The varieties of this method are now widely known but it is difficult to estimate the scope: fanciers have different meanings about the effectiveness and the use of each of these varieties. Just to give you one example: according to some fanciers the pigeon should have eggs in the nest bowl after it has bred youngsters; others would only let their pigeons sit. We are not trying to find out what is the best approach, because both methods have had and will have, good and bad results. This proves again that every loft needs a different approach, depending on the location and the pigeons themselves. We would like to prove our point that pigeon racing has not seen any significant innovations since widowhood. We assume that not everybody will agree with us. Indeed, having your pigeons breed earlier than usual (the so called winter breed) is indeed something that occurred after the system of widowhood. Some fanciers believe that winter breeding is something that is only related to the young birds’ game. This is definitely not the case. It is difficult to estimate the number of pigeons that breed pigeons in winter, although the number of fanciers that pick up their rings in January could give us as good idea. So we do not have an exact figure but when we look around us we notice that an increasing number of pigeon fanciers have been breeding in winter and that number increases every year.
Is it sensible to breed in winter?
We think there are two answers to that question, simply because this question is incomplete. Keep in mind that not all fanciers have the same goal. Some fanciers start breeding in December or even earlier in the season (when other fanciers have not even separated their birds yet); others want to have a round of youngsters that are ringed around New Year or shortly after. Some fanciers have other motives: not only does the winter breed provide you with young birds that are ready for the racing season; their parents will also be fitter compared to birds that have bred youngsters in February or even in March.
We assume that for most fanciers, the main goal of winter breeding is to have good youngsters for the season. The fact that the breeding pigeons are also fitter for the season is usually not the main motivation; this is often an interesting side effect, especially for fanciers who race their old birds. This reminds me of an old proverb: “the man who chases two rabbits catches none.” This means you should focus on one thing. Don’t try to chase more than one rabbit at a time. In fact this proverb does not really apply to winter breeding, where the fancier actually achieves two goals (if everything goes well). In other words: he does manage to catch two rabbits at a time. We suppose that the first winter breeders wanted to have good youngsters for the season and they noticed that their old birds were actually in a good shape by the beginning of the season as well. It seems that these early adopters have proved that winter breeding has great advantages. Most of these early adopters are of course big names and big champions in our sport – we won’t mention them – and they have had great results in recent times with winter breeding, which cannot be neglected. That does not mean winter breeding is always a good thing: keep in mind that every fancier works in different circumstances. The successful fanciers we just mentioned are of course craftsmen who are very proficient in breeding and keeping pigeons. Their achievements demonstrate that winter breeding can lead to success. On the other hand we think that not just any fancier can reap the benefits of this breeding method; not every fancier is a potentially successful winter breeder. We should assume that it takes proficiency and experience and you need the necessary accommodation as well to have a good winter breed. Remember that there is always a chance of failure. This reminds me of widowhood, which is not always a success story either.
A widower that breeds early will not be weaker than before, rather the opposite
Initially widowhood was a failure for many fanciers, many of which would eventually place the sexes together again. This is still being done but to a lesser extent and it is often related to pigeons not being fit enough. Nowadays many more fanciers have mastered the widowhood system, compared to when this method was only just being used. The first attempts were not very successful and some of the fanciers who were the first to try out this method believed it was too difficult. More recent attempts have proved otherwise of course. Will the same happen with winter breeding? That is a good question and we think the answer will come eventually. Some would make fun of fanciers who warn others about the fact that winter breeding is not a natural process. We think winter breeding is not a bad thing; it has yielded good results in many lofts, sometimes against all odds. If a fancier is convinced that he can have a successful early breed as well, who are we to stop him? It is sometimes better to try and fail, although we have seen quite a few fanciers fail. Luck plays a role as well and it is reasonable to believe that not all fanciers will be able to reap the benefits, no matter how this method develops over the years. We think that a successful fancier who gained a reputation is likely to be a good early breeder as well. We would not advise this method to just anyone but that does not mean you cannot give it a try. Just remember that luck plays a part. You should not underestimate the difficulties of an early breed; difficulties which we believe not every fancier can cope with. Remember that winters can be very harsh and cold. There is always a chance that the temperature can fall to minus 10 or 15 in early December. If you have a loft with a poor heating system your newborns will have a very hard time in such temperatures. Your breeding pigeons would probably survive but, even with a perfect moult, there is a chance that they lose their form. The result is that they will not be fit for the upcoming racing season.