Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Racing pigeons provide multigenerational sport for dwindling group of enthusiasts

Sunday, May 22, 2011
By Susan Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

An Elston Trenton racing pigeon at Ron Goebel's loft.

What do the Queen of England and Mike Tyson have in common?


The queen keeps a loft at Sandringham Castle and Mr. Tyson keeps his birds in New York and Las Vegas. Mr. Tyson recently starred in the Animal Planet series "Taking on Tyson," which followed his attempt to cobble together a winning racing pigeon loft in one season.

No one knows if the former boxer can find the redemption he seeks through birds, but locally the show has been embraced by pigeon fanciers who say it has brought positive attention to their hobby, in spite of Mr. Tyson's unsavory reputation. The irony here is the birds are probably as demonized as Mr. Tyson is, often called "flying rats.

Finding pigeon enthusiasts in Pittsburgh isn't hard after you locate Foy's Pet Supplies. In 2000, Jerry Gagne (pronounced "GONE-yay") became the third owner of Foy's, which has been catering to pigeon fanciers since 1887. The business is in a small storefront and warehouse in Beaver Falls, from which Mr. Gagne sends mail-ordered supplies, including fully built coops, all over the country. He also sells birds -- pigeons can be sent next-day air via the U.S. Mail.

While Mr. Gagne once raced pigeons, the business now keeps him and his family pretty busy and out of the racing game. Yet he is the common denominator when it comes to pigeons in Pittsburgh. If you race or show them, you will at some point wind up talking to Mr. Gagne, who is a wealth of information on pigeon care and knows most local pigeon fanciers.

Mr. Gagne says show pigeon fanciers probably outnumber racers in the area. These birds are exhibited in events much like AKC dog shows, where the conformation of the bird is judged. Because these pigeons, with a few exceptions, are not flown and therefore don't have to be trained and conditioned, it is much easier and cheaper to get started with show birds.

Pittsburgh racers

Racing pigeons have a much longer history in Pittsburgh, and not just as the closest relatives of the unwelcome pests that roost Downtown. By the 1870s, racing clubs had been formed on the East Coast and were most certainly in the Pittsburgh area, coming west with immigrants arriving to work in the steel mills. It is unlikely that they brought pigeons with them, but once they settled, they began importing birds from Germany, Holland, France and Belgium, places that even today are hotbeds of pigeon racing. It was once the national sport of Belgium.

In the 1930s, a local "flyer" from the small river town of Glenfield by the name of Harry Elston began making pigeon history. His strain of a breed called a Trenton were regularly winning races, some from distances of 1,000 miles and more. Some of the records his birds broke have never been bested. By 1936, Pittsburgh had the largest number of flyers in the American Racing Union and bragging rights from winning many prestigious races.

By some estimates, there were 600 racing lofts in the area in the '70s, and it was not uncommon for Pittsburgh to send 10,000 pigeons to an event.

These days, flyers, as they refer to themselves, are still found locally, just not in the number they once were. Those who remain are just as serious about the pursuit as their forefathers.

Family of flyers

Bob Kelvington, Nathan Lex, and Karl Lex

Karl Lex and his son Nathan can't remember a time when pigeons weren't in their family. Third- and fourth-generation flyers, respectively, they may have been genetically disposed toward the birds.

"That's all I remember from day one. ... I always raced with my dad," says Mr. Lex, who is now 58.

His late father had a loft on Spring Garden Avenue in the North Side, and Mr. Lex had a loft on Mount Troy Road in Ross.

In the late '50s and early '60s, the closest pigeon club to the Lex family's was on Troy Hill in the North Side. There was another in Lawrenceville, but the Lex family flew from a club on Spring Hill: the City View Keystone Club.

"We had maybe 40 or 50 members," says Mr. Lex. "We would ship 1,000 birds [to a race] on a weekend, and there were other clubs."

When all the area clubs competed, the entire liberation could be as many as 6,000 pigeons.

Mr. Lex now flies with his 28-year-old son, Nathan, and partner Bob Kelvington. Nathan Lex took to the birds immediately.

"Ever since he could walk, he'd be in the [lofts]. You couldn't get him to come out of there," says his father.

Nate is now the youngest member of the Tarentum Club. His brother and sisters have no interest in the sport, which sadly is becoming the norm.

The three men compete during the spring/summer racing season out of the Tarentum Homing Club, which has about 20 members. They fly against about 35 to 40 lofts from the region, which also encompasses parts of eastern Ohio. The Lex loft is now at Mr. Kelvington's home in North Sewickley, Beaver County. They currently have about 200 racing homers.

Keeping a loft of competitive racing pigeons entails work and dedication. The animals need to be kept clean, healthy, trained and conditioned. Races begin around the last week of April and are held weekly throughout the summer.

"They are left out every day," says Karl Lex. "They are navigating, learning how to hit the coop. They are also developing and building muscle."

Serious training begins at about 4 months. When road training starts in the spring, the birds are driven away from the loft in incremental distances, released and allowed to make their way back.

Races are grouped into old bird -- any bird more than 1 year old -- and young bird. Old bird races began in April and young bird races start in late August. Distances are increased each week, up to about 550 miles -- the distance a pigeon can fly in a day. Pigeons are usually raced competitively until they are 5 or 6 years old, but can live to be 15 or more in captivity.

While the Lexes and Mr. Kelvington sell a few birds yearly, they are quick to say that they do not view their pigeons as a money-making enterprise. Instead, they take pride in the multi-generationality of the pursuit and the satisfaction they get from breeding winning birds.

So important are the birds to them that when Mr. Lex's father passed away, feathers from a few of his favorites were placed in the casket with him.

Pedigreed pigeons

Ron Goebel, 75, of Cranberry has spent a large part of his life in the company of pigeons, beginning when he was growing up in Troy Hill. While nobody in his family kept birds, many neighbors did, and Mr. Goebel did what many kids of that era did: He hung around the coops.

His first bird, given to him by a neighbor, was lodged in the case of an old radio. Even though he didn't win a race until 11 years later, he stayed with it.

Mr. Goebel coveted Elston Trentons, bred by Harry Elston of Glenfield, and Glassbrenners, a strain developed by the four Glassbrenner brothers of the North Side. Mr. Elston's pigeons won so many races in the '30s that finally many of the local clubs would not allow him to fly with them.

"They like you until you win too much," Mr. Goebel says with a smile.

He was never able to purchase birds from Mr. Elston, who died in 1960, but he did track down birds with lineage from his loft. He located and bought some Elston Trentons from a flyer in Clinton, Ark., in 1989. In 1992, he located another flyer living in Fond Du Lac, Mich., who had some birds, and finally, obtained some from a friend in Hopewell.

"I have Elstons from three different sources, and this is a good thing as it gives some diversity in the gene pool," he says.

Older birds are purchased for breeding purposes only. They are not raced because they will return to their "home" loft -- the place they were trained from.

As for the Glassbrenners, his uncle gave him six birds for his birthday in 1953. In 1980, Frank Domke, now 94 and living in Naples, Fla., gave him some that he didn't take with him on his move south. He got another 20 birds from him in 1989, and in 2004 Mr. Domke gave him a few more birds while he was visiting him in Florida. Mr. Domke just recently gave up the hobby.

Though Mr. Goebel has not raced his birds since 2000, he keeps both types in his Glen Eden loft, where he fusses over them daily. Like any type of animal breeding, pedigrees are important, and he is a stickler for keeping the lineage of his birds written down.

His home is a treasure trove of pigeon lore. He's kept pigeon periodicals from the '20s, including daily newspapers, which at one time published racing results. He has several antique timers, which used actual watches to time the birds. Modern timers employ chips embedded in the bands fastened to a bird's leg. The timer registers when the bird "gates" through the loft door. These mechanisms can cost $1,000 or more.

In the 1920s, people would take the birds to the train stations and send them out on the rails for training. By the '50s, there were so many people racing birds that you could take them to a central location and for a small fee, perhaps 10 cents a bird, trucks would take them out to appointed distances and release them.

Now, says Mr. Goebel, pigeon owners must transport their own pigeons. Daily road trips are necessary during training, making rising gasoline costs just another impediment to getting started in the pursuit.

Zoning ordinances are also an issue. Where lofts once peppered the hills and valleys of the region, they are now prohibited in many areas. Mr. Goebel doubts that pigeon racing will ever achieve its former popularity.

His own goal is simple: "I am determined to keep the legacy of the Glassbrenner brothers and Harry Elston going to the next generation."

His own will is clear: His beloved pigeons will be left to his grandson.

Queen of the coop

For some reason, pigeons and women don't often mix. While both male and female pigeons are raced, women are not usually involved.

But there is always an exception: Patty Polka, 48, of Leechburg is giving racing a try for the first time this year. She hopes to have birds ready to enter in the young bird races that run from August to October.

Her father, Ted Polka of North Huntingdon, raced pigeons from the time he was 5 or 6 until the care of the birds got to be too much for him, which is often the case for many flyers. Ms. Polka had helped her father with the birds, as did her sisters. She is the only one who races.

"At first I wasn't sure," she says. "The more I worked with the birds -- you get sucked right in. They are beautiful creatures and intelligent."

She lives in a rural area, so having a coop wasn't a problem, but she also cleared it with her neighbors. She currently has seven show pigeons (Birmingham Rollers) and some homers. She has also accumulated some breeders, saying the hobby is more addictive than you might think.

"Everybody is telling me I need a minimum of 20 (to race), but I'm only going to start out with 14 because I don't have a clue what I'm doing," she says.

She joined the Tarentum Club and its members have been helpful, she says. She thinks more women are involved in pigeon racing than you might think.

"I can probably guess that a lot of guys in the club get their wives to do a lot of the work," she says, laughing.

Read more ...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nest In The Wind

Robbie Robbins 

That year before he died Heitzman told me that he would not have lived as long as he had if he had not had pigeons.

Now, so many years later, I stood an old man myself looking at a mated pair of pigeons sitting in the same nest. The pair had their backs turned to me and they reminded me of two lovers sitting side by side at some Drive In picture show.

It was breeding season and from time to time I caught a mated pair sitting in the same nest guarding over their eggs and sometimes their babies. There is something quite special about seeing a pair of pigeons so close doing this. Particularly in our fast and ever changing and seemingly colder world.

It was wonderful to see some genuine and tender love still existent. Two feathered souls dedicated to one another. After all the blare of who is best in our poor sport, moments like this are really what its all about.

Both of my parents had been alcoholics. Their rages late into the night tormented me and sometimes still do. But they loved each other in such a powerful way that was brutal. My dad would sometimes take mom and bend her over backwards and give her the biggest kiss you could imagine. And when they took the dance floor it was as though they were there by themselves. Those moments erased the raging nights.  ... Love does that ...

And when I stood there seeing that pair nestled together as though they were whispering sweet nothings so much of my day's perplexities dissolved. I couldn't help but bring my hand up to see if the birds were OK.

And when I moved my hand in the careful way a man long in the sport does, I caught a glimpse of their two eggs just hatching at the very same moment.

Both of the parents knew it and they both wanted to be with their babies when they emerged into the world. I had never witnessed a more tender moment with pigeons.

They've taught me far more than I have ever taught them.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Before starting training, young birds should be roaming well for upwards of an hour. When they have been doing this for a few weeks, they are ready for training. In fact, I believe that flyaways are often caused by youngsters in good shape which roam for increasing periods of time getting a fright or perhaps just going in a straight line without thinking.

Taken from Widowhood Flying
by Mark Gordon

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Pigeons need rest ..... Stay out of the loft.

Twenty words or less TCC Loft series

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fielding a Problem?

If you entice the pigeons onto the ground around the loft and sprinkle the ground with a handful of table salt, making sure that all the pigeons find the salt, you will find it will probably solve the fielding problem.

Taken from Widowhood Flying
by Mark Gordon

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pigeon and monkey become best friends

14 September 2007

At an animal sanctuary in China, a monkey and a pigeon have become absolutely inseparable.

The 12-week-old macaque, who was abandoned by his mother, was rescued on Neilingding Island in Goangdong Province.

Shortly after arriving at an animal hospital his health began to improve. However the macaque appeared spiritless until he developed a friendship with a white pigeon.

According to the staff at the sanctuary, this unusual friendship has given the little macaque a "new lease on life".

The staff say that the two have a real bond and are never too far from one another.

Read more ...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pigeon love, passion and profession in Turkey

Sunday, April 4, 2010
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

For many people, pigeons are ordinary, white and gray birds that swarm public squares or are released as symbols of peace at rallies. But for those who love, raise, race, sell and buy them as a hobby or profession, pigeons can be a life’s passion. Emrah Gürel/ Daily News PHOTO

Halit Eğrekçi, also known as Gebzeli Halit, or Halit of Gebze, is a businessman who raises pigeons as a second business. Eğrekçi told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that he has allocated two floors of his apartment building for pigeons and takes care of them three times a day.

All pigeon lovers agree that their wives are jealous of their passion for birds. “She wants me to spend more time with her. But, actually, when I spend time with my pigeons, all my stress goes away, and I relax. Then, I do whatever my wife wants because I feel guilty for spending more time with my birds,” said Eğrekçi.

Eğrekçi has an interest and love for Öntepe pigeons, which are different from other types because of a bump on the top of their heads. Other types common in Turkey include Şebap, Bango and Hünkarı. It is believed Hünkarı, meaning “royal breed,” pigeons were raised in Ottoman palaces for the sultans and were then captured by locals and raised secretly. Şebap pigeons are known to be particularly fancied, as a man in the western city of Bursa recently bartered his car, worth 30,000 Turkish Liras, for a pair of the breed.

Although these prices seem to be high to outsiders, for pigeon lovers they are normal. Eğrekçi said he once sold a pair of Öntepe pigeons for 60,000 liras to an owner of a jewelry shop in Antalya. These prices change depending on the wealth of the customer and the beauty and uniqueness of each bird. Eğrekçi said it is even possible to make a return on an investment in a beautiful couple because the birds can produce up to 30 eggs in a year and the owners can then raise the baby pigeons for racing.

İlker Şenal, a manager at the Ümraniye Caged, Winged Animals and Pigeon Lovers Association on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, has two cages for pigeons. In one he has Hünkari, Şebap and Öntepe varieties, and in another he has racing pigeons, which he only uses for mothering the other birds’ babies. He said this way he can raise more babies.

Some earn, some lose from pigeons

Although Eğrekçi maintains a balance between his passion and family life and can earn good money from his hobby, other pigeon enthusiasts are not as professional.

Şenal said there are many people who lose their wealth or family due to having a passion for these birds that resembles a gambler’s addiction. “Some people get divorced, or others buy very expensive pigeons on credit. They sometimes pay such high prices for the pigeons that they hide them in their bedrooms so nobody can steal them,” said Şenal.

Eğrekçi said theft is a common problem for the job. “I have security cameras as well as an alarm system for the floors I raise pigeons on. Even the apartment I live in is very protected,” said Eğrekçi, adding that the pigeons are both materially and morally valuable to him.

Pigeon lovers can also suffer by lacking identity cards for their birds since they mate different colors and types of pigeons to breed unique colors and types that are more expensive on the market. “When our birds are stolen, we cannot go to the police since we cannot prove that these birds were ours,” said Bülent Kızıldağ, another pigeon collector. “We also cannot insure our birds without identity cards for them,” he told the Daily News.

Eğrekçi said some racing pigeons in Turkey have identity cards, but there is less interest in those kinds of pigeons. Collectors hold races in Turkey, but they do not earn money from them.

Some pigeon raisers hide their hobby from everyone but friends with the same interest. A man who preferred not to reveal his name who works at a private insurance company in Turkey told the Daily News that his colleagues do not know about his hobby. “They consider raising pigeons as a simple thing that does not suit a man, but they actually know nothing about this activity,” he said.

Although some hide their hobby from outsiders, they can share this passion with many people at festivals around Turkey. For the first time a pigeon festival will be held in Istanbul, said Eğrekçi, adding that he will participate in the competition if he is not elected as a jury member.

Many pigeons of different types will compete for beauty and uniqueness at the festival, which will take place in the Küçükçekmece district of Istanbul on April 11.

Read more ...

Saturday, May 21, 2011


The more birds we place in the loft, the more oxygen we need to provide.

Twenty words or less TCC Loft series

Friday, May 20, 2011

Long-extinct passenger pigeon finds a place in the family tree

News Bureau Illinois
Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor

Kevin Johnson, an ornithologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois, led a genetic study that placed the extinct passenger pigeon in the family tree of pigeons and doves. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer.

CHAMPAIGN, lll. — With bits of DNA extracted from century-old museum specimens, researchers have found a place for the extinct passenger pigeon in the family tree of pigeons and doves, identifying for the first time this unique bird’s closest living avian relatives.

The new analysis, which appears this month in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, reveals that the passenger pigeon was most closely related to other North and South American pigeons, and not to the mourning dove, as was once suspected.

Naturalists have long lamented that one of North America’s most spectacular birds was also one of the first to be driven to extinction. In the early 1800s it was the most abundant bird species on the planet, even though its range was limited to the eastern and central forests of the United States and parts of eastern Canada. Flocks of passenger pigeons were so vast they darkened the sky; it could take days for a flock to pass overhead.

“It must have been unbelievable to see one of these flocks,” said Kevin Johnson, an ornithologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois and lead author of the study. “There is nothing in modern times that we can compare it to. The passenger pigeon was very nomadic and it formed these huge flocks, in the millions, and breeding colonies in the millions.”

Passenger pigeons followed their food, settling down in forests that periodically produced a superabundance of acorns and chestnuts. The pigeons nested in dense colonies covering hundreds of acres. This made them easy targets for human predators.

Intensive hunting of the pigeons in the mid-to-late 19th century disrupted their ability to breed, Johnson said. That and habitat destruction led to the bird’s eventual extinction. (The last of her kind, a passenger pigeon named Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.)

To find the passenger pigeon’s place in the evolutionary history of pigeons and doves, Johnson and his colleagues compared sequences from two of its mitochondrial genes with those of 78 species of pigeons and doves from around the world. (There are more than 300 species of pigeons and doves worldwide.)

“We had two sequences from the mitochondrial genome, which is a separate organelle in the cell that has its own genome,” Johnson said. Mitochondrial genes are plentiful and so are easier to sequence, he said. And the mitochondrial genome evolves more rapidly than the nuclear genome, making it a good target for evolutionary studies.

The researchers first analyzed the available sequence data for all (extant and extinct) pigeons and doves together. Then they focused only on the living species, for which much more genetic information is available. They built a family tree of all living pigeons and doves, and then compared the available gene sequences of the passenger pigeon to those of its relatives to find its place in that tree. Both approaches placed the passenger pigeon on the same place in the tree.

Prior to this study, some believed that the passenger pigeon was most closely related to the mourning dove, a smaller species that also has a relatively long tail, Johnson said.

“But it turns out, based on the DNA, that it’s actually related to the New World big pigeons in a totally different genus,” he said.

The band-tailed pigeon, Patagioenas fasciata, which lives in the western mountainous regions of North and South America, was the passenger pigeon’s geographically nearest relative. Other members of this genus are found in forests in parts of Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The passenger pigeon was fairly distinct from its relatives, however, as it belonged to a separate genus, Ectopistes, Johnson said.

“The passenger pigeon is in a monotypic genus, which means there is only one species in that genus: Ectopistes migratorius,” he said. “This bird is pretty diverged from its nearest relatives, meaning it had a unique place in the world. It represented a unique lineage that’s now gone.”

The study team included Dale Clayton, of the University of Utah; John Dumbacher of the California Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; and Robert Fleischer, of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The National Science Foundation supported the study.

Editor's note: To contact Kevin Johnson, call: 217-244-9267; kjohnson@inhs.uiuc.edu.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Racing pigeon hobby takes flight

July 25, 2010

Rural Janesville man’s unusual hobby a competitive sport

By Dick Hagen
The Land Staff Writer The Mankato Free Press Sun Jul 25, 2010, 10:41 PM CDT

JANESVILLE — Some play golf. Some plant potatoes. Some collect old tractors. And then there’s Chuck Stensrud of rural Janesville. He flies racing pigeons.

Stensrud and his special birds literally travel middle America for special pigeon racing events. After the birds are liberated, Stensrud drives back to Janesville. His racing pigeons, however, fly home — and usually get there before he does.

Rare birds? Not really. The racing homer was developed in Europe in the 1800s. It is a blend of five different breeds of domestic pigeons. Originally they were bred to carry messages and were used by the military as recently as World War II.

Competitive sport

Today they are raced for pleasure. Stensrud belongs to a club called Gopher State Racers. Two national organizations of Racing Pigeon clubs exist in the United States. The organization that Gopher State Racers is a part of consists of about 700 clubs. Clubs are organized along geographic boundaries — the intent for club members to live in proximity to each other so there is less racing advantage due to distance or prevailing winds within a club.

This unusual hobby is indeed a competitive sport. “We fly in competition within our club plus there are two other clubs in our combine which we also compete against. We compete with other clubs at the state level and at the Midwest level,” Stensrud said. He said there are probably a dozen racing pigeon clubs in Minnesota.

On a quiet Saturday afternoon this spring, he, his pickup and three baskets, each with eight to 12 birds, were parked along a country road near St. Clair. “This is the first time out this year for my birds so this is just a warm-up flight,” Stensrud said. “We’re only about eight to 10 miles from my house.”

Baby birds must be “settled” to their loft upon leaving the nest. The first thing they have to learn is how to get back into the loft. As they get stronger, they make their “maiden flight” around the yard and back to the loft. With each passing day, they fly farther until pretty soon they are “traveling” for up to an hour at a time and will venture several miles into the countryside.

Homing instinct

Their homing instinct brings them to within 12 to 15 miles of the loft, but from there on they must know the area. Almost everyone breeds and raises their own birds, and each bird has an imprint of its home loft.

“They always try to come back to the loft,” Stensrud said. “I had a bird that I had sold eight years previously that got loose from its owner and came back to my loft. That was only about 40 miles.”

Stensrud said he has birds that have flown 500 miles on a single race day. A race is from a given liberation point to the bird’s home loft. The race winner is determined by speed, essentially yards per minute.

“We know the longitude and latitude of the release point, and the same information for the home loft. We compute the distance down to one-tenth of a yard. We know the release time, the arrival time at home loft, so we compute the elapsed time. From that we figure the speed in yards per minute and the fastest bird wins.”

An electronic chip fastened to a pigeon’s leg registers the arrival time of each racing pigeon back in its home loft. Racing pigeons average about 35 miles an hour, but they have been clocked as high as 75 and 80 mph. “I’ve had pigeons released in Rapid City, S.D., at 6:30 in the morning and they were home at 4:30 that afternoon,” Stensrud said.

What is this “homing instinct” of the carrier pigeon? Scientists have experimented with the birds and theorize they can sense the earth’s magnetic fields. They home better on sunny days, but sunspots have an adverse effect upon returns.

Old birds, young birds

There are two seasons each year: Old Birds and Young Birds. The old bird season is for birds hatched in previous years, their races held during May and June. Young birds are those hatched during the current year, and their races are held in August and September. With younger birds, only a couple are released and they are taken shorter distances from the home loft.

During “spring training” for his birds, each time Stensrud takes a bird out he doubles the distance. On this day it was only about 10 miles back to the loft, but the first race of the 2010 season is 100 miles. Birds, just like marathon runners, need to be in shape.

How did Stensrud get into this unique hobby?

“I first read about it as a boy when racing pigeons were used as carrier pigeons for relaying messages,” he said. “So I caught some barn pigeons and made pets out of them. After high school I bought some homing pigeons. I flew my first race in 1970 and I’ve been racing ever since.”

He doesn’t know precise “flight patterns” of his birds but estimates they’re flying at 300 to 400 feet. That depends, however, upon winds on any given day. When the birds are flying into a headwind, they will fly low to the ground, sometimes so low that they have to go up and over fence lines. He doesn’t sell “breeding stock,” but he does raise a few baby pigeons as gifts to folks who want to get into the sport.

He mixes his own feed, with different rations for different times of the year. Corn, wheat, millet, milo, safflower, sunflower seeds and a couple of different kinds of peas are part of the formula.

“It’s the only hobby I’ve ever had, and it truly is a great sport. In Europe, especially Holland and Belgium, racing pigeons is as popular as baseball is in the United States. Yep, give it a try and it grows on you.”

The Land magazine is a sister publication to The Free Press and is distributed to farmers and rural dwellers throughout Minnesota
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mobile phone mast blamed for vanishing pigeons

By Graeme Wearden , ZDNet.co.uk, 3 September, 2001

A mobile phone mast is being blamed for the disappearance of over 50 racing pigeons. Monday's edition of The Times reports that pigeon fancier David Blain has lost two-thirds of his birds since the mast was build next to his farm. He believes that emissions from the mast are responsible for damaging the birds' homing instincts. Pigeons have been kept at the family farm for over 40 years, and Blain insists this is the first time so many birds have been lost. He, along with hundreds of fellow breeders, is reported to be close to taking legal action again the mobile phone companies -- who consistently deny that emissions from their equipment are harmful. A representative of the Mobile and Telecoms Advisory Group told The Times that there was no evidence that emissions from mobile phone masts could have a damaging effect on animals or birds, but added that more research might be done into the issue in the future. This case isn't the first time that mobile phone masts have been accused of affecting birds. Recent research by the Swiss Bird Study Organisation found that racing pigeons got confused near mobile masts, and also flew much lower than normal.

Read more ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

700 pigeons set free in AWARAPAN!

By MovieTalkies.com
16 June 2007

Director Mohit Suri has symbolically used the Islamic teachings of freedom and liberation through his characters Shivam, Reema Zaidi and Aliyah Hamid in his forthcoming film, AWARAPAN. "The film focuses on how Shivam perseveres to get Reema the freedom she yearns for, with Aliyah as his reference point," says Suri. "My mother is half Muslim. I have read about how Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) freed the slaves of Mecca and Madina. I've only tried using that teaching in a figurative sense through my actors' actions." One of the actions implying liberation is used by actress Shriya Saran (Aliyah Hamid) in the Maula Maula song when she sets a pigeon free, as seen in the promos. "Actually, more than 700 pigeons have been freed in the film," reveals Mohit. "Most of them during Maula Maula in Jodhpur. Others were set free in various scenes of the film in Hong Kong and Bangkok."

Read more ...

Monday, May 16, 2011

GPS-Equipped Pigeons Enlisted as Pollution Bloggers

Mason Inman
for National Geographic News
October 31, 2006

If pigeons wrote their own blogs, they might talk about where to score breadcrumbs or find prime roosting spots.

Now, with the help of tiny high-tech backpacks, pigeons really have become bloggers—but they're posting messages about California smog.

In a project known as PigeonBlog, sensors in the backpacks collect data on toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, as the birds wing through city skies.

The information is then sent back to a central computer, which automatically posts a map of the pollutants' concentration on the Internet.

Avian Reporters

Beatriz da Costa, a professor of arts, computation, and engineering at the University of California, Irvine, dreamed up the idea.

One of the inspirations for the project was moving to California and "seeing the smog in L.A.," she said. "It's pretty bad out here."

Around the same time she ran across a century-old photo of a pigeon with a camera around its neck.

"Pigeons were clearly one of our first ... delivery systems," da Costa said.

She decided to update this idea for the 21st century and "use pigeons as journalists to report on a current situation."

To make the tiny, lightweight backpacks for the birds, da Costa worked with students and other researchers to pack in the needed suite of high-tech features.

Each bundle contains gas sensors along with a global positioning system (GPS) for tracking the birds and a stripped-down cell phone that automatically transmits the data they collect.

The parts for each pack cost about $250 (U.S.) and weigh just 1.3 ounces (37 grams), about a tenth of a pigeon's weight.

Then da Costa had to enlist some birds. Rather than plucking random pigeons off the street, she got in touch with pigeon fanciers who owned homing pigeons.

The volunteers strapped the packs onto their pigeons, then took the birds up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) away from their homes and released them.

As the birds flew home, the backpacks sampled the air. The data, combined with GPS coordinates for each reading, were sent to PigeonBlog, which then automatically generated a pollution map.

The information is intended to educate, da Costa says, not reform policy.

"It's art, not science," she said.

"I doubt the PigeonBlog in itself is going to change the current situation on air pollution. But it might spark people's imaginations on where it should be addressed and how easily one can gather one's own data."

One of the project's goals is to highlight where pollution occurs within a city. Environmental justice activists argue that poorer people end up living in more polluted areas of cities, for example.

That idea "makes sense, and that's generally what's found," said Kirk Smith, a public health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

Cooking Up Solutions

Smith is one of several researchers whose work on making small, cheap pollution sensors helped the PigeonBlog concept take off.

Such low-cost sensors can offer a more detailed picture of how air pollution affects people in developing countries.

Smith and his colleagues hacked into a smoke alarm—the kind found in many U.S. homes—to make a cheap and portable detector for particles in the air, such as soot.

The device only costs $17, while commercially available air-particle detectors can run thousands of dollars.

Rufus Edwards, an environmental health researcher at the University of California, Irvine, helped with the PigeonBlog project.

He is now using the modified smoke alarms in Mexico to measure pollutants generated inside homes from burning cooking fuel. These pollutants are a leading cause of disease in developing countries, especially among women and children.

His group's initial work has shown that cheap, modified stoves can cut people's exposure to pollutants by as much as half.

This suggests that small, cheap devices such as the PigeonBlog backpacks open up new possibilities for monitoring people's exposure to pollutants, Edwards says.

"What can be worn by a pigeon can be worn by a person," he said.

But so far, Smith's jerry-rigged particle detector isn't sensitive enough to measure the lower levels of pollutants in developed countries. These levels are typically one-tenth as much as in developing countries, he says.

So Smith is now working on a version of his device that is sensitive enough to be useful in places such as the U.S. and that will also include GPS.

"Somebody could walk around the neighborhood and log both the pollution level and the location," Smith said. "Then they can get a map of West Oakland with the pollution levels marked right on it. That's our plan."

Read more ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pigeon-racing community embraces technology

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
By: Bartley Kives

Radio-frequency chips, GPS used to track birds

Bird breeders Ken van Walleghem and Bill Voulgaris display a thoroughbred racing pigeon.
Fans of the centuries-old sport of pigeon racing now rely on information-age technology to count their birds as soon as they fly home to roost.

Radio frequency chip-embedded leg bands and GPS technology have revolutionized the seemingly arcane, steam-age sport by freeing up enthusiasts from the mundane task of having to constantly monitor their coops to note the precise time pigeons return home from distant races.

Pigeon racing, which dates back to 19th-century Belgium, involves the release of specially trained thoroughbred pigeons hundreds of kilometres from their coops and noting which birds fly home the fastest.

Winnipeg pigeon-racing organizer Bill Voulgaris said the sport had been declining for decades, thanks to the time it took to monitor races. But radio-frequency chips have freed up racers from the monitoring task and GPS technology has added precision to races often decided by a matter of seconds.

"Before, you had to take a rubber ring off a leg and punch it into a manual clock. Now, the birds get scanned automatically as they fly home," said Voulgaris, secretary of Winnipeg Pigeon Flyers Inc., a club with 25 members.

Pigeon racers don't train just any bird. The feral rock doves found around bridges and derelict buildings aren't fast or strong enough to race or avoid predators such as kestrels and peregrine falcons, Voulgaris said.

Pigeon racers in Winnipeg pay $500 to $2,000 for a thoroughbred bird, though many breed their own pigeons and trade breeding stock. Racing pigeons have sold elsewhere for as much as $205,000, Voulgaris said.

The City of Winnipeg has approved facilities for raising both racing and show pigeons since the 1970s, provided the aviaries are kept clean and regularly maintained. But recent changes to zoning regulations require homeowners to apply for a conditional-use permit for the aviaries.

On Wednesday, the city's Board of Adjustment will consider North End resident Bobby Madlangsakay's request to maintain facilities for 30 pigeons within a 160-square-foot coop. City planners are recommending the board approve his request.

City officials were unable to say how many aviaries have received permits. Voulgaris said only some members of his racing club maintain coops inside the city.

Pigeon races typically take place in summer. Voulgaris said Winnipeg-based birds are driven to race locations, where GPS units measure the distance from the release points to their home coops. Races can start as close to the city as West Hawk Lake or as far away as points east of Thunder Bay, Ont., he said.

Occasionally, racers lose their prized pigeons to raptors, such as Cooper's hawks, the main racing-pigeon predator in Winnipeg. Hawks nab pigeons by climbing high and then diving down, using speed to sneak up on their prey and stun them. Racing pigeons can stave off an attack by flying as high as the predators, Voulgaris said.

"We do lose some birds," he said, offering no such laments for feral pigeons taken by hawks, falcons or eagles. "They can have all they want."

Read more ...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Salmonella vs Injury

Always suspect Salmonella before assuming a bird has a wing or leg injury.

Twenty words or less TCC Loft series

Friday, May 13, 2011

Treatment for Late Arrivals

Take Note Barley feeders;

Take a handful of good sound barley and a pinch of salt and prepare a barley broth by boiling it. Strain off the water and allow it to cool. Place in a drinking cup and let the bird have this in place of plain drinking water. Ordinarily, you will find the bird improved in a few days. It may be ready for a toss after a day's rest and a day of light feeding plus the barley water. I keep this barley water on hand during the entire racing season for those pigeons that return from hard long races exhausted.

by Chas. Heitzman
Young Bird Training Methods

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Man feeds city pigeons, others eat them

Thanh Nien News
January 15, 2011

Two students feed pigeons near Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City.

Nguyen Phi Cuong shakes the iron box several times and more than 300 pigeons from different corners of the Notre Dame Cathedral swoop down to eat the rice grains he has scattered on the ground.

For nearly ten years, Cuong and several of his friends have fed the birds with their own money.

There’re now more than 300 of the birds and it costs VND70,000 (US$3.60) a day to feed them 12 kilograms of unhusked rice three times a day.

“I just need to eat less, hang out less to save more than a million dong every month to buy rice for them. I love them like my children,” the 40-year-old told local news website VnExpress.

He recalled that one time, someone had come to his house and asked to buy some of them at VND40,000 each, and he sent the visitor away immediately.

“I’m not raising the birds to sell, I raise them to make the city look beautiful,” Cuong said.

“Many big cities in the world have beautiful herds of pigeons, so why can’t we?”

Cuong has also trained the pigeons to recognize some of his orders.

When he whistles or shakes the iron box, the birds come and eat. When he claps his hands, the birds fly to the roof of the cathedral or the nearby Saigon Central Post Office.

Cuong said a pigeon can live for eight and ten years and they grow very smart from when they are three.

“No matter where they fly to, they will fly back at meal time.”

He was not the first person to do this. He took over the job from two other men. The first one, Ba Le, was a photographer in the area.

Le fed the birds from 1996, but he died in 2002, passing the birds on to his friend Diep, now 60 and also a photographer in the area.

During the bird flu pandemic in 2005, the birds were hunted so they wouldn’t spread the virus and there were only 15 left. That’s when Cuong stepped in.

“After protecting the birds for a while, I discovered they had a place to lay eggs. So I decided to develop the herd,” he said.

A young man named Den, 24, helps Cuong feed the birds for the other meals at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Den came from the Mekong Delta’s Soc Trang Province to HCMC eight years ago. He runs a small drinks shop near the cathedral.

Several workers and students also help once in a while.

Cuong said there’re people who asked to pay him for taking photos with the birds, but he didn’t take the money, so they bought food for the birds instead.

A couple of parents from District 3 usually brings their daughter to feed the birds. “Every time we do this, I clearly see the joy on her face… My daughter’s childhood is closely connected with the birds,” said the girl's father Quoc Cuong.

Bich Loan, 24, who works for a company in District 1, has visited the birds often enough to have her favorite one.

Duc Duy, 19-year-old student at Saigon Technology University, said feeding the birds was fun. “It’s really meaningful starting a day with such an activity. You feel a sense of relief.”

But over the last week, a group of workers have chosen to use the birds as food. They have killed nearly 100 birds, including newly-hatched ones and their eggs.

Cuong said he felt painful and has argued with the workers many times but gained nothing.

Read more ...

Monday, May 9, 2011

At Exercise

When birds are at exercise, take particular notice of those flying at the outside of the flock; they are very often in their best form.

W. S. "Billy" Pearson
Widowhood Old and New
Edited by Colin Osman

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thinking caps reveal how pigeons find their way

Nature News
November 8, 2007
Alison Abbott

Scientists monitor the brains of homing pigeons on the wing.

Neuroscientists have fitted pigeons with recorders that pick up brain activity as the birds fly. The devices confirm that the birds really do use features from a landscape to find their way home. And researchers hope that they will be able to use the caps to unpick how birds use other types of navigational signals at different points in a journey.

Scientists are pretty sure from tracking experiments that pigeons use the Sun, Earth’s magnetic field and possibly smells as guiding cues when navigating. In 2004, Hans-Peter Lipp, a behavioural neuroscientist from the University of Zürich in Switzerland, showed that pigeons probably also use visual information. He noted that the birds tend to turn when they hit obvious landmarks like a highway exit.

 Tiny trackers help to reveal a bird's thoughts in flight.H-P. Lipp

These tracking experiments collected good information about the birds' location, by fitting modern global positioning system (GPS) loggers to the pigeons’ backs. But no-one has been able to measure directly what information the pigeon are using to navigate — no one has accessed the pigeons' thoughts in flight.

"If we see a bird continuing along its path after crossing a bump in the magnetic field that would normally cause it to change direction — is this because it failed to sense the information or had a good reason to ignore it?" asks Lipp. "What’s going on in their minds?"

What are you thinking?

To find out, Lipp teamed up with Alexei Vyssotski, a biological engineer, to develop tiny electroencephalogram (EEG) recorders that can pick up electrical signals from the brain, and coupled them to GPS loggers. They fitted devices on the heads of anaesthetised pigeons that lived in a loft inland of the Italian coast, near Rome (see map). Tiny screws kept the instrument in place on the birds skulls, and served as EEG electrodes.

Which way did they go? Tracking reveals how brain patterns change over geographic features.H.-P. Lipp

Then they sailed the pigeons across the Mediterranean and released them some 50 kilometres from home. When they analysed the simultaneous GPS positions and the EEG-recorded brain waves, the team found only low and high frequency waves as the birds flew over the featureless sea — probably a sign of normal brain activity. But fluctuating levels of mid-frequency waves emerged as soon as the birds began to fly over the land. The mid-frequency waves they saw (of 12–60 Hertz) are the same as those seen in mammals when they start to pay attention to something.

To be sure that these frequencies really were relevant to the navigational task, the team did another series of experiments closer to home. The researchers released the birds 5 kilometres away from their loft, requiring them to fly over a highway exit that Lipp knew, from his 2004 study, the birds used as a major landmark. The intensity of the mid-frequency band increased when the pigeons approached and crossed this highway exit.

Invisible lines

The group presented their work yesterday at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, California.

The methodology, says Lipp, is proof of principle that the little device can monitor brain activity related to navigation. "What we really want to use it for is to search for changes in brain activity when the pigeons cross sites that contain navigational information invisible to humans, such as electromagnetic sources, for example," he says. The team would also expect to see a flurry of activity in mid-frequency waves at that point.

The team just hopes that their instrument-laden birds, which look a little like science fiction, don't land in St Peter's Square in Vatican City and frighten anyone. So far they have only flown over this famous landmark. "At least they didn’t land among the tourists,” Lipp says.

Read more ...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Medication Storage

Store medications and feed supplements in a cool, dry, and dark area. Don't let these items spoil in the loft.

Twenty words or less TCC Loft series 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Millom school gets racing pigeon

North-West Evening Mail
Monday January 19, 2009

A MILLOM school is set to fly high – thanks to a pigeon.

Black Combe Primary School pupils will be the recipients of a specially-bred racing pigeon.

The feathered friend is set to race in competitions all around the country, and any prize money it wins will be donated to the school.

Pupils at the school will also be given the chance to name the bird.

Pigeon breeder Les Cole, 68, of Millom, who is supplying the bird, said: “We, the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, are trying to promote pigeon racing.

“I did the talk to give the children an insight into what pigeon racing is all about. The school’s pigeon hasn’t been bred yet but I took the two parent pigeons in to show them. The RPRA approached me to do it because I had had a good year.

“They had all been looking forward to it. One of the teachers was so excited I had to arrange it so he didn’t miss it.

“Junior school children are the age I want to encourage. We need a new generation of pigeon breeders.”

All pupils at the school were at the talk, which took place in the main hall on Friday.

Black Combe Primary School headteacher Helen Webber said: “It is a very novel idea. It is a part of our history. The children all seem very excited about it.”

Read more ...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Observing the daily flight

Whether this flying is free or forced, to the experienced manager it will always be an indication of the degree of form of his pigeons.

Discussed in Leon Petit's book
The Practical Side of Pigeon Racing
May 1952

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nostrils not equal in pigeons

Rachel Ehrenberg
Science News
February 26, 2011

When pigeons sniff their way home, the right nostril comes in much handier than the left, researchers report January 27 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Previous evidence of this asymmetry led an international team of researchers to investigate 28 homing pigeons outfitted with GPS devices.

The team plugged either a pigeon's left or right nostril and then released the birds about 40 kilometers from home. While all the birds headed out in the correct direction, pigeons with a blocked right nostril took a more circuitous path, stopping and exploring more en route, suggesting that the right nostril is important for processing navigation-related odors. The team notes that people also favor the right nostril when detecting and evaluating the intensity of odors, hinting at a broader olfactory asymmetry.

Read more ...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fast flying feathers

The Richmond Register
By Tim Mandell
August 25, 2010
Register News Writer

Local Residents Raise, Race Pigeons

Racing pigeons owned by John Hayes and Robbie Robbins leave their loft Tuesday. Most of the pair’s roughly 300 pigeons were bred around Thanksgiving and were born at the beginning of the this year.

RICHMOND — A pair of Richmond residents have formed a unique partnership.

Former co-workers John Hayes and Robbie Robbins spend their free time raising and racing pigeons.

Hayes retired three years ago from his job as custodial foreman at Eastern Kentucky University. Robbins works at EKU as an operator at the heat plant.

While working together, they discovered they shared a love of pigeons, each having been raised around the birds.

Since retiring, Hayes has constructed five pigeon lofts on his property and Hayes and Robbins own roughly 300 racing pigeons.

One of those pigeons, Lucky Seven, flew earlier this month from Orlando, Fla., to Kentucky, covering more than 700 miles in two days (a Heitzman Sion based bird).

That feat is a Kentucky long-distance flying record, Robbins said.

Most of their pigeons were bred around Thanksgiving and were born at the beginning of this year.

Once the pigeons were comfortable with their surroundings, Hayes and Robbins began teaching them to race.

“We let them fly around here for a while, just to let them get used to the place,” Hayes said. “You just have to be patient with them.”

When the pigeons were ready to race, the first toss was done a quarter-mile from the lofts.

After that, they released the birds five miles away, then 10 miles, then 20 miles, and finally, 100 miles away.

Pigeons fly about 45 miles per hour and have been known to reach 110 miles per hour with the right tail wind, Robbins said.

“They’re the only other animal in the world that recognizes themselves,” Robbins said. “They have about all the same traits that humans have.”

Robbins, who often writes pigeon fiction for the magazine “Racing Pigeon Digest,” is like an encyclopedia of the history of pigeons.

He rattles off stories of pigeon heroics from World War I and World War II and knows the names of well-known pigeons and their breeders and racers.

Hayes spends most of his time in his backyard with the pigeons, where he has formed a strong bond with the birds.

“I’m out here all the time,” Hayes said. “I do some yard mowing on the side, but when I get done, I come out here and watch them fly around.”

They have loaned their pigeons to be used at athletic events, weddings and even funerals.

At funerals, four pigeons are released, representing the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost and the soul, said Robbins.

They search for perfect matches for breeding and isolate those pigeons in cages.

Typically, the female lays two eggs, which take 18 days to hatch. Once the babies are a few weeks old, Hayes and Robbins place a band on their leg signifying the year of their birth, the national and local groups they belong to and a serial number that identifies Hayes and Robbins as the owners.

Inside the lofts, there are cubby holes. Each bird usually claims one cubby hole as their own, Hayes said.

When the birds are let out to fly, they often form a routing pattern and may spend hours flying around before returning to the lofts, Hayes said.

What Hayes and Robbins seem to most enjoy is racing the pigeons.

Pigeon races are conducted quite frequently and the cash prizes sometimes reach five figures, Robbins said.

Hayes and Robbins are currently training their pigeons for upcoming races.

Typically, these races may pit teams against each other, with the fastest pigeon to return to its roost declared the winner, Robbins said.

Tim Mandell can be reached at tmandell@richmondregister.com or 623-1669 ext. 6696.

Read more ...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Triple Box System

The two box system is a useful system for racing odd cocks, but even so, one cock out of the two is kept idle. This may be useful if you are resting a cock that particular week, but is not always desirable. It is possible to race both cocks on this system by having the nest box in three sections instead of two, so that each contends for the centre section. These three-section nest boxes will have to be specially constructed, so I will start by describing them first.

As  can be seen from the diagram, there are two doors opening outwards for the two end sections; section B, the centre section, can only open into A or C, and is separated from them by double doors; the inner door consists of wire or laths, which can be seen through and the outer door is solid. Both these doors are pivoted on to the rear wall of the nest box and swing outwards from Section B, so that when open they lie flat at the back of Sections A and C. Sections A and C have both normal dowelling, lath or wire external doors.

The First Race

The procedure adopted for training and racing is somewhat similar to that used in the two-box system. One cock you intend to race is placed in Section A early in the year, and is allowed to become accustomed to his section. The training up to the first race is done by the cock from this nest box flying normally, and during the whole of the time both doors separating A and B are kept closed. In other words, the cock in A cannot see either of the other nest boxes. At the same time, the second racing cock is placed in Section C, and similarly both doors separating C from B are kept closed.

As the time for the first race approaches, on the day or perhaps two days before basking, the solid door separating A from B is opened while the bird is at exercise. The cock, when he returns, can now see into Section B, but cannot get into it. He is then allowed to spend about two hours trying to get into this centre section. Finally he is allowed to occupy it and is fed with tit-bits. He cannot, of course, see the cock in Section C, because both doors separating B from C are still closed. He will then be allowed to take his afternoon exercise, and as soon as be is out, both doors separating A from B are shut. Then the cock that is in C, and which just prior to this, has had his afternoon flight, is allowed to see into Section B, by removing the solid door separating C from B. When this second cock has been tantalized thus for a while (it must of necessity not be very long as this must be accomplished while the cock from A is exercising), he is allowed to occupy the centre Section B and is also fed with tit-bits. The cock in Section C is then returned to his own section and the doors separating B and C are shut. By this time, the cock in A will have returned and will be allowed to occupy A and B.

As the moment of basketing approaches, all is in readiness for the key moment, and just before basketing, the solid door between B and C, which prevents the two cocks seeing each other, is opened and the cocks realise for the first time that they are contenders for the centre section. They are then basketed, taking the obvious precaution of not putting them in the same basket, although this may not of necessity have the disastrous results which one would think. They will then both fly home to gain possession of this centre.

On arrival, the first bird is allowed to occupy the centre section for a short time, and, if possible, he is removed and fed in his own section before the second bird arrives. When he arrives, he too is allowed to occupy the centre section, and then fed in his own part of the box. They are then both shut in their own sections for the night.

After the First Race

On the following day the regular racing procedure begins. On the return from the morning flight, A is allowed to occupy both Sections A and B, and C remains in his own section, unable to see into Section B; and on the evening flight, the cock in Section C also occupies the centre Section B, and A is unable to see into the centre section. This alternate occupation of the centre section is continued throughout the week until the day of basketing approaches, when the previous procedure is followed just before basketing, finally opening both the solid doors so that the two cocks can see each other. It may be possible (as is commonly done by some of the Belgian fanciers who use this method) to arrange it so that on this day of basketing neither of the two cocks occupy the centre section, but see each other right across it, but this is a matter of personal choice.

The system may seem complicated at first, but I have tried to make it as straightforward as possible. All that is really necessary is to realise that, as far as possible, both cocks are treated the same, and both, until the last minute, are allowed to believe that they are the masters of the centre section.

The Advantages

The advantages, I think, of the system, are to a large extent obvious. Firstly, of course, it is one way of flying odd cocks. Secondly, it is a method of giving the cocks an added incentive to rapid flying without the complication of separating the hens in a separate loft, as is frequently done with the normal Widowhood system, although, of course, in this case, too, it is an advantage if the cocks are kept fairly quiet. Thirdly, and perhaps most important of all, it is a system that can be practised in a small loft. Indeed, the loft only needs to contain two cocks, and apart from the construction of the special nest box, requires no further alterations to the loft.

Widowhood Old and New
Edited by Colin Osman