By Vin Blanden

The most important part in the life of a racing pigeon is the first four weeks of its existence – from the day it is hatched unntil it leaves the nest – if it has not grown properly over these 28 days it will never catch up later

Flyers should make sure their prospective flyers receive every care and attention in the effort to produce a healthy batch

If he parent birds are strong and vigorous, and weakling young result, the fault is nt with the pigeons, but with the methods of the fancier

In most cases the reasons for a poor breeding season is due to bad management, and the fault can be due to any one of a number of reasons

Management, good or bad, covers a wide field including housing arrangements and feeding

Probably the loft itself and the feeding methods are the most important factors in the rearing of healthy youngsters

If the loft is well ventilated and the parent birds are provided with spacious breeding pens, clean and large enough to carry two nest bowls, and they are permitted carry out their domestic duties in serene conditions, the fancier is well on the way to a good result

On the other hand if the structure is poorly ventilated and overcrowded to such extent that the parent birds have to fight for nesting space, the ultimate result, apart from diseases common in pigeons, will be a loft of smashed egs, and scalped and seedy youngsters

In short waste of time and money from beginning to end

The new fancier can save himself a lot of disappointment if he realizes right from the start if a pigeon is deprived of any essentials vital for its proper growth, in the first four weeks of life, all the pills and wonder drugs which may be pushed down its throat later can serve no useful purpose at all

He can save money if he also realizes that expensive small seed and other titbids are not necessary for the production of healthy squeakers

If the parent birds are fed good sound peas – no less that 75 per cent of the diet for breeders – a good batch of youngsters will result

Good quality wheat can be used to make up the remaining 25 per cent

If the breeder feels that a little small seed is required, equal parts of canary seed, hulled oats, and linseed, fed sparingly will not do any harm

An anple supply of grain should be available to the parent birds throughout and day, and should be kept in hampers, or in clean containers

Fouled or dirty feed can lead to many ailments

The constant supply of food is most important when squeakers are fed the hard grain immediately after the parent birds have eaten

If the ration available is insufficient the old birds are unable to satisfy their own hunger after emptying their crops into the young

At no time should the parents be forced to remain hungry

If the fancier is observant he will also notice that some cockbirds are more vigorous than others and consequently drive their hens to the nest for the second and third round of eggs with such fervent energy that they do not permit the hen to eat enough to fulfil the squeakers requirements

At this time the cock does not trouble to eat much himself , and infact is not happy until he has his mate back in the nest box

This usually happens when the youngsters in the nest are about two weeks old

An inspection of the nest bowls will reveal the identity of the over-enthusiatic cockbird

Although both cock and hen have not eaten as much grain as needed, both will fill their crops with water, and consequently the young are fed the wrong balance of solids and liquids.

Loose dropings in the nest bowl are a certain indication of the “drive happy” cockbird

This problem can easily be overcome if a pot of grain is placed in the nestbox where both parents will eat their fill

Apart from the grain ration it is essential that a grit supply containing a good percentage of calcium is available at all times.

Youngsters lacking calcium are weak in the legs , are unable to stand up in the nestbox, and in all they re a complex writeoff

Good grit made especialy for pigeons is procurable from various sources

Ordinary shellgrit (ground oyster shell if preferable if it can be obtained) mixed with gravel git, sifted from river sand, together with crushed red clay brick, and about 5 per cent ordinary table salt, with a like proportion of common sulph, makes a suitable grit mixture

clean water, kept shaded and cool, in constant supply is also essential if healthy young are to result

Silver beet or lettuce leaves, fed once or twice a week to birds kept prisoner, and if housed on concrete or wooden floors, a good supply of ordinary soil, which is eaten with relish, complete the necessary diet

To ensure the maintenance of a healthy flock the birds should also be kept free of lice

This can be done by means of dusting with insect powder at various intervals, preferably when the young are about two weeks of age

It is also a good idea in the very hot weather, to inspect the nest boxes every two or three days for red mite.

If this menace is permitted to gain a foothold, and remain unchecked, it can drive sitting birds from the nest

To breed right a fancier must house right and feed right, and take the trouble to carry it out, and if he does he will be well on the way to a good racing season