Humans, pigeons and apes 1
! have never been a real holiday maker but sometimes I just want to get away for a few days.
When I was younger it was because I didnot want my son having to say to his friends "Mother and I could never go on holiday because my father kept pigeons".
Now it is just to get away from it all.
From the routine, the news, the computer, papers, circulars, the fax machine and ... also from the pigeons and believe it or not from some fanciers.
I am confident to be away for a whole week without someone looking after my pigeons.
I top up the 'self filling feeder' to the brim and put water in one of those 5 literdrinkers that you turn upside down.
Believe me, the pigeons will not even notice that I am gone.
But what about cleaning?
I have never been an obsessive cleaner.
Fanciers who think that they cannot go away for a few days would be better to stop with the pigeon sport. Because it is not fair on your family and on yourself.
I have learned long ago not to clean too much.
That was after a few visits to Gust Cristiaens and after that memorable race from Sint Vincent in 1993.
Because of bad weather the pigeons had been in the basket for a whole week.
The champions together amongst the lesser birds, the healthy with the less healthy and all of them drinking from the same water and pecking the same feed at the filthy bottom of the basket.
Afterwards I saw the filth in these baskets and thought about the mess I had seen in the lofts of van Zelderen and Brugemann, who were then racing with top results then.
That was the day I decided to stop with the compulsory cleaning.
The only stipulation is that the lofts are bone dry and have lots of ventilation.
You can ask help of course with taking care of the pigeons when you are away.
That can be a neighbour who has never had anything to do with pigeons or your mother in law if you are on speaking terms with her.
The only things they have to do is make sure there is water and feed and that is simple enough.
I told them:
Are the pigeons hungry you give them a bit more than the day before, is there still feed in the feeder you do not give them any more that day.
It is as simple as that.
Very handy such a so called "self filler"
When your destination is Germany you tend to say extra farewell to your loved ones.
Because in Germany you are overtaken by BMWs and Mercedeses that are driven at breakneck speed.
Most Germans turn every outing into a competition and they do not want to lose. Not on the road and not on the football pitch.
That is why the German motorways are one big race track.
These people drive like mad. With headlights blazing, loudly honking and with the finger pointing to their own forehead to indicate that the other driver, who drives normally, is insane.
Driving in Rome is a different experience again.
In that city chaos rules.
The traffic is a jungle, a driver waiting for a red traffic light is looked at with a headshake by the police.
Most people in the streets there are Japanese or Chinese, all armed with cameras. When you see someone without a camera you can bet that it has been stolen.
Why do Germans behave like Germans? Italians like Italians? Chinese like Chinese?
Because they are all humans.
When I was young we were home by 11 PM after a night out.
All of us.
Nowadays the youngsters go out at 11 PM.
Again all of them.
Because we are followers, and pigeons are the same.
Pigeons copy each other too and they also want to be together.
When we see one bar with empty tables outside and another bar where people are sitting outside, we will go to the bar where the other people are. We do not want to sit alone and pigeons do not want to fly alone.
Pigeons exercising around the house fly from left to right or the other way around.
Not one pigeon will fly in the other direction.
Another good example of herd instinct is bathing.
There are days that all the pigeons want to take a bath (depending on condition but especially on the weather).
Pigeons that do not find space in the bath will make the same bathing movements next to the bath as the ones inside it.
And they too lie down with spread wings.
In that respect I still remember last years race from Gu'ret.
To have a chance of winning the national victory my pigeons had to return at 5.40 and at 5.37 three pigeons fell together out of the sky on to the landing board.
Three at the same time when I only had eight in the race?
How was that possible after more than 600 km flying?
In the end it was not possible: two other birds had flown with my pigeon.
What pigeons were they?
We will never know.
Fact is that they kept each other company without any reason for it.
Especially in Holland during pre-season races for babies you can see that from the pack flying over one of the pigeons wants to come down. That is clearly one of your pigeons but because of the herd instinct it keeps flying on.
Later on that pigeon comes back, straight from wrong direction and of course too late.
Or you never see it again because it has followed the other birds into their loft.
That way you can also lose very young pigeons during loft training.
Sometimes you can lure those pigeons back by releasing older ones. The youngsters could be sitting somewhere in the neighbourhood and they will follow the older ones back to the loft.
As a child one of my hobbies was catching pigeons. Especially Belgian ones because they were said to be better. Releasing my own pigeons helped with that.
It is in the nature of pigeons to want to be together, to stay together and to copy each other. As it is with humans and monkeys.
It is in the genes.
Pigeons teach each other to fly together, as well as to drink and to 'be afraid'.
And in that lies the problem for us fanciers.
We organise races, all pigeons are released at the same moment but they are supposed to leave the others and to fly their own course. Leaving the others and flying their own race has to be done as soon as possible after the release.
That is the quality of a good pigeon, maybe even the most important quality, and you cannot see that by looking at the wing, the back or in the eye.
The question is if we can do something about it. If can we break through the herd instinct so that the pigeons will achieve better results.
I think that we can and next time I will tell you how.
(to be continued)