Double Widowhood (Part three of three)
In Germany fanciers have practised ‘double widowhood’ since long.
In Holland and Belgium it never was that popular, since most fanciers doubted if hens could compete cocks.
Famous ‘Fieneke’ (Vervoort) and ‘Paula 5000’ were supposed to be exceptions.
But, as mentioned in a previous article, times have changed and in the last few years more and more hens are raced either on widowhood (cocks stay home) or on double widowhood (both sexes are raced).
Van Elsacker, Vanlint, de Bruyn, Verkerk are successful with double widowhood and I am as well since 2005.
In the years before I used to race (about) 25 widowhood cocks.
Naturally those cocks had a partner, that partner was not raced, so I needed 50 birds in order to be able to race 25.
Racing cocks only? Let’s face the truth.
It is just unthinkable that your worst cock is better than your best hen, so why race doubtful cocks and not race hens?
Racing both sexes will also be helpful to judge quality, and knowing more about quality is helpful for breeding purposes.
I prefer babies off a good racer to babies off a bird that looks nice or a bird that has an impressing pedigree.
Therefore some big advantages of ‘double widowhood’ are you need fewer birds and you learn more about the quality of both sexes.
Personally I have never kept many birds.
Racing lots of birds is good for propaganda, since many people cannot read results.
If they see the same name 15 times they think that ‘name’ did real good, but the man whose name was so often mentioned did real bad if he entered say 90 birds.
The fancier whose name you can read only 5 times apparently did not impress but… if he only entered 5 birds, it was him who was the great guy that race with a score of 100 percent.
Unfortunately in most magazines you can only see the (top) prizes that a fancier won butnot the amount of birds that was entered.
So if somebody won 10 prizes in a race, this means nothing at all, since it makes all the difference if he entered 12 birds or 120!!
I will describe the method that works well for others and me.
In autumn, after the moult, I put my racers in 2 adjacent sections; let’s say the hens in section 1 and the cocks in section 2.
When I mate them in December I put them all in section 2, so when they are on the nest section 1 is empty.
Since I only keep birds in which I have confidence I practise free mating and… I keep babies off both racers and breeders.
If you have a good family and you select strongly any pair may give good babies, therefore I never understand people who only want babies off the breeders.
A ‘breeder’ is no more than a name that we give to a bird.
Many good birds were bred off racers, even off yearlings though.
Furthermore it can only be good for the condition and motivation if racers were allowed to choose a partner of their own choice and it cannot be good to force a racer to accept a partner.
When the babies are weaned I put the hens in (their) section 1 again.
Naturally they want to be in section 2 when I let them fly out, since they know the cocks are there, but this loft is closed and of course they cannot see the cocks.
When I let the cocks out the same story; they have to go into their section after training.
In section 2 the nest boxes are open, whereas they are closed in the loft of the hens in order to prevent them from mating amongst each other.
Hens that get lesbian manners are deadly when they are raced on double widowhood.
Therefore I also let them with the cocks half a day in the middle of the week during the racing season so that they will not ‘forget’ about their partner.
Two weeks before the racing season starts the birds are mated again in section 2.
Meanwhile I start training them and when they get back home the door between the 2 sections is open and so are the nest boxes in both sections.
Naturally it is in section 2 where all birds want to be, since it is there that they had their nests before.
When the eggs are 4 or 5 days old they are taken away and 3 days later the hens are removed again to the ‘hen section 1’ and then the racing season can start.
Why they may stay with the cocks for 3 days after the eggs have been removed one may wonder?
The reason is that they would be too eager to join the cocks and be on the nest.
Once the racing season started there is nothing simpler than ‘double widowhood’.
The sexes are separated but may ‘meet’ in the middle of the week for some hours and after they come home from a race of course.
Then the door between the 2 sections is open and so are all the nest boxes.
Some fanciers lock the hens up, others don’t and some even have them in an open aviary. I tried out both methods.
In 2005 I locked the hens up and they performed fantastic.
In 2006 I did not and they performed fantastic again.
But, as I said the boxes in ‘section 1’ are closed and the hens can only sit on so-called ‘V Perches’, to prevent them from mating.On racing day the birds may be together till dark, then I put the hens in their section.
So this method is almost similar to racing young birds ‘on the door’.
As for loft training I found it does not make any difference whether you train hens in the evening and cocks in the morning, or reverse.
Training once a day is good enough, since healthy birds will train like hell, hens in particular.
As for feeding I keep things simple and give the birds the same light feed 7 days per week, since I race Middle Distance only.
If I would race long distance the mixture would not be that light.
Since there are several ways to race double widowhood successfully I paid much attention to the advantages and disadvantages.
But the greatest advantage I did not mention yet.
On their way to the release station hens do not fight in the baskets, they are calmer which may explain why they recover so much faster than cocks.
Therefore hens can be raced weekly, even more they should be!
Giving them a week rest won’t do them any good, on the contrary.
Finally let’s not forget:The assumption that cocks are stronger is no more than an assumption. Even in hard weather hens often beat the cocks, something that was unthinkable say 20 years ago.
But as I said, times have changed!