In a successful loft you will hardly find any bad throats. On the other hand you will not find a lot of good throats in a low quality loft. If a less successful fancier finds a pigeon of which the throat looks a lot better than that his other pigeons there is a reasonable chance that this pigeon will be the best racing pigeon in the loft. This is very often the case. However, you have to keep in mind that a bad throat is sometimes a temporary phenomenon. So it is advisable to check your pigeons’ throat on a regular basis. A throat that looks unhealthy today might look just fine in a week’s time. That explains why pigeon inspectors will not only check the throat of a pigeon; otherwise they might make mistakes. You might have a pigeon with a bad throat that otherwise looks perfectly healthy. In that case you have a good quality pigeon that is not fit for now. However, if the throat does not improve over time the bird will lose its value as a racing pigeon.
You should not remove every pigeon from your loft that has a bad throat. A pigeon that grows older should be treated differently. It happens regularly that the throat of a young bird looks perfect but that it looks less well after eight weeks. After that period the situation should improve again; if not you can get rid of it.
A bad throat traditionally occurs during the moulting period as well. Again, the throat should gradually improve during the moult. When the moult is completely over the throat should look good again. If you check your pigeons’ throats regularly (many fanciers do it every one or two weeks) you will notice that they will not look very good in wet weather. With this in mind you can easily observe which of your pigeons have the best throats under these circumstances. They will be the healthiest and the fittest birds in your loft.
It can also occur that all pigeons in your loft have a throat that does not look good during the winter months. This should only last for a short period of time. If the problem persists it is advisable to have your pigeons checked by a vet. A parasitic disease is usually the cause and if you do not take action in time the consequences can be serious. It is not a good idea to experiment when your pigeons suffer from a disease you are not familiar with. This is generally a waste of time and energy and it can reduce your chances of success in the future.
There are other examples where a bad throat is not really a reason for concern, for instance when the hens are about to lay their eggs. At the end of the sitting period and when a pigeon has youngsters the throat sometimes looks less well. The situation will usually improve automatically after a few days of brooding. You can breed from pigeons with a bad throat under the condition that these descendants have a good throat themselves five weeks after their birth. We have had a few six to seven year old hens that got a bad throat. However, that did not keep them from raising youngsters that were just as good and healthy as the descendants that they bred earlier.
When you notice that one of your pigeons has a bad throat during the winter months and has had a not so good moulting period, whereas the other pigeons have not had any problems, chances are likely that this pigeon will not be doing very well as a racing pigeon next season. The best period to check your pigeons or to estimate their value is when they are separated. To make a correct judgement about the throat of a pigeon you should focus on its colour.
If one of your young birds has a bad throat after the racing season, even though it has been performing very well, you might as well get rid of it. On the other hand, a successful pigeon that has covered thousands of kilometres and that still has a good throat will likely be as successful later on.
Sometimes it can be necessary to be a bit stricter when it comes to examining your pigeons. This is useful for instance with young birds that are five weeks old. A group of pigeons of that age with throats that look much worse than their loft mates will probably be weak birds. After years of experience Raymond Van Steenberghe decided to check the throats of his young birds to make an early selection, adopting the ideas of Frans Van Linden.
“When I breed twenty young birds and ten of them appear to have bad throats at the age of five weeks I will get rid of these ten birds in any case, irrespective of their origins and pedigree. Experience in my own loft and in other lofts has showed that the number of good quality pigeons that comes from this group (young birds with a bad throat) is just too small.
I will try to prove my point by asking you to do the following: make a list of all your young birds. Note down the ring numbers and the condition of the throat when they are five weeks old. Not later, not sooner. Now draw a second list before you start to train them. Make a third list after the racing season. Afterwards you can compare the three lists; look at the achievements of the remaining birds as well. If you have any birds left with a bad throat at the age of five weeks chances are few that they will be successful racing pigeons. On the other hand most of your successful racers will appear to have had a perfect throat five weeks after their birth. Feel free to try it, you have nothing to lose! The experience you gain will come in useful when selecting birds. I have done several tests with my pigeons and this is the average result: 80% of the pigeons with bad throats at the age of five weeks were left behind even in the short distance races. The remaining 20% was lost above Paris. Young birds that could win a top prize after eight hours in the air were without an exception pigeons with a perfect throat.”
Now that the winter youngsters are weaned you can put theory into practice by adopting this method. In fact, a selection based on the condition of the throat at the age of five weeks serves a double purpose. Weak or diseased pigeons are not only expensive to nurse but they often cause other pigeons to be in bad health as well, for instance by infecting them with parasitic diseases. In some cases these pigeons prevent your best birds from developing properly or from performing well.
In quite a few lofts one half of the newly bred youngsters can be removed when they are five weeks old already. You might lose a few prizes that might have been won by possible prize winners that were removed too early but that will be compensated by the lower costs and by the fact that the remaining birds will perform better.
A fancier who selects his birds after five weeks, getting rid of pigeons with bad throats, will hardly lose any birds during the racing season.
As you can see, an examination of the throat can be very useful when it comes to estimating the value of your pigeons. It can also be helpful when you are planning to purchase a pigeon to reinforce your existing breed. I have seen many birds being sold with a bad throat. If you pay a lot of money for such a pigeon your money will be wasted. It is of course the buyer who decides whether or not to purchase a pigeon.