May 16 - 31
Some fanciers are surprised that their birds get sick when they are shipped to a one loft futurity. They claim that their birds are never sick in their lofts and sometimes they blame the management of the futurity and sometimes they are right. If I had all the answers to health management at a one loft futurity I would write a best seller.
Well, my birds were never were sick in my loft also until I began running the Le Tour. My stock became immune to the pathogens that existed within my loft and I was content with that. I introduced very few birds and haven't raced since our club disbanded in the early 90's. However when I began sending birds to futurities in the late 90's my birds had some difficulty in adjusting to new environments because they encountered pathogens that they had never been exposed to before. Unfortunately the biggest challenge of running a one loft futurity is health issues
The concept of bio-security is a fine concept if you don't intend to race, show or sell pigeons. The Le Tour has entries from 8 provinces across Canada in addition to one entry from the USA. Pigeons shipped to the Le Tour or any other futurity will be bombarded by a vast array of pathogens that they have no defense for. Initially I cursed the Le Tour because pathogens were introduced into my loft that some of my flock had no immunities for. After reflecting a bit, I concluded that the Le Tour provided me with an opportunity to develop a family of pigeons that would become resistant to most pathogens that they were exposed to. To achieve this goal, during the month of June I began throwing in a handful of my second round young ones in with the Le Tour birds. From the parents of those young ones that adjusted well I began choosing my stock.
It's amazing how different young ones can be. This little blue bar arrived rather young 9 days ago and refused to eat and drink. His beak had to be dipped in the water several times a day. Just recently the blue bar has been picking up a few grains but it has lost quite a bit of weight. The red arrived this past Saturday and it was rather young also. It was only half feathered out under the wing however by the second day it began eating and drinking on its own and is doing great.
The fascination with pigeon droppings is one of the weirdest aspects of this sport. But it is the best indicator of the health of the flock. When I enter the loft in the morning my eyes are immediately attracted to the floor. There may be 1000's of acceptable droppings but if there is just one wet spot my eyes are immediately attracted to that area for a closer examination. If you look closely at the left thumbnail you will spot it. The second area that is examined is the roosting sections with the perches and once again the unacceptable droppings always catch my eye first. I have to remind myself not to over react because at this early stage and with over 200 birds it is quite unlikely that all droppings will be perfect. Needless to say they never will be. Have you ever noticed that the better droppings tend to be on the higher perches?
We had horizontal rain from the south today and some blew in through the windows. A liberal sprinkling of Stable Boy dried the floor within an hour. The loft was perfectly dry this morning. I thank Bill Madore for the tip.
The last shipment of birds arrived yesterday for a total of 209 entries. This morning all the birds in the new arrival section were thrown in with the rest of the birds. I regret to report that the little blue bar had to be put into sick bay this morning. It had food in its crop but it seems to be having trouble digesting it. This is not a good sign. However, I am pleased to report the little red check who is still not feathered out under the wing joined the flock for its morning meal.
It was a beautiful sunny warm day so the birds were given a bath. Yesterday some birds were congregated around the drinkers trying to get a bath and others were in the trapping aviary and at the windows trying to take advantage of the horizontal rain. Still most took a second bath today. The 5 in 1 treatment began this morning.
The Le Tour birds will be let out for the first time tomorrow.
Through windows in the loft the birds have this southerly panoramic view of the outside surroundings . By June it will be obscured somewhat as the trees completely leaf out. Right now the birch trees are about 75% in leaf and the maples about 50%. This is just enough for the first time flyers to see the ends of branches and avoid injury. Yet, if a youngster should drop down in the woods to the north of the loft because the trees and shrubs are not in full foliage it will be easier for it to get out. It was a beautiful afternoon so at noon the birds were let out for the first time since they have been here.
It was not long before a small group wandered out. For now they will go out on their own will and as the days go on I will begin to encourage more of them to go out. About 50 spent most of the day basking in the sun and exploring the surroundings. By by 9:30 that evening I thought all were in. It was no big surprise that one stayed out over night.
Racing pigeons are amazing creatures that are capable of unbelievable athletic performances. I think they are one of God's finest creations. But as babies sometimes they sure can be dummies if not most of the time. During the first hour they got spooked by a starling and about 10 took off. They flew in small circles around the loft and eventually landed everywhere but the loft roof. All day long small groups went up for their first fly and virtually all of them landed somewhere else but the roof of the loft. I don't understand how a young pigeon can land on a wire or on the smallest branch in a tree but miss a big loft roof.
It was another ideal day for settling young birds. Today they were let out at 1:30. In addition to opening the trapping aviary exit I decide to open the doors at each end of the loft. Without having to chase them out, more exits resulted in more young ones going out. About three quarters of the flock eventually took the opportunity to explore outside the loft. Many tested there wings and found landing on the roof loft easier today. By nightfall only 2 that I could see chose to spend the night out on the window sill.
Settling the young ones has been going quite well. They have been out for the 4th time without incident. The Le Tour team is given their freedom in the early afternoon and it is almost 9:00 by the time the last one finds its way in. Several birds have spent the night out.
In regards to health issues, as I usually do in the mornings, I quickly scanned the perches this morning and the droppings looked quite good. Actually they were better than at the beginning of the week and much better than last year at this time. There are still some wet spots on the floor. I would guess that 5 to 10% of the droppings could be problematic. Earlier in the week I spotted 3 perches with a small amount of vomited feed so I add AC vinegar to the water. I haven't seen any vomited feed for the last several days. The 5 in 1 treatment ended today.
I regret to report that 2 birds are no longer on the Le Tour team and a couple more are struggling with severe sickness.
It was not a good day.
The young birds were let out in mid-afternoon and most went out immediately to enjoy their freedom. I took this time to work in the flowerbeds at the back of the house near the loft and watched the birds. For the next few hours I enjoyed my two passions simultaneously - flowers and racing pigeons. As I weeded the beds I could see the youngsters enjoying life as much as I was. Some made small circles around the loft, some flew down to pick on the ground and some just lazed around in the sun on the loft. Life couldn't be better for the both of us but from experience I sensed this peace and tranquility would not last long. Unfortunately I was right and took no pleasure in being so.
As it approached 5:00, I began thinking of calling the birds in. I thought too late because out of nowhere a goshawk swooped down on the loft and scattered the young ones in every direction. For those of you that have gone through this experience I don't have to tell you what a sickening, frustrating and helpless feeling this is.
I yelled and ran to the loft and in the chaos I could not tell if the goshawk had selected its victim. Just one victim I could have lived with because in this hobby it is to be expected. The hawk did more damage by scaring up 200 young birds that were inexperienced flyers and were just getting settled to their new home. The sky was full of young ones flying in every direction. I could hear the horrible sound of wings flapping and hitting branches in the woods behind the loft. In the distance I spotted about 30 birds that had grouped together and then disappeared over the horizon. A bit later I drove around Rosehill Crescent and down the main road. I saw 6 young ones sitting on several roofs. Around 7:00 a neighbor called and said he spotted a double banded young one in the ditch along the main road. I quickly left to rescue the bird and when I got there I found the neighbor waiting for me. An exhausted blue bar, Oak 4091 was easily retrieved along a fence in deep grass. I thanked the neighbor and explained to him what had happened. When I put the bird down on the loft floor I expect it to eat and drink but instead it immediately ran to its roosting section.
Throughout the evening singles and small groups of birds arrived back to the loft. A quick late night count confirmed the damage. About 40 young ones were missing.
It's been a long day and all I can say at the end of it is, "I thought this sport was supposed to be fun".
It was a much better day. Young ones started to trickle in early this morning and continued throughout the day. A group of 4 arrived after 6:00 this evening. This afternoon I drove around the area and spotted a blue bar sitting on a barn roof. A quick head count indicates that most birds have returned. The total is around 190 birds and hopefully more will return tomorrow. Needless to say, the birds will be kept in for a few days. This sport isn't as bad as I thought it was yesterday; however, I reminded myself that 500 km release is still a long way off. As I have said before anything can happen in pigeon racing and it eventually does.
Several more birds arrived back yesterday. Today was uneventful except for one minor incident. A first time flyer hit a living room window and sat on the sill until the dogs spotted it and did their normal thing. Later I saw the youngster walking along the deck on the opposite side of the house. It had to be rescued and put back in the loft.
The birds were let out for the first time since the hawk attack. It was mid afternoon and most went out as if nothing had happened. Youngsters have a short memory. I know, I taught them for 31 years. The birds lazed in the sun and a few flew in small circles around the loft. A handful went down to the ground to pick around New Brunswick's provincial flower. I began calling them in at 3:30 and of course half of them decided to stay out longer to enjoy their freedom and the sunny day. The last birds trapped at 8:00. Hopefully by missing a meal they will chose to trap quicker tomorrow.
The birds were kept in for the last few days because of bad weather. Today was another cloudy, cold and rainy day so it was a good day to vaccinate the birds for PMV and determine what damage the Goshawk did. I vaccinated 189 youngsters. Do date 3 have been lost due to sickness and 17 did not return from the hawk attack. The missing birds are highlighted in red on the inventory page and the 3 deceased birds are removed from the list. During the vaccination I examined the birds closely and was very pleased with their general health. Three are a concern but at the moment they are eating and drinking. There are a handful of others that have unacceptable droppings but I am confident that these young ones should get well soon. The vast majority of the team has very healthy appetites and are very alert and active. Back to warm sunny days would be welcome.
The Goshawk was back yesterday. When there are no birds out in the aviaries that is usually the sign. The proof was that all my young ones in the weaning pen were up in the top perches bunched up in groups of 2 and 3.
Goto: June 1st