Water and moisture
We all know that without water, there is no life.
There is also a lot to tell about water, dryness (and moisture) in relation to pigeons and the pigeon sport.
There is no greater enemy of form than high humidity.
For that reason 'dryness' is the first requirement for a good loft.
There are many types of good lofts, but one thing they all have in common: they are all dry.
During the winter you can see how much impact dry air has on the form.
The moment that a bit of frost takes 'the moisture out of the air'; you will notice that in the pigeons. They get chalk-white noses and start shedding down; and the latter is always a good sign.
Sick pigeons or pigeons that are out of form will never shed down, never at all.
Years ago exhibitions were very popular in the region where I live, and quite regularly you got your pigeons back in better form than they were when you delivered them at the show.
The reason was a stay of a few days in a dry, oxygen rich hall.
For that matter, water intake is a parameter for form.
Pigeons with form drink less, as fanciers who give water individually will know.
You can see the same during a period of frost in winter.
When the frozen droppings are difficult to scrape and sticks to the wood, the reason is that there's a lot of ice in them.
A lot of ice is the result of a lot of drinking, and pigeons drink a lot, as said before, when they are less healthy.
The droppings (particles of manure mixed with ice) sometimes spatters right in your face when you clean the lofts in freezing weather.
If you encounter sour smelling, wet droppings around the bowl that is usually a sign of trouble; mostly of canker.
The late Frans de Hoogh (from Rijen) was content with the form only then when he could pick up the droppings in little balls between thumb and forefinger.
A pigeon will almost certainly miss winning a prize when during basketing you notice that there is too much water in the crop.
I have repeatedly made that mistake.
I basketed such a pigeon in the belief that it would all be right on the day of release. I know better now.
Then there is bathing.
Only healthy pigeons take a spontaneous bath, and when afterwards there is a film of oily, white powder on the water, that is an indication that the pigeons are not only healthy, but that they have form as well.
Sometimes, pigeons can be so eager to take a bath that they try to sit in the drinking bowl; they scramble around to get to the water, and are flapping as if they were taking a bath.
The urge to take a bath has a lot to do with the weather.
Their behaviour appears contrary to the behaviour of us humans.
We yearn for a cool bath in warm weather; pigeons especially like to take a bath in rainy or damp weather, whatever the temperature.
I have often removed ice from the water to give them a chance to bathe.
WATER AND MEDICATION
If you have to give medicines or vitamins you will often do that in the water. But there is a danger in that, for instance by leaving the water in the drinker too long.
Some fanciers disinfect the drinker with chlorine almost daily; these fanciers have to be very careful with medicines or vitamins.
These can be broken down by the remaining chlorine residue.
Medication by way of drinking water is delicate enough.
The leaflets tell you how much to give per litre, but the manufacturer has one problem; he doesn't know how much the pigeons drink!
And the saying 'one gram per litre' loses all meaning when pigeons drink excessively or very little! They won't get the required dose, but too much or too little of the medicine. I don't know what is worse, maybe the last because of the danger of resistance.
Nowadays, many fanciers have two sets of drinkers. The intention is to neutralize canker that spreads through water, especially in warm weather.
I mentioned resistance, and especially with canker that is becoming a serious problem; as that Belgian champion experienced.
No matter how he treated the pigeons, he couldn't get them free of canker.
Until he found the solution.
He treated his pigeons very thoroughly, and when they were completely free of canker, he removed the drinkers from the lofts.
Twice a day they got the chance to drink for two minutes, after that the drinkers were thoroughly dried so that trichomonads had no chance to stay alive, let alone multiply.
And that way he got rid of his problem.
And what's more, in the past, fanciers only thought of canker when they noticed yellow growths in the beak, now we know better.
A few slimy threads at the back of the throat can already mean trouble.
A mistake that some widowhood racers make for economic reasons, is treating only the cocks. That has no effect at all. The untreated pigeons will re-contaminate the other ones because you can't treat preventively against canker.
Of Flagyl especially it is known that it dissolves rather badly; therefore you would do better to give it individually to the pigeons as it comes. A quarter of a tablet is sufficient.
You should not take powdered medicines or vitamins out of the jar with a wet spoon.
The products get damp, starts to clot and will quickly go off.
It's wrong as well to give medicines or vitamins in tepid water, with the idea in mind that they will dissolve better that way.
They will dissolve quicker alright, but the effectiveness will diminish quicker too.
Some fanciers, like the Janssens in their day, believe that it's not good to use tap water. Others never give water that hasn't been boiled.
I find it a bit far-fetched. If tap water is good enough for humans, it can't be bad for pigeons.
But I have to say it again, pigeons that have lost a lot of moisture (for instance after flying in warm weather) will benefit from electrolytes, one of the few feeding supplements that you can take seriously.
Scientist now claim that it is also very useful before a race in hot weather.