Widowhood in all its aspects - part I

Compulsory or free training flights? A selection of the widowers are resting; how to handle this situation? Also about widowers which loose their appetite.

What do you think of compulsory training?

Introduced gradually and run properly, compulsory flying sessions are excellent, but both opinions and methods differ greatly. Great fanciers such as the Cattrysse brothers from Moere and laterly Beuselinck-Cattrysse, remain loyal to this type of training, whilst many others are satisfied with having an open loft where the pigeons come and go as they please, from which we can conclude that such compulsory flight is far from indispensable. If we could be at home regularly, just like in the old days, then we would begin compulsory flight around the loft again, even if it was just for the sake of the meteoric arrivals which we no longer see.

Lack of time has forced us to stop this method; a helper in the care of the pigeons, would be ideal to take care of this part of training. All our pre-war results were achieved with the practice of compulsory flying, a full hour both morning and evening. Even the natural pigeons had to take part.

How is it possible that one person is a supporter and another a convinced opponent of this compulsory training?

Everyone makes their bed in accordance with how they want to sleep. Yet everyone agrees, that practice is important to an athlete in the run up to the actual performance. We can’t list here all the objections raised.

A few words are enough to show that, unless compulsory flight is necessary, training tosses are the best way of building up the training gradually. Whoever is fearful of over training can always wait until the last minute to start them and finish them when the pigeons have flown a race of 200 to 300 km. They can then change them to free flight around the loft. 

How does one go about it when in the widower’s loft a portion of the cocks have to rest?

The most important thing is that the widowers who are not forced to take part are given the chance to rest completely. This can only be achieved with the greatest of care. The same problem applies when widowers in the same loft race different distances, so that basketing is sometimes only days apart.

Is it not preferable to remove the widowers which are not racing from the loft?

We believe that this method is not right. If we remove them just before basketing the pigeons which leave on Fridays, then the pigeons which have to rest would have to remain in the basket from Friday until after the hens are removed on Sunday. They would have to be removed on three different occasions: first for the preparation of the pigeons which have to be basketed two days before the race, a second time when the hens are shown to the cocks that return on Saturday and a third time on Sunday until it is completely peaceful in the loft again. You can be sure that widowers treated this way would use up a lot of energy, just as if they have been raced, but as they haven't been raced they will eat less. This means that this type of rest wouldn’t be of much use. 

So they remain in the loft whilst the hens are shown to the birds that have to race?
The principal to be observed here is assuring the best possible rest, without disturbing these pigeons. Widowers which remain in the loft should not be allowed to see or hear anything. The positioning of the nest boxes and the use of some extra materials can be useful here. This keeps the disturbance to the widowers which are resting to a minimum. It is best to have them all in one row so that these widowers can’t see any other boxes, either next to them or opposite them. The boxes also have to be equipped so that they can be kept in the dark. The best way to do this is with a plywood board, mounted on two hinges which can be raised to the ceiling of the nest box if desired. If necessary they can then be put back in front of the opening so that no daylight can go in. Another way of ensuring rest is to place a piece of cardboard between the bars of the nest boxes in which the pigeons have to rest. Obviously it is best that the widowers are already used to this method, as changes made whilst they are away could frighten them when they return home.

The widowers which have to rest are then kept in darkness?

Yes, whilst the hens from the pigeons which have to race are shown and also on Sunday until all the hens are removed.  You have to wait until peace is restored before removing the cardboard or raising the board. There must be absolutely no hen in the loft where the widowers loft is. You can avoid difficulties by not showing the hens to the widowers which are to be basketed for two or more days. You prepare them by just giving them their nestbowl or turning it over half an hour before basketing.

Let us mention in passing that the widowers in this game know that they will find their companion when they return home. They are much calmer in the basket and the performance doesn’t suffer.

Is it not necessary to show the hens on Sunday to the widowers which haven’t raced?

By no means, unless it concerns a rest of three weeks or more.  In that case the hens should be shown on Sunday when the other birds return, for 15 minutes. This is done 14 days after liberation to keep them in form and avoid listlessness. If a cock hasn't seen his hen for a long time then it is best to show her before basketing, even if it is a long distance race. These are obviously only general rules. A good fancier makes a thorough study of his favourites and reacts with that knowledge. For example you could show the hen in question a day or two in advance, for a period of 5 minutes, directly before nightfall. This system of preparation can vary from one bird to another. Personally we always experience new things so we are qualified to say that with this point, just like many areas of the pigeon sport, there are no fixed rules.

Don’t you think it’s better to rest the entire team on the same day?

That is exactly the type of thing that people intend to do in the winter, but which can’t be carried out in the summer due to the racing programme. The fancier who has two lofts for his widowers has it much easier. If it concerns races below the three to four hundred kilometres, then you can easily race four out of five consecutive Saturdays and give all the birds a rest on the Sunday. You can then use this Sunday to purge the team and put it on a depurative for two days. The results following this programme can’t be anything but positive. 

Which purge do you recommend?

One purge, mid-season, as we recommend, may be quite strict. We are not afraid to add a small soup spoon of Carls bath salts or soda sulphate to two litres of water. For the next two days the following diet is strictly adhered to: 20gr. per day and per head of the following mixture: 25% toast, 25% barley, 25% wheat, 15% dari and 10% linseed, plus also some greens. You can also purge with full cream milk, as described previously.

Aren’t you afraid that the widowers at rest will gradually loose their appetite?

That shouldn't occur after the two diet days which we have just described and after the complete purification through the purge. The fancier must also work carefully. It is pointless to expect the widowers to have the same big appetite for the full fortnight. Too much food for such a length of time would be to the detriment of the good condition of the pigeons. The pigeons which are resting should be treated the same as those which have raced on the Saturday, e.g. the birds for the sprint races are not given anything to eat on Friday evening, and only light grain on Sunday morning. The same should be applied to those remaining in the loft, with the following basketing in mind.

For example: concerning Angoulème with basketing on Wednesday. the diet should be applied halfway between the arrivals of the previous race and the next date for basketing. So the pigeons are fed normally for the 5 - 6 last days that they remain in the loft.