Article 7

(A method of flying cocks and hens on widowhood)
By Jack Barkel.

This system has been the most satisfying method I have used, as each bird is flown at peak fitness and allows for the hens to be as competitive as the cocks. They also share the same incentives without the worry of hens going into egg or losing the lustre that happens with most other systems. Many fanciers will say they have not got the time for the round a bout system, this is also misconstrued, as you need less time for this system than any other I know of. Again you will need widowhood boxes of which I prefer two specific types.
The reason I prefer two types are, should a widowhood cock go into the wrong section that has compartments the same as his own, either he or the occupant of that particular compartment could be dead or so destroyed that one or both of them could be ruined for ever. The following photos illustrate the two types that I personally use.

Pic 1&2 Showing boxes in normal nesting positions.
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Pic 3 . Showing the closed position at the time for the mate to return

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Pic 4 , the box closed off to keep intruders out while birds are away at race point

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Pic 5 , Showing the other type of box in half closed position at the time of the expected return of their partners

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Pic 6, showing the box fully closed as in Pic 4

This is the basic requirements for a widowhood and round- a -bout loft, nothing near as elaborate as this one can be used. I have the space so I made it to suite my three teams racing 21 weeks from 200 kilometres to 1000 plus kilometres. Each of the three sections being brought into form for a 7 week period of racing with the following example, based on the articles I wrote on condition and form, if one wishes to refer back to these to tie everything in together.
Although I do not compete anymore , let us take my own area and Union as an example for this the year 2000.
Section 1 would be treated as the midwinter birds with tail feathers pulled as illustrated three to five weeks before the 3rd June which is the date of the first race.
Section 2 Would be paired on the 29th April which is 90 days before their 1st race on the 22nd or 29th of July depending on their signs of form.
Section 3 Would be paired on the 10th June, their races starting on or about the 2nd of September and earmarked for the long distance classics.
To give an indication of time taken with the birds on this system, let us start as I would at 6:00am Monday Morning. I would let the hens out for one hours flight, from their "V" perch section See Pic 7.

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Pic 7 Shows the hens just being released for morning flight 6:00 am

Once the hens are all in the sky, we close the doors, then we enter the loft, and go to the three cock sections, open the sliding inner mesh doors and chase the cocks into the passage. They soon learn the drill and run along to the hens "V perch" section ( the hens are in the sky exercising). Please follow pic,s 8,9,&10 as illustrations.

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Pic's 8 & 9 shows the cocks running along the corridor into the hens section.

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Pic 10 shows the cocks very excited, but settling down for their hours stay in this the hens section.

Up until this time only 5 minutes has elapsed at the loft and it is now 6:05 am.
There is no doubt in my mind, that these cocks can smell their hens when they enter this section, one can not mistake the joy and excitement that prevails at this time of the Widowhood Day, just as you will find when the hens after their flight return to the cocks sections where they previously brought up their young.

This is the time when I now take a bath, have breakfast and return to the loft at 6:55am. We now open the doors to the three cock sections and the hens dive as one for the loft, they have previously brought up babies in those sections and know where they belong so there is very little sorting out to do. Each hen is given a desert spoon of food in a plastic galley pot to ensure that they all eat the same amount.

Close the cock sections outer doors, open the "V" perch hens section and let the cocks into the sky. Only minutes have elapsed and the hens are ready to be chased out into the corridor and down to there own section. Empty each galley pot that has not been completely emptied, taking note of which bird did not eat its required amount. We then replenish the galley pots for the return of the cocks at 8:00am.

Remember it is about 7:10am, and if you need to go to work or whatever ones wife or children can get the cocks in before they go to school. The job in itself has taken no more than 15 to 20 minutes, so the next time you here the story that so and so would fly widowhood but they have not got the time, you know they know very little about the system.

One of the biggest mistakes by fanciers and biggest problems created is UNREST. I therefore preach to potential widowhood flyers, ONCE YOUR JOBS ARE DONE STAY AWAY FROM THE LOFT. This applies to the racing season, the off season is the time to be constantly with your birds and make friends with them.

From a Wednesday when the birds have had their morning feed, I close the heavy curtains and louvered windows, and it remains that way until the birds are ready to go to the club on Friday for marking. From Wednesday, I allow no visitors to the loft no loud talking or shouting and if you were to peep into my lofts at this time of the week you would find just about every athlete lying down resting. This peace and tranquillity is very noticeable in a well organised loft.

Another important point, when these birds are about to be let out, they need about 20 minutes of light, before you open the doors so that their eyes will adjust from the semi-darkness effect.

Remember a good fancier puts as little medication in the water as possible during the racing season.
When your birds make a dip in performance, if you throw medicine at them like it is going out of fashion, you will never make the competitive league. The following Tuesday, just give plain water and nothing to eat for 24 hours, this forced fasting will put their systems right again and Wednesday you can start your build up as normal. It is the cheapest and by far the most sensible way to correct the birds system and it does no harm. Saturday usually sees the birds all falling together from the race after this treatment.

An important point with the round-a bout system is that if the hen go to the race the cock must be waiting in the box on her return. Never race a mated pair the same week, the racer whichever sex must meet an ardent lover on its return. Please do not be clever and take shortcuts that seemed to be a good idea at the time, nine times out of ten you will fail, I think I have already made most of the mistakes, you can learn from mine. Why make them yourself?

In conclusion, please re read the other articles as they all tie in together to give you a very comprehensive idea about how to obtain the best from your pigeons.

If one looks carefully at the photo's you will see the mesh ceiling, the grid flooring and the louvered windows that can be regulated. All these little additions have a special purpose, some to regulate a near constant temperature morning and night, while at the same time eliminating the chance of bugs and vermin making the loft there dwelling place.

I have seen this system successful with very small lofts, as long as the design and method is correct there is no restriction on size.

At the end of the season I let each pair bring up a youngster as a reward and it also helps throw them into the big moult. I do believe that to deprive them of this essential and natural function in life can reduce their natural or unnatural drive in the future racing seasons.

Our birds can be trained as well as most circus animals, we ourselves need to acquire the skills to make them perform as we wish them to.

This was to be the conclusion of my articles on The Art Of Racing Pigeons. However a letter from Mr Norman Cox of Yorkshire England has prompted me to write one more, in request of this father son partnership who's letter I repeat at the end of this article.
I will then give it a couple of weeks break before starting on other interesting topics, while I await your questions and comments on these articles.
Any constructive suggestions of what you would like to see and read about will be most welcome during this period. In the meantime I shall try and make a little more progress on my book.
I thank all those who have written in and therefore participated so far, for you all are responsible for keeping these articles coming and for making it pleasurable to me.
Yours in Sport,
Jack Barkel.

Letter from N.Cox
Firstly, what great articles and information. I fly in partnership with my son in Yorkshire Middle Route Fed in England. We are fairly new to the sport and although our old bird racing will be over in a few weeks I feel we will fair much better next year if we take on board and use the information help and advice given in your articles. Our young bird racing starts the end of July and I wondered if you will do a suitable article before it begins.


Hi Jack

Please note that i will ask questions for as long as you are breathing. I would like to also thank you for helping and answering my questions. No matter how small you always find time to help.

I am currently using the sound about system as explained in the current article. The birds are rotated, going out one side and entering the other because i do not have the passage. I would also like to say to everyone that this is so easy to manage and one cannot go wrong.(My wife is currently doing this for me AM and PM... fitting it in between a baby and household chores.)

Q.... .......Would it be ok if i fitted W/hood boxes in one side and perches in the other. Thus pairing the birds up in a particular box and rotating when training. This would help a lot and would not brake their current routine. As you said they know the drill and my wife is amazed every time she rotate the birds. She reckon they know exactly what to do.

A........Yes Ranleigh in fact it would be better to fit Widowhood Boxes in the Cocks Section. Please remember to put a certain coloured marker ring on all the hens, so that one will never be able to dodge your wife and remain behind amongst the cocks, otherwise the magic is broken.

Thanking you stacks

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Jack Barkel