The materials used, the location and the layout of your loft are important things to consider. Secondly, the fancier has to take the necessary precautions to keep his loft dry and to avoid dampness.
The lofts of Cattrysse-Beuselinck in Moere that were built above the corn loft of their warehouse faced north east. This is the direction from which rain is usually not coming. Their lofts are fairly old already and not very modern looking but they are cleaned every day. However, they are not too strict about that. The wooden floor and even the nest boxes are covered with lime. Sometimes you could find lumps of chalk nearly the size of a fist. Their lofts have always been dry as a bone.
We noticed the use of straw for the first time in the loft of Jules Vandaele in Kortemark. He uses a thick layer of straw in all lofts: the breeding loft, the racing loft, as well as the young bird loft. However, he also applied a thick layer of chalk on the wooden floor, then a layer of old jute sacks and then the straw. The entrance of his lofts face south east and the lofts are always completely dry.
At the moment quite a lot of fanciers use straw. Even the late Robert Thange used a layer of straw on the concrete floor of his spacious aviary where the hens were housed.
Others use white sand or wood shavings; the use of peat has mainly fallen into disuse because of the dust. An increasing number of fanciers take an interest in air fresheners. Some lofts seem to be very comfortable but there is no room for fresh air supply. In that case pigeons will not get in good shape. Many garden sheds do not create the perfect environment for your pigeons..
Many garden sheds are equipped with a roof made from sliding panels that you can slide open or closed. Near the wooden floor of each loft there is an opening of 15 by 15 cm that allows for fresh air to come in. The roof is equipped with air extractors to remove air from the loft. A fancier who does not care about good ventilation and who keeps his pigeons in a sealed off room will never have fully healthy pigeons. As a result they will probably not perform very well either. When it comes to cleaning the loft we noticed that there are advocates and opponents as well.
Jan Groudelaers from Opglabbeek, Belgian Champion in 1958-1960 and 1962 and second in 1959 and 1961 had a loft in Genk, where the pigeons were taken care of by Mr. Staesen, a retired mineworker. He is generally regarded as someone with a great knowledge of pigeons and someone who takes great care of his pigeons. Even though many fanciers agree about his skills as a pigeon fancier he would never clean his loft more than once in a year. Dung simply falls on the floor and is not removed. Staesen had plenty of time to clean his loft but he did not do it. He never changed his mind about it.
Albert Boterdael from Ganshoren, a fancier in Noyau, also cleans his loft only once a year. After annual cleaning he applies a layer of carbolineum on the floor (a concentration of 1 litre per 10 litre of water plus 100 grams of formalin!). It was nearly impossible to make him change his mind. He insisted that his way of keeping the loft dry was decent and that his pigeons were not affected by his approach. In any case his results proved that his pigeons were just fine.
Nowadays you will hardly find any fancier who does not clean his lofts regularly. A fancier who has time for it will do it on a daily basis. On the other hand, a fancier who has a daytime job and who can only spend a few hours a week in his loft will still try to clean the loft as often as possible. We would not recommend the method of having the dung pile up in the loft, sometimes up to 20cm, no matter how dry the loft is. For one thing it has a bad smell; we find it hard to believe that it does not smell bad at all, as some fanciers say!
If you want to keep your loft dry we advise you to do some basic cleaning every day and some thorough cleaning once a week. After cleaning the floor and the shelves, you should apply some lime or ground chalk. The main idea is to avoid humidity in the loft at any cost. For instance you should never keep the doors open if rain can leak in or when there is a thick mist.
We advise against concrete floors because they are subject to temperature fluctuation. Do not hesitate to add a thick layer of lime of at least 5 cm. On top of that you can install lathing and a wooden floor. Do not use Eternit for the floor or the boxes for the same reason as concrete. This material does not help against humidity either. Unalit would be a better option because this actually absorbs humidity.
An attentive fancier will never lose sight of his loft. It would be useless to introduce good pigeons with great origins to win prizes if you cannot manage to keep your loft dry.
For a few years many fanciers have been using grills in their lofts, either wooden, iron or galvanised. As any approach it has its merits and its downsides. We think cleaning the loft regularly is still the better option.