Food for Thought


Now here’s a tester for you – What is it and where is it? I’ve just discovered a few copies of the book ‘The Widowhood Year’ in a box down at my office. First three correct answers drawn out of the hat by Friday 28th January, emailed to or posted to The Racing Pigeon office will get a complimentary copy of the book.


Now is the time to assess just how good your loft is. At this time of year it’s cold and damp and if you leave the droppings in the loft for a few days and they begin to gather mould on and around them then the loft is too damp and you need to do something about it. I’ve always said that there are three basic things you need to be successful at in the pigeon racing game and they are in order of priority:-

1. A good loft
2. Good pigeons
3. Good management

I place them in this order simply because without a good loft it does not matter how good the pigeons are unless the loft environment is right the pigeons will never perform to their optimum ability and that’s a fact.
So to get back to this mould which appears when the environment isn’t right, it does in fact produce fungal spores which are bad for the pigeons. It’s the damp atmosphere which creates the problem so you need to address the matter. Maybe you need to close the loft in terms of the air coming into the loft at this time of the year. Loft position can have an effect especially if the loft faces in a westerly position. Driving winds and rain need to be controlled either with shutters or the likes.

In the stock loft of Andre Vanbruaene handling his Barcelona bird. He had the best long distance pigeons I’ve ever had the pleasure of handling. I think the year was about 1976.

A good loft does not have to be an expensive loft but it does have to be one which is 100% dry and comfortable for its inmates.
It’s about this time of year that most fanciers pair up their birds i.e. between the end of December and the end of January. It’s always a bit stressful especially with yearlings, so if you have hens that know their boxes it’s a bonus because the cock bird will usually follow the hen into the nest box. You just have to be patient. Remember to put a little grit on each box daily, it’s very important because the cock bird will very rarely allow his mate down to the grit pot.
Once the birds have laid up it’s time to give them all a five to seven day canker cure and remember that at this time of year the birds don’t drink as much and therefor you should make the medication a little stronger. At the same time it’s a good idea to lighten the mixture with some good quality barley right up until two to three days before they are due to hatch.
Now if you want to rear a good batch of youngsters your rearing mix should contain 50% maple peas and this next bit is a very important yet simple task. Place a pot of ordinary kitchen salt on the floor three days before the youngsters are due to hatch. Remember to change it if it gets damp or dirty. It’s the cheapest and most simple way to ensure good droppings around the nest bowl.
Now when the birds are rearing they need a selection of clay blocks which are best when broken down (crumbled) and placed in the hopper daily.
For nesting material I use tobacco stalks plus straw which has been cut into 6” pieces. The best straw is oat straw but wheat straw also makes good nesting material. I think a good portion of tobacco stalks are beneficial because the nicotine in them tends to keep tics and bugs at bay.
As I am writing this article I have glanced at the British Homing World show edition for Blackpool. First impression is that there are a good number of trade stands missing, in fact it looks to me to be a very poor turnout. I suppose part of it is down to the covid problem but more to the point it’s at the wrong time of the year. Doncaster is without doubt the number one show in this country at this moment in time. Fanciers can gather all their requirements from a good assortment of stall holders and the parking is excellent. You can purchase your goods take them across to your car and then back into the show for another look round. Incidentally one of the best fish and chip restaurants and takeaway is only a stones throw away from the halls ‘Whitbys’ next time you are there try it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Bert Hession and I at the loft of Vervisch & Son again handling his Barcelona pigeons, which was half Vanbruaene, circa 1978.

In my last article I said that I was going to put my fifteen widow hens which I fly to the cocks staying at home, usually retired racers, on the mixture of five parts wheat, two parts peas, two parts maize and one part barley. Well I’ve had them on it for a fortnight now, ie three days before pairing up and through to laying – all down in fourteen days. They look well so I am pleased. Incidentally BJ Farms have the mixture ready made up and it goes under the title of DA Standard.
Now that the hens are just sitting I am going to add four parts barley to the mix, so it will be fifty percent barley right up to when I see the eggs chipping off.

On good days when the temperature is above 50°F I shall get them out for a bath and then try gradually to get them up to 30 minutes per day of exercise. It won’t be easy because our area is snided with sparrow hawks so I have to be careful. Once they are exercising it’s in the air or in the loft. It’s a shame it has to be this way because I used to put tobacco stalks and straw down in front of the loft and enjoy watching the birds take it to their boxes and build the nests. Oh for the good old days!
That’s it for the moment, I hope that those of you who attended Blackpool enjoyed the occasion and that you are managing to stay ‘Covid free’.
Enjoy your pigeons.

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