National Winning Loft Frank & George Bristow, Horbling Part 7


How many youngsters do you breed for racing

For my own use approximately 100, and that is the amount we are comfortable with. We have got four young bird sections that all have adjoining doors. The main one on the front of the loft facing south and on the back of the loft facing east.

I need to be putting youngsters in the back sections, because that’s where they will be racing as old birds and we don’t have to train them to go the other side of the roof. So we could not completely ignore the back part of the loft and not have youngsters there.

Which system do you race them on

They are raced on the sliding door system now. I used to let them couple and put nest bowls on the back wall, turn box perches into nest boxes etc. But now I find it is best if they are on the door, although they might not be so content.

It is really based on the fact that I don’t want my young hens going to nest on the floor as youngster, I want them for the widowhood hens system as yearlings and I think if they have had a nest on the floor, they will do it again in the hens section. I do think they can get into that habit.Frank Bristow

What age do you begin training youngsters

We begin at 12 weeks ideally. We all tend to copy the Belgians and breed early but where as they are competing in May, we do not race until the middle of July, and I think they can go past their learning phase before we begin training if we are not careful. There is ideal age for learning and if you miss that, the young pigeons have bodies like adults and minds like children.

It can lead to problems and losses that need not happen. I have found out to my own cost that once they are flying well they should be taken a few miles to get them thinking about racing home. I am not one who loads them up and takes them straight to 30 miles or so, I take it in small steps trying to keep their confidence building each time.

My pigeons will never range and I am not sure if this is down to the fact I have a lot of pigeons, or the way I feed them but they do not range for 2 hours like they used to. They did years ago , when I lived with my parents on the other side of the village but then again I did not have anywhere near the amount of pigeons around me.

I get them used to the basket and coming home out to 35 miles in gradual stages, then drop them in now and again to keep them fresh until racing begins.

Once racing begins, do you continue training

With young birds yes, but not with old birds. The youngsters go Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during racing season depending on the weather. And I would send from the first race, each week to give them as many opportunities to loose themselves as they can.

None are held back for the following year except for the channel races, when I tend to send the hens, and it’s those races that I make my selections for the widowhood hens system.Selection-8

Are routine treatments given

No I only go on performance, and if that dips then I would get them checked out. I used to treat on a regular basis, something like for canker every 3 or 4 weeks etc. But now I only treat prior to the beginning of the season. But if the pigeons are flying well I am loathed to treat during the season.

How do you ensure natural immunity in youngsters

I vaccinate them against PMV as per RPRA rules and I also give an Ecoli vaccine when they are about a month old and I will be honest, I do not get young bird sickness and the dose is given  so
metime after the PMV. I honestly believe it makes them flame proof, they can be with pigeons that have it and not go down with it.

There are certain fanciers that get it every year and they put their pigeons on the transporter, and consequently other pigeons come back with it from the first race. You hear so many fanciers say they were fine until they were sent to the first race and 4 days later they begin throwing up and can not be raced for three weeks, sometimes longer.

But these pigeons here, it does not matter who’s pigeons they mix with they are all ok. It says it is an ecoli immune boost on the bottle and I also think it stands them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Old birds can also get the same virus but they just go quiet and listless for a few days.

Frank Bristow Young Birds
Young Birds in the nest double the amount of air needed.

What would you do it you had a problem you could not cure yourself

The first port of call will always be the vet, that’s what they do, they specialise in avian health. Too many pigeon men are do it yourself vets, and they create their own problems sometimes. I have done it myself in the past, if the pigeons are not performing very well, the first thoughts are respiratory so they are treated for that and everything else trying to blind cure a problem.

If you go to the vet, in the first instance they check them and give you a diagnosis and medication to sort it quickly. I use two Vets, Mr Martin at Horncastle and Johan Van De Cruyssen in Belgium. The one at Horncastle is quite local to me but I cant keep popping over to Belgium to have droppings tested although you can send them in the post.

Its difficult to explain, but when you have kept pigeons for years it should be your own eyes within that loft that sees the little signs before it becomes a huge problem. They are cleaned out twice per day so every 12 hours or so you should be looking for problems before they take hold. Prevention is better than a cure as they say.

What, in your opinion, is the major health problem in pigeons

Respiratory is the single biggest factor in the pigeons not performing, it affects their orientation, they do not oxygenate the blood properly and after time on the wing they are not seeing clearly. When they come home they dare not head for the landing board at speed and instead go to the roof to settle down first.

When we were on the open door they would go straight to the box and just stand there for a few moments. Then just like a switch went on they would be roaring at the hens. That is a sign of respiratory which most would not see because you have to be observant around the pigeons.

Which do you think is best for medicating, tablets, in the water or on the corn

For canker I put it on the food, but for respatiory I prefer an injectable antibiotic.

Do antibiotics knock the pigeons off form

They can definitely be knocked off form by blind treatments and if they are performing well it is best to leave well alone. It can take two weeks to get back to where they were beforehand. In a lot of cases you can throw the baby out with the bath water. Your aim is to kill any bad bugs but as a consequence you can kill the good ones as well.

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