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Mistakes by novices

It is kind of funny that in pigeon sport it is the champions, of all people, who claim they know little about pigeons. The late P de Weerd, who was supposed to be a connoisseur, used to say:

'Of pigeons I know 10 percent which explains why I am an authority. The great majority  knows nothing.' A bit arrogant indeed but de Weerd was somebody.

But this does not mean that there are no big truths.

One of them is that grit is of vital importance.

I find it the most important additive. Pigeons just cannot do without calcium (minerals).  Why do dealers not advertise grit then?

Because it is heavy, hard to handle and even more, there is no money in it.

On the other hand the dealers aggressively promote products that pigeons do not need but that are profitable.

"So there should always be grit in the lofts?"

No, completely wrong.  



Dust will stick onto the grit and pigeons do not pick that!

It was dr. Lemahieu, the best pigeon vet ever, who once emphasized how important grit is. "If birds come home from a hard and long race welcome them with grit and feed and see what they pick first" he said.

So I did, and indeed they instinctually ate from the grit first.  

Also animal protectors try to save disabled birds that are about to die with extra calcium.



The main health problems with pigeons can be summarised in two groups:

- Respiratory problems

- Problems with the digestion.

Digestion and grit have much to do with each other, since the corn is ground by little stones in the crop

Pigeons "know" this by their instinct and therefore they are always seeking those little stones. The scientists Dr. Lahaye and Dr. Cordieze once did tests.

A group of pigeons were not given any grit at all for months.

After a while they noticed that they began to eat less.

When later on they got grit again they spontaneously began to eat more.

Before the test (some months no grit) the average weight of the birds was 395 grams.

During the test (when they got no grit) the weight went down to 305 grams.

After the test, when the birds got grit again, their weight raised up to 430 grams.



A novice had heard about the importance of grit and therefore there was always a jar filled with grit in the lofts. When I once was there he complained that his birds did not eat grit and he pointed at the jar.

'How long has it been there?" I asked.

He shrugged.

"Wash the grit and put it in the loft again" I said.

So he did. And the same grit that the birds did not even look at before was swallowed up now. When he saw this it became clear to him that he had not treated his birds properly, despite his good intentions. The point is that pigeons do not like grit that is dusty. And where is more dust than in a pigeon loft? The conclusion is simple. Fanciers should refresh grit again and again.



Concerning grit I will never forget what I once saw at bros De Hoogh who dominated the regional pigeon sport a long time ago. In front of the loft was a stone terrace on which they threw the wasted grit.

And after every shower the pigeons greedily ate from it. It even happened that, when the birds came back from a race, they did not enter the loft but landed on the terrace to pick some grit first! The same grit that they refused to eat before.



Another novice complained about his young birds. They did not train around the loft, therefore he made them train.

What he did was go on the road with them.

The result was that he had lost two third of his birds after the fourth toss.

This was not bad luck, he himself was to blame.  

You should never toss babies that do not train spontaneously around the loft.

But what to do if the racing season starts soon and the birds still do not train?

Light feed (little protein and definitely no or very few peas) combined with a cure may help you out.

In the past this cure was medication against canker combined with Altabactine.

Altabactine was fantastic stuff, unfortunately it is not available any more, but a good vet should be able to make stuff similar to it.

Those who claim that youngsters that get lost are no good I do not take serious. There are too many examples of birds that got lost as a baby due to poor health that turned into super birds later on.   

Never toss birds that do not train.


Most fanciers train their young birds step by step. For example: 5 kms, then 8, then 12, then 15 and so on.

Nothing wrong with that as long as the birds fly home directly.

But' if it takes them too much time to make it home it is wrong to increase the distance. Next time they should be liberated from the same distance until they make it home directly. Only then you should increase the distance.



Poor health is the cause of most problems in this sport, including losses.

When birds are in good health it is hard to make mistakes.

When they are in poor health it is hard to do any good. Birds that are in poor health may get lost from tosses of no more than 10 kilometres.

Many fanciers do not give up buying birds when they are not successful.


Why do not they try and learn how to get pigeons in perfect health FIRST I sometimes wonder!


Buying the best pigeons of the world does not make sense if the fancier fails to keep them in good health.