CONDITION AND FORM FOR RACING PIGEONS. Part 1
By Jack Barkel.
These two words are the two most misused and misunderstood words in the history of our sport. If we ask the average fancier what is the difference between condition and form, they either say that they are the same or they struggle to give a meaningful answer. Those that are in possession of my video Its All In The Eye or have attended some of my lectures, will know that there is a great difference between the two and can be explained as follows: Condition is a monthly cycle and is visibly recognizable, it is mainly detectable by the down feathers and many fanciers go to great lengths to search for these and from which pigeon they are discarded. This is unnecessary as one can see the time of the condition cycle by looking for these on the side of the birds rump where they grow and are discharged monthly. They start as a bare patch in this area, become shoots, and discharge as a fully grown down feather in this cycle when at peak condition.
|Pic 1 Showing the bare patch
When the pigeon is at the bottom of its cycle.
|Pic 2. Showing the pigeon at the
midway position of its cycle.
|Pic 3. Showing the down feathers fully open and ready
for casting, this is when the pigeon is at its best monthly condition.
|Pic 4. and 5 show the condition that the fancier is looking for, but is advised against doing. The condition can be recognized and adjusted to No 5 without disturbing this very important feather cover.|
PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB THESE BREAST FEATHERS.
The rosy pink in the mouth is also a good indication that all is well with the pigeon, for me it is a much better indication that all is well with the blood condition than looking at the pigeons breast, which can also be a dietary condition. Rather do not look at the breast and cause disruptions of feather cover in this sparse region. There is also the elusive red spot that sometimes tracks along the keel bone, some times it is there and sometimes it is not, I discard this as completely unreliable. Many birds are hyper active when at this monthly peak, and is another observation to look for, whilst a bird that is quick to go to the water drinker whilst its companions continue to gorge themselves at the food tray is another indication. All of these signs and many more however, all coincide with the cycle of the down feathers, which I believe to be the best visible indication of all, and that is why when I am asked to explain, I start by making the statement. CONDITION IS VISIBLE. Most of South Africans, and I would think New Zealanders and Australians fly the first eight weeks of the season on condition, because unless one knows how to cheat nature, there is no way to induce form in June and July in these countries when it is the heart of there winter season. This week we will concentrate on condition and the next article will be the one to explain form, so that it can be used to greater advantage than condition. I mentioned earlier that it is better to look in the mouth than the breast, and these are the reasons for this statement. If you look in the mouth of the bird and it is a very pale pink, then all is not well, it is showing signs of Anemia. If it is not illness causing this, a course of Red Cell will rectify the matter quickly. Many fanciers will part the breast feathers to see if the breast is pale pink or whether it is deep purple to blue and scaly. If your birds are fed on depurative at the beginning of the week the breast will be pale pink. Should you feed high protein right through the week, the digestive system becomes sluggish and the breast will become blue in colour with a blue tip on the tongue also. The grains we feed, and when we feed them are a science as I explained in article No1, believe me there are people who are winning with these archaic methods, but none of them are world champions, for champions progress with modern science. It is very bad practice to open up the breast feathers on a racing pigeon, this is the only weakness on a pigeon as they have no body feathers in this region. Nature left it void of feathers in this area to get the eggs next to the skin and up to body temperature for incubation. When humans developed the racing pigeon to fly considerable distances they did it without this in mind, and still today we interfere with this condition that the bird needs and tries to look after so meticulously. The racing pigeon spends a lot of time weaving these breast feathers together so that they will not open up in long forced flights. If you feel inclined to open these feathers to see if the flesh is pink, then you are left with a bird that can take up to thirty six hours (depending on disturbances) to weave these feathers back into place. This subject can cause arguments, I do not wish to get involved, my only desire is to make all aware of it, then it is up to the readers whether they accept it or reject it. Some will say what if the breast is blue or the tongue is blue? This is usually from wrong diets, and is a simple eating/blood disorder, which a strong dose of garlic in the water will soon put right.
Many will know of fanciers who are leading the points averages and suddenly the birds take a dip in performance and are out of the clock.
Panic sets in and they start throwing all kinds of junk at the pigeons to get them back to where they were. Most of the time the fancier is so desperate to keep them on top that he/she, unwittingly starts giving the birds too much of a good thing, in the hopes that this show of vigour will last, but sadly it has the opposite effect to what they are trying to achieve.
Here is some good sound common sense I was given many years ago, by a man who although dead and gone is a legend in the sport.
When you see an excessive drop in performance on a Saturday in your race team on a whole, the Tuesday following give garlic water twice that day, and NO FOOD. This is a forced fasting, and will rest and clear the digestive system. On the Wednesday you start the build up again as I explained in the previous article and your birds will be back to their successful winning ways on the Saturday. There is no need for this panic, RELAX and do it the commonsense way. YOU know your birds are good, YOU know your birds are not ill, YOU have just been too kind and over indulged them a little while chasing points.
In conclusion I ask that you the readers of these articles keep the question and answer column alive at the end of each article. Even if you have questions that are off the subject, we can use them to help others.
We will endeavour to publish all fair questions and comments that we feel are of benefit to the Pigeon Fancier. Next week we will write about the magic and creation of Natures Mystery :- FORM.
Written and compiled by Jack Barkel 2000/05/22 The above comments are the opinions of the author And not necessarily the opinions of others connected to this site. 018 292 1747 083 252 4883
Questions & Answers to this Article Email your questions to
I clocked ok on Saturday. We had a strong S/E wind and the guys on the east (Springs) clocked good times. However, I was one of the few persons clocking a relatively good time in the west. 8 mins behind the winner. I took 29 & 31 provisionally.
Will have to wait till next week to see final result. Whats more, i had 9 in within 20 minutes. What i would like to mention. I am still battling to distinguish between form and condition. I would tell a lie if i say that i am flying on either. I've entered 4 of the same birds in the last 4 races from Ventersburg. There is a noticeable improvement in their times as they return faster every week.
Q,..........I know you said that one can send a bird 7 times in a row but. are their some sort of warning after the seventh week. Would it be 7 weeks of long distances or am i still ok as i only stay 200km from liberation point.
A, .........Just as you have a noticable improvement in their times, you will also register a positive dip in performance when the form is gone,please remember it is gone for a year.
Q,.........This question is
important to me. Are the birds feet suppose to be warm or cold. I happened to handle some
of the birds when i made my selection on Friday and left the ones with cold feet. If it is
a problem what is it and what do a person do to rectify it.
A,............. The feet become warm as the birds temerature is raised, the temperature rises as the birds health increases. A method of keeping this temperature or to keep the feet warm is to cover the birds perch with a piece of polystyrene sheet. Cold water can also drop the blood temperature and loose form. Be carefull to give luke warm water in the racing season.
Q,.........I also noticed one bird yesterday regurgitating its food but isolated it as i did not know why it does this. This particular bird seems okay afterwards and at evening feed was eating ok and hasn't done it since... What could cause this?
A,.........Pigeons pick up many odd stones which they carry in their crops used in the breaking down of food to assist their digestive system, every so often they regurgitate these stones and replenish with fresh ones. This could be the cause but certainly nothing to worry about if the bird is not showing any other signs of discomfort.
Thanking you I hope you'll be able to give answers on the above.
RANLEIGH C. G. DELPORT
PS. Not feeding on a Friday helps in these short races. I had no trapping problems for the past 4 Races.
Q, I have one question: You mentioned that a strong dose of garlic in the water "IF the breast is blue" will soon rectified the problem. Do you think that B12 will also rectified the problem. Keep well my Friend and keep up your good work. Rassie.
A, If it is a blood problem yes it will help rectify the matter, if it is a gut tract problem the garlic will be more helpful, I would say give both and be sure. A good question Rassie, keep them coming.
Q, Hi Jack, I have mostly relied on my husband when pooling my weekly race bird, we have a good money race coming up this week end and I have to choose between two good birds. My question is , what would I look for to choose between them.
A, Hello Mary, Make sure that your main choice has warm feet, that is first to go for a drink after eating, see that the mouth is pink, and does not have a bluish tint on the tip of the tongue. Look for an oil mark on the 9th flight=2nd from the tip of the wing, about 25mm from the tip of the wing and stretching for about 40mm. Wash feet before basketing and give a light ( hardly
recognisable ) smear of Vaseline. If you are going to feed on a Friday make it a light morning feed.( Dehusked Sunflower)
Best of Luck,
Hi Jack just wanted to say thank you for helping me to choose my pool bird. she won me $ 480.00 I looked for all you said and all was right.thanks again.when a bird has a bluish tint what does that mean? thank you very much ,Mary (REPORT BACK 11 JUNE 2000)
Q, If for some reason, eg: bad weather for several days) one is unable to let birds out for their daily training exercise, do you adjust feed in any way to compensate for the lack of flying. Are the birds subject to gaining too much weight.
A, Good question Syd, while on the depurative mix it will not make any difference, but on the build up mix, I would give Seventy Five percent your normal build up mix and add Twenty Five Percent Barley. This will keep them from putting on weight through forced inactivity.