Treatments and vaccinations in preparation for the breeding season and for weaned youngsters

Healthy pigeons in good condition are necessary for successful and good breeding. Prevention is better than cure, so in this article we take a closer look at why vaccinating before the breeding season and when weaning youngsters is so important.

1. Vaccination against paratyphoid before breeding

Paratyphoid fever or salmonella is a common obstacle that can cause major problems in the breeding season: poor fertilisation, mortality in the egg and then death of nestlings or even the breeding pigeons themselves. That is why it is recommended to treat pigeons with a suitable antibiotic for about ten days every year about six weeks before the breeding period, in consultation with your vet.

If you regularly have problems with paratyphoid, it is also recommended to vaccinate against paratyphoid immediately after treatment. Be careful to leave enough time until the you pair the pigeons (four to five weeks), otherwise you might have a very bad breeding.

However, it is not recommended to systematically vaccinate all breeding pigeons. Indeed, in practice, it has already been found that the pigeons become less fertile after a few years and sometimes hens even stop laying eggs. It is then recommended to adopt a middle course, e.g. vaccinate every three years, but the pigeons must be treated appropriately before vaccination.

It is not recommended to systematically vaccinate all breeding pigeons.

2. Vaccinations against paramyxovirosis before breeding

Three to four weeks before pairing is the ideal time to vaccinate all breeding pigeons against paramyxovirosis (by the way, the Belgian pigeon association KBDB obliges to vaccinate all pigeons annually). The vaccinated breeding pigeons can then build up antibodies during that period and pass them along with the yolk and crop milk to the newborn youngsters (maternal antibodies). The youngsters are thus protected against paramyxovirosis in the first weeks of their lives.

Which vaccines are recommended for this purpose?

  • Aqueous‐suspension vaccines. These vaccines work without a problem and there is only a very sporadic graft reaction or graft nodule.
  • Oil‐suspension vaccines. These vaccines also work without problem, but after several vaccinations, a graft reaction or a small graft nodule may occur as a reaction to the oil emulsion.
  • Combi vaccines, a combination of vaccines against different viral diseases. The most common are combination vaccines for paramyxovirosis/herpes or paramyxovirosis/rotavirus

We recommend for a standard colony without problems the regular vaccination against paramyxovirosis (aqueous or oil emulsion). If your colony already has issues linked to a herpes infection (respiratory problems, eye infections, yellow dots in the throat, etc.), a paramyxovirosis/herpes combination vaccine can provide relief. Do handle vaccines correctly. After the first vaccination, a repeat vaccination three to four weeks later is necessary, otherwise it will be a waste of time and money. We rather recommend the combination vaccines for paramyxovirosis and rotavirus for young pigeons.

3. Vaccination of weaned youngsters

This is very important because every year there are major recurring problems with the youngsters. Practice teaches us to use the following vaccination schedule for the youngsters:

  • One to two weeks after weaning: a combination vaccine paramyxovirosis/rotavirus (first vaccination)
  • two weeks later: vaccine against smallpox/diphtheria
  • Two weeks later: a repeat combination vaccine paramyxovirosis/rotavirus (second vaccination)
  • Immediately afterwards a 10-day treatment with an appropriate antibiotic against paratyphoid fever
  • After the treatment a vaccination against paratyphoid fever.

Because your youngsters receive this series of vaccinations, their immunity will be a lot greater and problems with young pigeon disease will be largely limited or even completely eliminated.

It is therefore also important to start all vaccinations as soon as possible, so that everything is over when the pigeons are about a hundred days old. This age is not unimportant because it is the moment when you start training the youngsters step by step, provided they train well and fly away from the loft of their own free will when they are released.

So remember: prevention is better than cure!

Best of luck!

Wim Boddaert

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