Safety in numbers?

Discussion in 'Pigeons and Doves' started by nxd10, Aug 11, 2013.

  1. nxd10

    nxd10 Out Of The Brooder

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    I feel cursed. I started with four white homers 3 years ago. It had seemed as if every time I got to 5 birds, I'd lose a few and be back to two or three. So the new babies were just keeping up with my losses.

    Here's an example. I had a breeding pair, two month old squeakers, and three younger birds who had been flying free but hadn't done a release. I left all the oldsters out around five miles from home. All came home in good time (before I did). The old hen went back into the loft to tend her squeakers. Her mate and three youngsters went out for another fly around. I found feathers nearby that seem to be a hawk hit. An afternoon storm rolled through and the 3 youngsters never made it back to the loft.)

    This is my worst loss ever. Usually it's a disappeared bird after an afternoon flight. Rarely a bird doesn't make it home from a longer release (20 miles or so).

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    I have decided that maybe my problem is size of flock. Last week I added 8 young birds from two other lofts (total now of 11 birds - one old hen, two squeakers, and 8 young birds.)

    I am trying a different training regimen. Rather than waiting until they are strong flyers to avoid hawks, I am using the 'roof sitting' strategy. All the birds can fly well enough to get up to high perches. My loft opens into a 'courtyard' with a roof, carport, covered area with a perching area they love, and cedar hedge.

    For the last two days I have let them out and they have gotten markedly better at flying just moving between the roosts and the ground. They followed the old hen back into the loft both evenings. (She returned earlier than they did, but I could take her out and release her, she'd go in, they'd follow. They got better each day.)

    I am whistle training them and removing food several hours before they go out. I always release in the late afternoon - hawks our definitely worse in our area in the morning. They're gone by midday. I have food available on their return.

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    Any other suggestions? Does this strategy make sense? I find these monthly losses discouraging. I don't want a big loft - I had originally wanted a flock of 8. Now I'm hoping for perhaps 16 maximum.

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    I would also really like some suggestions for building a good perching area for the birds. We have a wide overhanging roof and they perch on our drain spout. It's great hawk cover and out of the weather as well. But I'd like something not metal for their feet.
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Fly them hungry and have them trap into the loft immediately upon getting home. Most of my losses occur while free lofting around the house. That being said in my experience once a Coopers hawk finds your birds it will stay around as long as you are flying them. At one point I was raising between 60 and 80 young Birmingham rollers a year in an attempt to have a 20 bird flying kit. At the end of a training season I might have 20 birds left - all the hard flying non performers. I have given up on the idea of ever fielding a competition kit and just fly birds when hawks are less active around here.
     
  3. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Pigeon breeders rule # 1 : Only fly birds that you can afford to lose. In other words retain and breed from your best birds and fly their young until they earn the right to enter the breeding loft. Several years ago I raised a bluebar cock that was burning up the sky and outperforming everything else in the kit. He was a true trigger bird. I was watching the birds perform one day and mentally said to myself, "When they trap in, I am going to transfer him to the breeding loft." No sooner did I say this than the kit was attacked by a Coopers hawk. In an attempt to escape Mr Bluebar crashed into my utility shed. The hawk immediately hit him, and then a second hawk attacked the first. As I raced over a Goshawk entered the fray. The hawks took off and my pigeon was there on his back - 'dead'. And then very slowly he opened one eye. I scooped him up, and miraculously he was unscathed. He immediately went into the breeding loft where he served me well.

    With flying /performing breeds it is necessary to evaluate quality prior to using as brood stock. Defining that moment when a bird is 'good enough' is the tough part. I lost many good birds by trying them out just a bit too long.
     
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  4. fowlsessed

    fowlsessed Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 16, 2011
    east Tennessee
    Good info, Sourland. Crazy story! Talk about some 'Karma' working there!
    If the BOP get bad, it's stop flying or risk jail time! I don't know what else to do. They are the worst.
     
  5. nxd10

    nxd10 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 5, 2011
    Mine do loft fly almost every day. I have seen them outrace sharp shinned hawks (amazing). But I've also lost some to them close to home. Perhaps that's the problem. My oldest toughest and fastest bird may get kept in just for breeding. She has survived a chicken attack (3 inch open gash across the throat - and expensive vet bill), a hawk attack, and I've seen her outfly two other hawks. However, the hawk seem to have moved on since I moved the loft to a more sheltered spot.

    I've been flying them hungry.

    So if you don't loft fly do they just fly from a release? I have 10 very young birds I'm currently starting. They are flying markedly better every day but are just flying from the roof to carport to loft and not really exploring yet. They've just been free flying four days now.

    I haven't been racing. I just love watching them fly. They are amazing to me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2013

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