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Health; is it a natural phenomenom, or is assisted by drugs?...
Author: Alan HamblingTitle: Health; is it a natural phenomenom, or is assisted by drugs?
Date: 2005-01-12 18:49:06Uploaded by: webmaster
I am a fancier that has come back to the sport after a long absence. I started keeping pigeons when I was about seven or eight years old, I used to keep pigeons in an old greenhouse back then and what a motley crew they were, but I can not recall them being unwell ever!

As time went by I obtained better and better pigeons and I along with my friends used to put them literally in a cardboard box and take them down to the railway station and send them off to whatever destinations took our fancy, we sent our pigeons down to Brighton on the south coast which was a distance of some 250 miles approximately or if we fancied a change they went to Edinburgh , Glasgow, or Blackpool. so literally these birds went overnight to where ever we fancied sending them and my friends and I never ran out of candidates for our hobby.

I carried on racing pigeons in the pudding club as my friends and I called it until I was about thirteen years old, I then managed to persuade my Mam to let me get an allotment on the pretext that she would never have to buy vegetables again. I put a cabin on the allotment and before long the birds were broken from my backyard at home to the new loft It is fair to say that I had some moderate success with these pigeons against pigeon fanciers that are still cleaning up today in the Up North Combine. I left the sport at the age of 24 because I had to go away to work as I was made redundant and could not find regular work at home so with great reluctance My Hobby came to an end.

I moved over to the West Coast married and raised a family but always kept one eye on the sky looking for pigeons (It never ever leaves you) and one fateful day I was at a farm buying meat when I spotted some fantail pigeons in the farmyard my wife who had never had any contact with pigeons said they are quite nice! That was all it took to get me back before I knew what I was doing I had built a rabbit hutch with three different levels. Ground floor for one rabbit, first floor for the second rabbit, Top floor for the pair of fantail pigeons that I bought from the farm.

To be honest I secretly knew that before long I would be back with the racers. I was feeding the fantails one night when there on top of the little shed was a blue cock with a race rubber on, he was absolutely shattered and starving so in he came, my daughter thought he was beautiful and he was. He was reported as he would not leave and his owner did not want him so that was me with the start of My new team!

To cut a very long story short within 6 weeks I had joined my local club and had started to build a pigeon palace as that is what it is compared to my humble little loft back in Tyneside.

I devoured everything pigeon and quite frankly was amazed by the differences in the sport back then to present day, I had never heard of some of the diseases that I read about or even realised that the birds were so Fragile as to be almost precious.

However not to be out done I purchased pigeons from some top lofts, gave them the best of everything money could buy, Put all the birds on a course of anti-biotics, cankered and cocci-ed them, wormed them and inoculated them.

That first year back oh boy was I going to clean up, Oh boy what a shock I got , I raised 40 young birds and was convinced that I would have to be killing some at the end of the season just like old times! In reality after just three races I was left with just 12 youngsters although I was 2nd and 3rd in my first race and 1st and 4th in the second race and 4th in my third race, please bear in mind that this was my first year back in the sport but these birds were from good lofts well fed,well trained and as healthy as they could be.

To say that alarm bells started to ring was an under statement! how could I lose so many birds when obviously there were no health problems as they could not be up with the winners if they where not healthy, they had been well trained, were fit and were well bred.

I decided that I would consult with the expert in our club and these pearls of wisdom came forth. Underlying problems was the answer, your birds have Paratyphoid it does not show up until they come under stress, what you should do is give them a course of Baytril for ten days then they will be fine.

Well the Baytril was administered and my fine team of youngsters were now down to 9, Oh Boy I scoured the internet looking for answers, read more books than could possibly have been good for me but to no avail I could not find out why I had lost so many pigeons.

Down at the club the experts told me that it was different racing down here than what it is in the up north combine it was easier up there as all the birds had to do was to get out of the basket and head for home there where no natural obstacles up there like we have in Cumbria and our birds have got to contend with the mighty peregrine, It would have to have been one almighty peregrine to consume all my pigeons and as I later discovered everybody else's.

That one last statement was when I realised that in-spite of what every one was telling me they were also getting cleaned out week after week I did a quick back check and then like a flash of blinding light it was there, almost 550 birds at our first race but after only 5 races there was only 80 or 90 pigeons left, what happened to them all?

My next season I raced my extremely depleted yearling team and only managed to last 6 races and I had no birds left to race. I was absolutely gutted and seriously thought of packing the whole lot in. How ever I had my newly bred Young bird team and may as well try them out, there is an old saying that says if you always do the same thing you always get the same result and I did, at the end of my second year I had a fine team of stock birds but no race team.

All that winter I thought what I had done wrong; had I under nourished, them worked them to hard, fed them to much! it was torture.

After much thought about what I had done I reflected on the good old days when my friends Patrick and Norman used to get birds back from Brighton 250 miles that were reared in tea chests trained on the back of our bikes put in a cardboard box and tipped out 250 miles from home with out ever consulting a weather forecast or obtaining line of flight forecasts by a Station master who would only take them to the end of the platform and open the box no watering before liberation etc.

My thoughts turned very much to those days and the birds that I had and the methods that we used. Apart from being fed and watered these birds were out all day long sat on the roofs with the street pigeons and only came in to take there turn on the nest or for food which was mostly kibbled maize, or spilt peas or rice. Oh how I wish I had birds like those now I thought.

What could be different how could I get pigeons home in less than ideal circumstances then, but for all the pampering these birds get to day be cleaned out?

My thoughts raced we never ailed anything either then did we? Hardly a sniff or anything, as is my way when I am struggling to find the answers I turned to the one person that knows everything, my wife.

I give these birds everything they need, good food, good training, best medicines. I even treat them before they have any thing wrong with them. Well she says haughtily that is the problem then, no wonder they go missing you're stupid she told me and went about her business the way ladies do.

I followed her out into the garden, what do you mean I said? well only a fool would buy medicine that is not needed and give it to perfectly healthy birds why do you do that then. Quick as flash I retorted that they need it. I will never forget the withering look that flashed across her face in that instance I knew she was right, I was stupid.

I had fallen into the trap of the get rich quick merchants, the give them this before they need it and they will never need it merchants.

Over the last 2 years I have not treat my birds for canker, coccidiosis, worms or any other thing I have injected them for Paramixo virus and have only done so because it is a requirement by law. I have put live natural yoghurt on the corn put garlic cloves in the water, gave them honey in their drinking water, put the stock pigeons on deep litter and let them pick about the garden as they choose. The difference is quite frankly astonishing I have now got an established team of two year olds that have all been over the channel, a yearling team of 38 that have all been to 200 miles as young birds and although I have not won all before me I have had some moderate success and most importantly I have enjoyed my racing as I am confident that I will get them back just as I did 40 years ago before we all started using drugs before they are needed.

I would like to finish this article by stating that I would use anti-biotics and such if they were required but not before, I have given this matter a lot of thought and I am sure in my own mind that what I have experienced is true of my own loft but is it true of other lofts that do not keep there birds as I do now.

Alan Hambling

Coo time for a brew!...Where next?
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