Bare-Bones Roller Care basic guide
By The Roller Pigeon
If you are flying rollers, at least one kit box is required. Each kit box should accommodate twenty pigeons without overcrowding and should be well ventilated, which is key in the prevention of diseases. A box measuring 3’x3’x3′ is suitable for 20 kit birds. At least three sides should be solid or closed and if the sides are open, they shouldn’t face prevailing winds. One perch per pigeon should be included. Most of the preceding also applies to the breeder’s loft; it should be roomier so as to comfortably allow one nest box with room for two nest bowls per pair of rollers. Eight to ten pairs would in general be comfortably kept in a 5’5’5′ (ideally it would include a sun pen extending this size). The lofts should be kept dry; dampness is said to be the worst enemy of pigeons and will aid in the onset of diseases. Pigeons love the sun; build and place your lofts to give them a reasonable amount of sun.
Having daily access to fresh water and unsoiled feed are key. Water should not be left stagnant for long (ideally change water daily). You should be able purchase a pre-mixed grain pigeon feed from the feed store. Kit rollers should be fed about one to two tablespoons each once or twice a day with a protein percentage of 12%-15%. During the winter or in places where temperatures are low, more feed should be given. Stock rollers should always have access to feed and the protein percentage of the feed mix should be 15% of above during the breeding season. It is essential that you also provide pigeon grit for them which is usually a mixture of oyster shell, minerals, salts, stones and charcoal which they use to process their food.
This section refers to the conditioning needed to manage/ trap rollers in the kit box at the owner’s command (also related to fly time). Consistency is the most important factor. Assuming a group of weaned squabs, the feed tray should be removed at the approximate time you plan on feeding the next day. On the next day, at about the same time that the tray was removed the previous day, all the pigeons should be hungry. Make a distinctive and consistent sound (i.e.: whistle or place feed inside an empty metal can and shake). Keep at it for a minute or two, then place the tray with feed in the kit box. Continue making the distinct sound for 1-2 minutes and allow the tray to be in the kit box for as long as the birds eat (5-15 min.). Remove the tray. Repeat this daily. Be consistent, feed at the same time and always make the same distinctive sound before and 1-2 minutes after the pigeons begin eat. Pigeons usually drink water after they finish eating so it’s a good idea to change the water before they drink. Within a week or two, the distinct sound will now be associated with food. You should be able to trap them using the distinct sound after this step is complete with ease.
This process must be carried out before you begin to fly rollers. The following assumes that the pigeons are squabs that cannot yet take long flight, and have been conditioned (see above) or are in the process. Before feeding, open the kit box so they can get out the kit box and learn their surroundings. Within an hour or two, trap them. Repeat this daily. Within 1-2 weeks they may take their first flights around the loft or your home which is beneficial as long as they do not get out of sight. They will soon begin flying higher, further out and for much longer. Once they begin to kit and fly 10-15 minutes, they can be considered homed. Older pigeons or pigeons that were homed elsewhere may take longer to home. What many fanciers do is ‘tape’ 4-6 primary flight feathers and home them in almost the same way a squab is. When taping your pigeon you should use a type of tape that is not highly adhesive as thisx will cause damage to the feathers when removing the tape (do not use scotch for example). Also, the tape need not be tight around the flight feathers but should just serve as to not allow the pigeon to spread the flight feathers and thus not allow it to fly high. The tape can be loosened as to allow the pigeon to fly higher after 1-3 weeks. Once the pigeon seems to know his/ her way around your home and loft, the tape can altogether be removed and you can allow the pigeon to free fly around your home.
Rollers are usually flown once daily unless they exhibit symptoms of illness, there is high predatory activity, or temperatures are too high/ low. Always fly before they are fed and feed shortly after they trap (within 15 minutes). When freed from the kit box, pigeons usually take to the sky freely and there is no need to startle them up. If some pigeons do not fly you can try startling them using a flag or similar. They are flown at any time but the latest should be 1 hour before sunset. The best time to fly rollers is said to be in the early morning. Trained and well fed rollers fly between 30 – 60 minutes. Be consistent in your fly schedule. For example, fly everyday at 8AM or every other day at 8AM. Consistency and routine are of utmost importance.