The moult of the widowers

In a preceding article I was ahead of myself. I wrote that we had six widowers ready for the last two races, on the 2nd and 9th of August. We kept them home on the 19th and 26th of July to have them specially rested.

They were six yearlings that had dropped only 2 or 3 flights. In the meantime the moult progressed so much that I changed my plans. Between the 20th and the 27th of July some dropped the 3rd and 4th flight, others the 4th and 5th. Soon the bars will go. It happens with yearlings that at the end of July they change their whole coat at once. And the temperature did not stop that either. To be safe we mated them all up. Although we were strong contenders in many championships, 1959 was finished for them. And I am satisfied we made the right decision. Our little friends  needed the rest; they deserved it. For the first year we flew from our new lofts, the relocatcd widowers and yearlings did not disappoint us. To settle them quickly, we have had the old fliers together since the 15th of January. We even raised two nests of two youngsters each before we put them in widowhood on April 19th. With only one day off they flew 14 times from Noyon to Orleans, often in extremely bad weather. This was more than enough. The yearlings too had 8 to 10 races. The end of July was time to remate again, to préparé them for the moult. Never fly them till all their reserves are gone. That's a big mistake. There will be many more race seasons. We will need our birds again. The way they finish the year is an indication for the future. One must take this into account otherwise exhaustion will take its toll in the future moult. Fanciers who  preparé properly for the moult will not have this problem.
The moult is a natural occurance which, in normal circumstances, requires no special aid from the manager.

What do I mean by normal circumstances ?
First of all healthy pigeons, in a complete rest, neither flying, nor breeding. Generally speaking, healthy pigeons come easily through the moult. The big moult starts once the 5th flight has dropped. As soon as the pigeons are mated and on eggs, their bars start to fall and then they are not able to fly anymore. It is a fact that widowers who have bred before the season, moult earlier. Only a careless fancier baskets his pigeons once the moult starts. Sooner or later this carelessness will be paid for. The smallest set back will show up in the moult. Specially widowers who are flown till the second half of August and after that, have to raise a youngster. These pigeons are overworked and have not fully  recuperated when the big moult starts. This fall the pigeons need to be kept from excessive and untimely breeding, because this breeding does not give them enough time to rest. They would have to call on their reserves again, exhausting them before they are able to answer to normal demands of nature. Whoever carefully studies the moult of new flights, wings and tails will soon discover that feathers show signs of exhaustion experienced during the races. The problems which are «written» in the last four flights, set in after the season. Those few bad flights will not stop them from winning prizes, but they point out that a mistake was made. It is more critical when the moult is incomplete due to our own fault. We know that pigeons do not renew all their feathers every year. Yet a complete moult of flight and tail feathers is important if a pigeon is to race  next season with any chance of success. As far as unmoulted flights are concerned, every body knows that are exceptions to the general rule. But nobody will deny that they are a reason for uncertaimy about the bird's ability to repeat last years season. It is diffcult enough to be among the greats in normal circumstances. I have no objection to widowers raising a youngster if they are remated at the end of July. Around the 20th of September the youngsters are weaned, leaving plenty of time to moult. During the months of September and October the moult reaches its peak point. It is then that they grow a complete new «overcoat» ! soft, silky and glossy. Any fancier who at this time neglects the necessary care of his pigeons, will never go far in our sport. We should never forget that excellent health is needed for a really good moult. We should try our utmost to achieve and maintain that health. Give your birds a lot of freedom and avoid too much racing and breeding. Regular exercise is needed. Unfortunately you can't keep a pigeon away from the field during the moult.
In our loft we keep lime, grit, greens, crushed brick etc. etc. Nothing helps; after a few days they go back to the field. Instinct tells them that they can feed themselves with grain and seeds from the new harvest. The field is a rich source of things pigeons like and need at this time of year.  There is a problem associated with fielding. It is worse in the spring. Pigeons are often poisoned. Think only of the disaster at Oostakker, near  Ghent where 50 pigeons from different fanciers were found dead. As soon as you find a bird in your loft that drinks too often, sticks his feathers out and throws up his feed, you are in trouble. It may also be from the eaves.
We act fast, squeeze the crop empty and rinse it out with warm water and milk. Then we spurt milk into its crop and put it aside until it gets better. Light food is best, like wheat, milo and barley plus some toasted bread. Often the bird may be saved from an otherwise certain death.


In good weather an open loft is ideal. It's a pity for those who live in the city; dirty eaves and moss-covered roofs are bad. The dirty water may  cause diarrhea. The best prevention is to cover the eaves with screens. On the roofs they pick up small bits of gravel and this is especially bad when there is moss or dust on it. Whoever says that this does not matter, that they all get used to it, is talking sheer nonsense. Whole lofts have gone under due to that problem. It is better to shut them in. Everybody knows that green and watery droppings are proof that the birds have picked something up.that is harmful to their health. Where open loft is possible, the birds live then in nature, enjoy the beloved sunrays, have a lot of light excrcise and have an excellent moult.
We only open the windows during good weather and we never let them stay in the rain for long. He who neglects that will soon have to settle with diseases. Being champion may not last long. One must never forget that good health should be maintained all year. Thus we avoid all drafts in our loft, especially during the moult and during damp and cold weather. Besides, they moult quicker in a warm loft. The temperature in our  blessed country changes from hour to hour and when there is nobody around to close windows they should stay shut. The many openings in the roof, between the clay tiles and under the traps are open,this is enough ventilation. Our lofts are never over-populated. Once the races are over we cull severely. During the growth of the last two flights one should be careful in making any changes in the loft. The same goes for changes in the food. We wait until the end of the moult before changing to the winter mix. How should the regular moult mix be compounded ? During my  many visits to all parts of our country, I saw that even among the greatest champions there is no agrecment. The ratio between grain varie- ties and the percentages used differ too much to make a fast rule. In ours loft we stick to light food - 5  bcans, 5  English peas, 10  green peas, 5  lintels, 37.5  corn, 15  wheat, 12.5  barley, 5  milo and 5  sunflower seed. This mixture is valid for August, September and October. Provided they get greens and a bath twice a week, plus a pinch of linseed every morning the moult will run smooth and fast and we may expect the best for the next race season.