Should you let the resting widowhood pigeons fly out while the others are in competition?
We would not advise against it, but it is not necessary either. It is true that when some of the widowers are in competition, it means that the entire racing team is in good shape. So it is no problem if the other pigeons miss a training toss or two. But remember that a widowhood pigeon has a better and a more consistent appetite for success if it has regular training flights.
What is the best way to welcome the widowers when they arrive home after a race?
We used to use the classic system, which is used by the majority of widowhood fanciers and which we have used for many years. But for different reasons we have now decided to add some variations to the classic system. The hens are now sitting in their half of the box, where they are free to eat and drink. Immediately after the widowers are clocked the nest box is opened from inside and the couple is happily together. The time they spend together depends on the difficulty of the race the widower has finished and the time until his next basketing.
Could you elaborate on that?
We think a sprint racer, which is usually not very tired but rather full of life after a race, should be together with his hen for a shorter period of time compared to an exhausted long distance racer after a very tiring race. Another reason is that a sprint pigeon is often basketed the next Friday or Saturday, whereas a long distance racer usually has about 14 days to recover. When the homecoming pigeons are too excited you need to try to avoid multiple couplings. If necessary, the fancier should not allow the pigeon to get to its hen immediately. The returning pigeon has some water and a small amount of grain available in his own box. The bird will be less excited if it has to wait for its feed until the hen is taken away. Sprint racers can stay with their hen for fifteen minutes up to an hour. If you want to keep them in a good shape for a longer period it is important to be strict about this, especially at the beginning of the season. For the middle distance racers that have to be basketed the next Friday the same method should be applied. The long distance racers can stay with the hen for as long as they want in the evening and without any supervision.
When and how should the widowers be fed after coming home?
This is how we do it: about an hour after their arrival we give them a thimble of small seeds in their designated part of the nest box and as soon as the pigeon starts to eat we take away its hen. On Sunday we lock up the pigeon until after its meal, in contrast to the other days of the week. Shortly after we take away the hens, the pigeons are given about ten grams of light feed in their box: corn, wheat, dari, barley and a little bit of linseed. After four hours we open the doors and we pour a little bit of barley on the floor of the loft. While they are eating this we put the nestbowls upside down.
Aren’t the widowers eating too much on Sundays?
No, and it is advisable not be too thrifty on Mondays either. They do not leave the loft on Mondays and we add about 20% of barley to their regular feed. We provide them with this mixture until they eat both the barley and the other seeds. The other days of the week we take away the barley. In warm weather the widowers will show a strong appetite until the day of basketing, provided you follow the guidelines for Sundays and Mondays. So you should not worry about that. For the other days of the week it is enough to keep the pigeons fit, although their digestive organs might be a bit weakened. We would like to remind you that not all the feed they eat is nutritious, only the feed that is digested.
You were talking about a new system. Why did you want to change things?
First of all because we like to experiment and because we like to share our experiences with others. Another reason is that last season we noticed that our widowers seemed to be a bit less fit, especially after four or five Sundays where the pigeons were very excited. So we tried to find a way to keep our widowers as motivated as at the beginning of the season.
What changes have you made?
We think it is important to consider the principle of incremental improvement, especially when talking about widowers. We have been very successful with pigeons in widowhood after adopting the system described below. We restarted the training flights without showing the hens before or after the training. They also left for their first race without seeing their hen. When they came home the hen was sitting in her compartment of the nest box. They could stay together for about ten minutes, after which the hen was taken away again. We used the same procedure for the second race. For the third race we showed the hen before the race for a few minutes. Only on the fourth race did we allow the pigeon to get to his hen and to pair. In the beginning of the season they did not perform very well, but by the end of the season we had some amazing results.
So you decided to skip the short training tosses shortly before basketing, which you used to be fond of?
That is correct; with the method described above we skipped these tosses before the pigeons are basketed. Besides, we used older pigeons most of the time, pigeons that were already familiar with the system of widowhood. We wanted to save them at the beginning of the year to put them to the test later in the season. Of course, we missed a number of first prizes at the beginning of the season, but we made up for it later that year. For old birds it is vital to avoid them getting bored with the same routines all the time. Before the season you could compare the old birds to a motorist who takes a ride with a new car: he will first let the engine warm up before he goes full throttle. As soon as the engine is warmed up and there is enough petrol the car will perform excellently. A widower will only be successful if the fancier is patient with it and finds the means to make it improve gradually but steadily.