Breeding, raising, feeding, mating, training etc… racing pigeons is a captivating, rich and enhancive activity.
It requires some knowledge but any person that is motivated can succeed.
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Before thinking to the competition itself, you have to take care of the health of your racing pigeons. If they are not plenty healthy, it is then useless to drop them many miles from their loft. Their performance would be limited and the risk is high you would lose them.
Many factors affect the health of your birds. Training pigeons begins by taking care of their health.
So, don’t forget to clean the loft and the equipment very often. Try to maintain an efficient ventilation. If the weather is good, open the windows.
As soon as a pigeon is showing signs of illness, don’t wait, isolate it and treat it. So, you will avoid perhaps a collective treatment that can be very annoying and expensive.
Feed your racing pigeons correctly in quantity and quality. All must be swallowed in one quarter hour. Don’t leave any birdseeds. When a pigeon begins to select its seeds, it’s a sign it already ate sufficiently.
You are breeding pigeons. If you take care of your birds, avoid generalized preventive treatments. You are not breeding battery chickens! Useless treatments might increase bacteria resistance and diminish their natural resistance.
Put a teaspoon of salt for 5 liters of water in the drinking trough, in order to avoid dehydration and, sometimes, the same dose of bicarbonate to avoid thrush for squeakers.
Training pigeons – The form and the « motivation »
In order for your racing pigeons to give it the strength of will to come back to the loft the more rapidly possible, it must be stimulated, naturally or artificially:
– If the racing pigeon is well treated and fed, this will increase the will to come back rapidly to its loft.
– It is attached to its pigeonhole or perch. If it knows that its territory is coveted by another pigeon, it will jealously defend it and will be more hurried to come back. We can take advantage of this natural jealousy or stimulate it artificially.
– Pigeons are naturally monogamous. They are attached to their female, to their offspring and to their eggs. it’s important to be aware of this when you are breeding pigeons.
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Is the idea of driving a team of racing pigeons realistic and achievable?
The first things to ask yourself before breeding pigeons, training pigeons and leading them to competition are:
Why do I have this idea of pigeons racing in mind?
Whence comes the desire to “play pigeons”?
Is it a passion or caprice?
Am I really motivated for the pigeon fancying sport and racing pigeons? Do I prefer breeding? uh… Am I patient in general or must it fall into my lap immediately?! (Gasp!)
Am I prepared to have to be present to the racing pigeon loft every day?
To take care of my birds that are racing pigeons?
Do I like to be on the ands and knees trying to scratch continually droppings of my pigeons?
Am I patient and above all, do I really like pigeons?
It will take you some time to sit on a stool to train a pigeon to do this or that. (It’s not required, but sometimes it gives good service).
Those with whom I live (parents, friends, spouse or husband, do they agree and are they ready to support me or even share my pigeon passion?
Do I have enough budget to set up and support my colony of pigeons throughout the year?
Do I have the time to maintain the facilities daily and give the racing pigeons preventive and curative care (unfortunately sometimes) needed by flying athletes?
Owning pigeons whether for pleasure, breeding or pigeons racing requires you a great responsibility. Yes, it is a responsibility that you must understand and accept unconditionally.
Sometimes it will be cold outside, at the end of the garden, sometimes icy torrents of rain will fall, sometimes it will be dark, but in any case, you will have to go to the racing pigeon lofts for the medical care, food, check that all is well, that a cat is not locked inside, that the pigeons are OK, that the water is clean and everything you can imagine.
In short, there is no escape. You must first be able to rely on yourself and do not force someone else to finally take care of your pigeons because you have not had the courage to go. I am thinking of your parents, for example, or a good and nice wife but it would not be their thing , having to feed the birds every day. You can live your passion and act accordingly but don’t do it selfishly.
Plan for the future. You think you can take care of the pigeons for several years? Do you have professional or family plans that could occur for example next year and put an end to your desire?
That said, if you have some doubts about your own motivations, it is not important. Nothing will stop you to try with some pigeons housed in a garden shed or even a mini dove outside or in a “temporary” flexible and fenced pen into the outhouse at the end of the garden. As far as habitat meets some criteria of hygiene and ventilation, already you will take great pleasure.
Think about all this already first.
Because it is not about getting everything up and running and to be offered for $2000 of equipment right away just to realize you have not enough courage and motivation.
Because the pigeon reality is there: sometimes getting up early when we could stay in bed, get out when we could stay on the game console in the living room, scratching the floors when you could watch a movie.
But it is also and above all be closer to Nature, to experience something beautiful and touching with our favorite birds, to make inter-generation meetings, to open our horizon to the others, to invest in what we like and why not, to give time for other fanciers, to help or participate in the life of the pigeon association which you are going to join.
Feel free to become closer to fanciers friends and to question near relations about your future ambition and ask them what they need to do every day to have a good idea of reality of breeding pigeons.
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We can select breeders based on:
* The physical structure (bones, muscles),
* The prize list in the competitions (speed, endurance …),
* The origin of the parents (it is better to be sure …),
* The conformation to the flight (quality of the feather, length of the wing’s arm …),
* The eye (white, red, green, …),
or According to several points above.
The more you take care of the breeders’ qualities, the more your racing pigeons will have chances to show exceptional aptitudes.
When they leave the egg, young pigeons are blind, very fragile and unable to move. They only have a slender yellowish down, useless against the cold. Parents therefore continue to keep them warm.
At birth, their parents cram their young pigeons with white and thick milk produced by the crop. This milk is very nutritious because from one day to another, young racing pigeons double and triple their weight and volume.
The eyes open on the fourth day.
On the sixth day, parents are beginning to incorporate crushed seeds to the crop milk. Feathers begin to grow.
Ringing takes place between the sixth and tenth day.
On the fifteenth day, the squeaker, which is ten times larger than at birth, receives only seeds and water. It is still in the nest. Its plumage is well developed and he began to struggle alone against the cold.
Towards the twenty-fifth day, the pigeon starts to flap its wings. Parents continue to force-feed it thirty days, but we can wean it the 25th day.
When there is only one squeaker in the nest, the mother may lay beside him, from the twentieth day and started on a second incubation.
At thirty days, the young pigeons are autonomous and can fly.
You will then be able to verify the abilities of your racing pigeons by training them now.
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Training pigeons – The instinctive return to the loft
The homing pigeon has the ability to locate its position relative to its loft, despite important distances.
Pigeon fanciers are taking advantage of this excellent opportunity to organize pigeons racing (competition). To give the example of France (numerous pigeon fanciers in this country), if weather conditions are favorable, a pigeon dropped the morning at Perpignan in southern France, may be returned in the evening in Lille in the north (more than 1000 kms).
The pigeon does not follow the North direction indicated by the compass. It can travel in any direction. If the racing pigeon is in Paris, we can let go of Brest, Strasbourg, Marseille and Bordeaux. It will all the same get back to its loft.
Training pigeons – How the pigeon can orient itself in space?
* The sun serves as a landmark.
On overcast or foggy weather, it is more difficult to orient itself, and during solar disturbances.
* The north magnetic pole: it certainly compares its position with that of his loft. During magnetic disturbances, even in good weather, the losses are much more severe.
Experiments suggest that if the pigeon is isolated from a magnetic field in a Faraday cage (iron loft), losses are more numerous (or leavers contests or young pigeons that are dropped for the first time) than in a wood loft.
U.S. researchers (two biologists from the University of New York, a biologist and a geologist at Princeton) said they found in nerve fibers of the base of the brain of pigeons, tiny elongated granules similar to micro-magnets. Chemical analysis of these granules indicates the presence of iron, nickel, copper, zinc and lead. The complexity of the structure of these granules suggests a higher efficiency compared to magnetometers.
* The stars and the moon perhaps? Some pigeons sometimes get back as night already fell.
* Landmarks: with a little training, and by dint of travelling, the racing pigeon locates characteristic landmarks.
In the army, they used this power to establish mobile loft (trailer). Of course, the trailer must be well characterized (shape, color and additional elements) and accustom the pigeons by progressive movements.
Training pigeons – Conclusion
It is likely that all these elements come together. It is difficult to demonstrate, because a pigeon is not another one. Sometimes we even lose the experienced pigeons without knowing why.
In contrast, I have already send pigeons who had never traveled directly to 300 km, and they returned to the loft.
Training pigeons – Contests
Do not drop your racing pigeons under the rain.
It is good to see the weather across the flight line: if we drop them when the weather is fine, but pigeons encounter storms 100 km away, they will be disoriented and may be soaked by rain in the point to settle anywhere.
On the other hand, by short rains and sunny spell, the racing pigeons are not bothered.
Do not drop racing pigeons into the fog.
But the fog on the ground have never prevented the pigeons to fly, temporary fog either.
When weather forecast is announcing strong magnetic and solar disturbances (solar flares), it is better not to contest. Unfortunately, these anomalies often occur in good weather. Training pigeons is also not a good idea in these conditions.
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Training pigeons must have a triple goal:
– Learning experience by compelling the racing pigeon to utilize its innate sense of direction.
– Accustoming the racing pigeons to stay in the basket and to develop a conditioned reflex to come in it rapidly.
– Accustoming the organism of your racing pigeons to produce an intense physical effort, no matter the weather and for several hours.
So, training pigeons require precision, patience, knowledge.
Training pigeons: Old pigeons
Already selected and having made competitions past years, they will be able to reengage competitions. You must begin by let them fly around their loft, it’s the first part of their physical training. When the first short distances are accepted, increase them progressively.
Racing pigeons: the squeakers
The training will begin after a sojourn in a competition basket, with an external drinking trough.
This is done to accustom your racing pigeons to stay in these baskets, and to eat and drink in them.
A precocious pigeon, a very fiery and strong one, can lose itself because its sense of direction is still not very well developed. Be careful. The squeakers born since January will be trained very soon, from april.
The training must be very progressive and to begin, very short in distance and when the weather is good, bright, calm and not hazy. Your racing pigeons will be calm and will own correctly their territories.
The squeakers must be trained only if they are perfectly healthy. If it is not the case, you will risk to lose a lot of your young racing pigeons.
After, drop them from different places and individually. You will minimize their gregarious instinct like this.
Racing pigeons : the «late» squeakers
They are pigeons born during autumn (fall). If it’s possible, they can be trained when the weather is good, as far as 40 or 50 kilometers in December, just like the squeakers born at the beginning of the year. So, they will be able to compete next summer. If the weather is bad during winter, your racing pigeons must be very carefully trained as soon as the weather and their feathers condition authorize training.
Because they lost them very easily, they are very robust and full of energy but their sense of direction has been developed by a consistent training.
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Racing pigeons – The squeakers
You must begin to train them at the age of three months, when the second feathers of molting grow. Train only racing pigeons that are perfectly healthy!
Some pigeons fanciers opt for repeated and progressive trainings: for example, first, some collective droppings on different distances, more and more important, and, after, individual droppings. Or first, to give another example, training pigeons directly with collective long distance droppings, and just after, individual droppings on the same distance. There are plenty of programs available. It’s always better to follow a precise guide.
But one thing is sure. It’s not the distance that is disordering the squeaker but all the manipulations that it sustains and the fact to be confined in a basket for the first time of its life.
So, it is recommended to place the squeakers in a basket several times, before beginning their training to become competitive racing pigeons. You must let them fly the longer possible, around the loft, in order to develop their muscles correctly.
The sense for direction is innate for the pigeon. Their training must develop this sense.
Racing pigeons – The old pigeons
In general, they already have a good experience of the competition. They should compete without training but some individual droppings, for example for 12 miles, can only improve their performance.
Training pigeons – One remark
In general, training a racing pigeon is better when the weather is good, no matter the season. If the weather changes, when it’s time to drop them, let them go collectively and not individually.
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The racing pigeon has the capability to locate the direction of its loft and the ability to return to its loft, even if it’s dropped far from it. The pigeon fanciers take advantage of these aptitudes in different types of competitions.
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Training pigeons: Sprint race
Racing pigeons are dropped for various distances between 50 and 250 kilometers from their loft.
Some pigeons fanciers are specialized in competition that don’t exhaust too much their racing pigeons. They can recuperate more rapidly. For those sorts of competition, training is very specific, well-organized, meticulous and day-to-day, in order for the racing pigeons, to make a habit of a rapid come back to their loft. If a bird is lacking regularity, it is tried on middle-distance race where it can be better.
Training pigeons: Middle-distance race
Racing pigeons are dropped on distances between 250 and 500 kilometers from their loft.
These competitions require a prolonged effort (4 to 8 hours of continuous fly). Your racing pigeons must, and it’s very important in this case, be rested and healthy before engaging them.
In those competitions, pigeons come back generally, successively in an interval of one or two minutes.
Training pigeons: Long-distance race
Racing pigeons are dropped on distances between 500 and 1000 kilometers from their loft.
It is obvious that their training must be very specific and perfect, for a so long effort. Training pigeons for that kind of races must be very precise. Two days can be necessary to come back to their loft. On a distance of 100 kilometers, a lot of different weather conditions can be met. Sometimes, you must keep a watch on the sky, all the day long, except if you have electronic or infrared detectors on the trapdoor of the pigeons lofts.