Article 5

By Jack Barkel

The methods used to race pigeons are many and varied, all of them giving some measure of success, which will be acclaimed the best way, by the person who uses successfully any particular method. What seems to be omitted is that a person chooses a particular method because of one of two reasons. Either it is the only way they really know, or it is the best way to suit their available time or loft design. Sixty years ago, when I first started pigeons at the tender age of four years, everyone in my area raced the birds on the Natural System, as it seems to me to be the oldest accepted method, I have decided this is the place to start.

This is the system by which people took the natural course of pairing up their pigeons and racing them to certain times of their natural urge to procreate. We will refer to these times as we go through each peculiarity of the system. When pigeons have been mated together for approximately one week the cock bird starts to become impatient and starts chasing the hen to nest in the hopes that she will lay eggs. This as most of us know is called the DRIVING PERIOD, and many races have been won with a driving cock. However to send the hen to a race at this time is bad practice as she is about to lay has been deprived of food and water up to a point and can be lost or damaged in the process. We then have the pair sitting ten to fourteen days on eggs, this also has shown good results with cocks and hens. Following this is the period known as chipping eggs, when the youngster starts to chip its way out of the egg. Both parents have shown an urge to race at this time although some will say that because of the type of milk (liquid protein) that forms on the parents during this period, it will go sour before they get the chance to regurgitate it for to feed their young. My belief is that as this is high protein the parents will use this for their journey home, and nature sees to it that it is not wasted. There are several tricks that are used to increase the urge to return home during these periods. When the pair have been sitting about fourteen plus days and no sign of hatching, you can hole out one end of an egg, and insert a live cricket or something similar,( jumping beans have been used) and seal the end. The parents will feel the movement and presume that the baby pigeon is about to hatch, this can produce a fast return home, for the bird has a retentive memory. If the eggs are chipping and you have babies just hatched elsewhere in the loft, you can borrow that baby and slip it under the pigeon to go to the race about a half an hour before you basket. This also brings results, for a quick return.
During the various stages of the baby's growth, you can use a hen by tricking her into thinking she is feeding the baby herself, when letting the cock feed the baby while the hen is out exercising and hiding him away when she is about to return to the loft. This way the cock is doing most of the feeding, and the hen the most of the worrying. The writer won a race this way many years ago as a young man in the Up North Combine in The North of England, from Lille in France, even forecasting the time of arrival to all and sundry with accuracy within ten minutes. We must remember again, that this breeding process will bring about the dropping of the first primary flight, and the pigeons will start coming into form. Previous to this we have just raced on Condition and little incentives as described in the previous articles and I now suggest you refer back to these articles and make this Form you have just learned about work to your best advantage. Please remember the cardinal rule, Never Send Your Best Birds After They Have Peaked, be patient and wait till next year, and you will do it again at the same time.

Celibacy. This method is exactly the opposite to the Natural System, in that you suppress the urge to procreate. In other words the cocks and hens are kept separate, which means they even exercise separately. One of the advantages of this method is that there is very little fighting and no stress whatsoever. One of the little tricks with this method, is to chase the hens along the passage, about fifteen minutes before you basket (all lofts should have a passage or corridor), this also gives a little incentive for a quick return, because all boys love girls and Vice Versa.
We must remember that once again these birds are racing on condition not form, therefore each bird will have to be watched separately and noted in a book at which date they drop there first primary. This will give you an indication of there natural time to develop form, I do this with all my yearlings to see when it is their time for natural form. It is a great help when using them as two year olds and upward, to ascertain which team to put them in to their best advantage. The writer has won the fastest race from the shortest distance in the Union since its inception with this method and has not been bettered in the Union since it happened in 1995. This short fast race was won with a long distance pigeon, which went on to win a long distance classic later in his career as a widowhood cock.

Racing Hens. This method also has met with some measure of success, Even though the writer is of the opinion that it is a waste of good cocks, just as the widowhood is a waste of good hens. The disadvantage with racing hens is that even if you use all the tricks to stop them pairing together or getting broody and laying, you will have a continuous struggle to prevent this from happening. One can never be the complete master of hens and once they show interest in each other and start hooting in a corner you will not win a good competitive race with those hens. It is also my opinion that when your hens show an edge over your cocks and all things are not equal anymore that ones loft is deteriorating. I have proved many times that the deterioration of a loft, family, strain, commences in the male line of the family first. I do not need to get involved in discussions about this,
I have done in the past and if a person is set in their ideas there is no way I will shake them from what they believe, even if they continue to buy, beg, or borrow cock birds, they will deny it to their dying day.
I can only say, that I have saved many good lofts from extinction with these observations. (Part of a future article).
There are two more methods of racing that I will deal with in the next article. They are a particular method of widowhood where only the cocks go to the races, the other being the "Roundabout" system where cocks and hens are used and worked to equal advantage. To mention it here would take too long, and I do not wish any reader to become bored with what I believe to be the Ultimate in racing old birds.

Visit us online next week if you are interested in flying Widowhood or "Roundabout" where you can fly cocks and hens.
Please do not forget to keep the questions and comments coming, all questions are welcome. Next weeks articles will contain photos of my widowhood lofts and nesting boxes.

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Jack Barkel