Weaning the future champions can be very stressful for both the fancier and the pigeon. The approach we follow is documented below. Nothing is cast in stone but this approach works well for us.
1. We do not have separate young bird lofts. Thus our breeding is planned so that babies are ready for weaning the week after the last race (early October). Young birds are not weaned into the race loft whilst racing is still underway. Nothing should unsettle the race team – especially if they are on form. Babies bred too early also tend to become fat, lazy and hormone loaded. We’re not very fond of them and prefer later bred babies (October – January).
2. Babies are weaned before they are too strong. When lifting the wings and checking the cover feathers on the bottom of the wing – this must cover the bottom completely ie. a dense covering and no gaps. This is usually between 28 and 32 days of age.
3. Observation is key to identify whether babies are ready for weaning. They should be able to eat and drink on their own. Even if they only start – they will learn very quickly after being weaned.
4. Soaped wings or rubber bands or any other way of restraining babies from flying is not used. Many fanciers follow that approach with great success. We’ve however found that if the babies are not too strong, they will not take to the air and get lost. On the rare occasion we’ve lost a bird due to something giving them a fright but it’s the exception. Our babies are let out the 3rd day after being weaned. It’s much easier to find a perch, get to the drinker and have a less stressful period to adapt to their new environment if not tied up.
5. Canker tablet when weaning (Meditrich/Aviotrich)
6. PMV inoculation when weaning(Chevivac P200)
7. Back drop to keep external parasites and worms under control (Avio back drops – contains ivermectin)
8. If visible feather lice or flies – spray that contains Permethrin (Avian insect liquidator)
9. After this careful observation is key to identify any strugglers – birds not getting to the drinker etc. Assistance might be required especially for the first drink. Intelligent pigeons however find the drinker very quickly.
10. Babies will take to the air at their own pace and you should have a kit exercising very quickly. The sooner the better so that the muscles can develop.
11. Be careful to accept babies from too many sources. Rather quarantine suspect babies before you expose your loft to a “zoo of germs”. Exposure is good but do not expose them to too many germs too soon. Let them gradually build immunity.
Enjoy this part of the pigeon season! We get as much pleasure out of the breeding season as we get out of racing. Seeing the babies develop their unique personalities and enjoying their teenage months is special.