Breeding with old cocks
I would like to dedicate this article to breeding. For long time I preferred the breeding season over the racing season. I always looked forward to see the youngsters grow up, initially to detect the color of the youngsters from mostly new breeding pairs and later weaning them to see the quality of the youngsters.
Now, I prefer more the races, because during these moments I am thinking of nothing but pigeons, even though I live a pretty carefree life.
In 2015 we paired our breeders about two weeks after the requested date. I like to couple indeed as early as possible, namely about the 25th of November, but this was not possible this time. You should also know that we do not lighten the breeders before or during the winter breeding. We just hope that a sufficient long separation of the sexes works a smooth lay in the hand.
We therefore prefer the relatively young breeders, although yearling hens are avoided. As we darken the young hens and race them until beginning September, they are not ready for the end of November breeding.
However, we have some old breeding cocks which gave good descendants in the past and we also engage them in the breeding process. The three oldest are, after all grandsons of our basic pigeon “Tramontane”, 5106212/1992, namely “Bourges”, the “Champion 34” and “Perpignan”. I would like to emphasize on these three pigeons.
“Bourges”, 2nd prize national Bourges and six first prizes, he is just about the basic breeders of the middle distance strain in the loft of Patrick Philippens.
The “Bourges”, 1003427/2003, in my eyes our best middle distance pigeon that we ever had. Besides the 2nd prize national Bourges, he won six first prizes and was selected as 2nd Belgian pigeon for the “European Cup” in the category all-round. As a breeder, he performed well, as almost all of our current middle distance racers is his blood (most are grandchildren) and that is somewhat unique. In early 2013, the “Bourges” did not fertile his first two or three couples of eggs in the large breeding loft. We let the breeders indeed still separate fertilize their hens. Therefore “strange conception” is almost not possible. However, we decided to put him from mid-April with a yearling hen in a separate loft, and to our surprise he fertilized it there.
“Bourges”, mentioned in this article, is in a separate breeding loft.
Therefore “Bourges” remained also for breeding in 2014 and 2015 in his breeding box, but the first couples were infertile, although he afterwards fertilized four couples. Also this year, same story: his first youngsters were only born on April 23, but the next four rounds he filled each time both eggs.
The “Champion 34”, 1003534/2003, was a good racer, but is in fact still a better breeder. The two first youngsters he gave as a yearling in 2004, flew both very well, while he is also the father of one of our better youngsters 2014. Till the end of last year he fertilized all eggs, but earlier this year it went wrong. The first two rounds he not fertilized. Therefore he had to feed one youngster from other breeders. The third couple was fertilized. His two first youngsters 2015 saw the light of day around April 10.
The “Perpignan”, 1020409/2004, was also a good racer and is a good breeder too. From his six rounds he fertilized this year, 11 out of 12 eggs.
I am writing this because I do not think it is so evident to breed from cocks of an age of twelve and eleven years. In the past, we had not so often cocks that fertilized at the age of more than ten years. I could live it difficult. Until at some point, perhaps inspired by literature or contacts with other fanciers, I thought it could have a negative effect on the fertility of old cocks to give the breeders three or four times a year a treatment against trichomoniasis. That's why I limited the tricho treatments for the breeders to a five-day course early January. In early January because the youngsters then lying in the nest and are also treated this way. This year, I thought to myself, why would I treat the breeders early January because the low temperatures do not work an outbreak of disease in hand. That's why all the pigeons were only cured mid-April against trichomoniasis : breeders (fifteen months without), racers (more than nine months without) and youngsters. This letter, however, you should only consider as a practical experience, because I had obviously done better to let examine the pigeons before to administer the treatment, it would have given more power to this article. Now I therefore ask myself how many of my growers were exempted after fifteen months from trichomoniasis and how many racers - who did winter breeding - after nine months were still free? Yet, I have the impression that my breeders did not need mid-April a cure. I did it because I wanted the third round to be fully indemnify.
The question about trichomoniasis also suggest the following. Before and now in the Netherlands and Germany, they speak about the yellow disease. To be honest, I have never seen in our own loft the disease at this stage.
Hence the question: having a pigeon who is lightly infected with trichomoniasis, what is the nuisance and, if so, to what extent?
In the same context, I ask the question, is it of little concern for the shorter flights, but what’s about for longer flights linked to several days stay in the basket? At this stage of this article I also think about the pigeon-fanciers who acidify the water. Again, I ask myself did science come already to conclusions, because so far I saw few publications on this subject, even though it is a fact that science is little interested in our sport. But we have to be different.
Concerning that old breeding cocks, so I also have the impression that we would do better to overwinter them at a temperature above ten degrees Celsius. I have the impression – and this is not new – that old cocks in hot countries are longer fertile. The past two years we got admittedly no hard winters, but it can change. Where I always attached much importance to give preference to “complete” young cocks from the top in breeding, I am now convinced that once people have a good breeding cock that one as long as possible should cultivate him, because such breeding cocks are not so easy to replace.
It is a fact that the quality of sperm decreases with age, I am also of the opinion that the tails of cocks can cause minor disturbances at fertilization. Whether it is true that the tails of cocks are longer with their ager, I can not say for lack of figures. It is however true that more than one breeding cock from me is flying in the aviary with a tail which I have cut about two centimeter. I usually cut the tail of cocks that have fertility problems between the black and grey part of the tail. And I am almost tempted to say that it helps.
If a cock has problems with fertility, Patrick Philippens cut about two centimeter of his tail off. It is an old remedy, which is worth it.