Most young pigeons born during the winter breeding season are weaned at the end of January, beginning of February. In the first half of February, they make their first tours around the loft and gradually start exploring the area. Ideally, after a few weeks they will playfully flit through the air, and in time they will start flying in groups. After about four weeks, it’s normal for a group of fledglings to be able to fly for half an hour and venture out a little further from the loft. But what if your youngsters don't want to leave their perch on the roof? If they regularly refuse, you need to consider two things.
Are my young pigeons healthy?
If a group of fledglings don’t want to fly, the first thing to do is check that they don’t have any digestive problems. Are their droppings nice and solid? If in doubt, it’s a good idea to have your pigeons examined and treated if necessary.
After a few weeks, the young pigeons should also go through their first moult. When they are healthy, they also lose their little tufts so you’ll find down in the loft. Furthermore, the cere of the beak should gradually turn white and the eyes should be taut and nicely dry. Is this not the case? Then this is another reason to have the pigeons examined to find out what you need to do.
Am I feeding my young pigeons the right way?
This question is very important. In many cases, the wrong diet is the main reason why young pigeons don’t want to fly.
Fanciers regularly feed their pigeons too much rich food and for too often. This makes the fledglings too fat to fly properly. At that point it’s actually too late, because you end up in a vicious circle. The young don’t fly, they use too little energy, and they become heavier and heavier due to the continued heavy feeding.
Over time, a particular habit also forms: the young pigeons simply remain on the roof. If you chase them away, they’ll casually fly in short circles around the loft and after a few rounds they’ll land back on the roof with their beaks open, puffing with exhaustion. After all, they’re not used to flying. It’s the same with people: if you’re not in shape and try to jog 5km without any sort of training, you’ll also find yourself panting after a few hundred meters.
How do you get overweight pigeons back in shape?
Does it seem like your pigeons are overweight? Then there is only one solution: you have to feed them less and give them lighter food. You can put them on a diet for a few weeks with a junior mixture (e.g. Plus I.C.+ Junior), supplemented with a cleansing mixture (e.g. Plus I.C.+ Depure). Don’t give them more than half a portion of food until they have lost significant weight and are back in the air.
After a week you can (literally) give them a little push by tapping the side of the pans with a brush until they have all flown off the roof. The purpose is not to scare them, just startle them enough to get them in the air.
After a few days, your youngsters will quickly understand what is expected of them. From that moment on, let them fly and then bring them back in again. Pigeons, especially youngsters, have to either fly in the air or sit inside the loft.
How exactly do you feed young pigeons?
Feed the fledglings a breeding mixture (e.g. Plus I.C.+ Start) for two to three weeks after weaning. Give them as much as they want in the first week, but ration their diet during the second and possibly third week so that they eat all the food.
After this period, switch to a junior mixture (e.g. Plus I.C.+ Junior) and give them about thirty grams of this per pigeon per day. How much will of course depend on the weather. When it’s freezing cold, you need to give them a little more because pigeons use a lot of energy to heat themselves.
Do the pigeons come out after two or three weeks. Are some trying to take flight? Give the ones who are staying put a bit of stimulus by tapping the roof. Training a pigeon to be in good physical condition from an early age is easier than getting an overweight pigeon fit again. Also remember that young pigeons must immediately listen when called in, and come to the food bowl. If they don't fly in, then don’t give them any food. The next day they’ll be sure to be among the first inside and won’t forget the lesson.
Once the youngsters can fly longer distances and better, you have to increase their portion of food to a maximum of 35 to 40 grams per pigeon per day.
When to switch to a sports mixture?
You can safely continue to put your young pigeons on a diet of exclusively junior mixture (e.g. Plus I.C.+ Junior) during training. For the first flights, up to about 150 km, the nutritional value of this mixture is more than sufficient to successfully complete the flights without any problems. Once the season starts and longer races are scheduled, you can switch to a feeding system with widower mixtures (e.g. Plus I.C.+ Champion or Plus I.C.+ Superstar) and a low-protein mixture (e.g. Plus I.C.+ Gerry).