When I first got involved in the racing pigeons hobby more than 20 years ago I made a lot of mistakes. I hope this article is useful for the beginners just starting this wonderful hobby.
1. Don’t build your pigeon loft in a hurry.
Visit as many pigeon lofts as possible before building yours. Or at least research pigeon lofts online. There are many chances to build your loft the wrong way and changing it after that is not pleasant. You’ll notice many common aspects in all the lofts and they are there for a reason: the entrance in the loft (or the sputnik), the compartments, the nest boxes, the V perches, the pigeon loft flooring system and the roof, the ventilation, etc.
Even if you are stubborn like me and want to build the loft without advice, in the end you’ll probably understand that you were wrong and you have to change it. This would cost more. However, I don’t think there is a perfect loft and every fancier felt the need to change something over time. I even changed things based on the behaviour of the pigeons – and you can’t plan that before having pigeons flying freely around.
2. Don’t build your loft where you can’t extend it.
The pigeon hobby is like this: at the beginning you’ll say “oh yeah, I just want to keep 2-3 pairs of pigeons and that’s it”. There will be more. Sometimes a lot more. I even think that a loft with less than 20 pigeons is somewhat sad and doesn’t function correctly, because they are gregarious birds.
So you need space. Plan ahead and start building your loft in a location where you can extend it later to the left or right.
3. Get high quality winning racing pigeons genetics from the beginning.
Get very good racing pigeons genetics right from the beginning. You might think that you are so good that you’ll make average pigeons win races and beat serious racer bloodlines. You are wrong.
Or like me, you might say that you will start with average pigeons and as you learn, you will buy better birds. It’s a waste of time. Good pigeons have a different behaviour and all that you think you’ll learn with average no-name pigeons you’ll soon have to forget and start from scratch when you get better birds.
- A poor origin bird doesn’t like to fly at home, and you’ll have to force it exercise; it might land on taller buildings around and drive you crazy. A good origin bird loves to fly (if it is healthy), and fills you with joy;
- A poor origin bird won’t race well and will make your enthusiasm fall to the ground right from the beginning in the pigeon racing sport, when your club mates have all the birds at home after a race and you have only 6 from 20 and those look exhausted;
- A poor origin bird isn’t hardy, it catches diseases easily because its ancestors were also poor birds that never completed a racing season successfully. A poor origin bird has poor muscles, poor homing abilities and poor motivation in races. The biggest trap for beginners is that the average birds look exactly the same as the birds with high qualities, in the eyes of a beginner. This is why it is wise to get birds from honest fanciers that win races on a regular basis each year. Very important: get pigeons from fanciers that still race well, a loft that didn’t race for the last few years is in decline even if the birds have good bloodlines and the loft was extremely successful in the past. Each year without selection in races makes the birds worse.
- Forget about beautiful pigeons, rare colors, big heads, and so on… the most beautiful racing pigeons are those that are home by the end of the racing season, with excellent racing results at least at the club level if not nationally. You have to decide right from the beginning: do you want beautiful birds that you can just enjoy at home or you want pure performance in races. Very often, the “ugly duckling” of the flock might have the best results by the end of the racing season, and you’ll love it the most.
4. Don’t keep strays.
Don’t keep strays and don’t even think about breeding from them. They are weak low quality pigeons most of the time and they only set you back. It’s a waste of time. The good pigeons always get home. They’d rather eat on the fields for days and even weeks and drink from puddles and rivers than entering another loft. Yes, there are exceptions and rumour has it that some champion pigeons entered other lofts after a smash race but these are just exceptions.
5. Don’t medicate pigeons often and blindly.
You have to remove the cause, not the effect, most of the time. Good quality racing pigeons remain healthy if they have:
- a dry loft with a lot of fresh air
- clean high quality food adapted to their needs
- fresh clean water changed often
- supplements like grit mixtures
- enough space for the pigeons; overcrowding them produces stress which is the main trigger for diseases. It is sad to see 80-100 pigeons in a tiny loft, so overcrowded that you can’t see the floor when they are all down feeding.
Overall, the entire flock must be resistant to the usual diseases like canker, coccidiosis, etc. Treat only per individual and don’t breed from such birds. If all the birds have problems, go to the vet.
6. Pedigrees don’t fly. The birds must work for their spot in your loft.
Don’t forget that defects are easily passed from parents to the next generations. Don’t keep a pigeon just because it has a great pedigree. Pedigrees don’t fly. Each pigeon must work hard for its position in your loft either by racing or by producing great racers in the stock loft. Doing a very serious selection might leave you with a few pigeons, but this is not a problem – they will quickly breed more and their babies have more chances of being good birds. Unfortunately a lot of lofts are filled with birds that are there just to fill the space, because they have a good pedigree or they look good.