ADVICE TO BEGINNERS
1. Advice to Beginners & Those Who refuse to Stop Learning
2. Obtaining Your Foundation Stock
Advice to Beginners & Those Who Refuse to Stop Learning
I think I am old enough and have had enough experience to offer advice. Also I spent so many years in the education field which taught me something about teaching. You may notice a Canadian bias but most of it is relevant no matter where you are located. My aim is to help you learn from my mistakes and successes. Aristotle said that well begun is half done and I always follow my friend Aristotle's advice. I wonder where he is now?
First you should ask yourself some questions:
1. How much time can you give to the sport?
2. How much can you afford to invest?
3. Are there any restrictions on keeping livestock in your area?
4. Will your neighbors object?
5. If you want to race your pigeons, is there a club within easy reach?
Now I will help you answer the questions:
1. This is a very important point which takes into consideration your family (if you have one). Never short change your family! If you can get them involved, so much the better. It also determines your whole system of management and the number of birds you can keep.
2. This will determine the size of your loft, the number of birds you can keep and the quality of the birds you start with. Do not invest more than you can afford and do not put all your resources into a loft and leave nothing for your birds. The amount you can invest will be determined by your family budget.
3. Check with your local authorities to determine the restrictions before you start building your loft.
4. Even if there are no restrictions on keeping pigeons it would be advisable to check with your neighbors. If they complain to the authorities, you could have problems
5. If you want to race your pigeons on a regular basis you will have to join a club. There are ways of racing without joining a club such as entering birds in special races. They call them derby races in North America. All birds are raced to a single loft.
I think that should give you something to think about, however the final decisions are yours. Remember what Aristotle said! But also remember that everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler! Just to confuse you I might add that in all things there is something of the mysterious. That is my friend Aristotle again.Finally, don't just rely on my advice! Contact a successful pigeon racer in your area. You might learn a lot.
Obtaining Your Foundation Stock
There are various ways to obtain foundation stock and you must choose the best method for you according to your budget.
1. The quickest way to success, and also the most expensive, is to buy proven breeders. These should be birds that have consistently produced winners and are themselves from proven breeders. You may be able to buy these birds from a loft clearance sale at a reasonable price but more than likely you will have to pay a big price for birds from a successful loft. It is important to check the quality of the wins. Were the wins in races with a good number of birds competing? If it was in showing, were there a lot of birds in the classes?
2. The second method is to buy offspring from proven breeders and breed from this stock. This method is not as foolproof as the first and it will likely take you longer to achieve success. Carefully check the records of the breeders you obtain the young from.
3. Method number three is to buy reasonably priced stock from a successful loft and start improving the quality by using a good breeding and selection system. This method will take more time before you see results but it is probably the most interesting and you will have the satisfaction of building your own family. You will need patience but if you proceed carefully success will come.
4. Some fanciers enjoy the breeding part of the sport but do not participate directly in a race program. They test their birds by entering them in derby races (i.e. raced to one loft), or sell birds to other fanciers for racing. You have to rely on the other fanciers informing you of the results.
5. Racing is time-consuming and you can avoid this by concentrating on showing. Most shows are held during the winter months but there are also summer shows. It depends where you live of course. Shows usually have classes for unflown race birds.
6. There is another method practiced by some Belgian fanciers and that is to buy young birds each year and just race them. After the racing you dispose of the birds. However this method misses breeding and building your own family which to me is the most interesting aspect of the sport.
The point is, that no matter what your circumstances if you are really anxious to have racing pigeons there is usually a way.
Every time the racing season starts you hear fanciers complain again.
Their results would have been great if… their pigeons would have trapped faster.
If you have to believe all that you hear nearly every fancier would have won the first prize if he did not have bad luck.
Naturally they are not all liars.
Sometimes pigeons really don’t feel like trapping. This makes our sport as dramatic as others: The winner need not be the best.
If you are so unfortunate as to get a pigeon from the race before your neighbour and in the end he beats you because his pigeon trapped faster, it is kind of normal you blame it on fate and you forget about all those times that you were lucky yourself because the pigeons of fellow fanciers trapped badly.
The last thing many fanciers think is that it might be their fault if birds trap badly, since it is in the nature of fanciers to find excuses for poor results.
- ‘My location was bad due to an unfavourable direction of the wind.’
- ‘It was a lucky race with lucky winners, the birds must have had bad weather.‘
And then they refer to other good racers who also performed worse than they normally do and they mention names of poor racers that performed well on the day.
Sometimes it looks as if there are races in which only bad pigeons win.
Bad trapping birds are made like that by the fancier who is not a good handler.
You must not grab pigeons but you should catch them softly.
If you chase a bird and grab it against a window or between the legs you can hardly expect that pigeon to trap fast upon arrival from the next race.
A lot of people behave differently when they are awaiting the pigeons from a race.
They are so nervous that they ‘call down’ the birds with a breaking voice. When they finally dare to land, they often get a load of food thrown on top of them.
This scares them so much that again precious time gets lost.
Some even throw little stones or bits of sand.
Poor pigeon, but even more so, poor fancier.
Pigeons should be caught calmly at any time if you clock manual, even if a first prize is at stake.
You will pay back double for the seconds you win by roughly grabbing the bird in the races that follow.
Pigeons should trust you.
If they don’t, it may take a very long time to regain their confidence.
For such fanciers that can’t control themselves electronic clocking is a blessing.
Some try to speed up trapping by putting seeds or peanuts that birds like on the landing board.
This is not a solution though.
Hunger won’t help if pigeons are stubborn or scared.
Dozens of times I heard about bad trapping pigeons even though they were hardly fed before basketing.
A bird that feels comfortable in the loft and that has confidence in the breeder will trap faster than a hungry bird
that fears the fancier and his hands.
Nevertheless you can achieve something by feeding.
At the time I started feeding my widowhood cocks separately they trapped better.
It seems such birds get more confidence and do not ‘t think’ hands are a threat but as tools to provide them in the most
essential thing in life: Feed!
Feeding them separately makes them fly into their box as soon as you enter the loft and therefore makes you a welcome guest.
The fact they sometimes fly into the wrong box may stimulate motivation and shape, since they feel as if their territory is threatened.
A lot of complaints of bad trapping you hear after races for which the birds got basketed the night before the release.
This is not a surprise.
Normally pigeons train in the evening and by skipping that training (because they need to be basketed) it seems normal for them to turn around for a while upon arrival, especially after short and easy races.
However, there is a simple way to deal with this, which I learnt from Christiaens’, nick named ‘the wizard’.
He is very easy going, he doesn’t clean the lofts, spends little money on pigeons and raced like hell ever since he joined this sport.
He surprises, confuses and astonishes fellow fanciers.
Once, when I visited him in the day time, he was already putting birds into the baskets.
I was kind of upset, since the birds should be basketed in the evening.
And Christians was surprised that I was so surprised.
‘How come you put the birds in the baskets now already?’ I asked Gust.
‘I want them to trap fast’ he said, adding ‘you should not put birds into the baskets in the evening if they are released early next morning. Such pigeons are happy they can finally fly.
Moreover you will learn about the condition when the birds have been in the basket for half a day and you check them in the evening.’
Since then I also basketed my pigeons in the afternoon for a release the next day.
It helps. Birds on the nest seem to be more determined to enter the loft when they have skipped a breeding turn.
MINIMIZING THE LOFT
Big lofts and bad trapping often go together.
It is more difficult to grab pigeons in a big loft, which in the end scares the pigeons.
Pigeons also tend to sit more on the floor in big lofts.
I can’t stand that, but there is a simple way to handle with this.
Minimize the loft by using a barred fence.
It will make the birds more relaxed, they won’t sit on the floor and they will get more ‘ box stable’.
A corridor is also handy, since it allows you to open the windows while the pigeons are enclosed and it is useful if people want to have a look inside the loft.
A ‘dropper’ is also very helpful, especially for short distance.
I myself have 2 of those little bastards and although they can hardly fly I owe them many first prizes and good money.
Will widowhood cocks trap faster if they were shown their hens before basketing?
There are many different opinions on the role of the hen.
Some fellow sportsmen always show the widowhood cock a hen before basketing; others race well without ‘showing’ the hen.
I myself do not believe a cock thinks by himself on its way home ‘go for it because my hen is waiting for me’.
At the time I ‘showed’ the cocks their hens I noticed some had forgotten about them on arrival, since they stayed cooing on
the landing board or even entered the wrong loft in which they had been as a baby.
Some decades ago William Geerts was said to be Belgians best widowhood racer.
‘I will never basket a widowhood cock without showing it its hen’ was what you could read in articles on him then.
But he changed his mind, since he found out it did not make any difference. It only brings you more work!
If you want to teach animal manners or tricks they must first perform before getting rewarded.
Think of circus animals, elephants, dolphins, dogs, horses and so on.
You don’t give the horse a sugar cube before it should jump. You don’t give a dog a sweet before he should bring back that stick.
They should be rewarded after they did the job.
Basketing, racing, seeing the hen upon arrival (in this order) is called ‘conditioning’.
‘Showing’ the hen before the cocks are basketed doesn’t fit in this schedule.
It only makes the cocks nervous.
If you do believe in ‘showing the hens’ before departure and it works well for you, you should continue. Even if it is only for your own peace of mind.
But as I said, I do not believe in it!
One last remark about the role of the fancier:
A good handler grabs a bird calmly using one hand only!
And it does not take a good handler much time to find a bird, since he knows where it is at.
© Ad Schaerlaeckens