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Questions without answers

A problem for people like me who are writers and also race well is that others suspect us of knowing all about pigeon sport.

And therefore fanciers ask us questions.

But the truth is not others nor I know all the ins and outs of our sport.

Naturally questions like the following that I got from a South African fancier I cannot answer and do not want to answer either:

He wrote:

'Can you tell me in detail how you feed your birds, how you train and motivate them, about your breeding methods, the way you select birds and your medical guidance the whole year round.'

It is a shame I cannot answer questions like this because:

- It would take me too much time.

- Circumstances in South Africa are quite different from ours.

- There is not such a thing as the ultimate one and only way to success; there are many roads to Rome.



Many questions I get from foreigners are about tossing, feeding and darkening.

They believe in tossing and maybe they are right.

Most champions in Holland and Belgium however do not toss at all during the racing season, since they found it does not make sense.

Why may it be useful for others and is it a waste of time here?

Here fanciers live close to each other, so after the release all birds fly in the same direction (at least for a while) and the countryside is flat without water, woods or mountains.

Therefore our birds do not need 'to break' like in other countries where fanciers live far apart and the birds do have to overcome these difficulties on their way home.

To give foreigners advice about feeding is hard as well, since most food mixtures we have are not available abroad and the climate and racing methods differ.

Fanciers that live in countries with a warm climate should feed differently from us.

Fanciers that race their birds twice a week or toss them nearly daily should feed differently as well.



For reasons mentioned before I cannot advise nor I can answer questions about darkening either.

We do not only have different hours of daylight but the way you should darken your young birds (today also old birds) also depends on the racing program.

By darkening our 'winter breeds' the way we do the small feathers are renewed, while the flights are not.

Thus we can race youngsters with a full wing at the time they normally should moult.

What I can say is that you should have 10 hours of daylight maximum and young birds normally get into good shape 3 weeks after the darkening is lifted.

Today most fanciers here also put on the lights from the end of June till the end of the season.

At the end of June the days get shorter and less daylight means the moulting process starts and the condition of the pigeons gets down.

By preventing the days from becoming shorter you keep up the condition and birds do not moult.

Then there is the loft climate which is one of the most important items in this sport to be successful.

The climate inside the loft depends very much on weather circumstances outside.

Thus it is quite well possible that a loft that is good in Holland and Belgium would kill the condition if it were a loft in other countries.

The opposite is also true: A good loft in a tropical area is much open which would kill the health of the birds here.



Why, one may wonder, do birds moult at certain periods of the year?

Of course they do not know if it is March or September.

But it is the days that get shorter (or longer) that influences the moulting process.

One should know that birds that moult or start moulting do not perform and as I said the moulting process has everything to do with the length of the days.

This year, we in Holland, had very cold weather in February and March.

In fact it was colder than in November and December.

Despite the cold birds started building their nests in those 2 spring months.

That was because the days got longer, which caused a kind of euphoric effect.


For the same reason the condition of pigeons gets better about 3 weeks after the darkening is lifted.  


It seems that birds get happier in spring; they begin to sing, mate and build nests while in fall when the days get shorter they become calm.  

So now you may understand why most champions here switch on the lights at the end of June after the longest day.

But' the longest day here is not the longest day in say, for argument's sake,South Africa or California.

Manipulating light and dark can be the difference between winning and losing but, if you want to imitate champions here one should live in Holland or Belgium!



Many questions are about medication.

Some people even ask about a good medicating program the whole year round.

My question is 'why medicate if birds are not sick?'

To make them healthier and win races?

Come on!

If you have say 50 birds and 3 of them get sick, get rid of those 3.

When 3 students in a class get a head ache you do not give all their class mates aspirin either.



Vaccinating against salmonella is wrong.

If there are problems the birds should be cured for a day or twelve, if the problems are real serious a vaccination may follow.

One should know some vaccinations are hard on the birds and the one against salmonella is one of them.

Some claim that after a vaccination birds get a boost in condition and are less vulnerable for Adeno/Coli.

This is a misunderstanding.

If you think that the birds are infected take a bird of no value from the loft and vaccinate it. If it gets real sick you have reason to worry.

As for other vaccinations one should know they are meant to prevent the birds from getting infected.

To heal birds that suffer from some disease one should cure!



Your best teacher is you yourself.

The birds tell you if you did the right thing or not.

But there is one condition:

You need to be a good observer in order to see what the birds might teach you!


Being a good observer is the most important quality of a successful pigeon man anyway.