Pigeon Loft Diary from one member at Almondbury Methodist Church
Pigeon Loft Diary

Pigeon Racing Explained by an Amateur (Alex's wife, Sarah)

The pigeons are paired up in January – taking into account all sorts of things such as abilities, family history, compatibility – and approximately 10-12 days later the hens will lay 2 eggs. The hen and cock will do shifts to sit on the eggs and 18 days later they will hatch.

Food for the cocks and hens is increased at this point as they are feeding their young as well as themselves (I don’t understand the technicalities of the diet yet, I just follow the instructions given!). After approximately 1 month the chicks will be big enough and strong enough to be moved into their own section of the loft and start feeding themselves.

It will take them a few days to settle into their new environment and learn how to feed but they are soon battling it out around (and in!) the feeding trough – wings everywhere trying to keep their neighbour off their food.

After tea each day there is a bit of flying practice – lots of flapping of wings with hops and jumps off the floor. Eventually the wings get strong enough to get them up to the perches and then into the sputnik (the pigeon’s version of a porch and frontdoor ). When they have reached this stage they are then allowed outside to potter around and explore the vicinity of the loft. As they get more confident and stronger they will start to fly and this will build up into 30-45 minutes flying locally each day, during which they will learn some of the local landmarks that will help them find home, such as Castle Hill and Emley Moor Mast.

When the pigeons are racing they will be approaching the loft from the south so when formal training begins they are taken in that direction. They are put into a basket(s) and taken initially just a handful of miles. On arrival at the release location they are given 10 minutes to settle down and gauge the direction of the sun (which is one of the ways they navigate their way home) and then the basket is opened. When they first begin training they will fly round and round in circles and often head off in the wrong direction – it’s very worrying because if they get it wrong there’s nothing you can do about it, but somehow they seem to make it back to the loft eventually, it’s quite amazing how they manage it! The release location is kept the same until the pigeons do just one or two circles and then set straight off in the correct direction and are getting back to the loft in good time (before us). Gradually the distance will build up to approximately 50 miles daily by the time the racing season begins.

During the week leading up to a race the diet is changed and the training mileage will be reduced a couple of days before the race. There are a couple of different systems that are used to race the pigeons to encourage them to get home quickly but I’ll leave Alex to explain them in a newsletter article. On a Friday evening of a race weekend the pigeons are taken down to the club headquarters for basketing. This is where all the pigeons being raced by the club are given a race ring (on their leg) and they are split into several baskets (you will have some pigeons in each basket). The transporter then collects the baskets and takes them to the location for the start of the race. Every fancier has a timing clock which has to be set prior to each race and this is also done on a Friday evening.

Presuming the weather is OK for racing the pigeons will be released on Saturday morning and we are informed of the release time by ringing into a message line. From this we can then estimate the time of arrival for the first pigeons and ensure we are at the loft. The release time may be pushed further into the morning if they are waiting for rain to clear or mist to lift and if it doesn’t reach an acceptable state the pigeons may be held over until Sunday morning – this is not ideal.

When the pigeons arrive back to the loft the race is not yet won. An important part of the training is teaching the pigeons to enter the loft on your command as the pigeon can not be “clocked in” until it has entered the sputnik. The pigeon then has to be caught (this is the next trick I have to master!) and the ring removed from it’s leg and put into the timing clock. On striking the ring into the clock the arrival time is recorded. If you get the first pigeon back into the loft quite some time before the others arrive this an indication that they have done well and may have a good place in the race results.

On the Saturday evening the clock is then taken back down to the club headquarters where it is read and all the times are entered into a computer programme and the results are issued. Because everybody’s loft is obviously in a different location there is an equation used to work out the time per kilometre the pigeons have flown but I haven’t got my head round that yet so I will again leave that for Alex to explain at a later date. We will keep you informed of how the pigeons are doing within the club but our leader-board will show just the results within the loft.

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