily digestible. The purifying mixture consisting of barley, wheat, sorghum and a little sunflower is ideal. We must remember that the bird must first get rid of the acid which has accumulated in its muscles, liver and kidneys and for this purpose it needs rest. Therefore it does not help to overfeed it or start giving it all sorts of tonics. On the first two days there is nothing better than rest and light food with perhaps a vitamin tablet on the second day. From the evening of the second day, it should have access to grit and minerals and I then also change the food mixture. For this purpose I prefer to give it a mixture with a high protein content, but if it has been fed correctly on the first two days, it should not be over hungry. You may then give it free access to a hopper and let it pick its own mixture. In most cases it will go for proteins which provide what it needs for rebuilding its muscles. At this stage you could give it some sort of tonic and two yeast tablets per day will also help. Treated in this way, it will soon recuperate and be ready to fly again in thereof four weeks time.

If such a bird is again sent to race before it has fully recuperated, you may be sure of losing it. The same method applies to birds which have returned from the race, the only difference being that the treatment is given over a much shorter period. Where you require a few days for the exhausted late-comer, you can apply the same treatment to the racer on the same day of the race or the second day after the race, depending upon the time the bird has flown. With pigeon racing it is important that you should get your birds into condition as soon as possible after the race again. The successful fancier is not always the man who has the time to exercise the birds and give them a lot of road work, but the man who can read their condition and knows when they need extra work or when they need rest.

Rest is sometimes of greater importance than work and many of our fanciers fail to recognize it. When birds are not training well it is more often a question that they are tired and not lazy. We are inclined to force them to fly and if they don't succeed around the loft we often resort to road work in which case we are aggravating the situation. There are many factors which influence the condition of our birds and we cannot always pinpoint them, but it would help if we include rest in our recipe.

By Theunis F. Venter

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