There are many reasons why young pigeons go missing; the main reason being lack of health.
One year, long way back, my young pigeons suffered from what is called ornithosis.
You couldn"t see anything wrong, but the young had great difficulty in getting their bearings, three month old pigeons just dropped into lofts a few streets away from their own home.
So I was forced to reach for the medicine chest, and the result was astonishing; suddenly there were no more losses.
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
The following won"t sound unusual to some either.
The young don"t achieve any results at all, one day you have the "bad luck" to lose a few and then what happens?
The same pigeons that had great difficulty in returning early suddenly started doing well. The reason is obvious: the loft was too over crowded, the pigeons didn"t feel comfortable and possibly didn"t have enough fresh air.
Whoever isn"t convinced how much damage can be caused by the lack of oxygen should do a simple test: put a basket full of pigeons in a closed car and come back some time later.
The condensation will be dripping from the windows. And we are not even talking about warm, oppressive weather or inexperienced, nervous squeakers that use much more oxygen than normal.
I often stress that health and environment go hand in hand.
Because pigeons spend most of their time in the loft, it is obvious how important the loft climate is.
It is not difficult to keep pigeons healthy in lofts that are dry, not too crowded and correctly ventilated.
On the other hand, poor, overcrowded lofts are a constant threat for the well-being of the pigeons.
A fellow fancier once asked me to come and have a look at his youngsters.
They didn"t look at all well; not sleek, droppings too green, throats too red and not very active. The atmosphere in the loft was so bad that I just wanted to get out, and when a loft isn"t good for you, it isn"t good for the pigeons either.
I told him that there were too many pigeons in the loft.
"Yes but," he replied, "what about in your own loft?"
He had a small point. My lofts are full to bursting point, but one thing he hadn"t taken into account; my lofts are different!!
The size of the loft is not a measure for the number of pigeons you can put in it.
The proportion of 2 or 3 pigeons for each cubic meter is nonsense.
The construction, the ventilation, the location and even the weather all play a role.
In warm and oppressive weather, even a loft with only one pigeon in it can be overcrowded if that loft is sealed with a lot of glass.
In lofts with a lot of oxygen there can be more pigeons, it"s as simple as that.
More and more fanciers replace glass with (windbreak) wire, and few have regrets about it.
THE CANARY ISLANDS
I once visited a loft in the Canary Islands.
Three by two meters it was, the pigeons sat in there like sardines, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn"t count them.
Yet the pigeons were astonishingly healthy!
But the point is that what is possible there is not possible here.
The climate there is different; windy and especially very dry.
In Taiwan and Malta however, it is the opposite.
The humidity there is high and that"s why hygiene is very important. Not cleaning out is only possible when the lofts are very dry.
The lofts of the king of Speed Boeckx: Simple but good.
"Cold kills the flu virus," the Belgian "Nieuwsblad" said. And it stated further:
"Before the winter started a lot of people suffered from colds. However the early cold came just in time to avert a flu epidemic. The flu virus thrives mostly in temperatures of about 6 degrees C and a high humidity. Freezing cold air disables it."
When I read that it made me think of fellow fanciers who deem it necessary to heat the lofts in cold weather.
Once I visited someone who had just installed heating in the lofts.
His pigeons were looking healthier then ever, and they certainly looked much better than mine, that sat there warding off the cold with fluffed up feathers.
The expectations were high therefore, "the investment will pay for itself".
Then spring arrived.
The first few weeks his pigeons were doing reasonably well, but then it got worse and worse. The same pigeons that had looked so very healthy in winter now had swollen heads, loose necks and other "widower ailments".
"No more heating the lofts," the fancier decided.
The money that he saved on energy bills was the first benefit; pigeons that achieved good results as they had done previously was the second.
The only time that he still heats the lofts is when the weather is very wet.
His investment wasn"t a total loss because he learned a lesson through it.
Drizzling and misty weather that makes the walls drip with moisture is infinitely more harmful for pigeons than cold.
The loft of v d Branden Bros. Another loft that is simple and good:
A BIT OF SUPPORT
Another thing about heating.
I wean winter youngsters when they are about 16 days old, together with the hens that are allowed to feed them for a few days more.
I do protect these very young birds a bit; I won"t put them on a floor that radiates cold but on a heating element with a bit of straw on top.
You should see how they react to that.
Regarding young pigeons and lofts, someone once asked me if I knew that people were talking about me. "Undoubtedly," I reacted.
My pigeons had flown so well that I would have been surprised if people didn"t talk.
But that was not what he meant.
I had visited a novice fancier who hadn"t been doing very well, and afterwards he started doing so well that people said that I must have given him "something".
That visit was true, but the story was different.
The pigeons I got in my hands there were such monstrosities that they just couldn"t be good ones. Most of them weren"t healthy either.
I asked why these "nonentities" were there.
There was a different story behind every one of them, or more of an excuse to give them a chance.
One came out of a good couple, another came from a good fancier, and so on.
"They are your pigeons, but if you keep this rubbish, don"t come to me for advice again," I told him.
He saw that I was serious and asked me to assess the pigeons one more time.
Two-thirds were removed, and with the remaining birds he started racing well straight away.
Because I had selected the good ones?
Hmm. If only I could do that!
I had removed the bad ones (which is much easier) and the less healthy or even sick ones.
Selection, as ever!