Well its just about breeding season again!
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to treat your entire loft for canker. Be sure to change the canker medication you use every now and then to reduce the possibility of developing a medicine-resistant strain in your loft.
Many fanciers opt to use a 4 in 1 as preventative treatment, which treats canker, coccidiosis, e.coli, and salmonella in one simple treatment. Additionally, a de-wormer can be safely used before there are babies in the nest. Small stable colonies of canker, e.coli and coccidiosis are normal inhabitants within the pigeon’s body. Extra stress during the breeding season can cause these populations to gain traction and cause both adults and babies to become symptomatic. Better than any medicine treatment or supplement, the key is to practice good husbandry! Frequently cleaning drinkers and providing fresh water is probably the number one thing we can do for our birds to reduce the spread of disease!
Before putting a new pair together, it can be helpful to place the birds in a divided nestbox where both birds can see each other. This setup especially helps with aggressive cocks, who may drive a hen too aggressively when she may not be receptive. Provide the cock with a nest bowl where he can call to the hen. Providing both birds nesting material such as tobacco stems will also increase pairing and breeding activity. After a few days, once the hen appears to be interested, remove the divider and allow both birds to meet.
Infertility issues can stem from either the hen or cock. Generally, if eggs appear normal and contain a normal sized yolk but no chick forms, this is normally the result of an infertile, old, or very young cock failing to inseminate the hen. Cock fertility tablets can be given to increase libido and improve overall physical condition. Feathers around the vent of both cock and hen can be trimmed back with scissors before the start of breeding season to increase cloacal contact and increased fertility. Cut feathers around the vent rather than pull them, as pulled feathers quickly regrow.
A month or so before breeding season, increase the amount of Vitamin E in the diet. Vitamin E is shown to increase libido in both the cock and hen. Wheat germ oil is very high in vitamin E (255 mg/100g), with the highest content of vitamin E of any food that has not undergone prior preparation or vitamin fortification. Sunflower seeds are also very high in vitamin E. Take caution with feeding oils and/or fatty seeds/nuts like sunflower (also peanuts) as they can spoil easily and cause issues in the crop. Store oils and oily nuts/seeds out of the sunlight, purchase smaller amounts more frequently, and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Egg Bound Hens
Be sure to have several types of grit available year-round for all birds, double check that your grit has calcium, vitamin D3 and magnesium included in the mix, or you will need to supplement this separately. A lack of these key minerals may result in soft shelled eggs, which can cause egg-binding in the hen. Egg-binding can be fatal. Eggs may break and cut into the lining of the reproductive tract and cause bleeding. Sepsis may result due to the breakdown of the egg contents and bacterial growth, as well as their inability to pass excrement.
Old hens are more susceptible to egg-laying issues, especially when they are nearing the end of their reproductive years, as their reproductive tract muscles are not as strong and the last few eggs they pass may also be softer or irregular.
If you experience a hen which appears hunched over and depressed, fluid or egg contents in the feathers around the vent, and/or sometimes unable to move her legs or tail (the egg can put pressure on the spinal cord), it’s time to bring her to a warm, dark and quiet location. If it not too cold/windy where the hen is housed, soak her in a warm bath and gently massage her back to relax the muscles, for about 10 minutes. Gently dry the hen and offer her a heating pad on level 1, although it is important that she be able to move off of the heat source if she chooses. A few drops of oil can be given orally, and a lubricant can also be inserted via 1cc syringe into the vent of the hen. Give calcium liquid orally as calcium helps to induces muscle contractions. Return the hen to her warm, dark and quiet location, repeat as necessary every few hours. If the hen is of value/importance and the above fails to produce an egg, bring her to a vet where they can further assist her.
If chicks die in the shell before hatching out, add Breeding Preparation to the drinking water. More often than not, this is due to an iodine deficiency in the hen. Iodine naturally occurs in fertile soil, but when the same food crops are planted on the same plot over a long period of time, minerals are not cycled back into the soil and mineral deficient food is produced. If Iodine added to the water does not remedy the situation, your birds may be experiencing a form of paratyphoid, but this usually will have manifested itself prior to the breeding season.
Splay-leg and Rickets
A lack of calcium, vitamin D3, and magnesium can also be detrimental to the formation of healthy bones in the growing chick, and may result in splay-leg and/or rickets. Chicks with splay-leg appear as if they are doing the splits in their nest bowl. Splay-leg can also be caused by poor or no nesting material in the nest bowl. Legs can be bound together, and the leg position corrected if caught early enough.
Young birds with rickets are unable to fully stand, misshapen beak or keel, bowed legs, drooping wings, hard bumps on the wings and legs. These bumps are actually small fissures in soft bone that have calcified (healed on their own). Rickets can also occur in adult hens, especially towards the end of the breeding season when they have depleted the calcium reserves stored in their bones. Hens may show a lack of appetite, be fluffed up and depressed, and be more prone to bone breaks.
Bone mineralization is a constant process and therefore correction of dietary deficiencies or imbalances can ease the condition if identified early enough.
If foster pairs are not available to take on abandoned chicks, babies can be hand-fed. It’s smart to have a supply of hand-feeding formula such as Exact on hand. Many different types of feeding syringes are available, try a few and see which you prefer. After warming up the chick, fill the crop until it feels like a soft water balloon using slightly warm (but not hot!) formula. Overfilling the crop can cause damage to the tissues and result in infection. Check the crop every several hours, feeding again only when the crop is empty.
All of us at JEDDS hope you enjoy another season of happy and healthy birds!!