Using Fostering in your Breeding Strategy

Using Fostering in your Breeding Strategy by Domanski Family Loft

racing pigeon eggsI was half tempted to entitle this section “Embryo Transfer”. In horses, embryo transfer is the procedure of artificially inseminating a mare from sperm from a specific stallion. Once the mare is pregnant, the embryo is then surgically removed and transferred to the womb of a surrogate mare. Pretty complicated, very scientific and extremely costly. When we talk about fostering, it’s the same thing, except without the surgery, the cost and the need for veterinary personnel.

When one plans on fostering, or moving eggs or youngsters to a foster pair, one has to take care to put the foster pair into nearly the same laying cycle. Why is this important when we are talking about eggs and not embryos?  It is important because the most important food source for a newly hatched chick is pigeon milk.   Pigeon milk is a substance developed in the crop of parenting pigeons. This is regurgitated and fed to the chicks. Later the chicks will develop enough that you will notice the parents will pass direct feed and grit to the youngsters. This can be seen in the almost transparent crops the squabs. It is best to ensure the foster pair selected is on the same if not no more than 3-4 days ahead of the egg laying pair.

Fostering gives you the ability to produce more than one round of eggs from a foundation pair. In some sources, fostering parents are referred to as “pumpers”. The term “pumpers” was probably adopted because essentially the foster pair is pumping the youngsters with pigeon milk and feed but not the biological parents of the youngsters. In the natural system, often a fancier will move youngsters to another pair that might have only one youngster and let them foster in the parents absence.

What to consider in foster parents or “Pumpers”

We often talk about what to look for and evaluate when selecting race birds and breeders. If you plan on using a system where your race birds will raise a round, consider making them pumpers of eggs from the breeding loft.   Take notes on the nesting behaviors of your race birds. Birds that feed their youngsters extremely well and stay tight on the nest are excellent behaviors to note. Birds that stay put when you attempt to inspect eggs or youngsters are desirable. Birds that flee when you intrude into their nest should not be considered as pumpers.

If you have space and want to keep pumpers for the sole purpose of raising futurity youngsters, these notations will assist you in choosing birds from the race loft to become pumpers. Pumpers should be between the ages of 2-6 years old. Do not use overly aged pigeons as pumpers. Raising a youngster is stressful and taxing on a pigeon.  Your goal is to give a youngster the best possible start as possible. If this is our goal, we should not use overly aged birds as pumpers.

Never use a pumper that has ever contracted canker. There are various strains of canker and the immunity to canker is passed down through pigeon milk. A loft with perfectly healthy pigeons can be exposed to a strain of canker that the loft is not immune to simply by adding stock that is a carrier for a different strain. This is the other reason to use pumpers between 2-6 years old. Their immune systems are performing at a higher level and this will be better for the youngsters.


By adding fosters or pumpers to your program, you can increase your ability to produce very healthy youngsters to the numbers that you desire out of a small amount of stock birds. Ensure that you are recording nesting behaviors and rearing abilities of your race birds so that you can make good selections from those that do not go to the stock loft to instead add them to the pumper loft. Always use pumpers between the ages of 2-6 years old that have not shown signs of sickness and especially canker. Ensure that you keep the laying cycle between your breeders and your pumpers the same so that the newly hatched chicks have adequate pigeon milk.

Using Fostering in your Breeding Strategy by Domanski Family Loft

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