Within a few weeks, the winter breeding period will be upon us again!
In the depths of winter, thousands of breeding pigeons will have to provide the champions of tomorrow.
In nature, no bird would think of building a nest in the last months of the year. But pigeon fanciers usually only think about performing and for that you must have winter youngsters. A successful winter breeding can only be achieved by preparing your pigeons well. Winter breeding is not only a heavy burden for the breeding pigeons, but it also causes headaches and stress for the fanciers.
Here are some useful tips and tricks for a successful winter breeding:
1/ First of all, the lofts must be cleaned thoroughly and made ready for the breeding period. After the moult, clean all the lofts thoroughly (scrape and vacuum) and disinfect everything. You can use disinfectants such as Oropharma Disinfect Spray, which is effective against bacteria, viruses and fungi.
2/ Make sure that your pigeons are healthy for the winter breeding period. Winter breeding has become so commonplace that many fanciers only take action when they hear their neighbour talking about it. But then you are already too late.
Visit a specialised pigeon veterinarian about six weeks before pairing and have the pigeons and droppings samples checked thoroughly. This way you know if they are infected and if you have to start a specific treatment with a medicine. The dosage and the duration of the treatment will have to be adapted to the season. During the winter months, pigeons drink very little, so it is better to treat them with food or individually with tablets.
3/ Bring your pigeons out of their winter sleep and bring them into optimum condition for the pairing. To breed champions, they must be at the top of their game and in perfect health. Try to imitate nature by using artificial lighting. Lengthen the days and introduce the spring in your loft. Start with additional lighting about three weeks before pairing, from 7 am to about 10 pm. Be careful with the racing pigeons because this can encourage the moulting of the next season. The number of hours of light stimulates the pigeon's brainstem and causes a change in its hormonal system. The pigeons become more eager and fertile and will mate and lay eggs much more easily. Providing vitamins and more specifically vitamin E also has a favourable effect on breeding pigeons. That is why, from eight days before pairing until the first egg is laid, you should give them Ferti-Oil (wheat germ oil) in combination with Form-Mix Plus (a vitamin and amino acid complex) to improve their condition.
4/ Start pairing the pigeons in advance one or two weeks before the final pairing.
Place the hen in half-box and the cock next to it in his nest box. A good fancier will immediately see if it is working out. If the hen and the cock hardly look at each other, there is clearly a problem. It is better to look for another partner in such pairs as a forced pairing seldom produces good youngsters. When pairing in advance, place the pigeons in half-box for a few hours and then take them away again.
Do this again a few days later and you will notice that there are far fewer problems and fights during the real pairing.
5/ Once the pigeons are paired, provide them with food and drink in their nest box. Also make sure that you put some fresh grit + redstone in their nest box every day.
This requires more work, but ensures that the hen can still eat and drink in her nest box during 'driving'.
Extra grit is needed because laying eggs and forming the eggshell requires a lot of extra calcium from the hens. A calcium supplement such as Oropharma Calci-Lux can also be added to the drinking water to stimulate eggshell formation.
From a few days before pairing until the second egg is laid, give the pigeons a good high-protein breeding mixture such as Start Plus I.C.+.
6/ For optimal fertilisation and to prevent fighting, we also lock each pigeon pair in their nest box about two hours before dark. This way, the pair can do their thing undisturbed and there is more chance of a successful fertilisation.
We also lock the pigeons up in their living box an hour before dark until the next day during the breeding period. Big fights resulting in fractures usually happen early in the morning or late in the evening when they fly into another nest box by mistake.
7/ How to continue feeding during the breeding period.
During the breeding period, we give them a lighter mixture such as Gerry Plus I.C.+ or Depure Plus I.C.+. However, we give them enough so that the pigeons don't leave their nest at the slightest sound because of hunger. As soon as there are youngsters in the nest, the pigeons receive as much as they want of a good breeding mixture such as Start Plus I.C.+, but without the loft being full of superfluous food.
It is best to feed three to four times a day during this period to prevent spillage and selective feeding. Also give the pigeons a daily portion of All-in-One (grit + minerals) and a little Optimal Start 25 (eggfood). It is advisable to add Supervit (vitamins and trace elements) to the drinking water two days a week.
8/ Once the youngsters have been ringed properly, it is best to add a second nest bowl to start the second breeding round. Otherwise, the hens will lay eggs in the nest with the youngsters and this will only cause problems. The best nest boxes for this have two floors, where the additional nest bowl is placed on a slightly higher level in the nest box.
Good luck and remember: losers always have an excuse, winners have a plan!