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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.
Let us look at some important points in our selection process that will enable you to reduce the numbers in your loft.
1. Old birds must be selected via the results of the previous racing season. Any pigeon or strain of pigeons that is known to be a short to middle distance pigeons must not be given a second chance. It is however important to know that true long distance bloodlines like Jan Aarden, Delbar, Van der Wegen, Stickelbaut etc. do need time to develop and must be raced for the second and the third year to reflect their true long distance potential. Do not give pigeons whose results are a flash in the pan a second chance. Our future must be built on solid racing results for your loft to last in the future.
2. Selecting the youngsters is very important and must be done before the moulting season commences. The weight of a pigeon is very important. A heavy pigeon can not hold the pace in pigeon racing and will quickly drop out. Therefore weight is my first point of selecting young birds. Heavy youngsters are mostly found amongst the young cock birds and the big roomy hens. Try especially to eliminate the hens that have got a large heavy bone structure and retain the roomy hen that owns a large muscle structure. Big cocks with a big bone structure must be eliminated.
3. My second point that I am very fussy about, is the closure of the vent bones at the back. Cock birds must have a "tight ass" between the rear of the breast bone and the two vent bones. A cock with an open vent must not be allowed in the breeding or in the race loft. Hens can be given a little more grace as a "tight ass" vent is not my utmost choice with them. A hen with an open vent must however not be allowed to survive. I like a normal closed vent with my hens.
We must remember that in the end of the day they are ladies that lay the eggs. An important point to remember is that the growth period of the bone structure is completed only once the tenth flight has fully grown during the moulting season.
Should you doubt the developments of any pigeon's vent bones, time must be given until the bone structure have developed fully. You should however not doubt all your vents as you will then still sit with an over populated loft during the moulting season.
4. I do not like a pigeon with a crooked breastbone as the percentage of pigeons with this defect that became good racers are very low. Eliminate them.
5. A good pigeon carries a good feathering. The question now arises as to what is good feathering. Take a box full of wheat straw and a box full of pillow feathers. Now stick your hands in the box full of straw, close your eyes and memorize the feeling. Do the same with the box full of feathers. Now you know what the difference is between good soft feathering and a bad pigeon. Only the youngsters with good soft feathering must be kept.
6. Open the mouths of the youngsters and inspect the breathing hole on the tongue of the pigeon. If the opening is big and round, such a pigeon do not have a good respiratory system and should be culled. Retain all birds where the hole is medium to small in a narrow keyhole shape.
7. The following point, I believe is very important. Should you see pigeons in your loft that does not look like athletes or display behaviors that are inferior to the rest of the group, such a pigeon must be killed. Look especially for youngsters that refuse to go up in the air. Also youngsters that are always hungry and over eat. A youngster that always looks sick must also go to heaven. I believe in that, I must like all my pigeons to be able to give good attention to them, therefore the unlikable pigeons must not be part of the loft.
8. To determine how many pigeons must be in a pigeon loft, the following calculation must be used: The length of the loft (say ten meters) times the depth of the loft (say two meters) times the height of the ceiling of the loft (say 1,8 meters) gives us how many cubic meters the loft consist off (30 cubic meters). The maximum of two pigeons per cubic meter must be allowed (60 pigeons).
You must allow 60 pigeons in this loft and more than that will bless you with stress, disease, a bad moult and pigeons that battle to reach form. Not only that, but you will find that you spend much more money on medicine bottles and tossing to try to get this overpopulated loft on form. And you want to tell me that our sport is expensive. Work according to the numbers that your loft allow and increase your quality and not your quantity of mediocre pigeons.
By Derick Streak