A Knights Tale 1

Why was the decision to distribute them earlier, was it to give the UK studs the same opportunity to have youngsters available at Blackpool in January like some of the European sellers, or was its because the RPRA were loosing revenue from ring sales to other unions, to be honest I have no idea and really couldn’t give a monkey’s hoot when they want to distribute them!

Some will say a 2021 youngster should be born on January 1st so rings should not be released until the 5th or 7th of January other wise they are late breds but what about the youngster that wears an old ring and is entered in the hen races that run along side the young bird events at the end of the season, does it happen? You tell me but its not very often at the end of a season an old bird will beat a young bird!

If fanciers want to couple at the end of November or earlier and ring them in December let them, I don’t care!

After sitting pondering on some of the posts it seemed to be getting more political than shall we say ‘pigeon talk’ but I suppose it all makes us think. While wielding the scraper I thought I’d put fingers to keyboard and submit my thoughts to the BHW if you enjoy it fine if you don’t well I’m sorry I wasted your time!

Winter Breeding

Winter breeding, coupling at the end of November is another the we have inherited from Belgium

where the majority of fanciers in days gone by were sprint and young bird racers and kept very few old birds maybe eight or twelve, even now the small hobby fancier only keeps a few old birds and races with a very small entry and unlike us these birds would only race the very short distance and not move on like we do here in the UK and ROI.

The fanciers would race old birds from say 20th March until about the end of May when the young bird flights began and after this he would only basket his very best old birds maybe four but these would be heavily pooled.

The winter breeding was to enable the fancier to have team of pigeons to race after this May. After all why winter 40 old birds and then 50 young birds when he could race a few birds for a lot of money, after all the game was nominating, pooling yes a game of skill, remember these are the ‘vitese players’ I am speaking about after all these made up the majority of fanciers in Belgium It was later that we had the so called young bird specialist!

After the season had done there were not countless busses of English men all over the country buying these pigeons, no the best were kept for the races as old birds and the rest to the butcher or soup!

The darkness system back then was not heard of or practiced at all. These winter bred youngsters would race from the end of May through to the end of June when they were coupled to hold the moult in order to complete the programme, one such product of this system is the white pigeon ‘Rainstorm’ those who had the Verheye pigeons will indeed know that he was a youngster of a youngster! Yes Maurice was a young bird player and as like many of the successful ones who were winning a lot of pool money were asked to move on!

Here in the UK we don’t start racing young pigeons until July, today in Belgium the fanciers would be racing on these flights with their second round which would coincide with our Blackpool weekend pairings for me Christmas is early enough for UK racing after all our young bird season is short and for many only one race at two or three hundred miles, remember Belgium race youngsters from the end of May through until the end of September and into October


Then came the darkness system, perhaps the first video to explain the system was the Leen Boers done by Tim Aitkin back in the late 80’s or early 90’s I can’t be sure when it was done, but I doubt many adopted the system or just shrugged it off as that’s what he did in Holland and it didn’t apply here, Then Nigel Cowood released some American videos explaining the system and later in 1992 Bilcos book ‘Pigeon Gas’ hit on the subject and later John Halstead released his interpretation of Mike Ganus young bird system which I suppose was the turning point for many at trying the darkness system here in the UK

My first season on the dark was 1992, all sorts of things were asked and said, most thought I had paired up very early as the earlier bred birds didn’t moult the same as those after the spring equinox. We all know the difference the darkness system makes, especially when every one around you isn’t on you isn’t using the system, you see it in your own loft if you have a few late ones in your team that haven’t been on it.

Now fanciers are taking the darkness system further, fine tuning it, lights, daylight tubes and now some are saying use LED it is the perfect white light, perhaps later if time or the editor allows we can look at the darkness system a little more or shall we say how I use the darkness system, I’m no expert and i don’t profess to know more than the next man but I have been fortunate over the years to have stuck my head in many a top lofts.

Valentines Day

When I started this was when fanciers here in the UK would couple their birds or shall we say the Saturday closest to the 14th. Back then and come the later races in the young bird programme we would be looking to see what flight they were on, I have put youngsters through with half a tail and no feathers on the head, its a wonder how they homed, but they did, the velocities I can’t remember but either way it was  a race.

Then some would start to pair up a little earlier perhaps after the Blackpool show and then fanciers started coupling over the Christmas holidays as it coincided with having a few days off work and the time allowed to do so. These birds would hold their feathers better than those bred when they were coupled in February, obviously because they were on shall we say a natural form of darkness as they would have some eight weeks or so of winter before the spring equinox so they would not moult like those from the February pairings and with that would bring advantages of being sexually active which meant that the youngster could be motivated more easily or paired up to hold the moult a little more.

Pairing up in winter

Obviously your old birds will want to be conditioned for this early pairing and both cocks and hens don’t want to be carrying excess weight and if you are feeding them correctly after the moult they should be fine. My own birds are given a third breeding mixture, a third depurative and a third barley and they seem to do just fine on this.

The last two years we have had some nice weather and for sure it is warmer in November than it is in December and January as we are still in autumn well until the 1st December. However personally for the best results I would be giving my hens days extra daylight and hopefully the weather will not be damp if it is hopefully you will have some form of heaters to prevent it as there is nothing worse to slow the pairs from coming together. A word of warning though, if you are pairing early and using lights be careful with your racing birds as the moult will start earlier.

Over the feed I would give Wheatgerm oil and brewers yeast until I got the first eggs and without saying access to fresh grit and minerals be sure to put some in the nest boxes as the cock will be driving the hens and they will need it.

Some will say you can breed without supplements or lights but this is winter and you want nice robust youngster if you are to do it.

Once they are sitting you may stop with the lights but when the youngsters come its the water we have to watch but saying that I cant remember many  frozen drinkers of late, a frozen drinker is not some thing we want!

When they are feeding ensure there is fresh grit and minerals available and fresh daily is always best and when feeding you can supplement the feed with a multivitamin containing A,D and E which are important for fertility and while A and D will assist the growth of the youngsters and their bone structure.

Yes we all know how to rear youngsters and yes its natural cycle but it isn’t that natural as its winter!

Its basic stuff, some get it wrong, but I think that it’s more of being a lazy fancier than not knowing what to do, if you don’t know then Google it because there is a whole host of knowledge out there, use it!


Ray Knight

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