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More than words Part 4

This is part 4 of a series of articles, which are graced by photos. Photos may make things more clear than words can do. They may bring the news or may be interesting since they are old and historic. Hopefully you will enjoy both articles and photos.

The environment, condition, light and dark and additives

As mentioned before a good loft is a must for birds to get into good shape but it need not be fancy to be good, since pigeons do not care about beauty.
There are numerous examples such as the following:
Some one is successful, he makes money and encouraged by this he becomes more fanatic and builds himself a new loft much prettier than the old one.
But alas, from then on he is not as successful as before.
A nice example is that of Huyskens Van Riel, often referred to as HvR.

Many consider them among the best racers ever, if not the best.
As for the origin of their birds there are many misunderstandings, especially in America. Over there some claim to have the pure HvR’s from before World War 2.
What they do not know is that those birds that stunned the world around 1950 were other birds than those they had before the war; they were bred off of pigeons that they got from Jos van den Bosch in 1944.
So the sensational Huyskens van Riel racers were crossings such a most sensational racers, but you cannot blame people for this ignorance, since they kept it a secret.
It was the sons of Jef van Riel (Georges and Francois) who revealed the origin many years later.
This Jos van den Bosch was the same who is responsible for the ‘Halve Fabry’, the pigeon that Janssen Brothers imported and crossed so successfully with theirs. Also the cock of the most famous breeding pair ever (the ‘Golden Pair’ of Meulemans) was a Van den Bosch pigeon.
But let’s get back to the HvR lofts.
They were old and ugly but since they won so much it was decided to build new ones. ‘The birds had deserved it.’
But on the new lofts the results were never as before.
As for beauty pigeons seem to be the same as (some!) humans.
I remember my wife once coming from a beauty saloon after the birth of my one and only son and asked how she looked.
‘Nice boots’ I said.
From then on the results were never as before…

A name that will also live forever in pigeon sport is that of the late doctor Linssen.
He treated Klak when he was in hospital, they became friends and Klak wanted to show his gratitude by giving his doctor some birds for free.
But their results were so poor that Klak nor Mr Linssen understood.
‘The birds could not be that bad, could they?’ they wondered.
It was very unlikely that the lofts were no good since others raced well on exactly the same lofts.
Then Klak noticed the trees behind, that cast their shadow on them and advised either to cut the trees or remove the lofts.
Mr Linssen decided to move the lofts 30 meters and from then on the poor racers from before turned into winners.
It is another example of what outer circumstances can do.
The less weather conditions influence the loft climate, the better the loft is.
Engels, Van Elsacker Jepsen and pretty many other champions do not clean and cover the floor with straw or other stuff to keep the climate nice and warm, especially at night, and reduce the dust. Straw from peas or beans is most popular.

Our racing pigeons originate from wild doves that had their nests in holes in the rocks, so it is in their nature to breed in the dark.
The late Klak, Janssen Brothers and many others are aware of that and darken the nest boxes so that the birds feel more comfortable and their territory less threatened.
Talking about light and dark, it is well known now that all young bird champions in Holland and Belgium use the darkening system for two reasons.

a. To control the moult.
b. To manipulate the form, as about 3 weeks after the birds get full light there is a boost in condition.

What many do NOT know is that manipulating light and dark has become new trend in OLD bird racing as well since smart guys began to realise that light and dark affect the hormones that play such an important role in health.
You can see that in nature.
In fall, when the days get shorter, birds stop singing and mating, whereas in spring they seem to awake and start singing again, get more sexual and start building nests.
Of course this is not because the birds know springtime has come but because of days that are getting longer.
During the time lofts are darkened the results are average or poor but only some weeks after the birds get full light the form rises spectacularly.
‘Fieneke’ from Vervoort, one of the best hen ever, was also darkened.
I myself switch on the lights in the daytime(!) during cloudy and dark days in order to prevent the condition from getting down.

Many fanciers wonder if additives such as vitamins, garlic, beer yeast and stuff affect the condition.
As for vitamins nothing has been proven and I have reason not to believe in them since I never ever noticed birds getting into better shape after they got vitamins. This opinion is based on empirics as well.
I gave half of my birds vitamins, others got none, and I saw no difference.
Garlic has been controversial for ages.
Some believe in it and talk about ‘a natural antibiotic’ whereas others say it is B.S. Anyway, if it works, the natural ‘toes’ are supposed to be better than ‘garlic powder’ or ‘garlic oil’.
Personally I am sceptic about most additives.
The manufacturers that promise to make your birds win are no more than clowns that suggest to build you a bridge even if there is no river. They are brokers of castles in the air and the bad thing is that nobody stops their activities, which are only meant to make you poorer and themselves richer.

The bath is a kind of parameter of form, which is well known.
Sick birds will never take a bath.
Strangely enough they do not long for it in hot weather like humans do but prefer rainy days. After the birds have taken a bath the water should be covered by a kind of film of tiny particles of dust; water that is still clear then refers to a poor condition. Sometimes you notice pigeons are so much in need of a bath that they try to creep into the drinker. That is a good sign, such birds are ok.
I remember that famous bird that got sick and was taken to a vet.
After some weeks the vet called the owner and said: ‘You can pick her up. It must be fine now since it took a bath’.


In 1951 Huyskens Van Riel built fancy lofts but from then on the results got poorer.

To prevent the lofts from becoming too cold some do not clean and have straw on the floor. The health of this bird shows it may work.

Pigeons like to breed in the dark. This old photo was taken at Janssen Brothers.

This bird looks fine but is unfit to race since it is moulting.

Even the wing tells about the condition of a pigeon. This one is fine.

‘Fieneke 5000’, the one and only, the highest priced Middle Distance bird of all time.

Birds that are so eager to take a bath are in good health.

A white film on the water after the birds have taken a bath is a sign of form.

Natural ‘toes’ of garlic are supposed to be better than garlic oil or garlic powder.