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Month by Month


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  • Introduction

  • January Goals & Agenda

  • Young Bird Health Programme

  • Dropping Health

  • Week by Week Routine

  • Common Problems During January




January is a critical time for young bird health and the future health of the entire race team. For the current crop of youngsters, the period from August to December should have provided loft conditions that have created happiness in the youngster so that they become strongly bonded to their home. During this time the birds are given freedom to bond to the loft and explore their surroundings with the Young Bird Programme being used to promote and sustain good health. Discipline or food rationing is not necessary until after the last youngsters bred have entered the race loft. When the last youngsters have come across at the beginning of January - for a May start to racing- a more disciplined approach to the daily routine must be introduced even though the first race is more than five months away. January therefore marks the beginning of race preparations for the young birds.

Race preparations are postponed until February, when the race season begins in June/July or old rather than young birds are used for sprint racing.


January Goals


January is a time to establish a disciplined loft flying routine. It is also the best month to assess and strengthen the general health of the loft . Lice, mites, worms and coccidiosis must be controlled as these conditions hinder immunity and continuing health. This goal is achieved through a four-week rotation treatment protocol using GTWormer - Carlox - S76 - Quik Gel.

January is the best time to develop and strengthen natural immunity (i.e. the natural ability of the young birds to remain healthy under stressful conditions). The Young Bird Programme helps achieve this goal by nurturing health. Treatments against Wet Canker and Chlamydia should be avoided until February if possible to allow immunity against these diseases to develop more naturally.

Prazole tablets and Pox vaccination are used to stimulate immunity in an aggressive manner and to expose any hidden disease. The response of the young birds to this treatment is used to assess the health status of the entire loft and determines a need for additional treatments.

Notes on January Goals

Avoid treatments against Wet Canker and Chlamydia if possible. Instead use the Young Bird Programme which allows the young birds to develop their own immunity against these stress related diseases. Control lice, mites, worms and coccidiosis as these conditions hinder immunity. This goal is achieved through a three-week rotation treatment protocol (GTWormer - Carlox - S76) detailed in the Young Bird Programme.

Strengthen natural immunity (i.e. the natural ability of the young birds to remain healthy under stressful conditions) in an aggressive fashion. This goal is achieved by administering Prazole tablets and the pox vaccination.

The health status is determined by a flock's response to the combined Prazole/Pox vaccination treatment. Flocks responding positively are healthy and continue with the Young Bird Programme. The appearance of negative signs following this treatment indicates a need for a Doxycycline/Megamix to eradicate Chlamydia infection as part of the Pre-Race Season Cleansing Treatment.


January Agenda - May Start to Racing


Week 1


  • Breeding concludes.

  • Young Bird Programme continues.

  • Last youngsters enter race loft by seventh January.

Week 2


  • Clean & disinfect race & breeding loft.

  • Start loft flying routine & discipline.

  • Young Bird Programme continues.

  • First Prazole treatment and Pox vaccination.


Week 3


  • Young Bird Programme continues.

  • Second Prazole treatment for immunity.

  • Pluck flight feathers of old birds and young early bred birds destined for sprint team when giving Prazole tabet.

Week 4


  • Young Bird Programme continues.

  • Monitor response to final Prazole treatment and Pox vaccination.


Final Week


  • Final assessment of health status of young birds.

  • Decide to cull or treat weak birds.


January Agenda - June-July Start to Racing


  • Breeding continues with Breeding Programme.

  • Young Bird Programme continues.


Young Bird Programme During January


The Young Bird Programme continues throughout January with some additions.

Prazole worm treatments are given for three consecutive weeks starting on the second weekend of January and culminating with the pox vaccination on the fourth weekend of January.

Coccidiosis remains a major problem during January following wet spells. Carlox treatments may need to be repeated on a weekly basis when outbreaks occur in overcrowded lofts.

Lice, mites and biting flies are at their worst during the heat and humidity of January and February. Weekly bathing with GT-Wormer or S76 is required in addition to the three-week rotation drinking water treatments. Regular bathing is extremely beneficial to young pigeons helping them bond to the loft.

By continuing the Young Bird Programme throughout January, treatments for the stress related diseases (Chlamydia and Wet Canker) are avoided and a natural resistance to these two most important diseases is allowed to develop. However, these diseases must be treated for immediately when symptoms appear. A combined treatment using Resfite-Turbosole-Megamix for three days may be necessary when symptoms of respiratory infection (one-eyed colds, snotty noses, greasy wattles associated with poor loft flying activity) are present. Canker treatments should not given to the flock during January unless several birds exhibit symptoms of dry canker.

The January Programme uses the regular Young Bird Programme to nurture immunity against the stress related diseases - Chlamydia and Wet Canker. These are the two most important diseases of racing pigeons. It is extremely beneficial for young birds to develop a strong natural immunity against these two diseases before they are exposed to the multiple stresses involved with serious training that must begin in March.

The process of strengthening immunity against these diseases is accelerated by the administration of Prazole tablets for two consecutive weekends, followed by Pox vaccination. Immunity of healthy flocks (Photo 1) is strengthened by this process. However, symptoms of hidden disease appear in unhealthy flocks following this process.

The symptoms of illness that appear following the Prazole tablets and/or pox vaccination are used to identify underlying problems (See the troubleshooting chart on this page). Although many of these symptoms are associated with Chlamydia and Canker infections, it is best to avoid treating the entire flock for these diseases in January unless many birds are affected.

Flocks exhibiting signs of sickness (Photo 2) following the combined Prazole-Pox vaccination treatment should receive Doxycycline/Megamix during February.


Dropping Health


January is the best time to organise conditions in the loft that create good-looking droppings. During January it is impossible to have perfect droppings in every bird because fluctuations in dropping health occur as a result of age, overcrowding and changing weather conditions. A continual supply of F-vite (mineral powders) will help produce good droppings.

Green droppings during January may be the result of disease, under-feeding, lack of minerals, poor food and/or water quality, overcrowding that causes stress related diseases (Chlamydia and Canker), high temperatures and humidity. Healthy lofts may also produce green coloured droppings.

It is the urine part of the dropping that best measures the true health of a flock. A crisp white topping to the dropping is a reliable sign of good health and immunity. Watery droppings are often associated with Chlamydia, Coccidiosis and Worms.


Week by Week Routine

Week 1


  • Breeding Ends

  • Last Round Baby Care

  • Loft Disinfection

  • Clean Food and Acid Water

  • Young Bird Programme

  • Immune Stimulation - Prazole Tablets

  • Weak Birds - Marker Rings

  • Loft Flying & Feeding Routine


Breeding Ends


Breeding should be completed by the first week of January when racing starts in May. By completing the breeding season by January the last round of babies are given ample opportunity to adjust to loft life prior to starting the immune stimulation treatment.


Last Round Babies


Last round babies need special attention during their first week in the race loft. They should be fed apart from the older birds during the first 3 days to ensure they eat and drink well. Usually the last round will take flight earlier compared to previous rounds. By the third week of January all birds should flying as a flock, although some of the younger birds may land earlier than the first and second round youngsters. The last round babies require special attention, as they are most prone to viral infections such as circovirus, herpesvirus and adenovirus.


Loft Hygiene and Disinfection Begins


A thorough cleansing and washing of breeding and race loft floors, walls, perches and breeding boxes to remove accumulated dust and dirt is recommended during the first week of January. A combination of disinfectants is required, as no single disinfectant will kill all germs. Protector & KD powder mixed together in a bucket of water is ideal and kills everything including viruses, bacteria, Chlamydia, fungal spores. Spraying the loft with a low allergen pyrethrin insect spray will help prevent lice, mites and especially biting flies. The process of disinfecting the loft is needed prior to the immunity stimulation process that begins in week two of January.


Food and Water Cleanliness Established


The cleanliness of the food and water must also be established prior to the immunity stimulation process. Culture testing of the food ensures the food is free of contamination. However, January is not a good time to obtain large quantities of grain, as weavil invasion is commonplace during January and February. Get enough food to see through two months.

Water quality must be assessed prior to the immunity stimulation process. The pH reading of the drinking water must be below 7 to protect immunity. Megamix is used to maintain the drinking water pH between 5-6, a level that will help protect the immune response.

The immune stimulation process of January will be most effective when the food is perfectly clean and water pH < 7.


Sunbaking is Encouraged


Sunbaking is encouraged during January by allowing the birds out to fly in the afternoon and free loft until darkness. Direct sunlight stimulates health and strengthens bones.


Loft Flying Routine & Discipline


Ideally, the early rounds of young birds should be loft flying in the morning for at least 30 minutes and ranging by the first week of January. Up until this time the feeding should not be restricted. For this reason the flock may not return immediately to the loft when called in for feeding. During the first weeks of January, the amount and "heaviness" of the food must be adjusted to create the correct balance that encourages energetic loft flying and ranging activity over a 30-minute period as well as disciplining the entire flock to return to the loft quickly when called in for food.


Week 2


  • Immune Stimulation - Prazole Tablet

  • Weak Birds - Marker Rings

  • Weekly Baths - GTwormer

  • Pluck Flight Feathers - whilst giving Prazole tablet to old birds (and young early bred birds destined for sprint team)

  • Immune Stimulation of Young Birds


Immune Stimulation


Immune stimulation during January has three important functions:


  • Firstly, to stimulate immunity and create a strong natural resistance prior to the start of the moult in February.

  • Secondly, to expose weak individuals that should be culled from the flock

  • Thirdly, to assess the exact health status of the flock in terms of stress induced Chlamydia infection.

The Young Bird Programme stimulates immunity of young birds in a gentle and continual fashion. This method of stimulation nurtures young bird health from September until January. During the second week of January, for those who start racing in May, special immune treatments are added to the Young Bird Programme that create stress and at the same time stimulate the immunity of healthy birds. This two-fold action of stressing and stimulating immunity is used to assess the true health status of the loft and reveal hidden diseases that may be present. It is important to know whether Chlamydia is present in a loft during January so that it can be eradicated before the moult and before the stressful process of training begins in March.

The administration of Prazole tablets each weekend for two consecutive weeks during January followed by Pox vaccination is used to stress immunity in a controlled manner. The inconvenience of catching and giving each bird a tablet is far outweighed by the information gained about a need to treat the flock for the stress related disease Chlamydia.


Weaker Birds Identified


During January marker rings are placed on suspected weak birds. Weak birds are those that show signs of sickness following the administration of Prazole tablets or vaccination process. A final assessment is made 10 days after the Pox vaccination (last few days of January) when a decision is made whether or not to cull those birds that have failed to respond in a positive manner by the end of process. Culling should be delayed until March.

When more than 5% of the flock has failed to respond in a positive manner to the Prazole/Pox treatments then this finding indicates the presence of Chlamydia in the loft, which makes it difficult to correctly identify weak birds. Notes are also taken of those birds that thrive under this treatment because they often turn out to be the best performed birds at the end of the season and are therefore ideally suited as stock birds.

January is chosen as the month to stimulate the immunity harshly because breeding has finished and the heavy moult period has yet to start. This is a period of low natural stress for the young birds as they are all weaned and the heavy moult period has yet to start. Healthy young birds that have been on the Young Bird Programme will be well positioned to withstand the stress associated with the Prazole and Pox vaccination treatments and their immunity will be strengthened. Importantly, any negative effects that appear as a result of the treatment will accurately reflect the presence of latent disease - especially Chlmaydia - in the flock.

It is important to identify and cull very weak individuals, because birds that succumb quickly to illness during the harsh immune stimulation process of January represent a continuing health hazard to the entire race team. Weak birds discovered during January - when there is minimal stress - will never win a race and are likely to break down with sickness and infect other birds during the hardships of training and racing.


End Flight(s) Plucked


The second week of January is the ideal time to pluck the end flight of those old and young birds intended to enter the first 9 sprint races.


Week 3


  • Immune Stimulation - Combined Pox-Prazole Treatment

  • Weak Birds - Marker Rings


Immune Stimulation: Combined Pox Vaccination & Prazole tablets


Pox vaccination and Prazole tablets are administered together to assess the true health of the flock and to identify which Pre-Race Season Cleansing Programme best suits your loft. The combined effect of the vaccination and Prazole tablet is to stimulate immunity in a harsh manner. Those birds whose immunity is weak will not respond favourably, whilst healthy birds will appear healthier following this procedure.

Pox vaccination is primarily used to protect the flock from pox infections during the race season. The fever that appears 7-10 days following vaccination stresses the flock but also strengthens natural immunity in healthy birds. At the time of fever the droppings turn watery and dark green in colour, moult stops so that few feathers are seen on the loft floor, some birds are reluctant to leave the loft to exercise and others land on the roof and do not want to fly. Recovery from the fever is noted by the sudden return of moulting feathers on the floor of the loft. The rate of recovery following the fever is a good indication of the health status of the loft. Healthy flocks are affected by the vaccination for one or two days only and recover very quickly before resuming full loft-flying activity.

Vaccinated birds should not be bathed within a week of vaccination. Following recovery from the effects of the vaccination, a healthy flock should appear healthier than before the vaccine. This finding indicates the vaccination has stimulated the immune system into activity. In healthy flocks there is a very obvious lifting in the health status 10-14 days after vaccination. This enhanced health helps to accelerate the moult in preparation for training.

The rate of recovery from vaccination is slow and incomplete in flocks that carry Chlamydia and other infections. Fluffed up birds the day following the combined Pox-Prazole treatment and a failure of the flock to return to normal moult activity within ten days of vaccination are signs of a negative response to vaccination. Additional signs including one-eyed colds, dirty tails, watery droppings, poor loft flying activiuty and panting after exercise indicate Chlamydia is likely to be present in the loft. It may take up to 3 weeks for these flocks to return to normal activity following vaccination.

Flocks that fail to respond in a positive manner to the combined Pox-Prazole treatment and start to show signs of sickness should immediately receive Doxycycline/Megamix for 30 days (see February: Pre-Race Season Cleansing Programme). Do not wait until February.


Week 4


  • Check Pox Reaction

  • GT Wormer in Drinking and Bath Water

  • Identify and Cull Weak Birds

  • Assess Chlamydia Status & Need for Doxycycline Treatment


Check Pox Vaccination


All birds should be caught and handled to assess their health and to confirm the vaccination has "taken". Within a week there is a local raised tissue reaction at the vaccination site, which signifies that the vaccine has been effective.


GT Wormer


Tapeworms, lice and mites are common during the heat and humidity of January and February. All birds (stock and race) should receive GT Wormer in the drinking and bath water at the end of January prior to the start of the Doxycycline-Megamix treatment. Weekly bath treatments using GT Wormer or S76 should be continued during the Doxycycline-Megamix treatment. * Dufoplus and other vitamins can be mixed with Doxycycline, but not KD.


Reduce Overcrowding by Culling Weak Birds


In order to reduce overcrowding stress, culling of weak birds is recommended at the end of January in those flocks that show a positive response to vaccination.

It is only possible to accurately identify weak individuals in flocks that show a positive response to the combined Pox-Prazole treatment. When there is a negative response to the combined Pox-Prazole treatment, it is best to delay the culling process until March because in these flocks it is not possible to accurately determine if birds are truly weak until after the February "Cleansing" Programme.


Assess Chlamydia Status & Need for Doxycycline Treatment


The health of the flock is assessed at the end of January - ten days after the administration of the Pox vaccination. The main purpose of this treatment is to expose the presence of Chlamydia in the flock so that this disease can be eradicated before the moult and the start of training in March.

Healthy flocks show a positive response to the Prazole - Pox vaccination treatment and should continue with the Young Bird Programme throughout February.

Chlamydia infection is present when negative signs such as dirty tails, greasy wattles, poor loft flying, green droppings and inactivity appear following the Prazole - Pox vaccination treatment. A thirty daylong treatment of Doxycycline as part of the Pre- Race Season Cleansing Programme is the best option for these lofts. All birds in the loft (young birds, older birds and stock birds) should receive treatment at the same time.

Alternatively, all birds showing sickness are culled from the loft and healthy birds receive the Young Bird Programme during February to help them develop immunity as they mature. This option may fail to correctly identify weak birds and cull potentially good racing birds.


Common Problems During January


Young bird health continues to be a fragile affair during January as overcrowding pressures are at their peak and weather conditions are highly variable. Monitoring the appearance of the birds and their droppings inside the loft and their loft flying activity outside helps to identify a need for any additional January treatments (e.g. repeat flock treatments against coccidiosis or individual treatments for respiratory or canker problems). The response of the flock to the January Programme reveals underlying problems (e.g. bad food, Chlamydia and Mycoplasma infections) in the loft and identifies the best way to eradicate these during February.


Common Problems:


  • Poor Loft Flying Activity (see February notes)

  • Poor Droppings

  • Dirty Tails

  • Cocky Combs

  • One Eyed Colds - Greasy Wattles

  • Going Light


Poor Droppings


January is the best time to organise conditions in the loft that create good-looking droppings. There is every chance of achieving good droppings by the end of January by stimulating immunity and providing perfect food and drinking water. However, it is too much to expect every dropping to be perfect because fitness levels between different age groups vary and fluctuations in dropping health occur as a result of overcrowding and changing weather conditions. The culling process of January aims to reduce overcrowding stress and help produce consistently good droppings by February.

Monitoring the response of the droppings to the various treatments involved in the Young Bird Programme will help identify problems resident in the loft that later on will affect the birds during training and the race season.

Common causes of green droppings during January include: under-feeding, lack of minerals, poor food and/or water quality, overcrowding that causes stress related diseases (Chlamydia-wet canker), high temperatures and humidity.

The quality of the food and water can be assessed in January by the response to Coccidiosis treatments. For example, very good droppings following a treatment indicate the food and water quality is good. However, an underlying Chlamydia or food problem is likely when the flock as a whole responds well physically to a Carlox treatment but dark green coloured droppings persist.


Cocky Comb


Coccidiosis is the most likely cause of "cocky combs". This symptom also occurs with Circovirus, Wet Canker, Herpesvirus and Roundworms.

First Choice Treatment: Administer Carlox (Dose 3mls per litre of drinking water) for three days followed by Quick Gel (2mls per litre of drinking water) for one day. Monitor the response of the birds to this treatment in order to confirm a diagnosis. When Coccidiosis is present, the "cocky comb" disappears, droppings become firmer and activity within and outside loft increases each day. By the afternoon of Quick gel treatment the birds are very alert and stand upright in the loft.

Repeat treatments using Carlox (Dose 2ml per litre of drinking water) for two days each week for three weeks is recommended when coccidiosis has been diagnosed in young pigeons.


Dirty Tails


Dirty tail indicates the body pH level is too high as a result of stress. Often a variety of conditions are associated with this symptom.

First Choice Treatment: Quick Gel (2mls per litre) and Megamix (5mls per litre) are added into the drinking water for two days to reduce pH and stress levels. Turbobooster and E-powder are added to the food to enhance immunity. A bath (add GT or S76) is provided to clean the feathers and counteract stress.

Second Choice Treatment: Carlox treatment against Coccidiosis (see above) should be given when the first choice treatment does not work.

It is necessary to isolate and examine those birds that do not respond to either of these treatments, as the cause may be Wet Canker, Chlamydia, Circovirus or Herpesvirus. Such birds are considered weak and should be culled.


One-Eyed Colds & Greasy Wattles


One-eyed colds indicate the presence of a respiratory (Chlamydia &/or Mycoplasma) infection in young pigeons. Wet Canker is often present with respiratory infections. Overcrowding, high humidity, fluctuating temperatures and drafts predispose young birds to one-eyed colds.

First Choice Treatment: When one-eyed colds appear in more than three birds, administer Resfite (5gm), Turbosole (5gm) and Megamix (10mls) in two litres of drinking water for three days to the entire flock. This treatment brings temporary relief and prevents the spread of Chlamydia throughout the loft. The presence of one-eyed colds indicates Chlamydia and/or Mycoplasma infections are already present in the loft and that a 30-day Doxycycline-Megamix treatment will be necessary during the Pre-Race Season "Cleansing" Programme in February.


Going Light & Deaths


Herpesvirus, Circovirus, Roundworms and Salmonella infections are possible causes of Going Light.


First Choice Treatment: Isolate birds going light and treat with one Prazole tablet. Disinfect loft with KD. Treat all birds with Quick Gel (2mls per litre) and Megamix (5mls per litre) in the drinking water for two days to reduce pH and stress levels. Turbobooster, E-powder & Bloomford are added to the food to enhance immunity and a bath is provided to counteract stress. Submit a sick bird for pathology if there is no rapid response to this treatment as a negative response to treatment indicates there is an underlying viral or other infection.

Detailed information regarding the month to month care for the race team and the breeding loft.

Enhances pigeon performance by providing an immediate and sustained energy source.

The behaviour of pigeons as they fly outside the loft tells us a lot about their fitness, health and happiness.

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