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Country Boy in the Big City

The seminar for which I was invited to be guest speaker was in Amsterdam. And if there is one thing in this world that frightens me it is driving in a City like Amsterdam in the night.
That's why I took a taxi. I do not know how the interior of other taxis in Amsterdam look but this one was very special. All windows were blinded with posters of the soccer players of Ajax. Ajax is the famous football team of Amsterdam.
And about Amsterdam and Ajax I had learned my lessons.

Ajax is immensely popular in the big city, the adoration is so great that it looks like a religion. If somebody from Amsterdam would ever ask you what you think about Ajax you better say for your own safety this is the best football team you ever heard about, that the players are cool, that your whole body shivers from joy when you see them play. That what they show on the pitch is not football but art.
'Ajax plays the best football in the whole world' I said much to the satisfaction of the taxi driver as I did not feel like being thrown out of the taxi in the dark in a city like Amsterdam.
'Country boy here it is' he said some time later. (In Amsterdam they consider people from outside the City to be farmers). I got out and stepped into the café where I was supposed to have my seminar about pigeons and pigeon sport.

In the café my eyes were popping out. Posters of the stars from Ajax all over.
Deafening music (all Ajax songs) came from loudspeakers which were directed to new-comers. But I found that you could make a deal with the waiter. For a handful of guilders he would switch those loudspeakers into another direction.
But I got the impression that the relief would not last long as the following man who would be bothered by the music could also buy off the direction of the loud speakers.
I pointed at a poster with a photo of a soccer player. 'I like that Kluyvertguy ' I said.
'That is not Kluyvert but Davids' the waiter reacted.
He was a man with such a big beard that birds could build their nests in it. Normally he laughs the foam off of the beer glasses if a country boy makes a stupid remark but not this time.
Because one of the people in the café was reading in a Feyenoordmagazine. Feyenoord is the other famous football team in Holland.
They are from Rotterdam. And Ajax and Feyenoord? That is war and always has been. Water and fire. The Beatles and the Stones. A virgin and Clinton.
In Holland you are supposed to support either Feyenoord or Ajax. Not both.
'One beer' the Feyenoordmagazine reader said.
The walking bush pretended not to hear him. 'I do not want that damned Rotterdam guy in my place' he growled. Will we all be brothers? Once maybe.

Why, you are undoubtedly wondering, do I start an article in a pigeon magazine like this? This has several reasons:
No one can expect me to write about pigeons, pigeons and pigeons from the first to the last line in every of the many articles I write.
Most pigeon fanciers in Holland like soccer and adore Ajax.
It is true that Ajax fans hate the Feyenoord team but many Amsterdam people, refugees and drug addicts in most cases do not hate foreigners, on the contrary. They like them, especially from the Far East as they think all Eastern people are rich and they know many are careless with their property. So if ever you would visit cities like Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris dear reader watch out.
The fourth reason I started like this is it truly happened.
But now back to our sport. Behind the café in a big room the fanciers were waiting for the seminar to start and I was the last guest speaker who arrived.
'I knew you would be late' the chairman of the panel said. Apparently he did not have a high opinion of the accuracy of 'country boys'.
'I was jammed in the traffic' I said but I heard myself lie.
The seminar started.

'Why do you walk with your drinker from one loft to the other? Somebody who visited your place has seen this with his own eyes' was the first question which was fired at me.

'Because I do not want to waste money' I said. Silence followed. The fanciers looked at me questioningly as they did not understand. 'Water was not that expensive' was it? Then I began to explain. 'Look' I said.
'The man who saw this must have visited me on a warm day when there were vitamins or medicine in the water. About medicine and vitamins it is well known that they expire very soon in water, they may even get toxic, especially when they are exposed to day light or high temperatures. In case I give any medicine or vitamins whatsoever I get the drinker out of the loft first, then I feed the birds and then I serve them the water with its contents.
If you have four sections and put a drinker with half a gallon of water in each of them you will have to throw away half of it in the evening.
If you don't the next day the medicine or vitamins have no effect any more.
In case you have one drinker and put it from one section to the other the birds will drink and you do not waste anything. I do not mind spending money on useful things but I hate wasting it.
For the same reason it is becoming more and more fashionable in Holland and Belgium to administer medicine and vitamins via the food.
If it is in powderform the food must have been moistened before with sugared water to make it sticky.
Some people use garlic oil or other kinds of oils. That is wrong as the powder will not cleave onto it. In case of the popular Ronidazole 10 % three to four grams per kilo food is a good dose.

'What vitamins are the best to give your pigeons?' was the following question

That was a good one but hard to answer.
In my opinion healthy pigeons do not need extra vitamins. They get what they need out of the food and the sun does a lot of good to the birds too.
But pigeons are not always in perfect health, they may have suffered from a hard race or maybe from a disease or a lot of breeding and in that case vitamins maybe useful indeed. But which vitamins and in which amounts?
We know a lot about the needs of chickens, pigs, turkeys, cows and so on.
Because of their great economical value numerous investigations and tests were done.
Pigeons have no economical value though, so for scientists it is just not rewarding to study their specific needs.
Therefore I would say: If you give vitamins give those of a firm with a good reputation.
Furthermore it is important to know you should always give a complex. That means you should never give only vitamin A, or only C or only E etcetera.
For those who like figures I can give a report of a scientist from the University of Gent Belgium. He stated that a pigeon needs per day:

Vitamin A 200 I.U.
Vitamin B1 - B2 - B6 0,1 mg.
Vitamin B12 0,3 mg
Vitamin C 1 mg (ascorbic Acids)
Vitamin D3 50 I.U.
Vitamins E + K 1 mg.

When I once met this scientist I asked him if I should give extra vitamins to my racing team which already was in good health. You know what his reaction was?
He shrugged his shoulders. He did not know.
As for vitamin C he said he knew for sure we need not give it additionally .
Some fanciers give their birds vitamins for humans. The reason for this is that they want to be sure that what is mentioned on the label is also in the package. That is far from stupid.
However, the question may rise of the needs of pigeons are the same as those of humans. For one of the fanciers among the audience I apparently was not clear enough. 'That is a nice story' he said, 'but do I have to administer extra vitamins to my racers when they are already in good health yes or no?'
'I just do not know' I said.
A vet among the audience nodded approvingly as if he wanted to say 'the fact that you do not know is nothing to be ashamed about. I do not know either.' I glanced at him gratefully.

What do you consider to be the most important food additive was the next thing I was asked.

'Grit' I said. I learned that a long time ago from Dr Lemahieu an authority concerning pigeon diseases in Belgium.
When pigeons come back home from a hard race Dr Lemahieu told me once, you should put some grit in the nestbox and some regular food and then see what happens.' So I did and what did I see?
The birds indeed picked some little grit stones first and the regular food later.
Grit contains calcium and minerals which are also used in bird asylums. When a bird is weakened bird lovers try to rescue it with calcium and minerals in the first place.
One may wonder why grit is so seldom advertised then in the pigeon magazines whereas it is so important?
Well the answer is simple. In grit is no money.
It is heavy, hard to carry and the profit is real small. So why make cost to make publicity?
Still grit is of the greatest importance for pigeons and that is why I try my birds to eat it as much as possible: There are many additives pigeons do not need but which are expensive.
Grit is cheap but an absolute must. They are the teeth of a bird.

One of the guests had read somewhere that I did not take any trouble to clean
the lofts daily. He wondered if I did not ask for problems especially coccidiosis.

In my opinion Coccidiosis is an exaggerated item in pigeon sport. Pigeons normally do not get it, moreover a very little bit does not do them any harm.
It must be added though that the environment must be dry to keep coocidiose out and my loft is dry.
A long time ago I had a microscope. In this way I thought I could save me visits to a vet. I checked the droppings again and again.
It was a kind of challenge. I wanted to prove myself. To prove that I could find it as well as the vet. And it must be said finally I always found something and medicated.
Till I got tired of it and I stopped medicating. Then I tested the droppings again and I still found something. However nothing more than before !!

About coccidiosis you should know the following things:
- Pigeons in a good dry loft won't easily get it.
- Medicine against coccidioses are often condition-killers. Especially those based on
- Pigeons can spontaneously recover from coccidiosis. So without medication. You just
have to put them in a dry loft and coccidiose will go.
- Coccidioses is considered to be an additional disease. It may be a problem if birds are
weakened by other diseases such as paratyphoid or streptococci.
- Trichomoniasis, paratyphoid, Coli/Adeno, respitory are a much greater threat to our
pigeons than coccidioses.

What is the best way to train youngsters some one wanted to know.

'It is hard to say what is the best way but I can explain how I do it and how many other champions do it' I said.
'We start from a distance from about five kilometres. That is real short but it is not the distance which is relevant. It is important that the birds have to get used to their stay in the basket.
Everybody who has his eyes open will see how scared and stressful youngsters are the first time you put them in the basket.. The following trip is from about ten kilometres. The birds will get home far too late in most cases but that is no problem. The next toss is from about 15 kilometres. Again they will get home late.
Then not until the birds fly home directly I drive further than about 15 kilometres. So only when they will have learned to fly straight home the distance will be increased.
It is no use to go from 15 kilometres to say 25 when the birds need a long time to get home after the release from 15. When they fly home like hell the distance may be seriously increased from 15 to 30 or even further.
That is how nearly all young bird specialists act and how I act because we think it is a good method, at least in Holland and Belgium. Why should it be different in other countries one might wonder.

A younger guy had bred about 40 babies and at least two third were hens.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing he wanted to know.

Such things (or the opposite) happen more and it is pure coincidence.

If it is good or bad depends on what kind of fancier you are. In Europe for the greater part of the fanciers old bird racing (with widowhoodcock) is the main thing. For them it is good to have many young cocks.
However, it is better to have many hens if you prefer the young bird races.
A fellow sportsman of mine has three passions. Statistics, pigeons and his wife.
Hopefully for his wife not in that order.
Well this man is fascinated by figures (he likes statistics remember) and made a study of all young birds that were aces or won important races.
His conclusion was that 62 percent (nearly two third) of those Aces or winners were hens. So it is clear that if young bird racing is essential you are better off if you bred many hens.

The chairman found time had come for the last question and that was a question he himself had on his mind. He wanted to know If there was something I gave to my birds which I had not mentioned but which I considered to be important.

That was the case indeed. I give my pigeons Sedochol. Sedochol has become very popular among the champions in Holland and Belgium recently. It contains methionine (good for the liver) and sorbitol. Sedochol is especially useful to get soft feathers. So especially during the moulting season but in fact the whole year. Birds whose feathers are soft will be advantaged when they meet with rain on their way home from a race. The water glides from the body more easily because of the soft feathering and that prevents the body from becoming too heavy.
It stands to reason that a too heavy body will make flying more difficult.
Another thing I believe in is Electrolytes. I give them when the birds have lost body moisture because of flying in hot weather or diseases such as E Coli.
Water is essential for life as we all know. About 55% of the adult pigeon is water. Loss of 10% of body moisture results in malfunction of the kidneys and other body acitivities. The loss of 20% can cause death.

I thanked the public and the public thanked me. At least for the time being. Because as long as you race good you are supposed to know a lot, people listen to you and you are invited as a guest speaker at seminars. But if there would come a time that my results are not that good people will not be interested in what I have to say any more. They will listen to other fanciers.
Like Ajax. The players set an example to numerous young boys who also want to become famous. But when Ajax will not dominate football any longer the Ajax stadium won't be crowded by young boys who want to learn. Youngsters will want to find another example to learn from then..
So if ever my results would get down not me but others will be invited to be guest speakers for seminars. As for Amsterdam I would not mind. Country boys just do not like big cities.