What mixture do you feed during the moult?
Mark: I feed Versele Laga corn and use their Moulting Mix and I find it excellent. I have found that they can get a little heavy on it but I am not too concerned because of the time of year. They do grow very good feathers using this mixture and I am very pleased with the results. I find the quality of the corn is very good and I like the pellets included because they have vitamins added.
Roger: I race on Versele Laga but I do not use it all year round because it can get too expensive. The rest of the year I use Gem Corn. After the racing season I find that the only problems with racing on the darkness system is the birds not moulting right through the wing, so I take all the hens and put them in one youngbird loft and put all the cocks, old and young, and put them in the other youngbird loft and they are fed in a hopper, moulting mix until Christmas time when I reintroduce them into the old bird loft, So there are not pigeons in my old bird loft for 10 weeks. That helps when I go away for a weekend because the pigeons can look after themselves for a couple of days.
What supplements do you give if any?
Roger: There are a few things I put into the water and for years I used to crush Garlic clove for that purpose but now I have found a product called Garlic granules, which can be bought from a Equestrian Farm shop. They are much cleaner and I just put a few granules into the drinker at least once or twice per week. I also use multi vitamins once per week. There are so many products on the market and you could spend a fortune, but I find that if I stick to these two basic things, it costs you next to nothing. The reason I use Garlic is because it purifies the blood and I have found it really useful for them. I sometimes put Cider Vinegar with it and also Naturaline made by Natural of Belgium.
Mark: I personally never put anything into the water now because I think it can kill the form. If you watch a pigeon drinking something it does not like it will take less and naturally if I give them anything it is always on the corn. I once bought some electrolytes, which I gave to them following a race and when I let them out the following morning they went to the garden pond to drink. Now I use Brockamp supplements such as the Probac 1000, is a Probiotic Electrolyte for the regeneration of intestinal flora, on the food and also when a pigeon comes home from a race it also needs protein to recover and I think once of the most import things in pigeon racing is to allow them to recover quickly after a race. I think you need to concentrate more on recovery and Brokamp sells a product called APF 90 is an easy-to-digest protein concentrate comprised of various animal protein sources and that repairs the muscles. It works well and you can visibly see them improve. They are natural products, and assist the pigeons very well. When a pigeon is flying it will use carbohydrates for the first 6 hours then it will use fats stored within their cells for energy. Even the very best long distance pigeons need energy to perform at their best and that comes from fats stored in the cells.
How do you ensure a complete moult of the darkness youngsters?
Mark: I never have a problem by using clean water and Versele Laga moulting mixture. I keep them on the darkness until the middle of June and find they go through OK at the end of the year.
Roger: When I was in partnership we were one of the first lofts in the UK to use the Darkness System and them not completing the wing moult was the only disadvantage. But we did have a bit of good fortune actually, by accident I found that the hens that were separated into an aviary at the rear of the loft went through a second moult, which is what we needed them to do, but the cocks that were left in the young bird loft didn’t so we realised that an aviary on the young bird loft helps them all go through a moult.
I now keep the young birds in their loft until Christmas so they can sit in the aviary all day and I think it is the natural light that assists them to go through the moult. If you use the Darkness System and your loft is dimly lit, they will not moult all their flights and will be racing as yearlings with some nest flights still in place, which can be a disadvantage to them.
After racing, youngsters need as much natural light as possible to help them through the moult and I do emphasise natural light, I do not use any artificial lights…. ever!
What routine treatments do you give during the moult?
Mark: The only routine treatment I give them is a 10 cure for Para typhus followed by an inoculation. Apart from that I take dropping samples to the vets and follow their advice. It saves time and money in the long run because I am not using anything that is unnecessary. Routine treatments can weaken the immune system, which is not a good place to be. Once racing I take regular tests to the Vet to make sure they are kept healthy. If you give blind treatments it can make them go off form so unless they are performing badly I give them nothing. We have the DeWeerd clinic available now and it is better to have them tested than risk ruining a season. It may be difficult to get them to Colchester but it is well worth the effort to keep them right.
When you inoculate the pigeons they can go off colour for a day or two but once done they do not show any reaction at all. I have never seen Paratyphoid since I have been doing it. I always vary the make of the vaccine each year though to ensure they are protected. There are several strains of Paratyphoid and any one vaccine can only protect against 20% of them and some ask is it worth the effort for just 20% protection? But I always reply that I know for sure there is 20% that my pigeons are not going to get and I would rather that than run the risk.
Roger: I always worm my pigeons in the autumn but I do not give a cure or injection for Paratyphoid. I also give a Cocci tablet just before paring up.
How frequent are the baths and are there any additives to the bath water?
Roger: I never use anything in the bath water because the birds will always drink it and I do not want them to be drinking Bath Salts or disinfectants. A friend of mine used to put T.C.P in the water and when it came to shipping night you could smell it on them but I did not think it was a good idea at all.
Mark: Funny enough I do use Bath Salts because I find it keeps lice down and with the amount of pigeons I have it helps to do it in the bath rather than putting something on the individual pigeons. I use the Rohnfried bath salts.
If a pigeon has not had a complete moult, is it a problem
Mark: I think a pigeon can have a bad moult if it is not quite healthy enough and I may dispose of it or remove it from my team for a year to recuperate. If a pigeon is ill during the moult it does not mean it’s a poor pigeon and once given a chance it may make a very good racer. My Father takes careful studies of his birds during the moult and if it frets or shows any sign of a poor growth he marks it down but I believe any pigeon can get ill and this should not decide its future in the team. If a top athlete becomes ill he would not give up the following year.
One season I went to the marking station for the Pau National race and I gave my Father a pigeon and said this would be our first home. He disagreed because it carried a fret mark but it was indeed our first home. The fret just meant he maybe had a day or two out the previous year when growing that flight and had no bearing on its current condition.
Roger: If the youngsters have been on the dark and one or two do not complete the moult I would put a pencil mark against them but not condemn them. I would still put them in the old bird race team and they would have to get on with it. A bird with a fret mark from the previous years racing will still go in the old bird team and let nature take its course. I never really take too much notice because in Belgium they begin breeding in November and some pigeons will not have had a complete moult by then but they are only using them for breeding of course.
How do you treat for lice?
Mark: I always give them Ivomectin, one spot on the back of the neck before breeding and of course the Bath Salts because I do think that lice can have a real detrimental effect on a pigeons form.
Roger: I also use Ivomectin on the back of the neck and over the years I have dipped the birds in a specially made product which keeps free of parasites for the season but it is a little strong for them. The later youngsters, bred in the warmer months do tend to suffer with lice but Ivomectin is the favoured treatment. Ivomectin will also worm the pigeons at the same time. But most of my birds are pretty clean and if there was a problem I would give the Ivomectin one spot again.