There are many roads that lead to success in this particular subject, and although they all have some measure of success, there are methods that may cause the pigeons to be virtually useless as racers or breeders after their first or second year.
Most keenness starts with the time just before the racing season when even those who tend to neglect their pigeons in the off season are aroused into trying to get their birds into condition for the forth coming races. I will therefore commence my article, six weeks before the racing commences.
About six weeks before the first race, (if you reside in South Africa) should be near to the middle of April and all birds should if they have been treated correctly be nearing completion of the moult ready for the winter which is right upon us. Because of the inactivity during the moulting season, and due to feeding high protein fats for this occasion, the birds have put on extra weight.
To rectify this one needs to feed dehusked sunflower in the mornings, and a feed of Barley only in the evenings. The birds will quickly begin to exercise for long periods on this diet, and only then must a person start basket training. To force birds onto the road which are not fit is wrong, wrong, wrong, and must not be attempted at any cost, this sort of method does not make champions.
It is also at this time 15th April necessary to medicate against: Coccidiosis, Mycoplasmosis, Canker and to clear the air sacks.
Mix one teaspoon of Tylan, one teaspoon of Emptryl, six teaspoons of Terravit (not Terramycine, it must have the vitamins); you put one teaspoon of these mixed powders onto one litre of drinking water. You then add one dessertspoon of Sulfamethazine to this same litre of water and administer for five days. These illnesses keep occurring as often as the common cold, so for one day every four to six weeks you must treat the birds with this mixture. This should keep these unwanted invaders at bay without building up an immunity to the medication, which is a big problem throughout the world. The greatest secret, regarding conditioning a pigeon for a race, is not how to make him peak, but on the contrary how to prevent him from peaking before the Saturdays race.
We are now at the Wednesday morning before the first race; we have been feeding dehusked sunflower mornings and Barley in the evenings. The birds are still full bodied but as light as a feather, and are ready for a good feed with at least 60% Maize.
Wednesday is the day, back onto the good racing mix for Wednesday and Thursday, morning and evening and Friday morning a light feed of dehusked sunflower seed and clean water.
This if followed correctly will make the bird peak on Saturday morning, ready for the journey home.
It is now Saturday and we are waiting for the return of the birds, always have warm water waiting for them, laced with electrolytes and honey or boiled sugar water.
For Saturday and Sunday feeding, because of the exorbitant price of depurative in South Africa, I make the following mixture.
Take a five-litre plastic bucket filled with Barley plus the same amounts of wheat, and mix together. Take a small soup bowl and put in twelve-heaped desert spoons of Torula or Brewers Yeast. To this you add one glass of fresh lemon juice; this will take about six medium sized lemons. Pour the juice over the Yeast and stir until it looks like gravy, then pour this over the wheat and barley and mix well in. Within two hours, there is no trace of the yeast and lemon juice; it has all been absorbed in the food.
The season for this is simple, I do not believe in purging but purifying, therefore Epsom salts and Dicestal is old fashioned and has a detrimental effect on the pigeon. The modern scientific method is to purify the blood and get rid of the toxins, which build up in a birds system. All racers if not on a depurative of some sorts will become sluggish and cease to operate at peak performance.
We have now dealt with Saturday and Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning, dehusked sunflower again and evenings Barley. A normal ration per meal is one cup per ten pigeons; do not let them make you feel sorry for them, because if you exceed this ration, you can feel sorry for them when they have to fly home on Saturday, and sorry for yourself when your more strict competitor beats you once again.
When I raced in England, I used to give Mycosan T in the water every Monday, because our birds do come into contact with birds from unhealthy lofts. It gives moulting problems in our climate so I had to change to two teaspoons of Furasol and two teaspoons of Oxyvital on five litres of water. I understand these two African products are off the market for some mysterious reason, but there are substitutes.
Their overseas competitors recognized them as two of the best products in the world by the way (Makes you think doesn’t it).
One day per week of Garlic is also good for the pigeon, but I feel I must make you aware of one other very important factor. Pigeons that have regular medication in the water are known to decrease their water intake, any racing pigeon that has a reduction of 10% water over a period of a week will have a reduction in performance of about 40%. This can also knock you out of the prizes, so what I am saying is this, where we can put medication or treatments on the food, please do it this way and leave the water as clean as we possibly can.
In South Africa we fly approximately twenty-one weeks old birds, this program will be good for the first seven weeks with slight variations, as the season gets warmer and longer. Depending on the interested reaction to this method, we can carry on through the whole season, with many scientific reasons for loses etc. Just to mention in closing, I feel that a bird should have as many sixty kilometre tosses per week as possible, and those who do not race any particular weekend must get at least a 150 kilometre toss to keep it up to scratch. I also believe that static is more to blame for losses than illness. If the bakkie or car or truck that you use for training is not earthed for to dissipate static electricity and you do not degauss your pigeons, then you are up the creek without a paddle.
Medicating, Feeding and Training Racing Pigeons for Racing by Jack Barkel