Sometimes I am asked for rules that are important to remember. Sometimes I am asked about differences between champions and non champions. Sometimes I am asked so many things. I made writing about pigeons and pigeon sport my living so it stands to reason that I know nearly all great champions in Holland and Belgium personally, but I also know their birds, their lofts and their methods. And it is these things together that will bring fanciers to the place where there is so little room: At the top. Good pigeons alone are not enough to perform, they need to be in a good environment and… they need to be treated well. Being successful seems so easy for champions; non-champions often think this sport is full of pitfalls. That’s why I will give a summary of points that may make all the difference between winning and losing, some rules to follow and remember. It is not written for the champions, nothing new for them I guess, but they are meant for those numerous others that try to be champions.
What matters most of all to be successful is good pigeons. It sounds so simple but too many fellow sportsmen are not aware of that. They think successes are hidden in a magic bottle, they believe in secrets that do not exist and sometimes suspect champions of having secrets that they do not want to expose or share. But if they have a secret it is their birds!
Good birds are not the monopoly of the great names, on the contrary. Most great names owe their fame to birds that they got from completely unknown fanciers. So a bird is not a good bird only as it is from Janssen, van Loon, Klak, Toye or whoever. What most fanciers do not realise is that even the greatest champions in the world breed far more bad birds than good ones. I agree there is a lot of cheating, but when birds from a champion turn out to be no good this does not mean you were fooled.
Forget about all those theories concerning eyes. Belgians and Dutch laugh with such talk and that is something everybody should do. The fact that there is not even a Dutch word for ‘eye sign’ must have a reason. Scientists in Belgium frequently said ‘eye sign’ is bull and so is the opinion of some that claim that the eyes if a bird show if it is a good racer or breeder or not.
I always say:
‘If you want do buy good birds do not look into the eyes of the pigeon but in those of the fancier.’ Is he honest? Does he do his best to sell quality for the money he gets?
If I had the choice, race a super bird in poor condition or an average bird in super shape I would prefer the last one. It is true indeed that good birds get in good shape easier than others. So natural health is also a quality! Get rid of pigeons that have problems staying healthy 365 days per year.Of course you should keep them in a sound environment. How can you expect birds to get into good shape when you put them in a loft in which they have to fight bad conditions such as heat, draught or humidity?
Champions also know how to get good birds in good shape, which is a must to perform, because as mentioned before good birds alone are not enough. But do not think condition can be bought or shaken out of a bottle. So stay away from medicine as much as possible. Medicine are developed to cure humans and animals that are sick. They are not developed to turn average pigeons into winners. The ‘magic bottle’ with the magic stuff that will make you a winner does not exist. Why else are so many vets poor racers? And why would champions spend money on better birds if they would know how to turn bad birds into winners?
The pedigree is important but no more than that. Too many foreigners value that piece of paper too much and that is something that Belgians and Dutch do not understand. As if pedigrees could fly.. With a bird of good origin you just have a greater chance. Foreign buyers just ask to be cheated. Not all exporters and importers are good men. It happens that the owner of a super bird is offered more money if he makes a better pedigree so that the bird is worth more. It is the buyers who value the pedigree too much who are responsible for this. If pedigrees were made after babies were rung, so before they won a race, many of them would be different from what they are now.
Champions never ever toss or race birds that do not train spontaneously but there is a difference between training and training. Birds making endless rounds around the loft are not training properly. When it is ‘training time’ they must be on the alert, with stretched necks they must be ready to burst out of the loft with a tremendous noise. It must look as if the loft is vomiting pigeons that do not make one single round but fly away like hell in a straight line. When you turn round after you have let them out you may not see them any more. If they stay away for a long time and then come back in little groups, tired with hanging wings, you may have nice dreams about the race to come. Now it may be clear why I do not favour a flag to make birds fly. If you need one you have a problem. Forcing unhealthy birds to train may make the condition even poorer as it was.
Concerning good birds, propaganda does not count, results do. But as for results 2 things are important to consider:
a. How many birds does a fancier enter in a race? Winning 10 prizes looks good. But if such a man entered 100 plus birds it means nothing. His fellow sportsman that only won 3 prizes was far better if he only entered 3 birds.
b. Furthermore the strength of the competition is very important. A first prize or an impressing result means nothing to me. I want to know more. ‘Tell me against whom you race and I will tell you how good your birds are.’
Some birds have such great shortcomings that they are easy to recognise as bad birds but the opposite is not true. Nobody can see for sure if a bird is good. That is why smart fanciers will never say ‘this is a good bird’, they say ‘this is a nice bird’ and that is quite a different thing! ‘Pretty’ does not mean ‘good’, concerning this pigeons and women do not differ much.
Unfortunately the so called ‘young bird disease (Adeno/Coli) has become a problem worldwide. If you give youngsters the same mixture of food from the age of 10 weeks and older you significantly reduce the chances of an outbreak. Youngsters get more vulnerable if you change the mix during the week as so many fanciers do. Giving diet in the beginning of the week and ‘stronger’ food later on is risky since we got this new disease. The change of food is too hard on the intestines as it seems.