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FAQS (3)

Again I am going to deal with questions that are on many fancier’s minds. Of course there is no answer to any question. Sometimes people ask me ‘how do I breed good pigeons?’ or ‘tell me about your racing system’ or ‘how do I become a champion?’. Such questions are too general and too complex to answer of course. Getting good results depend on many factors such as training, feeding, medication, the loft, motivation, luck and so on. ‘Champions in pigeon sport have the circle round’ I always say. Imagine the circle as a chain that consists of links. If one link is missing the chain is incomplete. The things I referred to (training, feeding, medication and so on) can be seen as links and the fancier is as good as the strength of the weakest link! It is impossible to deal with the whole circle but the links (more specific questions) are easier to discuss.

‘How often do you need to treat birds against coccidiose?’

You only need to treat in case of a serious infection, as pigeons can cope with just a bit of coccidiose.
In fact this is not a serious problem with pigeons, since it is a secondary infection. If birds suffer from salmonella, streptococci, Coli and so on the body is weakened, it has less resistance and will be more vulnerable to a secondary infection such as coccidiose.
Furthermore the birds may overcome it spontaneously, so without medication. Just a dry environment will often do to heal them.
Once I heard a scientist say:
‘Coccidiose is a sickness of young inexperienced vets’.
What he meant was that it is easy to find coccidiose under a microscope, since nearly all birds have it, and vets that are not familiar with pigeons prescribe medicine too easily.
Some fanciers have a microscope of their own and test their birds themselves. Shortly after a real hard race they may find pretty many coccidiose but later on, when the bird has shaped up, it is mostly gone or nearly gone.
Belgian Dr Marien is one of the few vets that are also a champion; especially in 2004 his results were breath taking.
For him coccidiose is a kind of Parameter for the condition.
‘The less coccidiose I find, the better the condition of the birds’ he claims and it is the birds with the least coccidiose in which he has confidence for a good race result. He advises medication in case of serious problems only, but this did not happen 5 times in his whole career as a vet.

‘I had a real good breeding pair but unfortunately the cock died. Now I want to mate the hen with its brother. Do I have equal chances to breed good birds?’

It is not that simple.
To breed good babies you need parents of good origin of course.
They need not be beautiful but should not have great physical shortcomings.
The most important thing you need then is luck!!!
I have my doubts about breeding pairs or so-called ‘Golden Couples’ anyway. Couples that only give good birds only exist in the catalogues of ‘sellers’.
Therefore most champions change the matings frequently, even those pairs that produced good birds before.
Why do the champions in Holland and Belgium breed so many babies?
They realise how important good luck is!
You can compare this with a lottery: The more tickets the more chances.
Of course with proven racers you have greater chances but you are never sure.
There is this great Belgian champion who carefully formed his breeding pairs in the past. For weeks he was thinking which cock to mate with which hen every winter. Till he was hospitalised for a month, just at start of the breeding season.
He had no other choice than to let the birds find the partner of their choice.
The result was that he bred as many good birds and as many bad ones than in those years that he formed the couples.
Replace the cock that died by its brother?
Maybe it is good, maybe not.

‘Some fanciers prefer birds with a long breastbone for long distance. Does this make sense?’

Yes it does. I handled numerous real good long distance pigeons; by far the greatest part had a long breastbone. For long distance birds need stamina and muscles. The longer the breast bone the longer and stronger the muscles.

‘Is a bird that did not complete the moult fit for breeding and how can you see if the moult was completed properly?’

If a bird did not complete the moult properly it was in poor health when moulting, but it may be in good health later on when breeding.
So it does not mean much.
Normally a healthy youngster renews 3 flights of the inner wing.
The tail is renewed if the outer flight BUT ONE is new because strangely enough that is the flight that is thrown last of all.

‘Is it true that birds that have a tongue with a black point are no good and that white points in the throat means trouble?’

As for a black tongue I do not know. I know that neither Janssen Brothers nor Klak ever opened the beak of a bird.
Once Klak was so kind as to show a Japanese importer some of his birds but when he saw him open their beaks he said ‘come on, let’s have a coffee’.
Klak just did not like it.
Of course you can learn a lot about the health of a bird by opening its beak but most champions only do so with doubtful pigeons.
A good pigeon man does not even have to handle a bird to see if it is in good shape. A glance at them when he opens the loft is good enough.

‘What is the best day to give vitamins during the season?’

Many champions, vets and scientists are sceptic about vitamins, me included. Never ever did I see birds get into better shape after they got vitamins.
Furthermore they are risky in countries with a hot climate. Some will expire after less than an hour when exposed to heat and light.
Therefore it is better not to give vitamins via the water in case you believe in them but via the food.
The best day is not before or after a race but in between, that means if you believe in them.
Some vets promote vitamins indeed but they sell them and vets must also eat.

‘How good are barley and linseed? You read so many different things that it makes me unsure.‘

Barley and linseed are very controversial indeed.
Some champions never give barley; others say ‘it is gold’.
Pigeons do not like it but this does not mean that it is no good.
Some use it as a depurative, as they think it is easy to digest but that is not correct:
Barley is HARD to digest.
Others give barley as they think it prevents pigeons from becoming fat and it will cool down their sexual drifts.
That is a misunderstanding too.
I saw birds that only got barley which were so fat that they could hardly fly.
And I saw birds that only got barley but in spite of that they multiplied like rabbits.
Linseed is also good food, especially for birds that moult, but it is risky since it will taint soon and may get toxic.
If the seeds stick together you should throw them away.
Another risk with linseed is that it may cleave onto the throats.
Some years ago Meulemans had a national winner from Marseille, he was offered a fortune for it but after some sleepiness nights he decided not to sell.
Shortly after it was dead. A little seed had made the bird suffocate and Karel had some more sleepless nights.

‘I do not want my young hens to lay eggs, however they seldom accept ‘fake’ eggs. Any suggestions?’

Artificial eggs, especially those made of plastic are no good; they are too light and the birds seem to feel they are being fooled.
Real eggs are the best. Make them a bit moist with lukewarm water and of course under sit them in the evening.

‘Is it a fact that Dutch long distance birds are far superior to others?’

‘Yes there is no doubt about it, even the most patriotic Belgian will agree on that, at least for 2-day races.

‘Many Belgians race from about 100 kilometres only. Are these birds unfit to fly 400 kilometres or more?’

This question is on so many people’s minds and is so interesting that I will deal with it in a special article.