Ten commandments (22-12-2019)
Preparing the young bird races: 10 commandments
To be successful you need good birds in the first place. The moment you mate your breeders is of vital importance. Those birds should be in top condition then. For Western Europe this means you have to put on the lights about two weeks before mating the pigeons. About 14 hours artificial daylight in the lofts is fine.
In case the first birds do not lay eggs in 10 days and/or too many birds are not on eggs in 15 days there is a problem. Better separate them and try again when the condition has shapen up. Or visit a vet. Even when the condition is fine there may always be one or two pairs that refuse to mate. It may help a lot to put such a pair in an empty loft for a couple of days.
Breeders should get ‘stronger’ food when they pump babies and the young birds as well till they are about 100 days old. This implies food with at least 15% peas and pretty much mais. When those young birds get older they should get lighter food that does not contain peas. Better is to give those older youngsters the same mixture the whole week round. Thus you do not put pressure on the intestines, which may help to avoid young bird disease.
Healthy pigeons do not need vitamins and as regards supplements forget most of them as well. Numerous fanciers gave numerous supplements in the past but the majority changed their mind. They did not notice any progress in condition and therefore all those supplements got off the menu. Of course grit is very important and mineral powder is ok as well. Probably those supplements will not hurt but it is better for your purse. Today pretty many fanciers put garlic in the water. Nothing wrong with that, though I do not believe you will win more and earlier prizes.
To-day (young) pigeons get too much medicine. Medicine are manufactured to cure sick pigeons, not to boost the condition. Good condition because of anti-biotics is a myth. What you can do though without consulting a vet is a cure against trichomonas just before the season. When the bodies are not tight and you find some threats in throats that are too red a cure may be advisable as well. About 5 days Ronidazole is better than putting up a tablet in the mouth.
In the middle of the summer or in the middle of winter you better give the medicinal powder through the food that was made sticky. Do you administer the medicine through the drinker then. In hot weather birds drink far more than normal, so they get too much of the medicine. In winter they drink very little and then the doses may be too low. And too little of the medicine may be more harmful than too much. And what about respiratory problems? Only apply to medicine in case of problems. Giving anti-biotics to healthy birds which is often done is asking for big problems on a longer term.
Pigeons should know discipline and food is the means to get it. Youngsters may get pretty much freedom the first 100 days of their lives, but from then on they should train or be in the loft. No hanging around anymore. And they absolutely should not fear the hands of the fancier.
There is this local fancier who always wants to show me his young birds when I am at his place. When he enters the loft to grab a bird I always hear a lot of noise, caused by birds that fly everywhere, even against the windows, trying to escape from his grabbing hands.
Sometimes it is very quiet though. Then he has both hands behind his head, he carefully approaches a pigeon and then ‘boem’ he strikes. Mostly it is a ‘success’ he has the bird indeed, the others sit in the far edge of the loft, with long necks and scared to death. How can you expect such birds to trap well after a race? The fancier must always be a welcome appearance, not someone to fear.
Leo Heremans had a broad board about one meter high in his breeding loft. When the babies were about 16 days old he put the nest bowls with the babies on this board. And whenever he was in the loft he stroked the babies and talked to them. Making a sound, whatever sound that is, and always wear the same clothes maybe helpful to get disciplined birds as well. It stands to reason that you wear the same clothes and make the same sound when you await the youngsters from a race.
In Western Europe fanciers have faced very serious losses of young birds in the last few decades. And the weirdest things happen. Like J v d Putten, a so called young bird specialist. He had trained his youngsters many times from all directions. Then on a sunny Sunday he let them out and 25 birds from 52 he never saw back. Another example is that from Mr Stabel. He as well had trained his youngsters about ten times. They were always released at the same place, 10 kilometres from home, the 11th time one third of the birds got lost. Again in nice weather. Fanciers that have lost 70% of their babies before the racing season starts are no exception.
For young birds frequent tossing is important. How frequent depends on the situation, or better the loft training. If the birds train long and spontaneously and are out of sight for a long while you can increase the distances substantially every time you go on the road with them.
If your babies train unwillingly you better increase the distances little by little and start at a distance of about 3 kilometres maximum. Leo Heremans’ first toss was always at a distance of no more than one kilometre. And he was a man who knew what he was doing. When the birds do not fly home directly after you released them, do not increase the distance. Release them at the same place next time. Till they fly home directly.
My mantra is that there is only one secret in pigeon sport: Selection. And selection should be based on results. Not on the looks or the pedigree or family. So better breed babies from proven racers than from birds that only have a pedigree as a reference, how breath-taking this pedigree may be. Cull the poor birds, sell your good birds, keep the supers!
9. FROM WHOM?
When you read a loft report about a ‘champion’ it is always useful to ask yourself ‘Why was it written and by whom?’ Thus you may avoid buying shit birds. Results that are too fantastic? Realise that the strength of the competition is also a factor in race results. The strength of the competition may differ a lot from one area to another. The best birds are to be found in areas where fanciers specialise.
Fot example: Do you want Middle Distance birds? Do not get them from fanciers that live in an area where the majority focuses on Long Distance. To judge results the entry is important of course. Is a race with an entry of say 1,000 birds a nice race? It depends on how many fanciers participated. 250 Fanciers or 25 fanciers who enter 1,000 birds together makes an enormous difference. Generally speaking you can say the best birds are to be found in areas where many fanciers together enter few birds.
10. IN REALITY
Concerning importing birds always realise that, in case of a super bird, there is no guarantee at all the same parents will ever produce another super. So a bird that is just as good. Therefore most champions often change the matings.
I myself have handled many real supers. But I never saw a bird that had a handful brothers or sisters that were just as good.
11. FREE GIFT
The 11th Commandment is a free gift. Sometimes it is hard to decide which birds to keep. Well, I prefer a bird that was very early (in the first 1%) at both a race with tailwinds and a race with headwinds. With such birds I have better experiences than with youngsters that are always there but never real early.