In the pigeon sport, nobody can guarantee success; vets can"t, writers can"t and the papers can"t, people with money can"t, and even the greatest champions can"t.
A champion can have all the success in the world, but after two bad races even his self-confidence will diminish.
For unknown reasons, excellent pigeons can suddenly stop winning prizes.
While they are looked after the same as the years before, the form can just refuse to come.
Sometimes even the greatest champion will be anxious upon entering his lofts; he will be watching the widowers exercise with misgivings, he won"t be reassured and starts scratching. Not the floors of the lofts but behind his ears.
Sometimes you think you have found it.
During the time that I still "showed" the hens to the widowers before a race, I had to go to answer the telephone. I could only shake my head dejectedly when the conversation was finished.
"The cocks had mounted the hens countless times so I could forget about a good result."
I made a new pooling sheet with a few less crosses on it and...? I had a phenomenal result!
"Aha," I thought, "now I"ve found it. Now and again showing the hen for a long time is the secret, and I won"t tell anybody about it."
So later on, before a very important race, I knew what I had to do.
The pigeons were left together for a full hour, and when I was asked what I thought of the chances of my pigeons, I thought "you will see soon enough".
It was an excellent race, only ... not for me.
Why pigeons get form one time, and have a relapse the next?
We can only guess.
That doesn"t mean that we are totally helpless.
You can certainly help fate a bit, just as you can do things that will lead to a certain bad result.
To treat against canker for many is as natural as giving grit or water.
Many years ago it was very different.
They didn"t know a lot about medication and a pigeon that contracted canker; well it was just his bad luck.
Later, medicines came on the market, and we all benefitted. A small cure and gone was the canker. Until that small cure didn"t work anymore and it had to be a full treatment.
There was no choice. The drugs were not strong enough anymore (or the disease strain too strong).
And when more fanciers started to treat against canker, the problem became even bigger.
There was this man whose pigeons just didn"t want to get into form.
He went to the vet, who diagnosed canker.
"How is that possible? Every month I treat for two days, like I have always done, and I"ve never had any problems," was the surprised reaction.
The man in the white coat listened patiently.
"Your pigeons have canker and you have to give a proper treatment, for a whole week."
The fancier followed the advice, he entered the pigeons in a race and ... not a single prize of course.
The following races were better and he had learned his lesson.
Treating for a whole week during the racing season is wrong.
Another fancier suddenly lost five pigeons from one race in April.
That can happen, but ... five pigeons when nobody else had any losses?
That is an indication of something else, and again it proved to be his own fault.
The man has a lot of trouble with birds of prey, and therefore he kept the pigeons inside for the winter until the beginning of March, and barely three weeks later they were basketed for a race.
Again that was asking for trouble.
Keeping pigeons inside during the winter is o.k., many champions do that, but you have to release them to exercise at least a month before the first race.
Then there was the man who started off magnificently, only to stop winning anything after six weeks.
He went to the vet, but the pigeons were healthy.
What had he done wrong?
He had been afraid that "the yearlings wouldn"t learn the game (widowhood)", so he had started training three times a week from mid March on.
This is not wrong in itself, but the hens were shown every time before basketing and after returning.
Frequently showing and training is good if you want to race well for three weeks, but wrong when you want to achieve good results for three months or longer.
You can"t even get such pigeons back on track, unless you put them on eggs again and then start from scratch on widowhood.
But that only makes sense when you want to race until August with old pigeons. For the fancier concerned the season was too short and therefore lost.
An old complaint is about widowers that don"t want to eat anymore.
Yet that ought not to be a problem.
Just feed them less and they will soon start eating again, it"s as simple as that.
With feeding you can make two mistakes.
- At the beginning of the week, so therefore after the race, feed too much. The result is that they are less eager to eat at the end of the week.
- At the beginning of the week not feeding enough. The result is that the pigeons will still be hungry just before they are basketed, and they will possibly enter the basket with a full crop.
This is wrong and is also a sign that the body is not "fully restored", not satisfied.
What you want is that they eat as much as possible the day BEFORE basketing.
That way you won"t basket hungry pigeons or pigeons with a full crop.
DRINKING, GRIT AND TEA
Pigeons that drink more than usual are not well and should not be entered in a race.
The amount of water they drink is an indicator of form. The less the better.
Grit is very important. Normally, pigeons don"t need vitamins and most other feeding supplements, but they can"t do without grit.
But even so, you have to be careful.
It is wrong for instance to give pigeons grit on the day of basketing when they didn"t have grit the days before.
They will eat too much grit and start the race with a "handicap".
The opinions about tea are divided.
Some fanciers believe in giving tea because "you get such nice droppings".
This is nonsense of course.
Nothing is easier than to ensure that pigeons produce "nice droppings".
Putting something in the drinker that doesn"t taste nice will make the birds drink less, and give "nice shit" as a result.
Definitely wrong is giving certain sorts of tea for a couple of days during the season.
The pigeons will drink less, and drinking less than they need is always wrong.
For that matter, tea is not for my pigeons.