Double Widowhood Part 2
I now realize that there are very few principles in this sport to which you need to strictly adhere. Be as innovative as you possibly can be and try to find out what works for you. Our first race is generally the first week in May so I like to put them together either the third or fourth week in February. I try to raise only one youngster a nest so that the parents can save as much energy as possible. I have read many, many different articles on whether to raise two, one or no youngsters. As for me I favour rearing only a single young bird in each nest. As soon as the youngsters reach about fifteen days old I start to take the hens away. I do not let them lay their second round. Why? First, because it takes too much out of the hens. Second because doing so will start the moult. For years I was told that in order for a pigeon to come into form he must have moulted his first flight. Over the years I can not tell you how many races I have won with birds that have not moulted their first flight. I have had pigeons score in the third or fourth week of racing that still have not dropped a flight.
While still on the topic of mating up the birds, I would like to mention three small points that I feel may be of benefit for those few who are new to our sport. Number one is that prior to mating up the birds leave the lights on in the loft for about eighteen hours each day. This will artificially activate the birds’ hormones and ensure that they lay quickly. Number two, three weeks prior to mating make sure that you are giving the birds about a 16% protein ration and that the barley content is reduced to 5 or 10%. The last point is to add 15% pellets to their ration for the egg laying period. I feel that the riboflavin contained in pellets greatly enhances the hatching of the chicks.
Next, I would like to discuss how to get the birds physically right for racing. In the late seventies and early eighties I seemed to have more time and ambition; therefore , I exercised the birds throughout the winter months. They were definitely fit the year round. Many people would look at them flying sometimes two to three hours and say that they were in super form. These same people predicted that the super form would not last. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were so fit that they definitely had a huge advantage over the competitors going in to the first few races. In those days I would not think twice about taking them up forty miles for their first toss, then to sixty and once at eighty and their road work would be completed. Three tosses and they were race ready, mind you they were flying almost three hours a day. The other day, I was looking over some old diaries from some thirteen years back and one year they only had two tosses and still topped the Combine in the first few weeks of racing. I no longer freeze outside during the winter months. Once the last race is completed they are locked up until they have been sitting eggs for about eight to ten days. As is my practice I will cut the food once the hens have laid. I attempt to get the unwanted weight off the racers. Next, I choose an excellent day and I try to allow them their first exercise early in the morning just in case I have hawk problems. Last year, I had tremendous hawk problems and therefore had to re-evaluate what I knew about hawks. It seemed that everything I had read about hawks went out the window as these hawks were not conforming to any kind of rules. During the next few weeks I try to get them out as often as possible and as soon as they land I quickly get them in. After three weeks of exercising them they are ready to train. In the next issue I will outline the training schedule I use, the feeding methods, medication and how I handle the hens. Once again, all the best next year.
Double Widowhood Part 2 by John Marles