What do I mean by «normal circumstances ?» First of all, healthy pigeons in a state of complete rest, neither racing nor breeding. Properly cared for, healthy pigeons go through the moult very easily. In that article we talked about «rest». Indeed, around the middle of September the smartest fanciers have completely stopped racing. This is neccssary if they want to be in good shape for the next season. They make a smart move in allowing their next year's team to rest in preparation for the big moult. Not every fancier can make the decision to stop racing. The same fanciers are the first to start again in the Spring.
How many good pigeons they have sacrificed or ruined to satisfy their taste of victory. Others, who still have a chance for a championship, will still basket their birds even if they are below par. Half in the moult, they are put in the basket. Maybe they'll make the prize list. But further in this chapter I will explain the problem they may run into, even when these «moulting birds» win first prize. Once we made up our minds to stop them, nobody could change our mind, regardless of the cost. We proved that in 1959. We were leading in several championships and on the 27th of July, two Sundays before the end, we remated our widowers two days after they had won a maximum of prize positions. We still, inspite of the early withdrawal, won First Champion. Rather than overload them before the moult, we decided to rest our team. That rest was needed after a difficult season, in which only the regulars came in front. That is my opinion.
When the food is well balanced, there hasn't been too much breeding and the loft is kept clean and dim, the change of feathers is normal, regular and completed by the desired date. Those of you who have handled a well feathered, silky champion, know what I mean. It is this rich quality which assures smooth flying. The moult reflects the birds' health. Therefore, an excellent moult is a sign of excellent health. The form shows up faster and the better physical strength will assure it lasts longer. These birds give the most, with the least wear and tear. A «wooden box» of a bird, with hard dry flights and feathers like straw, goes through a regular moult too. With the best care he will not grow a nicer «coat» than the original. Pails of oily seeds won't help. In rainy weather he has to stop flying, his feathers cannot keep the water out. I am talking about pigeons that inherited these qualities. During the final stage of the moult, when the last two or three flights are developing, is the crucial pcriod. If you closely inspect the moult of the new wing and tail flights, you will soon discover that your pigeons bear few tracés from the races.
Shortcomings are written in their last four flights and show up after the season. A few marked flights will not prevent them from racing, but they show there was a problem. Next year's racing is risky if the moult is incomplete. Why I can not explain it any other way, because these pigeons had enough strength during the last summer months, but they ran short toward the end of the moult. Maybe the food ratio was wrong ? I do not mean one should feed them a high percentage of peas or oily seeds, that's not necessary. The results of that may be worse than the original problem itself. We know that a pigeon does not moult all of its feathers. Concerning the moult of the flights, everybody knows that there are exceptions to the rule. But nobody will deny that one can not be certain that a pigeon will fly as well next year as it did last year. This is especially true when one or two tail flights are not moulted. A shortage of strength is often the cause. Pigeons are exhausted by driving too long, too much fighting, or by overcrowding so that they have to fight for survival and. actually eat less, to such an extent that they are run down and of course it shows in the moult. A bad moult may be caused by untimely breeding.
Especially with those who flew late in the year, because this late breeding does not give them a chance to rest. Again they have to draw on their reserves and the normal demands of nature can not be answered.
It is very clear that the skill of the manager plays a big role. It is his duty to make sure that he does not require too much in August and September, so they can finish the moult properly and prepare for the next season. In our lofts at Borgerhout, where we had no problems with all these listed possibilities, they were stopped early, fed a good variety of food, and were excercised once a day. When we exercised them twice a day they flew too long. For fanciers who want to test a few young hens this long flying is all right. However, I know a few so-called «specialists» in the «late series», those who only shine the last two months of the season. In full season, with good pigeons, they just can't make it. Still, they have good lofts and good standard birds. The problem lies in these late races. It's a question of too much work too late and therefore not being able to recuperate before the moult sets in. The beginning of the moult is usually good, but towards the end their vitality is gone. The specialists ? They pay a high price for their rashness. It is not only the wing flights and tail feathers that suffer from this. The down moult in particular leaves a lot to be desired. With healthy pigeons this starts immediately after the flights. It is equally important. All serious fanciers pay attention to it. When the down is not moulted at the right time, a serious mistake has been made. Birds that still have their old «coats» on find no mercy in our eyes. We either eliminate them or let them rest the next year, they won't fly. Indeed, even if it happens to be an extraordinary bird the handicap will still be too much. In August, when it has been really warm for a long time, such birds may be tried again. But if the owner wants to win back lost ground he risks repeating the same mistake. The best remedy is a füll year of complete rest. Then the pigeon has a chance to really shine in the following season's races when the very best birds are in füll swing.