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Pigeon In Flight - For Pigeon Racing Professionals
Pigeon breeding is easy. Get two pigeons, one of either gender, provide them with a loft, nesting material and a secluded spot and before long, on average 10 days later, the hen will have laid two eggs. Hatching begins immediately and after 18 days baby pigeons pip out of the shells.
About 4-5 weeks later they leave the nest, more or less at the time that the new set of eggs are ready to hatch. No problem here at all. It's merely a case of pigeons doing the work that nature has programmed them to do to ensure survival of the species.
On the other hand, breeding pigeons that can regularly win races or end amongst the first back when raced is not easy. In fact it is a road strewn with the 'corpses' of many fanciers who tried, red herrings, false starts and lots of money scattered along the way. But in spite of all, the hopes and dreams of those who try live on.
THE DONT'S OF GENETICS-BASED BREEDING:
1. Do not continue pairing father and daughter and brother and sister for too many generations. Heterosis (vigour) may be the result of inbreeding for a while, but the chances of weakening catching up with you is always there, and, the longer you practice inbreeding, the better the chances of catastrophe striking becomes.
2. Do not risk everything on a single pigeon, no matter how great a champion he may be. Nature places a lot of emphasis on survival. One of the chief mechanisms Nature uses to insure survival of a population is diversity. The more diverse and variable a population is, the more able it will be to respond to changes in the environment. This, of course, also applies to inbreeding as discussed under point 1.
3. Do not be unrealistically optimistic. There are so many variables and we know so little about genetics that the best we can do is to increase the probability of making progress. Set realistic objectives for yourself and your pigeons. Measure your success in terms of the number and quality places your pigeons take per racing season. You will be surprised at how rapidly you improve your position in the club and federation/union if you increase the number and quality places your pigeons fly by only 5% to 10% per year.
To be able to breed winners we need to understand the factors or attributes that determine the ability of any pigeon to win races. Tackling the problem from a slightly different angle than usual, may help us to arrive at an answer more readily. Finding the essential truth about winners may require some dissecting so that the winner's image is tripped of all distracting red herrings, leaving only the essential necessities.
These must be 'cast in concrete', never to be shifted and they form the foundation for all future breeding attempts. To create winners we must then 'rebuild' the pigeon, using a retrogressive process, beginning with the bare essentials. The red herrings referred to above, are all the non-essential features that make up winners. First we must find and concentrate on the essential factors – the ones without which no pigeon can be a winner. What these are, is the prime purpose of this article.
It is a fact in South Africa that we breed to many youngsters during the breeding season. It must also be said that we breed from a lot of mediocre pigeons, hoping that a winner might pop out of the eggs. We ring every baby that hatches and we think twice before we kill the weak ones. Once these babies are weaned, it becomes very difficult to select the stronger ones for racing purposes.
It is in this process that many fanciers make a mistake by not being able to select the youngsters. They are therefore faced with an over populated moulting season. This overpopulation is extremely bad and guarantees a disastrous racing season. The loft never reaches form to allow pigeons to perform at their maximum potential. Therefore selection of the old birds and young birds is necessary before we enter the off season which stretches from 1 December to 31 May in South Africa.