Coming from Nebraska, one would think we’d have plenty of wild pheasant, quail and prairie chickens to train bird dogs on. The fact that there are good numbers of wild birds to train with is nice, but in my case and many other bird dog trainers, there’s no substitution for having your own pen-raised birds.
Let’s discuss how these birds are used and cared for. I like to use both quail and homing pigeons in my training. You can purchase the baby quail chicks at an early age and they’re relatively easy to care for. At one week of age they’ll remind you more of a bumblebee than a bird, but with the proper nutrition, housing and water, they grow quickly.
I like to use the Hubbard® Life Game Bird Starter and will feed that for up to eight weeks. From there they can be switched to the Hubbard® Life Game Bird Flight feed and should remain on this diet. Provide fresh water daily along with grit or gravel in their pen to aid in digestion. I prefer to use a Johnny House or recall pen to house the quail. This pen becomes their home and has a cone at the bottom for the quail to reenter after use. There are a number of designs out there, which you can find on the Internet or design your own.
Training the birds to recall is quite simple as you release a few quail and leave a portion in the Johnny House. Those remaining in the pen will sing to those that were released calling them back to the house for reuse. It’s a good idea to let them out of the pen regularly, so they get exercise and are able to fly well when training your bird dog.
Homing pigeons are used in much the same manner although they’ll need more space than the quail. Homing pigeons will return to their housing if purchased at a young age before they’re able to fly. Again, proper nutrition though their early life stage is important to get the growth and strength necessary for strong flight. Start homing pigeons on the Hubbard® Life Game Bird grower up to eight weeks, followed by the Hubbard® Life Game Bird Flight feed. As the Pigeons reach maturity they can be switched over to cracked corn, but keep the Flight feed available as well to meet their protein and mineral requirements.
A brooder house or larger pen works well when housing pigeons. The house will need an opening that the birds can exit and enter that’s approximately 1-foot square. As they are trained, the pigeons can be allowed to come and go as they please, which cuts down on the food and water required for care. It’s important that the opening or porch offers the ability to close it up, so predators, i.e. owls or hawks, can’t get inside and kill them. You’ll also want to be able to close up the porch, so you can catch the birds for training and flight practice.
Training the pigeons to return to their flight pen is quite easy. These birds have what I term as built-in GPS and Mother Nature does the rest by guiding them back home. Start out by leaving the porch door open and let the pigeons exit the pen. It will take a bit for them to understand they can leave the pen, but will soon figure it out and begin to fly in and out of the opening. It’s a good idea to close up the porch at night to keep predators out and contain them for safety. Once they’re comfortable with leaving and returning on their own, you can start catching them and taking them further from home to extend their flight training. At this time, it’s fine to start using them in your bird dog training as they’ll return back to their pen for future use.
In future blogs we’ll discuss further training uses for your game birds, but I want to stress the importance of getting your birds off to a great start by feeding a quality game bird program that you find with Hubbard® Life. The nutritionists at Hubbard have formulated a complete line of game bird feeds, which provide the protein, energy and trace mineral requirements that will lead to greater productivity to meet your bird dog training needs.
For further information on these products, feel free to contact your Hubbard representative or visit www.hubbardlife.com
, to learn more.
Posted on 7/24/2013 by Doug Rowse | Category: Game Bird
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