Article 8

By Jack Barkel.

I was about to leave out an article on young bird management until I realized that this is probably the most important part of Racing Pigeon Management, although not as intensive as the other aspects, it is equally as important.

The baby pigeon spends the first four to six weeks on a very high protein feed supplied by its parents for the first four weeks and then for another two weeks during the weaning period when it must learn to take in its own food.

Once the young pigeon is able to fly up to a perch (the terminology is start perching), its protein fat content must be reduced. Its body craves this type of food and if they are allowed to have access to it, they will gorge themselves like naughty children and put on weight, which creates several problems for young potential athletes.

Firstly they are not receptive to being trained to respond to the way you wish them.

Secondly they become lethargic which eliminates the desire to fly and exercise in a vigorous fashion.

Thirdly they will go into a heavy moult too quickly unless they are very active and do not have an abundance of protein.
So, once the youngsters start perching, you must reduce the protein content by adding 30% to 40% barley, to their daily intake. This will keep them light and retentive to do your bidding.

Once the young birds have dropped their first primary flight you must start their training tosses. They should if you have fed them the way I have explained, be ranging well away from the vicinity of their lofts.
If they are not doing so, you the trainer are not in agreement with what I have stated above or at least not putting it into practice.
All young birds that have been treated this way show the desire to explore and have an abundance of energy to do so. This means that they will range for thirty or more miles away from home, returning at break neck speed from time to time to see if you are about to call them in to eat. Remember like children the uppermost thought on their minds is, what is there to eat.

To race young birds successfully I once again would prefer a special loft to control them to my satisfaction and although it is not imperative I do think I should explain my reasons for certain preferences.

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Pic 1. The Young Bird loft closed while birds are at exercise.

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Pic 2. Showing the sliding doweled doors closed when birds have entered.

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Pic 3 Showing the landing board at the rear of the Trapping Section.

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Pic 4 Showing the side entrance flaps where a bird can enter its section.

Let us start with the loft, I prefer the young bird loft where there is a compartment at each end to house the birds with a trapping section in the middle. The birds trap onto a landing platform which has a flap door, one in the left and one in the right, through which the birds enter to get to their food. Always have the food ready and waiting for the young birds when they come through this fold down flap. You must never let them in until this chore is completed, if you ever let them in and their food is not there waiting for them you have lost the most important part of an immediate swift trap with young birds. No circus trainer will fool around with that part of the basic training. Your birds have come to expect that food to be there and I must insist it must be there on every occasion. I only wish you could see how they rush through to gobble up the food as quick as possible. You can see they enjoy it and they are always ready for it.
We must strive to keep this magic in the loft for the whole young bird racing season, the trapping is phenomenal better than any widowhood return I have ever seen. How they never kill themselves with their break neck returns never ceases to amaze me.

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Pic 5 Shows the living and eating area on the left side compartment. Plus the entrance through the drop flap to the section. The same type compartment is on the right side.

The reason for two compartments is, that as the season progresses They become less and less like babies and start to behave as adults. We then need to keep the sexes separate or then again the magic starts to go out of the system. I recommend that one try to keep the sexes separate right from the weaning stage. Another good idea with youngsters is to but them in a basket for a half hour every day for a week at least before one gives them their first training toss. I recommend two or three, five kilometre tosses then on to one at ten, twenty, thirty, forty and fifty. Each should be liberated in batches of ten as the back markers fly into obstacles when in large packs. Once on the one hundred kilometre mark and you are sure the birds have no more fear of being released in strange areas, you must try if you have the time to spare to start releasing them two at a time.
This will help them all become individuals instead of leaving the direction finding to the front flyers. Please remember to leave your birds for about ten to thirty minutes before releasing to settle down and orientate themselves, the longer the better.

Now we come to racing and how to treat young birds on a return from a race. There are many theories on how to feed a bird on its return from a race. With old birds it has been my experience that, they have a strong constitution, with a mature stamina that allows them to be able to thrive on being purified on their return and as all my readers are aware that is the way I feed them on their return (see previous articles). The young birds are another proposition altogether, they have tremendous amounts of energy, fly at maximum performance without any thought of conserving energy, muscle or anything else. There muscles a lean and supple with very little reserve to counteract their mental attitude to what lies ahead of them in the race.

The highly tuned fragile constitution of these young birds can be ruined for the rest of their racing career if we use the same treatment and preparation as we do with the old birds.
When your young pigeons arrive home they unlike their seniors have depleted their reserves and depurative can have a detrimental effect on them. The secret of this is to reverse the treatment of the old birds, so apart from the electrolytes and glucose, you must start the build up immediately and by Tuesday night they will be ready to fly like the wind once more. This is when you go back to the barley and wheat mixed with the pigeon yeast, Friday night stamina levels are high, energy levels are high and your young birds are ready to attempt to break the sound barrier again. Make sure all residents in the loft that did not go to the race are full and will not share in the spoils you have waiting for your arrivals.
Young birds that are treated this way will not moult further than their fourth primary and will not go into the big moult, if you disagree then you are not sticking to this system.
The writer is aware of the lighting system, also the darkening system and they do work, but I say this, "that there are many more youngsters spoiled or wasted on these systems than the simple one I have just given you." I treat the young bird racing season as the training ground for greater things to come when these birds mature. I do believe that you must train young birds in their first year, many South Africans who do not fly the young bird races, as they feel the weather is too hot and rightly so I feel, will neglect to train them until they are yearlings and still call them young birds. Although these fanciers fly fantastic with their old birds their yearling team let them down and they wonder why.
We must train our babies to be our flying machines of the future, if we neglect this duty then we must be prepared for an average season with inexperienced yearlings. Please remember this system is for birds a few months old and not for Yearlings and Old Birds.

This is the final article on this series, there will be a short break then articles on Breeding Techniques, Physical Attributes, The Secrets of The Eye. Medication in Moderation, and many more.
I hope you have all enjoyed this series and that you will all become regular visitors. I will be doing loft visits and hope to put articles up with photo,s on several top flyers in South Africa.
We have many ideas for the future and I would personally like to welcome aboard Bob Rowland of Florida.USA. I have read many of his articles and I find them most enlightning and helpful. Do not forget to click on Articles by Bob USA on the opening All Pigeons page.
We are honoured to have you Bob.
Jack Barkel
26th June 2000.

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Jack Barkel