Breeding Better Pigeons (part 2)

In my first article I covered the importance of only selecting future breeders from a performance based family. In addition a good selection process will save you years of time and money.

Artical 2  The added selection process can save you time and money

After studying and analyzing all the tools and traits that I have heard or read about, only the traits that are true each and every time were used to form my grading system.

The Bieche 6 Common Denominator Grading System of selecting breeders covers more detail than most because it shows both strengths and weaknesses of each bird. In fact when a bird is graded you have a complete report card on every bird. By knowing the strength or weaknesses of a pigeon then and only then can you place the correct two birds together to come up with a better product. In all parts of the world there is a greater percent of excellent flyers than there are great breeders. When it comes to breeding very few pigeon fanciers can claim to have elevated a family. A good example of this would be in my own area, home of the Vernazza Janssens and the Galaxy Devriendts. In both cases the pigeons of today are not the same quality of the past. The art of placing the proper birds together is the key factor in either maintaining a family or better yet elevating a family. 

Listed are My 6 Common Denominators:

           No.1 Eye total
           No.2 Throat
           No.3 Character
           No.4 Balance and Buoyancy
           No.5 Skeleton
           No.6 Feather

Using my Common Denominator grading system  I find very few perfect pigeons. If you think you have a loft full of perfect pigeons then there is no way to go except down. Matching strengths with weakness is the key to a better product. For Example; A good eye mated to a good eye normally gets you more of the same which is no improvment. Should you have a hen with an excellent eye, good throat and good character, who carries the excellent eye genes. Place her with a cock that is strong in all the other traits but needs a little better eye.  Several youngsters from this pair will show an over all improvement. In grading pigeons if the first 3 traits do not have at least good, very good or excellent then there is no need to go any further. This pigeon may have the body to get the job done but if he does not have the drive or the proper tools this pigeon will not turn out to be your next foundation cock or hen. To show my grading and selection of breeder’s works I will point out several examples in article to follow. Because of this process our breeders of today are better than the original imports.

 No.1 The eye in total
In many cases, there is too much importance placed on the eye. On the other hand, leaving the eye out in selecting breeders would also be a mistake. Only traits in the eye that hold true each and every time are used. The eye should be placed high in the head. If you extend an imaginary line from the slit between the upper and lower beak back to the eye. It should be placed at least in the middle of the line or better yet above the line. Good eyes come in all colors but most have a lot of contrast or granulation in the iris.  Stay away from large pupils. A good circle of correlation around the pupil is very important. If the circle of correlation becomes too thin in the make up of the family then the family as a whole is on its way down.  Eye movement or quick dilation is an added plus.  I am not into speed, distance lines or even clusters. For every bird with speed lines I can show you another that is a top short distance racer that has no speed lines and so on. 

  No.2 The Throat is my favorite Even at an early age you can tell if this bird will be a top breeder. Not 90% but 100% of the top breeders in the world that I have handled all have great throats. I look for several things while I have the beak open: Starting with health.  No dark redness in color or signs of canker. The opening in the back of the larynx or tongue should be in the shape of an oval, not completely open or round. This opening is used for extra oxygen when needed. If it is wide open already then you have no extra oxygen supply if needed. A hen that is in labor will have an enlarged opening but remember she is in labor and has the extra added stress at this time. At the back of the throat you can see two sheets hanging down that come together from the top of the throat called curtains. The best breeders have a very thin line between the curtains, no wider than a human hair. The birds that have a wide space or curved line between the curtains need a lot of help when it comes to being a great breeder. Behind the Curtains there is a vein that carries the oxygen to the brain. In the good breeders you can see this vein very easily. In the best breeders this vein rather than going straight up will be curved or better yet twisted then extends upward. This shaped vein will carry more oxygen to the brain than the others.

  No.3 Character
The true will or fight of the pigeon. Many fanciers believed that pulling or tugging the beak as seen by Pet de Weerd was the only way he judged character. This was not true. There are 3 good ways of checking for character that I use. The first one and best one is what the Germans call a ringer. Pigeons that when picked up will fight to be free.  Then comes the tugging of the beak. A pigeon that does not want their beak held also has character. After these two tests if you still find no response than I will place my finger under the wing of the pigeon to give it some support. If the bird’s wing when extended vibrates this is also good vitality or character sign. You do not need positive results in all three tests. If none of the 3 tests are positive then the bird is plain lazy. Lazy birds will not win races and will pass this trait on to their offspring.

  No.4 Balance and Buoyancy  
For a pigeon to travel an extended distance he must be balanced. Checking the balance of a pigeon comes with practice. A pigeon placed in your hand should just lay there, not front or rear heavy. It is an added plus if the birds are also buoyant. Buoyant pigeons are very light in the hand. Light as cork the saying goes. Some pigeons seem to be buoyant all the time while others get more buoyant as they get into form.

 No.5 Skeleton  
The Skeleton of a pigeon is compared to the foundation of a house. Without a good foundation the house or the pigeon in this case can be worthless. The breast bone should not be very thin. The 2 back vent bones or cartilage holding in the cut of the pigeon should not be thin and very flexible. If you can move the vent bones back and forth too easily this is a bad trait. Never mate two birds that have this bad trait together. While applying a little pressure on the rump of a pigeon no sound should be heard. If a pigeon is weak in this area he will make a grunting sound. In this case the body structure is not perfect.   Regarding the wing:   I also like to see a medium or short forearm. I like to compare the wing structure of a pigeon to the oar of a row boat having 3 main parts. First the handle section) then the pivot point and last the extremity. The handle or the forearm in the case of the pigeon should be short. This gives greater movement to the extremity. Moving the pivot point out creates a longer forearm giving you less leverage at the other end.

I am not a wing man but I do like to see the last 3 flight feathers well ventilated. Not too sharp like a steak knife and not to wide like a butter knife.  

 No.6 Feather Quality 
  All top families of pigeons have great feather quality. The feather covering being excellent and the texture of the feathers very soft and smooth. The smoother the feather the less drag you have. Extra drag over several hundred miles can and will wear a pigeon down. Knowing the difference between a very good feather quality and just the average pigeon comes with practice. By placing other fancier’s race birds into the basket, in a short period of time, you will be able to tell the difference between good or bad feather quality. Loft sanitation, feed mixtures including quality of grain can all add or decrease the feather quality as well. To much direct sun will also fade and diminish feather quality.