In this edition again I am going to deal with questions that are on many people’s lips. It stands to reason that my ‘pigeon knowledge’ is limited though. People who may think that I am the guy that knows an answer to all questions that are on their mind are wrong, as such a man simply does not exist. Furthermore in pigeon sport there is not such a thing as ‘the ultimate truth’, as according to a Dutch saying ‘there are many roads that lead to Rome’. But on the other hand my answers cannot possibly be B. S. for the simple reason that my results are too good to tell nonsense.
‘To which fanciers should I apply to get birds that will give me optimal chances?’
This is the question that is asked me most of all for many years. That’s why I paid attention to it in other articles, but there are things you just have to say again and again, as they are so important and many people just do not get the message.
In short I will repeat things that are essential:
- Do not fall for the charms of names and pedigrees. Remember pedigrees do not fly.
- Get birds from fanciers who live in an area where competition is strong.
- But even then the most important thing you need is luck, as even the best pigeons of the world give more rubbish than good ones.
‘If after a hard race a pigeon comes back home skinny and worn out is it finished or not? Answer:
This differs from one bird to another. Some birds will recover real soon; others will never be as good as they were before. There are three criteria that tell about the condition of such a bird; the weight, the colour of the eyes and the colour of the flesh around the breastbone.
a. The weight.
It is normal that a bird that is torn to pieces is skinny and eats little, but this should change soon. After a few days already it should have a good appetite and have regained weight. If this is not the case such a bird is ‘burnt’ as people say, which means its racing career is over and out.
b. The colour of the eyes.
When birds get home worn out the eyes are dull, but (again) pretty soon they must be shiny and lively, if not it is a pigeon without a future. Of course it does not affect its breeding potential.
c. The colour of the flesh.
Birds that suffered have dark blue, kind of blackish and scaly flesh round the breastbone and not until they have that nice pink colour again they are recovered. One remark about such birds though. It may happen they are physically recovered but still unable to win a decent prize, as they have lost ‘self-confidence’ if you can use this term for an animal. It looks as if they do not have the guts any more to make it home at a maximum speed and have become careful. What you can do is start tossing them again from short distances to boost the self confidence. This is often rewarding.
What food additives do champions generally speaking consider the most useful?
‘Generally speaking’ is a good term, as champions have different ideas. There are two products though on which nearly all agree that they are of great value: grit and electrolytes.
Grit is by far the most important additive for pigeons which was also proven by tests done by scientists.
Why is it not much advertised then?
Because it is cheap! There is not much money in it. But it is a misunderstanding to think that a pigeon product is bad because it is cheap and it is good if it is expensive. What I want to say is that firms that deal in pigeon products can make far more money by selling vitamins and stuff, so advertising them is more rewarding. So try your pigeons to eat grit as much as possible. Of course it should be refreshed very often, let’s say every two days, as in the loft dust will stick onto it and for some mysterious reason pigeons do not eat such ‘old’ grit. So fanciers who think they do good when in some dusty corner of the loft there is a jar in which there is always grit are wrong. Some throw that ‘old’ grit on a stone underground in front of the loft. You should see what happens after a shower. Pigeons devour the same stuff that they did not even look at before. The reason is that it was ‘washed’ by the rain. How important grit is you can also see when birds come home from a hard race. They will eat the grit before they eat the regular feed, at least if they get a chance. It is their instinct that tells them how badly the body needs it.
Electrolytes are getting more and more popular since fanciers realise they are very useful for birds that have lost moist because of flying in hot weather. You can get it in powder form and as a liquid. Of course there is more to it than grit and electrolytes alone, but those things will be discussed in another contribution.
‘Is it true that birds with dark coloured eyes are better breeders and that light coloured eyes belong to better racers?’
Much has been said and written about eyes, their colour and the so called ‘eye sign’. Many foreigners believe in it but the fact that there is not even a Dutch word for ‘eye sign’ must have a reason. If there were something in the eye that would distinguish good birds from bad ones pigeons would be special indeed, totally different from other animals or humans.
- Can you see in the eyes of a human if he is a good athlete?
- Can you see in the eyes of a dog if he is a good watcher or hunter?
- Can you see in the eyes of a horse if it is a good race horse?
- Can you see in the eyes of a canary if it sings well?
I have seen doves on market squares with the most beautiful eyes one can imagine but that would not be able to make it home even from 5 miles. The colour of the eye means nothing at all, neither for breeding purposes nor for racing. Just like everybody else I also look in the eyes when handling a pigeon but fortunately fellow fanciers never asked me what I am looking for, as I would not know how to react. The only thing that you can read in the eye is the status of the health. As for the question if you can mate birds that have the same eyes give me one reason why not.
‘How often should you worm birds?’
The answer is simple:
When they do HAVE worms. Some Americans worm every two months or so. How wrong they are, they are ‘condition killers’ since
Any treatment against diseases that do not exist is not only useless, it may harm the birds!
In Holland and Belgium hardly any champion worms since pigeons that are kept in a dry environment will seldom suffer from them. But if pigeons do have worms that means trouble since their eggs may survive for a long time in gutters, on a flat roof, on the ground and so on. Then you have no other choice than to medicate and (important!) this should be repeated after some weeks to eliminate the worms that pigeons might have picked after the first treatment. Fire is the only effective way to kill worms and their eggs but the problem is that it is practically impossible to burn all the places where your birds may be at.
‘Is it true that real old birds will not produce good babies?’
No, it is not. There are numerous examples of super birds bred off of very old birds. Take Belgian Boeckx. In 2000 he had the National short distance Ace and in 2001 its full brother became 4th National Ace.
Both birds won these titles as yearlings; their parents were born in 1992 and in 1993 so they were pretty old when those Aces were born. A problem with birds that are real old may be their crop milk that has become less nutritious. That’s why it is a good idea to let younger birds raise their babies by switching eggs.
‘What are the best vitamins for pigeons’ many fanciers wonder.
I do not think pigeons need extra vitamins. Never ever did I see the form boost after birds got vitamins. If you have doubts give part of your birds vitamins and others not. I bet you won’t see any difference. If you DO believe in vitamins do not give A, B, E and so on alone but always use a combination. If not you may poison the birds instead of helping them and that is not what you want!