Good to know part 3
Most fanciers darken from 6 pm until 9 am, but because not everyone is home at these times the question is asked if there is another method.
The pigeons shouldn"t be in the light for more than 10 hours but ... when precisely that period of 10 hours is during a day doesn"t matter very much.
You can let the day "start" at 6 am, but also at 12 noon. If you "start" at 6 am, you must darken the pigeons by 4 pm at the latest.
Some say that they should still be able to find the drinker, but I don"t dare to take that risk. I have known too many fanciers losing a whole season because of not darkening adequately.
I make the lofts as dark as possible and I don"t want to hear the pigeons move about anymore.
For how long you must darken depends on the racing program.
If you are racing until mid August then you can stop at the end of May. If you are racing for a month longer then you"d best darken for a month longer also.
Winter young you"ll only have to start darkening from mid March, the young from the next rounds immediately after weaning.
Some fanciers who race until September darken until the longest day.
Around 6 pm the lights come on and extra light is given till about 10.30 pm. Others go even further and put the lights on at 5 am.
The latter is a little tricky because of possible problems with the moult later in the year.
With dark weather you"d best put the lights on during the day, because dark weather will suppress the form.
By manipulating light and dark you can influence form and moult enormously; something that the craftier have already known for a long time.
If you don"t darken you"ll have to be aware of artificial light that enters the loft from for instance street lamps.
HEADS AND SPARTIX
"Swollen heads" is not an illness but a symptom. It is an indication of no form and that can have a number or causes.
Good lofts will prevent a lot of trouble.
And if there are real problems, the best you can do is take the advice of a vet. He can diagnose the problem better so that you can give a more direct treatment.
If it"s not possible for you to consult a vet, you could treat with doxycycline and Lincospectine for a week.
Regarding "Spartrix" (against canker) you can often hear fanciers complaining that it doesn"t do anything.
Usually the fault is that the drinking water isn"t taken away, so that the pigeons will contaminate each other again immediately.
Pigeons have to know discipline, something which not everybody thinks obvious.
At one time a fancier asked me to come and look at his new loft, and it has to be said, it was a fantastic loft, and he was very pleased with it all.
I had my doubts if it was a good loft, but I kept quiet about it.
The man had spent a lot of money on it, was as proud as a 13 year old girl with her first bra, and I didn"t want to spoil his day.
Since I was there, he wanted to give me a few newly weaned youngsters in the hand, to check if they were healthy.
But that was completely unnecessary. To see if pigeons are healthy you don"t have to take them in your hands, one look into the loft is enough, and these pigeons werehealthy.
But it was a very dry period and then many lofts are good.
It is important that your loft is good for as many days a year as possible.
What struck me was that, when he opened the door, a number of pigeons stormed outside, and they couldn"t be enticed inside again no matter what he tried.
"If I had to keep pigeons like that I would stop," I thought.
Of course it was his own fault that he had such fearful pigeons.
Without knowing it himself, he was doing a number of things completely wrong.
There are many (small) things that make someone a "fancier", or that are the cause that someone will never be a fancier.
Take something as simple as cleaning for instance.
The man in question always released his pigeons when he cleaned, in order not to frighten them.
You can release your pigeons while you are cleaning, but the reason should never be that you fear frightening the pigeons.
Every good fancier knows that it doesn"t work like that, but it does the other way round.
If you leave the pigeons in the loft during cleaning, they will become more manageable and sometimes they will become so tame that they will get in your way.
Important for performance is also nest box stability, that is why many champions feed individually, that stimulates nest box stability and with that motivation.
I feed the widowers in the off season in a communal feeder, and during the racing season individually in pots. It would be even better if you could let them drink individually.
Then you would see which pigeons have less form (the ones that drink too much) and they will contaminate each other less quickly with for instance tricho or what is called "snot".
But that is too much work for me.
It"s is a well known fact that you get more frightened pigeons in larger lofts.
A corridor could be a solution, and in the widowers loft that would have the advantage that the pigeons will sit on the floor less quickly.
I don"t like to see widowers sitting on the floor.
Since we are mentioning tameness; many top performing fanciers wean their young very early. Albert Marcelis was such a fancier, and it has only benefits:
They will become independent and self-reliant sooner, they will grow more attached to you, the weaklings will be noticed more quickly and ... you spare the parents.
Older hens get more worn out by feeding the young then by laying eggs.
OBVIOUS AS WELL
Preferably, always wear the same clothes when you work among the pigeons, and wear a cap.
Quite a few people suffer from pigeon dust. Now I don"t want to frighten people, you have to be susceptible to it, some live to be 90 while they spend three quarters of their life in pigeon lofts, but ... there are those who can"t tolerate it and these people almost certainly get to hear from their doctor how important it is to wear a cap when in contact with pigeons.
The minuscule dust particles get into your hair and that isn"t only bad for you but also for your family.
And I can"t see you washing your scalp every time you have been among the pigeons, so wearing a cap makes sense.
Don"t wear STRIPED clothing when the pigeons return from a race, these frighten the birds off and you don"t want that.
If you spend a lot of time in the lofts, different clothes don"t matter much.
Many fanciers wear an overall in the lofts.
Which is good, especially if it has pockets in which you can carry a bit of grit, a few peanuts or candy seed, so that every time you are among your pigeons, you"ll have a treat for them.
It"s surprising how quick they get to know that and it will increase their attachment to the loft and the fancier.
For that matter, shaking a feed container has the same effect.
You sometimes hear that pigeons don"t like peanuts.
Nonsense: all pigeons like peanuts, only some pigeons won"t eat something they don"t know.
I put peanuts on the landing board when they return from a flight. They know that very quickly and will land sooner to peck a bit.
With the added effect that other incoming pigeons drop down easier as well, because "pigeons attract pigeons".
In that respect it has to be mentioned that "we in Holland" have our electronic timingantennas outside the loft.
Some only release their pigeons when they are 10 weeks old, and they seldom lose any of them.
There are others who send pigeons of that age away to foreign countries for one loft races, and these won"t be lost there either but often dominate a race.
Because they are older and more mature maybe?
These 10 weeks are in sharp contrast with what some fanciers in Taiwan do.
Believe it or not, these start training their young when they are 10 weeks old.
In Holland and Belgium there are also people who start training the pigeons when they are still very young, in April, together with the old ones.
There"s nothing against it, by then they are more than three months old and from that age you are allowed to travel with them, but I would advise to wait another month.
That it"s better not to train your youngsters in very bright weather is a well known fact. When they have a bit more experience you can even release them in between rain showers.
It happens to every fancier that squeakers that have just started to exercise, are missing in the evening.
With a long face you sit in your garden, thinking that every bird that goes over is one of your young pigeons.
Do you know what increases your chances of getting them back?
Leaving older pigeons outside and chase them up a few times so that the squeakers sitting on roofs in the vicinity will see them fly. The chances are that they will join them.
Something else you can do is leave an old pigeon that you "can afford to lose" outside for the night.
Possibly you may have some of your youngsters back in the morning.
Or you can put an old couple in the young bird loft.
Having an aviary against the loft can also help to limit your losses.
If it"s a springtime with lots of bad weather, many will keep their youngsters inside, with the effect that they will see little of the outside world.
If you have an aviary then they can explore the area from inside there, even in adverse weather. This will strengthen their ability to orientate.
An aviary is also useful now that birds of prey are becoming more and more of a problem in many areas.
Because pigeons attract each other, you can make use of enticers when pigeons come back from a flight.
I used to have a very old pigeon that had difficulty flying, just for that.
Some make an enticer out of a pigeon "that isn"t worth much" by clipping a few flights or by taping them together.
But both methods are not very animal friendly and don"t look very nice.
I have small fancy pigeons that prefer to be inside the loft.
With a head wind or without any wind at all I don"t need them, then my pigeons will storm into the loft. But with a tail wind, when they are flying very high, I make good use of them.
Those mini pigeons have given me several earlier places on the result list and even a few victories.
When I am waiting for the pigeons to return I have them ready in a basket, and when a pigeon appears very high in the sky, I will release such an enticer.
You won"t believe the effect that has on incoming pigeons.
They fold their wings even tighter to drop down faster and to dive into the loft, right on the tail of the enticer!