Regardless of how well-bred your dogs are, or how much natural talent they possess, the old adage "birds make bird dogs" still holds true. Getting your pup into bird contacts early and often is a crucial part of a young dog's education.
That's why, with two pointing dogs and a retriever to work this spring and summer, the subject of obtaining, raising, and training with birds is something on which I'll be spending a lot of my time and energy.
Some guys use pen-raised birds with a callback pen or Johnny house, others use wild-trapped pigeons, and some trainers even use homing pigeons that can be used on distant training grounds and then allowed to fly home to the loft to be used over and over again (provided you don't shoot them, of course).
I've primarily used a combination of trapped pigeons and pen-raised quail for my training. I like the idea of not having to pay three to four bucks apiece for quail that tend to be somewhat fragile when I can (hopefully) trap nearly indestructible barn pigeons for free, but on the other hand I find that it's also a good idea to utilize both, depending on your needs or specific training goals.
But I'm curious to hear what your favorite training bird is. Pen-raised gamebirds like quail or chukar? Or do you trap or raise pigeons (more on trapping and raising pigeons in a forthcoming blog post) for your training birds? Any thoughts on the relative merits of one versus the other?