You've been at this a long time Dave so I'm sure you've tried it both ways. I put mine together 12-12-12. Thought that might be lucky? I was going to wait as its kind of a pain to be so early in the cold but my best birds this year were the early ones. I'll put my Widowers together on Valentines day.....they say that's tradition and it seems to work out about right.
The guy in our club that wins 80% of the races has 35 birds ready to band on Jan 1. His birds are simply older than the rest of ours. Well, that and he has good birds and is a good handler and a good loft position.
Like the example Kastle gave the birds are older and more mature then you will have more tools to motivate them home. Everyone has their system but the spring mating is way "old school". Mating early may make you either more competitive or ahead of the game if people around you are mating late. (assuming everything else is in line) Good luck
That's right. Everyone else in our club uses that Valentines date to pair. When we basket young birds in the fall - the guy who pairs in December - well, his birds are looking like old birds and have a full or almost full wing. Even his second round is older than most others racing in our club.
Last year, after band distribution on jan 2, as we were leaving the club he leaned in my ear and said "don't you listen to those guys telling you to wait till February to pair."
So who am I going to,listen to? The guy who wins, that's who.
With early breeding comes the necessity to train early and all that goes with it. In my situation if I have young birds that are learning to route in winter the potential for losses to hawks is very high. The Goshawks have staked a claim on my lofts. If it were legal to kill them, I would do so gladly. As it is, I can't release my birds in winter unless I stay out to scare the hawks off.
The real advantage in early young birds is that they can be through the molt and motivated by nest position or widowhood if managed properly. That is likely the reason that the guy who breeds early rounds is so dominant. It is like many elements of this sport. Those that work harder to care for and manage their birds get better than average performance results as a reward in most cases.
I have not tryed it yet but if you darken your young birds from march to may and only give them 10 hours of day light they will start to molt right away when you get them back to full light, by August they all should be through a full body and wing molt.
Im not an expert, but if you did get them together you could let them have a first round of eggs..then take all the eggs out and put in some fakes...then around end of january pull all the eggs at the same time.. then you will have youre pairs all lay very close for you're first round of youngins, then you would have a nice group to train all together.
The issue that always comes to my mind is, birds in one loft races aren't mature birds that can be flown on widowhood. Usually the birds are shipped out to the one loft race between 30-35 days old (after being weaned). They are then trained and raced but all of this or the majority of all the flying, is done before the bird truly matures.
My concern is, if you race young birds locally, and you breed early and have more mature birds by the time the races come, and you win races. How can you truly be sure the ybs your sending to a one loft race are any good? Their siblings have done well when they were flown as mature young birds on widowhood, but in the one loft race the young birds are flown to the perch a majority of the time? Wouldn't the results be different?