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The Alberta Classic

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The Alberta Classic was born through initially organizing and conducting a series of 4 young bird races in 1998. The best performances in all 4 challenges were rewarded with the top prizes. This format was changed somewhat in 2003 when it was decided to keep all youngsters who survived the young bird races for competing again the following year in 2004 as yearlings. It surprised me that 6 of the first 10 positions were earned by birds who also occupied one of the first 10 positions as young birds.
The responsibility of caring for other fanciers' birds has proven to be quite stressful. Although almost all birds arrived in good condition, we did have a few who arrived with chronic respiratory disease and a few others with salmonellosis. However, most appeared very healthy. Still, what could not be seen externally is the immune status of a bird. The ever present circovirus selects the immunologically weak young birds that consequently develop "young bird sickness" (YBS) and perish or are permanently weakened. Once this challenge abated, the inevitable losses during training tosses and races imparted a bitter taste to what would otherwise have been an enjoyable hobby. These then are the reasons why the yearly Alberta Classic Derby took a break during 2005.
Update: (May 15, 2010)
One should above all be certain of the diagnosis "young bird sickness". The following is useful only if "young bird sickness" is present, i.e. the bird in question has the crop distended with water since the liquid is blocked from passing into the intestine and being absorbed.
I find it useful to prevent the birds from eating any feed vomited during the night. (Such feed is likely contaminated with the micro-organisms responsible for such vomiting.) This can be accomplished by having the loft so dark at night that the birds cannot possibly find any vomited feed. Then let the birds out into daylight (into an aviary, for example) before flooding the loft with light, check the loft now empty of birds and remove any vomited grain. Should one find any vomitus one would need to also find the probable candidate(s) to be given individual treatment in the evening, a bird that is puffed up and not interested in its surroundings, a bird that does not come to the feed trough or the one that does not come in for the evening meal. Feed the birds some pellets after calling them in the morning and 30 gm grain per bird but only in the evening after their exercise and shortly before darkening the loft. Any bird not eager to fight for its place on the feed trough at this time would be suspect of being ill.
A specific antibiotic can certainly be effective against the micro-organisms responsible for the swelling of the intestines if it is not delivered too late and could still be absorbed by the bird. The prognosis used to be poor once the intestine was closed already due to spasm of the smooth muscle in the intestinal wall since it allowed neither feed nor fluid (with any dissolved antibiotics) to pass. The bile would then flow in the opposite direction and could be seen in the water with which the crop was filled. In spite of the crop being full of water the prognosis was that such bird would be condemned to die from dehydration.
There is now a method that allows us to re-open the intestines, i.e. to treat the symptoms of YBS, and this allows the young bird to recuperate.
  1. Empty the crop of most of the fluid.
  2. Infuse 30 ml strong fennel tea to which may be added the proper amount of an antibiotic to which the offending micro-organism is sensitive.
    • Fennel tea relaxes the smooth muscle of the intestinal wall. This property makes it useful to be employed against bloating and also against colic in infants.
  3. Use fennel tea (made from 4 TBSP ground fennel per 4 litres water) as the drinking water of all birds in the loft for another week.
    • Repeat as often as necessary but especially after one sees some droppings that leave a lot to be desired. The inclusion of antibiotics for loft treatment is rarely necessary.

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