Now, you have some takla babies and want to start training them. At this moment you have to remember takla is an ancient breed and has been kept with same qualities for many hundreds of years. So, for a takla breeder there is no comfort zone of cull birds. If your birds are pure and you know that they were never broken (term we use for mixing with other breeds for any reason), you will not get bad birds. Of course, this in no way means every bird you get will perform in the highest level. Because of this, it is very important to get your stock birds from a well known fancier who fly his/her birds for performance. Even though, it is rather difficult to do, because of the size of USA, best way to get good birds is to visit the fancier and see his birds in action. Keep in mind that you are going to give a lot of your valuable time to this breed and the last thing you want to do is start with the wrong birds. Do your homework before buying any birds. Talk to others who bought birds from the fancier you are about to get birds from and always look for a guarantee when buying. Every body say their birds are the best, they are from a recent import line or they won this competition, etc. However, a person demanding such high prices for a pigeon should also be able to say if they don't live up to your expectations bring them and I will give your money back. For the process of getting the birds, my last comment is to look for quality not for quantity. Some times, it is better to purchase a pair of young birds from a well known fancier instead of spending same amount of money and getting five pairs of adult birds from anyone. Start with less but, start with right.
Now, lets go back to our young birds and their training.
As in many breeds, first challenge is to get them used to being out side of the loft. Here you can use any one of the techniques used for other breeds. The one I find easy is to remove the young birds from the nest boxes and put them on the loft floor as soon as they are able to eat on their own. To determine this, I start dumping very little amount of feed in front of them in the nest while the parents eat down on the floor from the feeders. Even if the young ones don't pay attention to the seeds in front of them, this is a good way for them to learn what to do by watching their parents coming into the box to feed them and peck at the grains on the floor. When they are removed from the nest and put on the loft floor, they will soon start eating out of the feeders. There really is no need to worry if they are getting enough feed since the parents will continue to feed them there also. One thing to watch for is if they learn to drink out of the water containers. If they are completely on their own eating but still relentlessly chasing their parents around, it is a good chance they haven't figured out where the water is or if they need some. One thing for sure, even if their crop is full of feed they are still in need of something. As you observe these young birds, if noticed some are not able to drink on their own, the solution is simple; catch the young bird and holding it in your hand dip its beak into the water. If this was the problem it will start drinking like there is no tomorrow. In fact, I have seen a few of them fall in love with the water container. They just would not leave the site of it. At times they would drink so much water, once they pulled their head out of it, they would have great difficulties finding their balance to stand up strait with all the water wobbling around their crop. Rather funny site to watch.
Once the young birds are on the floor, it is easy for them to wander out side with the breeders when I open the door for their daily outing. I don't fly most of my breeders (since they are mostly imports, it would be very difficult for me to replace them if something goes wrong in the air) but still try to let them out every day to make sure they have contact with earth to gather the necessary nutrition, minerals and if they want to, fly a little bit. During the time adults graze outside of the loft, young birds, rather reluctant at first, eventually come out. Since they still have not completed growing their under wing feathers, they really can't fly but, being able to go out and come back in gives them the confidence to be out in the dangerous world, knowing they can always run back in to the safety of the loft. As the time passes, they start rushing out with the rest of the birds.
At this point, I move them into the flight lofts. For a brief period, they work as droppers for the other young birds in training. To call the fliers down, I open the door of the loft and these guys come out. Since they like to exercise their wings and fly around the yard rather crazy, they work out to be perfect droppers to get the attention of the young fliers. During this phase, I watch them very closely. If, I see one that likes to fly up and take a trip around the house with the landing birds, I separate it from the others (in my mind) as being ready to fly. This usually comes right after they complete all their under-wing feathers. The following day, I get this bird and throw it in to the young bird team right before they land, as they are getting tired and flying low at this point. As soon as the new bird takes a round trip or two around the house, I open the door to let the others out and call the flying birds down. Since the new flier has been in the yard for a while and flying around probably landed on the loft's roof a few times, it is some what familiar with the surroundings. This makes it easy for him to land after flying quick few rounds around the house where it can see the loft from all directions. Once this phase is passed, the real training starts:
Training format is rather simple. Get each bird to fly as long as they can and increase their flight time every day or so. To do this, I find it more productive to fly each young bird with the old birds for a while. There are a couple of reasons for this: First of all the old birds fly in a slower, calmer pace and kit well. If the young birds flown together they tend to get scared and fly fast and crazy, like there is a hawk on their tail. It is important to get rid of this as soon as possible, so they can focus on their performance development. Even a single young bird gets the most seasoned team of birds a little nervous at the beginning. As the young bird tries to kit closely with the others it gets too close or even run into them. Getting too close (or thinking it is), it tries to avoid collision by maneuvering the best he knows and makes one of those moves the old birds associate with avoiding a hawk. This causes also the old birds to start getting out of the formation and flying faster with many of their hawk avoidance maneuvers. Well, this doesn't last long after a few days the young bird adjusts and becomes a part of the kit. If flown with the other young birds this phase will take much longer. It may not always be apparent to the eye but, the nervousness and fast flight prevents them from practicing their tumbling skills more frequently, which in return extends the training period. Another reason for a single young bird to be flown with old birds is learning by watching. Because of this, I select certain old birds to train young birds for the season. There is never a top performer in this group. In fact, to have a good teacher team, I cut some of the birds training off half way the previous year so they are in a certain level of performance only. Some just tumble going straight and some just do vertical tumbling combinations of a few tumbles but, they are always the calmest fliers. This also should point out the importance of timely training. These old birds regardless of how many young birds they train over the years never become fully performing birds. Once their development is stopped in a crucial time in their life, there really isn't much of a chance of going back. This is also true for starting the young birds' training late. Once they have completed growing all of their feathers, they should be flying. Older they get the harder it gets to train them. They tend to get over weight and lazy. Most importantly their chest muscles continue their development when they need to be developed during flight to take a different shape to allow them for their vertical climbs. Bottom line is the young bird are flown with these older birds so it can see the birds around him perform tumbles and starts to do what they do quicker than they naturally would.
To be honest, I don't think it is necessary to train your young birds in the way I do, up to this point. The things I do is to speed up their development and maximize their performance. Which in return takes more time from me daily bases and allow me to train fewer number of birds each year but, I get to see each birds potential sooner than later. You can train young birds as a group or even with out any old birds. They will sooner or later start to perform. I just want to share what I do, so you get an idea of alternatives out there. If you are just starting with this breed and have only a few young birds to fly, you can utilize another breed to train them for a while also. Rollers, racers or any other flying breed. Only thing to watch for is, at the beginning fly them with birds that are not going to take them up to high altitudes. You want to get the young birds' chest muscles to develop in this initial phase of the training so they can fly for longer periods but, if they start flying with birds that take them so high, they will get tired sooner or later and separate them selves from the kit to land. This could result in loss of young birds or having them develop bad habits such as landing on neighbor's roof tops, trees and cables, which in long term will give you problems trying to get them to fly longer, if they get used to land anywhere they want when ever they want.
Now you have a young bird flying more or less calmly for around ten minutes. At this point, you can include another young bird to the team. This means, if you have a few young birds, you might have to fly a few times a day. Which is not a problem since the flights are short and you can fly one after another. After a while, when all of your young birds are flying well, you can take the old birds out of the team and fly the youngsters in their own kit. This is just a choice. Some times I keep them together all season and some times separate them so I can use the old bird team to develop a few more squeakers.
During these training flights, I only release the rest of the birds out of the loft when I want the flying birds to land. Young birds get accustomed to this signal. Since they have seen the old birds land as soon as the birds come out of the loft, they start doing the same thing. I find this to be very important to be able to control the kit. When all the birds land, I let them graze around for a while and then walk them to the loft. To walk them I use a stick but, taklas are not like döneks when it comes to move them around. If they want to be out, it would be very difficult to get some of them to go in. Here comes the importance of feed control. At the beginning of each young birds' training I fly them when they are not hungry. This is to encourage them to fly. Expecting feed they should not become glued to the loft, when they should be flying. Besides, they tumble for fun, since tumbling is not a reflex yet for them and flying hungry is not that much fun. However, as soon as they can fly for about five minutes or so, I start flying them hungry. Not over night but, gradually reducing the feed. This is again done to have a little more control over them. When they are flown hungry, they don't try to land on roof tops or trees but, want to land in front of the loft knowing soon there will be food. This also comes handy when you want to put them back into the loft. At the beginning, I simply put some feed in to the feeder and make gestures and sounds of walking them. They respond to the feed but with time they also associate my moves and sounds with food. After a while, walking them with a stick or simply walking with them while whistling, or what ever sound you choose to make, becomes good enough to get them into the loft.
Going back to the flight training, lets look at the young birds' flight; They will soon start clapping their wings a few times and seem to glide after this move. This clapping is very common in many of the Eastern tumbler breeds. It will soon be followed by riding the tail. Riding the tail is almost like a free fall. After few heavy wing clapping the bird will drop vertically on its tail gliding down. This move will get deeper and deeper as they practice it. This is a sure sign of them getting ready for tumbling. However, this phase of the training can take a long time depending on the bird. It can take 2 weeks to 2 months and sometimes continue even after they are able to tumble for a while. During this phase, it is important to push each young bird to fly at least 15 minutes. Again, this is crucial for their chest muscles' development.
After this, will come the funny phase, where the tail riding will start to become half tumbles and sometimes a full tumble but, always with not much control. Flying one direction, attempt a tumble, then you are going to what direction, who knows? It is just a pleasure to watch this. As they get more flight time, they will get their tumbles in a better shape. Once the tumble is OK. they will start tightening it up. As it gets tighter, they will stop loosing altitude with each tumble. When the tumbles are just right, you will start hearing a cracking sound with each tumble. Now you will get to see the purpose of their wing clapping before tumbles. Wing clapping starts to pull them up a little, before the tumbles. As they get more flight time, they will start putting two or more tumbles together to work on their combinations and start to show their true style. Good ones will put many combinations tumble, climb, tumble, climb.. At this point in the training you will notice as you let the rest of the birds out of the loft only some of the birds land. This is a good time to measure how long each one of these birds fly after the others land. Now the training changes a little. From now on, I fly the longer flying birds first, as much time as they landed after the other birds. At this point I will fly the rest of the kit. As the time passes you might get several groups of birds in the kit with different flight times. You will get the best results by accommodating this by flying the ones that fly the shortest the latest. Lets say you have a few of them flying for 15 minutes, couple of them for 25 and another group for 40 minutes. I would fly the 40 minute ones first. After 15 minutes I will also send up the 25 minute and 10 minutes after that the 15 minute fliers. This way you will get each one of the birds to land around the same time and, by not having early birds, continue to increase their flight time.
Around this phase of the training you will start to see some of your birds separating from the kit and fly by themselves every once in a while. As the days pass these birds will start flying alone more and more. No need to be alarmed. Intensions of the training is not to create a tight flying kit. In fact, it is not to create a kit at all. Regardless of what you do those birds will continue to fly separate and maybe together with another loner. If you know the parents of each bird, you can actually tell which ones will do this even before the training. They are simply different type of performers than others. You can still continue to train with the same formation to increase the flight time. Loners will continue to be loners and the kit fliers will stick together. As you fly them, you might see the birds start flying together and after a while the loners separate. Following this the kitting birds will gain altitude and go to the heights you can barely see them. It is still OK. You are not going to loose any birds. High fliers will soon loose altitude and fly right above the roof tops and then go up again. That's what they like to do. Loners in the mean time will start to fly for longer periods than the kit. They will land long after you have released the droppers. These guys are the ones that will end up flying in low altitudes and constantly lower themselves like they are going to land and climb up with their combinations. You can try to fly these guys alone for a change. You might find out some of them actually has a lot to show you. As they get really good at this, they won't be able to land. Every time, they lower themselves to land, their instinct will make them climb up. Because the position of their head, legs and wings to land is identical for their climbing posture. So, just fly them and go sit down. They will put a show for you. (It is interesting how they manage to crush-land with the sight of a hawk.) Your kitting birds also will show similar performances but they will also like to perform in a kit all together with out any dives towards the loft. As one starts its climb the rest will follow it. It is almost like fireworks in the sky and rather loud too. I am trying to differentiate these two different type of performers but, you will also get some that carry characteristics of both groups. In reality all these depend on the blood lines you have and more specifically what city of origin each family has. If you have birds from Ankara, you will for sure get a group of birds that fly together in ever changing altitudes and fill their flight time with tumbles. On the other hand if you have your birds from the cities of Mardin or Urfa, you are most likely going to see some heavy artillery. Low flying but extremely long climbing birds. As far as the flight time, I prefer my birds to fly around 2 hours. This is a good period of time for a kit but, if you have one of the loners, who are supposed to be flown alone after their training period, there really is no limit on the time of flight. I have seen ones fly over 10 hours and heard of some way over that. However, endurance flying is not what we are looking for in this breed. So, no need to push these birds to fly for long hours. They simply will but, perform less. So, you will get a bird that flies for 10 hours and only perform the last two hours. First 8 hours you might see a combination here and there but it just doesn't do it for me. As you fly these birds always have the rest of the birds on the ground. This will keep them around the loft charging and some what control the flight time.
Well, all this might sound too much for some and it can be. However, you don't have to do everything I talk about. I have a friend in New York, who takes his young birds to another loft on top of his shop building and keeps them outside all day. At the end of the day, before he goes home, he goes up and puts them back in to the loft. That is the training his bird get. They are outside all day and as they see crows, hawks and cats they take off. Believe it or not he gets some very good performing birds. He looses many birds in the process and have many tree huggers at the end but not everybody has the time or the patience.
As a final note, one thing to keep in mind is to keep flying. Exercise is important, regardless of the season. Very good blood lines will become TUTUK (stuck) with the absence of frequent flying and become unable to fly from tumbling. These birds tumble in the coop or on the floor. Some consider this a good skill but, keep in mind: Pigeon is a bird. It must fly. They are not chickens.