Things To Consider When Breeding Your Pigeons.
Breeding healthy pigeons is not by any means a simple process. If you want to breed a healthy pigeon then there are many important steps that must be followed. Most importantly you must be aware of the antibiotics which are available and the effects that they will have on any breeding that you do.
Sexing Pigeons & Understanding Them.
Pigeons are very complex birds and have many characteristics that can be compared to humans. When they breed they will often breed for life. If left to there own means then they will breed for over 10 years without having other partners. This is a similarity which is very close to humans. The most important item when breeding your pigeons is being able to sex them. If you are not sure whether you have a male or a female then how will you possibly get young birds? One of the most obvious signs is the cock (male pigeon) is usually larger then the hen birds. They characteristically will have thicker necks and larger heads then the hens. Male pigeons are much more aggressive then female pigeons. A common characteristic and habit of male pigeons is they will strut about and coo. This is the male pigeon's method of obtaining a mate and "courting" the female birds. Male birds will puff themselves up and will strut there stuff in an attempt to impress and win over the female birds. A clear sign that your pigeons are about to mate is when they begin billing. Billing is when the female pigeon inserts her beak into the male's beak and regurgitates food. The cock bird can show some very strange characteristics during the time leading up to the mating of the hen and the cock. He will often chase her around the loft pecking and cooing at her. This is his way of drawing her attention and telling her he is ready to mate. He will also chase her around and try to force her into the nest so that they can complete their paring and mate with one another. Sometimes the cocks actions can be so aggressive that he gives her barely any opportunity to drink water or eat any food. This is quite normal and the cock will stop once they have succesfully mated and the first egg has been laid in the nest. If you watch your pigeons usually after mating the male pigeon will take a "Victory Flight". The male will fly about the loft if it is roomy enough and the hen bird will usually follow it.
Antibiotics During Breeding
One of the most important things to be aware of is that some antibiotics can have very serious and negative effects on your babys. The antibiotics Baytril and Saraflox are used for a variety of different purposes but if used during breeding cause problems. The drugs will be passed along to the baby, either through the egg, or during feeding, the end result will be growth abnormalities, birth defects and other health related problems.The drugs Emtryl, Ridzol and Flagyl also will effect the breeding process in a very negative fashion. These drugs listed are known as antitrichomonas. Whenever using these drugs you must be aware that they can cause overdoses, central nervous problems and a reduction in the sperm count in the cock bird. Always make sure that when you use these drugs that you do not give the bird too much of the antibiotic. Also you want to always be sure that the antibiotics you are using are not going to have an adverse effect on your birds. Although the problems I listed are very rare, and do not happen very often, they do happen. Always make sure even when you are not breeding that you keep a very close eye on your birds, that you maintain a good knowledge of what you are giving them and watch for symptoms. If your birds begin acting strangely, or your babies are dying it could be a result of using an antibiotic.
It is also strongly reccomended that you provide your pigeons with a program of medications leading up to the breeding period to ensure that they are healthy and remain healthy throughout the breeding period. The most important thing to be sure of is that you have treated all of your birds for paratyphoid and PMV. These are two killers that can attack your entire coop if not properly treated for. Young birds are very succeuptable to these diseases and if the parents are not treated properly will pass it to the young very quickly after birth. About one month before breeding you will want to make sure that you increase the protein levels in your birds as well. The reason is that during the breeding season it is very stressfull and the increased protein levels helps the bird prepare for the breeding season. This can be done by adding protein pellets to the birds feed. As well it is very important to make sure you provide the bird with calcium supplements as well as other essential vitamins and nutrients. To get more information on antibiotics, medications and supplements refer to the sections later on in this book.
Salt Deficiency During Breeding.
Salt deficiency is a very serious problem that can occur during the breeding season. If your parent birds are feeding then they are passing along essential salts to the baby birds. If your birds are already low on salt then passing these essential salts off to the young birds will result in very negative problems. Both the parent birds and the new born babies need a certain amount of salt, if they don’t have enough it can lead to health problems and even death. The easiest ways to see if your birds are suffering from salt deficiency is to look at there droppings, watch there eating habits and monitor them for strange behaviour. When a bird is low on salt then it will have very wet droppings and the end result will be damp nests, which are a breeding ground for bacteria and will result in infected young birds and parents. Baby birds when they are first born are very vulnerable to disease and infection.
As well when your pigeons are low on salt they will be eating more food then usual. Some grits and feed do not have the required amount of salt in them that the pigeons require. The pigons will then begin to eat large quantities to try and get the salts that they need. You must be aware though that you never give salt to a starving pigeon. Your pigeons may be eating a lot of food but not be salt deficcient, they could just be hungry from lack of proper feeding.
If you feed your pigeon to much salt, i.e. salt supplements you will poison them if they are not low on salt. Salt poisoning is very serious and can lead to the death of your pigeon. Be very sure of what you are treating before treating anything. A hungry bird is not neccesarily salt deficient. When you give your birds to much salt it can lead to problems in the birds brain. If your birds begin acting strangely, staggering about, etc, then it could be a problem with the salt level in your birds. Salt deficiency most commonly occurs in coops that do a lot of breeding in multiple rounds. If you are breeding multiple times, it is the process of producing eggs, providing crop milk and the overall tasks of feeding babies that depletes the reserves of salt in the parent birds. It is very likely that your birds could be deficcient if you are breeding many times. Keep an eye on them and beware of any unusual activities that your pigeons may be showing. As always consult a licensed vet for further instruction and means to correct the problems
Succesfull Breeding Tips & Nesting Habits of Pigeons
When breeding your pigeons age is a very important factor. When you are breeding your pigeons it is a proven fact that using a younger cock and an older hen will often times get better results when it comes to getting good results. Although it has also been shown that an older cock and younger hens also get good results. Play around with it and experiment to decide which method works best for you. When pigeons are preparing for the young the Hen and the Cock each have particular roles to fill. When pigeons are ready to mate and breed the cock bird will scope out your loft and find a suitable spot to nest. Once the cock has found a suitable location it will call out to its mate who will then either enter the location as a sign of approval or ignore it. The hen bird is the one that will make the nest. The cock will bring it the materials needed to make the nest and then hen will be the one to actually fabricate the nest using the materials provided by the cock. When pigeons create the nest for their eggs to be born in it is not exactly the finest example of a nest. Pigeon nests are very loosely constructed and not exactly miracles of construction. That is why it can be a very good idea to provide them with nesting bowl's which contain nesting materials or sand for the eggs. The hen will still build a nest around it but at least you know that it will have a substantial nest to hold the eggs no matter how flimsy the hens nesting results may be. One of the most important things during breeding which often gets overlooked by people is that the young pigeons that are now out of the nests must not be kept in the same spot as the paired birds. The reason is that they will hamper the parent pigeons attempts to re-mate with one another and have more young birds. In the same token it is also important that you do not have unpaired birds in the same areas as the paired birds. The unpaired birds will fight with the mating pairs as well as intrude on the nests and the results can be very bad. The eggs will be broken during fighting and mating may not even take place at all. It is important during breeding to make sure that the birds are as comfortable as possible to ensure a succesfull mating. The breeders who get the best results during the breeding period are the ones that have there lofts setup properly. Have a pen setup where your mated pairs can mate without being interfered with by the unpaired and young birds. It is also important that you provide a coop for the young birds to live in once they are totally independent and know how to feed and care for themselves. One final thing that is very important is the introduction of new birds. When you introduce new pigeons into your coop it is very important to pair them off immediately with a bird you wish to mate them with. If you introduce an unmated male into your coop it will lead to fighting and a lot of disruption in your coop. If you take the time to put the male and a suitable female into an individual nesting box then they will pair off and being to mate. Once this new male has a mate to breed with you will eliminate the fighting and disruptions that could take place.
Holding or Switching Eggs
Sometimes the parent birds will not properly care for the young birds and it becomes neccesary to switch the eggs to a foster parent which will care for the eggs and young ones. This is not a very complicated process but it must be done properly in order for the young birds to survive. Timing is the most important factor in switching eggs. You must make sure that the eggs of the foster parents and the biological parents are layed within three days of each other so that the switch over will be succesfull. The reason that you want to make sure that the foster parents eggs and the biological parents eggs are layed within three days of each other is so that the foster parents are prepared for the arrival. If the babys are born and the foster parents do not have the proper amount of crop milk ready the young will die or not develop properly. As well if the eggs hatch late then the foster parents may desert the eggs or already have stopped developing crop milk to feed the young.Sometimes no matter how hard you try to achieve the proper timing in switching eggs it just does not work out the way that you want, this is where "holding" comes into play. Holding eggs is a bit complicated and you will have to experiment with it to find out what works best for you. Usually you will want to remove and hold the eggs for no longer then 3 to 5 days, making sure that they are kept at room temperature and are turned twice a day. Some people have held the eggs for up to ten days but my research has shown that holding the eggs for longer then ten days greatly lowers the success rate.
Caring for Young
Caring for the young birds is a process which is very important. The young birds are very vulnerable when they are first born and the hen and the cock both play important roles in caring for the baby pigeons. Both the cock and the hen take turns resting on the nest and caring for them. For the first few weeks after the pigeons are born the hen will take care of feeding and nesting on them .The babys are fed a milkish like substance by the babys inserting there beaks into the hens beak and she pumps the liquid down there throats. As time passes she feeds them more grits and grain slowly preparing them for feeding themselves, and weening them off of the milk. After about 3 weeks the cock bird takes on the responsibility of feeding and nesting the baby's. The hen bird then moves on to create another nest and prepare for the new batch of babies. The baby pigeons usually are ready to leave the next after 6 to 8 weeks and then move out of the nest to fend for themselves with the other pigeons. At first all they do is imitate the other pigeons and there parents. They peck at the ground, put there beaks in the water dish, and as time passes quite quickly learn to fend for themsleves. After 10 days the babies are totally self sufficient and capable of caring for themselves without their parents. Although the parent birds usually do a very good job of taking care of the young birds, you to must also keep an eye on the situation. You must make sure that if there is a change in temperature or climate inside the loft that the parents are nesting on the young birds. Another thing to keep in mind is that some pigeons are just not good parents. Many breeders will use rollers, tumblers and homers to nest on the eggs because the parents neglect or abandon the eggs in the nest. There is not much point in breeding your pigeons if the eggs are constantly being abandoned and the young are always dying. Keep an eye on the situation and when necessary make sure that you remove the eggs and put them underneath a bird that will care for and protect the eggs. It is not uncommon for the baby pigeons to die after they have hatched from the shell. In most cases this is blamed on paratyphoid. When the baby's are dead in the nest they have usually been trampled by the parents, but you must keep in mind that they were dead before they were trampled on. When the baby's die in the nest the parents will still tend to the nest and the dead pigeons and this is how they get trampled. The baby's death is usually a result of infection or disease which they have caught from the parent birds or the nesting materials in the nest. Although it is the most common reason for death in the nests, paratyphoid is not the only reason that the young will die. The diseases Proteus spp., E.coli, Klebsiella spp., and Citrobacter spp will also lead to the death of young birds and have similar characteristics as paratyphoid. These diseases are known as Pseudomonas. They are very difficult to treat because they are immune to most antibiotic treatments. Always consult an Avian Veterinarian if you are having troubles with your birds.The young birds are very vulnerable when they are born and can easily fall victim to any disease or bacteria. If your baby's are dying and you are sure that it is paratyphoid it is best to separate the parents and the breeders and treat them with Baytril or Saraflox for a period of at least 10 days. These drugs are not to be given to your birds while they are breeding because they will neglect the eggs and the babies. It is reccomended that if the birds have young in the nest you give them either Amoxicillin or Cephalexin. Also as mentioned earlier on always make sure that the nesting material is clean and replaced regularly. The nesting material is a feeding ground for bacteria when not kept clean especially when it is warm or damp in the coop. Cold weather and dry air fight to keep bacteria levels down where as warmth and dampness promote the growth of bacterias and disease.