Most of the practices that I will be discussing here are utilized by the majority of our short face breeders. However, it is always wise to compare notes with other breeders, if you need a “refresher course”, when experiencing difficulties or are attempting to learn new things.
Short face pigeons are the most difficult pigeon to reproduce because the parents can’t feed their young properly and our genetic pool is diminishing because of what our predecessors and we have done in adverse selection; in the hope of reaching the standard of perfection. Some birds will not even attempt or try to feed their young. Whether or not you take the advice offered here, you will fall quickly from the pinnacle of success when you need to once again find a source of some new genes to maintain healthy breeding pigeons. Short face, sometimes, have shorter lives because they don’t eat properly either and this limits producing large numbers of descendants. Keeping them healthy is labor intensive, but not impossible.
Regarding POSITIVE BREEDING, all you need to absorb from this article is to always move forward and secure your position with each move that you make in your breeding program.
Care and prevention: probiotics, antibiotics, reducing the flock, keeping the loft clean, sterilizing the water containers and the grit bowls, do not bring in birds that are not inoculated and quarantine new birds and keep good records.
Suggestions for success:
Allow the breeding pairs to sit on their eggs the entire 18 days whether or not they are on their own eggs. Budapest will milk their babies for 5 days if they have been allowed to feed before or if you were able to train them. Ancients, Reinaugens, and English generally won’t even attempt to milk. How do you train them? Give them a foster baby or a short face baby that has already been milked for 2 full days. They will “play” with the baby and produce milk. After 5 days or so take the baby away and the pair with go for eggs again. PULLING eggs will burn the hen out in less than 2 years. Remember if the hen is ruined, even if you produced some young from her, you cannot then go back with her and use her for inbreeding or use her for other needs, for instance, producing particular colors etc. Now, if the original eggs were not fertile and would have never hatched, then you are still using the pair to help maintain and improve the flock by giving them a baby at the appropriate time (Positive Breeding). Everyone would agree that if the pair is infertile that you should break them up or decide not to use either of the birds in the pair and put other birds in the breeding pen. I have had barren hens that I have used for this purpose. Sometimes they accept eggs and sometimes they won’t. They will accept eggs on the New Moon (no moon) or on the Full Moon. These are the normal laying or breeding cycles. This is something similar to the estrous cycle in rabbits. They have similar cycles. Only once in 50 years did I have a true infertile hen. She would lay eggs, but they were never fertile. I even gave her a proven foster male and she never produced a fertile egg.
I found that short face will milk babies by accident. I use to keep 2 to 3 pairs of foster parents per pair of short face when I kept less pigeons. It’s easier to control them with fewer numbers. Larger flocks require great care to track the nests, eggs, and young and eventually you will need to hand feed youngsters regardless. I was in a panic. I had an imported pair of black Budapest from Dr. Szecsenyi which I imported in the early 70’s, while I was still in college with Rudy Strnad’s help, which had eggs and no place to switch them. In those days, we did a lot of switching of eggs. I am sure you can understand why. We were trying to get as many viable young out of the breeders before anything would go wrong. On the 18th day, I found that the young had hatched but to my surprise they were milked. I called Rudy to tell him what I had found. He was as surprised as I was. After 5 days, I had a pair of fosters with eggs due to hatched and I switched the young. I like to use wooden eggs under the foster parents so that I don’t have to worry about extra youngsters around and, also, because I use the wooden egg with a baby to make sure the parents don’t crush the young. The wooden egg retains its heat to keep the young warm too.
You definitely need foster parents if you want to be very successful in breeding short face. You can hand feed young, but it is unrealistic to do this day in and out with anything more than 2 pair of breeding show birds.
You can advance any youngsters which have been switched previously. The youngsters will most likely receive more than one milking and this helps stimulate growth and immunity. Of course, know your fosters (pumpers) – they could reject the larger youngsters that you switched. Rejection is easy to deal with if you know it has happened. Just move the youngster again or hand feed them The youngsters could get scalped or badly beaten up if you are unaware of rejection by the fosters. The best time to switch is in the evening before it gets dark, but light enough to know that the babies are “covered.” Some fosters will feed anything on the floor in warmer months. Again you are using your head to move forward.
I, personally, do not use one male with several hens. I have seen that the males get confused and never really know their mate and sometimes get frustrated and fight with the hen, instead of breeding with her. This is not a smart way to proceed. You might be able to get an experienced male (older) with 2 young hens—remember these are short face pigeons and they are not overly aggressive breeders—of course, this depends on the breed. Budapest will do this for you. English Short Face would only do it in the very hottest weather—maybe in the beginning of August if it stays hot. So why waste time? Wasting time is not Positive Breeding and you will lose the season.
I treat the foster parents the same way as above. There are times when I will occasionally remove a set of eggs to help cycle things or to get the on the new moon versus the full moon cycle. Sometimes, you can place a set of wooden eggs to hold the pair for a an extra day or two, but you run the risk of the pair going for their own new nest, realizing on their own chemistry that they must advance. You have to advance the short face youngsters and you need to anticipate successive pairs in order to advance the young. You might ask why? I did not mention to you before that short face young are not out of the nest in 5-6 weeks—it usually takes 8 weeks and that is why you need the second set of fosters ready to go. The full 8 weeks are shared over two foster nests.
This I promise you: the maximum number of youngsters, per pair, will be produced by employing the methods above. If you “steal” eggs you will only produce 25% of what you could have produced. Most foster parents cannot milk the babies because of their small size. Using fosters for the second milking is the most advantageous way to go. I can remember some breeders making fun of other breeders by holding out their hands cupped, as if they were catching eggs, when they are asked to part with or borrow a hen during the breeding season knowing that the other breeder is someone who “burns out” the hen.
More recently, I have been removing the weaned youngsters from the foster sections. They seem to do better on their own, when they are truly on their own. Many of us use the older youngsters to teach the younger babies to eat. They watch the older birds and they try things on their own. Remove aggressive youngsters from these holding areas permanently. The very first grain that short face will learn to eat is wheat! Always keep plenty of wheat in front of them when they are still learning to eat, even if you are still hand feeding.
I hoped that these tips help your breeding efforts. Go forward with Positive Breeding. For more information, you could go to You Tube and find my hand feeding videos under the handle: shortbeakbudapest.