|Author: Guy Barrett||Title: Training & Racing Young Birds - (Chapter 5)|
|Date: 2002-10-10 23:00:10||Uploaded by: webmaster|
When the squeakers are taken away from their parents at 24 days, although their bodies are completely covered with small body-feathers, the wing flights and tail feathers are only half-grown, and it takes a hirther two or three weeks for these to attian their full length. As soon as this is achieved, however, and the Young Birds are 6 or 7 weeks old, the standing corn should be removed, and the fancier must begin to give them two meals a day, just as he does the Old Birds. But care should he taken to see that they get as much corn as they require at the evening meal, although the morning feed should he light. As the youngsters are still growing, it is very important that this system should be maintained throughout the summer and during the Young Bird races.
As soon as they have been switched to two meals a day, you can begin to teach the youngsters their first lesson - to trap quickly - that is, to come into the loft when required. Those which do not come in the first evening when called will be the first in the following morning. So they quickly learn that their owner’s whistle or call means food, and soon to trap immediately becomes second nature to them. It is a good habit which will remain with them for the rest of their lives and will stand their owner in good stead on the race days that follow.
Young Bird races usually commence about the third Saturday in July. I have never believed in starting training too early; it is better to let the Young Birds develop at home for as long as possible. If training is begun too soon, by the time actual racing starts the birds are thoroughly fed up with it and become stale.
What do we mean by “training"? In the case of Young Birds we mean, firstly, getting them used to the basket; secondly, teaching them to come out of it; thirdly, teaching them that they have to go home; and lastly, teaching them the straight and therefore the shortest way home.
Young Birds generally fly freely when let outside, so they do not need additional exercise and I have deliberately left exercise out of the training programme. But with Old Birds it is quite different. They do much less flying around home and one of the main reasons for training them is to bring them into peak condition.
Therefore, let us consider one by one these four aspects of training Young Birds. I prefer to start about two weeks before the first Young Bird race, and to train all youngsters that are over 10 weeks old. The best way to accustom Young Birds to the basket is to put an old one on the loft floor with the front flap open, and a water trough, complete with water, hooked on to the back. The birds soon begin to investigate this new addition to their home, and will quickly be walking in and out, and on to the top. Before long they become thoroughly used to it and sample the water. Some of the cocks even try to claim it as their own property. Thus the first object of training is accomplished and birds introduced to the basket in this way are never frightened of it.
The next day, put into the basket all thie birds which are to be trained, before letting them out in the morning. Leave them while you have your breakfast and then put the basket down on the ground in the garden, and release them. At first they will not come out, but soon one will lead the way, and the others will follow. Repeat this lesson the next morning!
Now we have come to the third aspect of training, namely, teaching the youngsters that they have to go home. These first “tosses" away from home are best given on the Saturday and Sunday a fortnight before the first race. By choosing the week-end, the fancier can take his birds twice each day.
Once we start training Young Birds, it is important to keep them going, but they must only be taken if the weather is suitable. This point cannot be stressed too much. Thousands of Young Birds are lost each year because their owners have begun to train them in unsuitable weather.
Never train Young Birds in an east wind, or when there are heavy clouds about, or when the weather is thundery. Always choose fine, warm days, and never liberate unless you can see the sun. This point about the sun is an extremely important one and applies to Old Birds as well as to Young. (See Chapter 7) Always remember, if you cannot see the sun (or where it is in the sky), do not take your birds training. If you should have taken them to the release point, and on arrival the sky has clouded over, either wait until the clouds disperse, or take your birds home.
The Youngsters should be given two tosses one mile from home in the direction of time first race point in the clubs race programme. These can be given morning and evening on the Saturday, unless you live in a district where there are likely to be a lot of race-birds passing over, in which case, it may be better to avoid Saturday altogether. The next day, weather permitting, take them for one toss of three miles, and one of five miles. Each point must be in the direction of the race points.
Some fanciers believe in giving the first short tosses from all points of the compass and train their Young Birds ten miles north, south, east and west. But I consider that this is entirely wrong. Many - indeed most - of the shorter races are won in the last few miles from home and, therefore, it is essential that we teach our birds the straightest and shortest route home, and do not encourage them to come home by some devious way which they have learned when being tossed in a direction opposite to that of the race route. In fact, the more often your birds fly over the last twenty or thirty miles of the route from the race points to your loft the better they will get to know it.
This must be the keystone of your training programme. They must know this terrain so well that whem they reach their usual training point in a race, they can say to themselves, “Right - I know exactly where I am”, and can head for home on the direct amid straightest route, ignoring all the other birds in the race.
These first four short tosses should be folowed during the week by further training from points of eight, ten, twelve, twenty and thirty miles from home, each place being in the direction of the first race point as before. Thus, if you are fortunate with the weather, and can send each day, your birds will have been trained thirty miles by the Friday. If you are not so lucky, it will take a day or two longer.
These nine tosses can be followed the next week by a further two - one from the twenty mile stage, and one from the thirty mile stage. Your Young Birds should now be capable of putting up a good performance in time first race on the Saturday. My Young Birds had eleven tosses like this last year.
It is a good policy not to send more than half your Young Birds at a time to time first Young Bird races as there are more pigeons lost in the first two races than in all the other Young Bird races put together. This is because there are thousands of birds, equally inexperienced, in the air for the first time and often flying on different routes. Pigeons are gregarious by nature and Young Birds are easily deflected from their own routes to fly along with birds from another club in a diferent direction.
When your birds return from the race, use a mixture of hemp, linseed and rice as a tit-bit for trapping. With Young Birds especially it is wiser not to 'time in' too many. If they are caught two or three weeks in succession in order to remove the rubber ring for putting into the clock, they soon become shy and reluctant to trap on arrival home from the race.
Try to organise your other race entries so that each Young Bird gets three or four races during the programme. This is quite sufficient. These Young Bird events provide good sport, but should be regarded mainly as education for the future. Some fanciers send their Young Birds to every race, but this cannot possibly do them any good as they are moulting profusely, growing two long wing primaries, and probably a number of tail feathers, besidies countless bodyfeathers, all at the same time. We should endeavour not to take too much out of them, and they will be better pigeons in the years to come. It is particularly important to avoid sending a bird to a race if it is bare on the head or the back of the neck. Keep it until the next week, when it will be better able to withstand a possible downpour of rain.
Now we come to the question of what training should be given between races. At the beginning of the week, select the youngsters you intend to send to the next race. Give these birds two tosses, one from the twenty-mile stage, and one from the thirty and preferably on the Wednesday and Thursday if the weather is suitable. Leave at home all the other youngsters which are not going to the race. Birds which have been to the race the previous week and are to go again, will only need the second of these tosses. By this means, they see the last twenty vital miles again once or twice, a day or two before they are to fly in the race on the Saturday. Also, their muscles are toned up, ready for the event, whilst those birds which remain at home do not become stale from over-training and are not being risked unecessarily. If the birds are to be basketed for the race on the Thursday, these tosses should be given on the Tuesday and Wednesday.
When the Young Birds have flown three races of distances up to 120 miles, the wise fancier will stop a few of the best from further racing. He thus ensures that he will have a number of promising yearlings for the folowing season. He must stop birds which are from the best pair’s and which are coming in from the races consistently well. They are better left at home and allowed to complete their moult, and will not be improved by further racing at this age. Those which are coming in late, or the next morning, should be kept going and sent to the longer events, for they obviously need further education before they can be proved useful or otherwise.
Too much emphasis should not be placed on Young Bird performances. It is very nice to win Young Bird races because a bird flies well as a youngster, this does not necessarily mean that it will win prizes as a yearling or as an Old Bird. On the other hand, a bird which puts up only a moderate performance as a youngster might easily mature into a champion in later year’s. Young Birds which come home from each race about ten or fifteen minutes behind the winners often make the best Old Birds.
Many fancier’s despise the youngster which has spent a night out, failing to get home from a race on the day and arriving back next morning. But this youngster can often make a very good racing pigeon as it has learned very early in life to “work on its own”, and has certainly gained more experience than the Young Bird which has always come with the majority of other pigeons flying to the same locality. As a Young Bird one of my best pigeons spent one night out at both his first and second races, but he has never made another mistake, and has won from all distances up to five hundred miles.
Young Birds race home for two essential reasons: firstIy, a safe and secure place to roost and, secondly, for nourishment. They do not have the same anxieties to encourage them to hurry as do Old Birds, which may have eggs to incubate or youngsters to feed. Occasionally two youngsters will pair up, and if a nest bowl is put on the floor in the Young Bird loft they will soon take to it, and if supplied with pot eggs will incubate them. But I have never achieved much success with paired youngsters, and when I have sent a young cock or hen, sitting on pot eggs, often this has been my last bird home. The novice will be wise if he races his youngster in the usual way, and ignores advice to race them “mated”.
Youngsters from a third round off a good pair will usually be hatched in June and consequently will he too young to be trained with the first and second round, but in my experience, they are definitely worth all the extra effort. Supposing the fancier has six third-round youngsters off his three best pairs, he should begin training these as soon as they are ten weeks old, which will be about the second week in August. They should be trained by themselves, just as their older brothers and sisters were trained a month or so before.
About the last Saturday in August they can be entered in the race, which at this time of the year will be from a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles. The majority will come home all right and can be sent the following week. The birds which fly these two races successfully are well worth keeping. They are from the best pairs, and have been bred in the best weather, and they will be a great asset to the loft in the years to come.
Many of my best birds were hatched in early June, and were trained and raced in this way as youngsters. In a recent season, two of them were third and fifth out of nearly fifteen hundred birds taking part in a 350-mile race. They were then two year oId birds. The following year, another scored well in four races, the shortest being 200 miles, and time longest, 500.
Youngsters bred later than June are known as “late-breeds” and are too young to be raced as Young Birds. Consequently it is necessary to keep them until the next year before it can he ascertained whether they are going to be worth the trouble. Third-round youngsters, on the other hand, prove themselves useful or otherwise very early in life, and the following year they can be trained and raced in the same way as the rest of the yearlings.
Training Programme Summary
Begin 14 days before the first Young Bird race with all youngsters over 10 weeks old.
Get them used to the basket.
Teach them the way out of the basket.
Teach them to go home.
Teach them the shortest way home.
Train only in the direction of the race points.
Train only those which are being entered for the next race.
One toss of 30 miles for those which raced the previous week. Two tosses of 20 and 30 miles for those which have not raced for two or three weeks.
Used with permisson. © RPRA.
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