Really I do not know much about pigeons.
In fact the longer I am in this sport the more questions rise.
The little bit that I do know about pigeons I mainly learned by empiricism.
I perform tests and after that I compare and I draw my conclusions.
I am going to talk about some things that I learnt from empirics.
Take the loft (climate), which is incredibly important for the condition of the birds.
The champions all have good lofts, if not they would not be champions, but how different could their lofts be.
The fact that good lofts may be so different confuses many novices and experienced fanciers as well.
And they have questions.
- Is the ventilation as it should be?
- Is the loft not too draughty?
- Is it warm enough or is it too cold?
- Does it contain too much or too little glass?
- Would heating make sense?
What you should do in case you have doubts is to make the sections different.
More ventilation in one loft, less in another.
More glass in one loft, little glass in the other, and so on and so on.
After that you should compare. The condition of the birds in the different lofts will show you which is the best environment.
I also did 'my tests' on vitamins. I often wrote I do not believe in them.
And how did I come to that conclusion?
Again by empiricism!
I gave a part of my birds vitamins regularly, while others did not get any.
I noticed no difference at all in condition or in performances.
So vitamins disappeared from the menu.
Vitamins maybe useful when pigeons lack something. During the winter that may be sunlight.
Therefore I give (some) vitamins in the winter. Not too much and always over the food.
Why over the food?
Because in our cold winters pigeons hardly drink and most vitamins expire within hours. In summer, when temperatures are high, they may be useless in less than one hour.
Like most fellow fanciers I clean my lofts.
That means once every 2 or 3 years.
Till I married I cleaned them twice a day, but then I built my current house.
That was in 1969 when simultaneously, a loft was built in 2 sections.
Due to lack of time one section was not cleaned then, the other was.
I left the door open between those sections and you know where the pigeons were in the evening?
In the loft that was not cleaned.
Apparently they felt better there and since then the lofts were not cleaned any more.
Obviously 'no cleaning' only works in a very dry pen and it also has disadvantages.
In case the pigeons have (hair) worms or paratyphoid you have a serious problem when they are housed in a loft that is seldom cleaned.
It was long way back that the house in which I live now was built.
And you can imagine; cement debris and rubble are everywhere.
The lofts were (are) close to home and you cannot believe how the pigeons devoured that stuff.
Since the birds performed tremendously that very first year (1969) I knew it for the the rest of my life:
Grit (minerals) is of enormous importance. In my opinion the most useful additive for our pigeons.
Talking about additives, I know how cynical I can sometimes be about them.
As fanatic and always worried as I was, I treated my birds with almost everything that was advertised.
But it often occurred that I saw pigeons from fellow sportsmen that did not get any of these additives and those were just as healthy as mine.
From Gommaar Verbruggen, a man who does not beat about the bush, and others I heard the same. They also gave their birds all kinds of additives till they got tired of it.
And after they stopped doing so it seemed as if the pigeons performed better.
Take also Roodhooft.
Andre was a 'tea fanatic' for many years, but not any more.
He learned that all those teas were a waste of time and money.
A major issue in this sport is: should I let the sexes together before basketing or not.
I also tested this.
Some of my racers saw their partners, others did not.
After the race I noticed no difference.
In hot weather it certainly seems wrong to let the sexes together.
Especially when birds are in the baskets for 2 nights they should be basketed calmly.
Champions like Vandenabeele and W Geerts also stopped letting the sexes together before basketing and they also noticed it did not make any difference, apart from the additional work.
Feeding is another controversial issue.
The dogma of many is to feed 'light' in the beginning of the week and gradually increase to a 'heavier" mixture with more fats and protein.
I used to do the same till I got to know Klak.
He gave his breeders, his racers and his babies the same mixture the whole year round.
And never did I see pigeons that were as healthy as his, the whole year round.
Since then, I also gave my pigeons the same mixture 365 days a year and I've never regretted it.
And, more importantly, more and more great champions do the same.
You should give birds a special mixture when they moult many say.
I never did.
And no one ever told me "your birds have not come through the moult properly, did you feed them rightly?'
Barley is another story.
Barley is said to fatten the birds and hens would not feel like mating because of its 'calming effect'.
On the other hand hemp seed is supposed to have an inflammatory effect.
It is all B S. I've seen countless fat hens that laid one egg after the other.
As for feeding I must admit I am not talking about long distance, since I am not experienced with that.
A book can be written about tossing alone.
It seems as if all champions act differently.
Some go on the road several times a week, they drive up to 100 miles, while others claim 4 or 5 times 10 miles max is far enough.
And those 'others' perform as well.
I think frequent tosses from shorter distances are as good as or even better for babies than those long drives.
But as for tossing circumstances in other countries than Holland and Belgium are different and may require a different approach.
And the last thing I want to do is talk about something about which I am not familiar.