Prepping a Kit For Maximum Performance

By: Rick L. Mee

          A few years back I wrote an article on how to prep kits for competition which met with much satisfaction from many of my fellow roller enthusiasts, especially from those who had some measure of success in trying some of my ideas. It is my endeavor herein that I may be of some assistance to someone out there who does not have a plan leading up to a competition whereas the owner would like to have a good showing not only to the judge, but to their peers. The following is my most recent ideas in how to achieve maximum performance from your kit of pigeons when you command it of them.

          Before we get started, I must state the following. It is impossible to make a silk purse out of a sowís ear. If you donít understand that analogy, then how about this oneÖ..you canít make chicken salad out of chicken poop. Are you really confused now? In other words, if you donít have twenty spinners which are all good representatives of the breed before you start one of the similar but varied preparation plans which I am about to discuss with you, or at least darn close to it, then do not expect to take the world by the tail just because you now have a detailed plan to follow. The ground work must first be done, and that road is no easy road to follow. To assemble twenty high caliber spinners is no easy task, it definitely is not for the faint of heart.

          We must have a plan! With out a plan we rely merely on luck and happenstance, no successful roller flyer relies on the aforementioned. Successful roller flyers set realistic goals, only can they be achieved if one hundred and ten percent effort is put in to the pursuit of that goal. The next time it is cold outside and you choose to stay indoors, remember that the best flyers in your region are standing in their back yards staring up at their kits while you choose to stay inside. Success is where preparation meets opportunity, do not believe in luck. The only luck involved on fly day is getting some good weather to fly in, quit using the word ďluckĒ as a crutch in regard to roller flying.

          I will now get off the proverbial soap box and give you a few ideas insofar as how to get the most you can out of your kit on fly day. Try a few of my preparation techniques if you do not have a plan, if what you are currently doing is working then donít change a thing. Also, try these ideas several months prior to a major competition, there is no room for experimentation right before a competition. Let me say that again, there is no room for experimentation right before a competition! I donít know how many of my friends have screwed up their kits prior to a competition because they just had to try something new. Do all of your experimenting way before you are even close to a major competition. Figure out what works for your particular family of rollers and stick to it, make minor adjustments once you have unveiled what works or does not work for your specific family.

          Prior to the thirty day window before a major competition, my competition team is flown roughly every three to four days, sometimes not for five days. The object is to keep them slightly in shape, not to let them forget what their job is, but not to have them in too good of shape. If you keep your competition birds in shape year round then it becomes very hard to obtain the right physical, as well as psychological conditioning necessary for optimum roll when it counts.

          Step one:

          A least forty days out from a major competition worm your birds, then ten days later do it again. It is necessary to worm your birds twice because the first worming just gets the adults, the second gets rid of the eggs. Do not worm them any closer than thirty days out prior to a competition, doing so can act as a stimulus for the kit and they will roll very well after being wormed, often times deeper than usual. It is a well known fact that if you get the kit rolling real hard just prior to a competition it is nearly impossible to duplicate it again for several weeks, in some cases a month or so. For these reasons, worm them for the second time exactly thirty days from fly day.

          Step two:

          Do not only build a team of twenty, build a team with at least five extras which are part of the team. Invariably you will have a few which can not handle the physical and psychological stress you are about to impose upon them when getting them ready for completion which is brought about from increased flying, as well as feed restriction. This will compel some to land early, fly out of the kit, bump or roll down, whereas they usually do not. Let me not forget to mention birds of prey, or the dreaded fly away which is common when getting them ready for competition due to the buoyancy which comes about through increased flying and a decrease in feed volume.

          If you only remember one thing I write here, remember this. It is easier to take a bird out of the kit, then it is to add it. Each pigeon has itís own flying position within the kit, as well as in the kit box. Making a new addition to a kit a few days prior to a competition can destroy chemistry which it may have taken you months to build. Avoid disrupting that chemistry by not adding to the kit, only taking the extras from the kit in the final days before the birds are put on their final rest cycle and are set up for the big day.

          Now here is where it gets tricky, discussing what to feed, and what not to feed. Some families do well being flown on a simple pigeon mix, some fly for hours if fed the same as others. With my own birds, my competition teams do extremely well on a commercial pigeon mix, I just have to cut the quantity down to half of what they are used to getting the day prior to a release so they wonĎt fly over a hour. My youngsters on the other hand are a different story. They are primarily fed wheat and milo, sometimes a combination of wheat and milo mixed with pigeon mix in equal proportions is administered. If they start to fly a bit fast then they go back to just wheat and milo. My youngsters seem to fly a bit fast at times if given peas, does not affect the older birds which are already established in the roll but it does the youngsters.

          Step three:

          Starting thirty days out, competition team which is at this point made up of somewhere in the neighborhood of the top twenty five birds, is flown every three days. On the day they are flown they are given 2.5 cups of pigeon mix, next day 2 cups mix, day prior to next training flight 1.25 cup pigeon mix. The amount of feed prior to the next release can be decreased or increased depending upon length of flying time. However, figure out very quickly what amount of feed works best on the day prior to scheduled training flights. This is necessary because if you are constantly adjusting feed prior to a big competition you can accidentally peak them too early, once this is done it is hard to bring the kit back to that level of performance for several weeks, or in some cases months.

          NOTE: Grit should be given daily, as well as two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in their water starting thirty days out, changed daily. This will keep the inside of the birds acidic which will help them ward off any ailments, especially paratyphoid which can rear itís ugly head in the final days of prep when feed is being restricted and the temperature may be inconsistent. Simply, with the stress involved especially in the final days before a competition when the kit is on lock down some of the weaker birds which are carrying paratyphoid can come down with it.

          Step four: Two weeks out start flying the kit every other day on mix, 2.5 cups for twenty five birds on the day flown, 1.25 cups the day prior to release.

          Step five: One week out fly them daily, 1.25 cups milo, fly them for five straight days if you have medium to deep birds, four days if you have shallow birds. Decrease the number of birds down to twenty one after their last flight. The reason for having twenty one at this point is just in case one of the birds gets sick, is injured in the kit box, anything can happen. Remove the lowest ranked bird from the kit the night prior if flying in the morning, in the morning if flying later that afternoon.

          Step six: On the last day they are flown which will be 48 hrs prior to competition day for medium to deep kits, and 72 hours for shallow kits, shove 10 Austrian Peas down each birdís throat. After this is achieved, give the kit first 1 cup of wheat, then 1 cup of milo. (No grit on this day or any of the rest) The next day if flying a medium to deep kit will be the final day of rest, they will get 1 cup of wheat, 1 cup of milo, or Ĺ cup wheat and Ĺ milo fed separately. This is something you need to experiment with and figure out what works best on the final prep day for your birds, straight wheat, straight milo, or a combination of both. Wheat makes them kit tighter than milo, gives higher quality, however can cause some kits to fly a bit fast and frequency can not be as good as it would be if fed milo. Milo causes the kit to spread out just a bit more than wheat, increases frequency, however can slightly diminish quality. If the kit is shallow, then on their second rest day give them 5 Austrian Peas down the throat each, ĺ cup wheat, 3/4 cup milo, day prior they either get 1 cup wheat, milo, or a combination of both, again fed separately. Feeding occurs in the final prep days 72 hours out for the shallow kits, both types of kits 48 and 24 hrs on the last two days prior to the competition.

          Reasoning behind the way I do it, and why it may work for you.

          The kit should never be in too good of shape year round, they need to indeed be slightly out of shape, only in top fitness prior to major competitions. In only prepping the birds when it really counts it is easier to stimulate the kit psychologically, very important if you want to obtain close to optimum performance on fly day.

          By increasing the amount of flying, decreasing rest periods gradually toward fly day you are actually pointing your birds in a specific direction, a specific date. Increased flying obviously improves fitness, an out of shape athlete can not perform to itís optimum.

          The reason for straight milo a week out prior to fly day is you want all the birds eating the same grains, this creates evenness throughout the team. Think about it, if they were given mix with some eating just peas, some eating wheat, some eating milo, some eating corn, can you really expect them to act as a team on fly day? The main reason it creates buoyancy, thus creates slower flying kits more inclined to fly the much desired figure eight pattern.

          Peas are introduced as a means of increasing strength, giving the same number to each bird is for obvious reasons.

          Wheat is a good carbohydrate, nearly the same exact value as milo, however has a slightly higher protein content and seems to make the birds kit tighter as well as roll faster than if fed milo. This is why I like to use it in the final prep days.

          Since they were at one time flown every three to five days, then exactly every three days, decreased to every two, then every single day, you can naturally see how this could affect a pigeonís fitness and psyche. Change their feed to something they havenít had for awhile during the final rest days provides an energy boost, the same feed fed to all creates an evenness through out the team which leads to greater collectivity. Rest which they havenít had lately leads to frequency as well as more depth, more so in the kit which is rested two days instead of one. If you rest the medium to deep kits more than one day it seems to affect collectivity and you can very well end up with an accident on fly day due to the stress imposed upon deeper rolling pigeons when confined too long as well as waterfall breaking.

          Grit is removed as a means of further control so that all the birds in the team are on a even keel. Remove water night prior if flying early morning, two hours prior to fly time if flying in the afternoon. This imposes a little more stress, creates a bit more frequency and precludes high flying to a slight degree.

Here is something to keep in your loft:

Day 40, worm Day 30, worm again, fly, feed 2.5 cups mix (Start with your top 25 birds)
Day 29, rest, 2 cups mix
Day 28, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 27, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 26, rest, 2 cups mix
Day 25, rest, 1.25 cup mix
Day 24, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 23, rest, 2 cups mix
Day 22, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 21, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 20, rest, 2 cups mix
Day 19, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 18, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 17, rest, 2 cups mix
Day 16, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 15, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 14, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 13, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 12, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 11, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 10, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 9, fly, 2.5 cups mix
Day 8, rest, 1.25 cups mix
Day 7, fly, 1.25 cups milo
Day 6, fly, 1.25 cups milo
Day 5, fly, 1.25 cups milo
Day 4, fly, 1.25 cups milo for the medium to deep kit, 10 Austrian peas, 1 cup wheat, 1 cup milo for shallow kits
Day 3, fly the medium to deep kit for the last time, feed them 10 Austrian peas, 1 cup of wheat, 1 cup of milo, fed separately. Shallow kits get 5 Austrian peas, ĺ cup wheat, ĺ cup milo
Day 2, Both types of kits are fed either 1 cup of wheat, 1 cup or milo, or a combination of both fed separately.