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What Dutch and Belgian 'Young bird specialists' have in common and have not

In the Dutch language there is a new term: 'Young bird specialist'. The term saw light in the mid eighties. In those days both in Holland and in Belgium some fanciers began to destroy the young bird races. 10.000 Birds in a race and one fancier who won for example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ? That was absolutely impossible before but it became reality. Initially no one could understand those sensational results as those champions themselves kept their mouths shut how they did it. Understandingly all kinds of rumours about new secrets spread like wild fire. Did 'a new generation' have something new? This was not a strange question. The difference between the happy few and the rest in young bird racing got abnormal proportions.


Years went by and nowadays it is well known how come those 'specialists' could have their fellow sportsmen in a stranglehold: They had learnt how to keep the moult under control ! Their youngsters did not fly faster than the rest but 'the rest' could not follow as they were moulting. And it is generally known that pigeons which moult do not fly. When you open the loft moulting birds do not even get out to train. When pigeons are having a bath you will also notice that birds that moult have the greatest difficulty to fly up. Their specific gravity is too heavy as they lack too many feathers.

Moreover moulting is a process of hormones that does not make the birds real sick but it weakens the body very much. For that reason all kinds of diseases break out in autumn when in Europe pigeons are moulting. Their natural resistance is undermined too much then. How 'the specialists' managed to control the moult? There were two methods: - In Flanders (Belgium) they did it by means of cortisone. - The Dutch by means of darkening the lofts. As for the use of cortisone this turned out to ruin the pigeons. Many winning birds which were sold appeared to be unfertile in the lofts of their new owners. Even the government thought this not acceptable and cortisone became forbidden stuff. As it seemed to be very easy to find cortisone in the droppings tests were carried out, fanciers got caught and were expelled from the sport for 3 years. At least those who could not afford expensive lawyers. Those who could carried on racing as their lawyers could convince the court that not the right procedure was followed when testing the birds. So cortisone was banned and now every European fancier who wants to be a successful young bird racer has no choice: He has to darken the lofts to control the moult. When 'the secret' of the specialists leaked out some reporters reacted enthusiastically in pigeon magazines. - 'This was good for the sport.' - 'Now chances were even again.' - 'The young bird specialist era was history.' How wrong they were though. Because also now, many years later, it is still a small group of fanciers that dominate the young bird races whereas nobody races babies that moult any more, everybody uses the so called darkening system. 'Is there something the young bird specialists of to day have in common' one might wonder? Yes there is.


They seem to have created another type of bird, a bird which is mature at a younger age. This was done by selection based on results as a baby. 'Matured very young and rotten very young' is a saying as most 'specialists' do not have any good 3 or 4 year old racers . It is generally known that long distance racers (those who focus on the 1.000 kilometre races have birds which are matured at an older age. Furthermore it is a fact that not one long distance Ace in Europe is a young bird specialist. That is why Europens do not understand why people abroad who only race young birds purchase long distance pigeons, birds that won Barcelona for example. A reason might be that circumstances abroad are harder. Unlike other countries in Europe the landscape is flat and temperatures mostly moderate. Are people who live in mountainous areas and race under tropical circumstances better off with birds of long distance origin? Or should they better not import such kind of birds but pigeons from the 'young bird specialists? I really do not know. What I do know is that young bird racing in Europe is quite another ball game than long distance. But there are other things the young bird champions have in common. TRAINING Without exception much attention is paid to training. But training methods differ from the past. In the old days fanciers brought their birds to 5 kilometres, then 10, 15, 20, 25 and so on. But this method is out dated. Because what happens in most cases when training is started? The first 3 or 4 times the fanciers are back home before the birds. It may take inexperienced youngsters an hour or longer to get back home from distances no further than 10 kilometres. The champions found out it makes no sense to increase distances when training such birds. What most of them do now is the following thing: They take their birds about 5 kilometres away, then about 10, then about 15. Then they stick to this distance till the birds fly directly home like hell. Only when this is the case birds will be trained from longer distances. Once the birds fly straight home they found that the next toss may be much increased to even 70 kilometres. That is about the maximum distance fanciers train their birds, the majority however does not go further than about 30 kilometres. The specialists train their birds very often, up to 10 or even 15 times before the season starts. In Holland and Belgium youngsters are raced on Saturdays. In recent years some fanciers thought they could improve their results even more by intensifying the training during the season. Some even did this daily, but they found out this was exaggerated. Now most champions train their babies once a week during the racing season. That is on Wednesday or Thursday, the distance in most cases is about 20 kilometres.


Also concerning feeding most 'specialists' act the same. The first 10 weeks of their lives the babies get 'heavy' food. That means food with much protein (such as peas). As E Coli has become a problem recently more additives are used than in the past. Especially vinegar (from apples) and yoghurt have become popular. The PH (vinegar) and the lactobacillus (yoghurt) are supposed to reduce chances to get problems with Coli. When the birds are about 10 weeks old, that is about a months before training is started, they switch over to lighter food. Food which consists for about one third of diet and two third 'normal'. This switch to a 'lighter' mixture is often combined with medication against canker. The result is that the birds begin to train spontaneously which is 'a must' before you go on the road with them. As for feeding electrolytes are also becoming more and more popular. Especially after races in hot weather when the body has lost much moisture electrolytes are supposed to do the birds a lot of good. Grit is still supposed to be the most important additive because of the calcium it contains. That grit should be refreshed very often stands to reason. When you leave grit in the loft for a longer period dust will stick onto it and birds do not eat it. Some people have grit outside the loft on a stone underground. This is refreshed automatically by the frequent rain. Every time after it has rained birds will land down on the ground to eat it. It even happens that birds which come home from a race first land on the ground to eat some grit instead of entering the loft. It is this instinct which shows how important grit undoubtedly is.


What champions also realise is the importance of the loft. First of all the climate must be optimal. If pigeons have to defend themselves continuously against environmental circumstances which are bad (not enough oxygen, too warm, too humid or too much draught) they will never get into good condition. Important factors are: - A degree of humidity which is adequate and always the same. - A constant temperature day and night. Furthermore all champions find it of the utmost importance that pigeons (both old birds and youngsters) feel comfortable in their home (loft). So they do whatever they can to make the loft cosy. Perches and boxes everywhere so that pigeons can make a choice to pick or even conquer their domain. Love for their own territory should be encouraged as much as possible with all possible means as this love will motivate birds to want to be home.


Good young bird racers without exception spend lots of time with their birds. Old bird racing is another story, not much time or efforts are needed to make them win. With young birds you will have to be there to observe, train and so on. For that you need time and that's why hardly any young bird specialist has a full time job and that is the reason why so many young bird specialists have a wife or partner who is involved. To have a wife who loves pigeon sport seems to be a great advantage. Her womanly instinct to care is something young birds seem to appreciate indeed. So to excel in young bird races there is more than a good loft, training, good food and even good quality. Young birds can only win when they are motivated. They must have a reason to want to be home. It is the task of the fancier to see to that.


Still not all young bird specialists in Holland and Belgium act the same. As for the their methods the champions can be divided into two categories. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. - There is the group that race young birds naturally., That means they allow the birds or even encourage them to mate. With a baby in the nest they are entered for great races. That little baby must be the drive to hurry back home and not give up. A disadvantage is that youngsters which have a nest position do not train spontaneously around the loft. You will have to go on the road with such ones. - Another category of champions race their birds with separated sexes. Half a day before basketing the sexes may join each other and also after the race cocks and hens may be together till late in the day. The advantage of this system is that birds will train for hours spontaneously when you let them out. So you will not have to go on the road to train such ones. A disadvantage of this method is that it is hard to say which birds will perform. A real problem for fanciers who want to pool money on certain birds. Another division can be made as well: - Specialists who medicate their birds on and on, especially against respitory problems. - And others who hardly medicate. Both methods may lead to successes but for those who medicate frequently there is no way back. Once they stop medicating they will have problems.


Personally I race youngsters with the sexes separated. The sexual lust must be the motivation. Furthermore I am not a supporter of medication. I trust on natural health because I hate problems and it must be said, I have never regretted my method. Though it must be admitted that if you focus on temporally results antibiotics might be helpful or even more than that with the emphasis on TEMPORALLY. Because you will undermine the natural resistance of your family on a longer term more and more if you keep on abusing antibiotics. And unfortunately that's what many people do. In the eternal fight between bacteria and antibiotics the former will come out as winners scientists agree and fear. Respitory problems are the nightmare of many fanciers. Their question should not be how to medicate but how to prevent. A good loft and birds with much natural resistance that builds up immunity is a good start.