Strict selection and being patient: how to find a balance?

A strict selection combined with a patient approach: it seems rather contradictory if at all possible, but as a fancier it is in fact quite useful to try and combine the two.

How about young birds?
Should a young bird prove itself right from the start or it is a better idea to allow it some time to develop?
There is a lot to be said about young birds in competition but one thing is very clear: you cannot say that you give your youngsters the chance to prove themselves if you expect them to perform well in their very first training tosses and if you expect them to win prizes in the first races they do. You should also be aware that some pigeons develop quicker than others, just like humans do. Besides, youngsters that have been trained a lot tend to perform less well in the first races compared to pigeons who had a more relaxed training programme.

We know plenty of young bird fanciers who release their youngsters from France together with the old birds before the first races for youngsters have even started. It is of course quite obvious that these pigeons perform far better in the first young bird races compared to their opponents who have only had a few relaxed training tosses and who suddenly find themselves among thousands of other pigeons. After about three weeks the cleverest of the less well trained birds will have closed the gap but it should not be a surprise that these youngsters will lag behind in the first few weeks of competition. If you take a closer look at the results of the young bird races you will notice that it takes a lot more time to award the prizes in the first weeks compared to three, four weeks later, even in similar weather conditions. Why is that? Well, after three to four weeks of competition all the youngsters will have covered a lot of miles and they have become used to the routine. Another thing is that it will be very difficult for youngsters from a third or fourth round to win prizes if they have started racing a month later compared to birds of the first and second round, but after about four weeks the birds of the third and fourth round will have probably improved their performance. However, in the first weeks of competition these youngsters will have a hard time against the youngsters that have already had a few weeks of racing.

Over the years we are more and more convinced that you should be very patient with your young birds. This approach has been rewarding for us more than once. We have experienced that a patient approach is worth the effort and sometimes it is even a necessity. This reminds us of something we experienced with a young hen of a colleague of ours. Thanks to her origins and her behaviour in the loft the fancier in question was very enthusiastic about this young bird. Initially the hen could not compete with the other youngsters in the races and she failed to win prizes. Suddenly though she took a prize in the race from Orléans (405 km). From then on everything went fine: she had some great results both from Argenton and La Souterraine. As a yearling the bird was placed in the breeding loft, where it has become stock dam of his present stock.

When it comes to giving chances to youngsters we think there is a difference between cocks and hens. We think it would be good to let a young cock do as many miles as possible in their year of birth. We would not mind letting them do three to four flights above Paris; this would be very beneficial for them as yearlings. If a cock has showed its strength on one or two occasions then he deserves a place in the team for next season.

If a young cock does not perform well in the first months we still give them the chance to prove themselves later in the season. We have had several young cocks that were not very good at the beginning but who proved their value later on, so that is what we mean by giving your cocks a second chance. That is far from enough though. You should also give them a chance to race at a time when they are really ready for it. It would be completely useless to let them fly longer distances if they are not good enough yet for shorter distances.

That does not mean that you should let the bird race to a nest. If we really want to get a good idea of the fitness of a bird we would let the bird race when there is no nest. This leads to a more reliable result and this gives us a better idea of its potential. Sometimes fanciers will motivate and stimulate their youngsters too much, for instance by racing to a nest or in half or full widowhood. In such cases we notice that the bird will perform very well in the first few months but it will never reach that form again afterwards.

Experience has shown that if a young cock performs reasonably well in races of 400 to 500km without any additional motivation he is likely to become a good racer. It is, of course, normal to show the young hens before a bird is basketed for a long distance race. In fact we believe that it has become impossible to achieve a good result without any additional ways to motivate the bird.

But as we said earlier: if you really want to test youngsters that have not done very well so far, it would be better not to use any motivational methods at all. This will give you a much better view on their potential. If a pigeon has fairly good results in a rather tough long distance race without any additional motivation that bird is without a doubt a very promising racer. It is up to the fancier to decide whether just the result, is reason enough to race him as a yearling. We tend to pay a lot of attention to the fitness of a bird after it has been raced like that as well. This usually helps us to form a better opinion on the bird’s potential.

The way a race develops is an important thing to keep in mind as well. Some fanciers would boast that one of their youngsters has won a prize in a long distance race, in which it took a few days before all the prizes were awarded. Well in such races luck is a big factor, which makes it very difficult to form an opinion of the pigeon.