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Releasing, training and acclimatising


 Pigeons like order, although it doesn't have to be so strict as some think. The late Nadia Houben for instance, liked unfailing precision. Long ago, I explained to Jef Houben how in Holland, we raced with young pigeons that had been darkened and therefore didn't moult.

Jef decided to follow my example, and I still have the newspaper cutting from Theo IJskout and a fax from Vandenabeele, in which they thank me for the tip, in other words: darkening.

Dutch fanciers darkened their pigeons, in Belgium they used eye drops. The problem for Vandenabeele at the time, was that he couldn't compete against the regional “Ledercort men” (the so-called druggers), but still he refused to use drops. These drops now, varied, in my opinion, from harmless and fantastic Peters drops, to the despicable Ledercort drops, with which you turned your youngsters into throw-away pigeons. Ijskout once won the first 20 prizes. Something that was then possible when you were the only one to darken your birds.

The already named Nadia wasn't sure how to handle the darkening when the clocks were going forwards. Which characterized her as a painstakingly precise person. Nowadays, almost every fancier darkens their pigeons, but the champions of old are still dominating the field. Because they have something others don't, top class pigeons. Darkening is only part of the circle, and is not effective when you don't have the most important part to make that circle round; top class pigeons.

And when you do have quality pigeons, there are more ways than one to perform well. Some champions keep their pigeons locked up for three months in winter, sometimes in an aviary.Other, equally good champions, are of the opinion that pigeons have to fly. They release them for exercise whenever the weather permits.

Both ways are effective, but what I think is completely wrong is only SOMETIMES releasing them. To keep pigeons locked in for a long period, and then release them on that one mild day, is asking for trouble.

Once upon a time I thought that the best time to release pigeons younger than three months old was in the afternoon. But then I experienced that releasing them earlier didn't do them any harm at all. As long as you don't do anything foolish, like once happened to Klak. His youngsters were always released for exercise in the afternoon. Until one day, his caretaker wanted to go home early and released them at 6.00 am. Klak will never forget that day; He lost one third of his birds.

But he didn't get angry. Klak only got angry when talking about group releases, directed by organizers who aren't hampered by much knowledge of the pigeon sport. For four years, I have clocked his pigeons. And when the birds started coming back from a race, you didn't know where to look. They came from all directions. And according to Klak that was because they were released in small groups.


For that matter, when youngsters stay out to exercise for an hour or longer, it seems sufficient to release them only once a day. In that case you can also take larger steps with training. If they don't want to exercise from home, it's better to start training from a short distance, if necessary from only two or three kilometer. Fairly soon they will start exercising longer as well.

Racing hens, and more and more fanciers start racing with hens, can be released only once a day too, when they stay out to exercise for a few hours. And that's what hens in top form will do.

Sometimes, we have the following 'problematical cases':

- We acquired young pigeons somewhere, that are too old to release.

- We have collected a pigeon, that had lost its way.

- A squeaker is frequently absent. And when it comes back to the loft, it's clear that it has a second lodging. Possibly with a partner or with another fancier, who likes the bird.

In these cases, there is something you can do to keep such pigeons in your loft. Don't release them in the morning, especially not when the weather is clear. It's better to release them in the evening, or even better still: with rainy weather. And always together with other pigeons.

It is also helpful to put some soap on one wing, which will be a handicap when flying.

Or to give them a partner, when they are old enough. And do not forget; good weather for people doesn't have to be good weather for pigeons. It's better to train young pigeons with an overcast sky, even when there is rain threatening, than to train them with a blue sky.

Noteworthy too is the 'bathing behaviour' of your pigeons. When it's warm, clear weather, we people like to take a cool bath. But pigeons don't. They choose to bathe during a rainy day! If pigeons want to bathe when there isn't a bath available, and when they creep into their drinker and make bathing movements, you know that they are healthy.


In the old days, nobody would even think about taking pigeons out by car in preparation for the races. Now some fanciers have a different opinion, especially with youngsters. You have to realize that there is a huge difference in racing with separated genders, or with pigeons sitting on a nest. Healthy, separated youngsters will usually exercise normally and voluntarily. Pigeons on a nest however, exercise not or hardly at all.

And you have to be especially careful when you release those only once a day, for instance early in the morning, because that is the only available time for you before going to work. The hens are then sitting on the nest, and the result will be that they will not exercise at all during the entire week. And of course, that can't be good for them. Such birds benefit especially from training flights during the week.

Some Dutch fanciers realize the most fantastic results at long-distance races. They win prizes from 600 kilometer at a speed like it was from 100 kilometres. Some champions see much training as the method to these results. Some even take their pigeons out for training flights of 200 kilometer in between races. I know English fanciers, who drive with their pigeons every day, and ... they are almost unbeatable. And also in Belgium, there are fanciers who drive a lot and who achieve tremendously, especially with youngsters.

One of the most remarkable things of the last few years, is the domination of hens on many races. That didn't go unnoticed by the more perceptive of our fanciers, and now more and more hens are entered. Most specialists are letting them race every week, even up to 600 kilometer. Cocks on the other hand, seem to profit more from a week rest once in a while. Mostly when a cock wins a difficult race, it's a bird that has been in the loft the week before the race.

The winning hens seldom skip a race.