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Racing Methods

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Widowhood        Racing Hens       Young Birds

Right, assuming your birds are fit and healthy as explained in the management section, we can get down to the business of winning races. No matter what system of racing you use, you must remember that it is the motivation of the pigeon that will give it the encouragement to get home as quick as it can.
OK, what system do you use ?


NATURAL    Cock and hen paired together and raced in different nest conditions. I will not delve into this to much because, I do not practise it myself I think racing this method is not consistent enough and you are doing 2 jobs at once and I think its a hard task for your pigeons to breed and race at the same time (my opinion) but you can achieve some good wins like it. How?, well you have a cock and a hen they will obviously want to breed so you have periods of, laying of eggs, sitting, hatching and rearing of young. Here you have various conditions in which to find your pigeons motivation to get home.You will find that your pigeons race better during certain periods because the changing conditions will have a different affect on the motivation of the bird.
Up to the laying of the first egg you have a period of about 8\10 days, in which the first couple of days there is plenty of excitement between them, this could be a good racing condition for some, you will have to try this and make notes. But do not send the hen when she is about to lay or in between laying.

Driving :
  Lets presume the cock and hen are now an item, the cock will be keen to get his hen to nest, this period in the cycle is know as "driving to nest" the cock is very keen at this time and it can be an excellent opportunity to race him, try it and don't forget to make notes, good for some and not for others.

Sitting :   The pigeons should be in excellent condition while sitting, so its a good time to put in some training spins, 3 - 4 or if time is on your side maybe 5, 20 mile training spins a week will do the birds no harm, your eye will tell you if they have had enough (knackered), but if fit no problem.
The best period of sitting before hatching is around the10 day point but a few days either side of the magic 10 can also bring good results.

Hatching :   Once sitting from the second egg the normal hatching period is 17 days, 16 days the eggs are chipping (begin to hatch) Your birds will race very well to chipping eggs, they will not want to leave at this important time for them, a 1 day race at this time would be perfect. (do not send both birds)

Rearing :   This is a time when you have to be careful, the first few days is ok because the pigeons should be fit and healthy and racing to squabs in the nest is an ideal racing condition, but as the young get older  the adult birds start to pump the youngsters with corn, this can become a really stressful time for them and can knock them right back, so a careful eye must be cast over them to see if they are in a good enough condition to race, don't put them in the basket if they are not right you will only loose them.
If you are going to rear and race it would be better to rear only one youngster in the nest.

Tricks :  Try sliding extra eggs (dummies) under the sitting birds, makes them inquisitive. Before sending to a race take one of the birds away from the other a day before, the remaining sitting bird will think it has been left, the other will what to get back to its nest and mate.
Try putting a squab under a bird that is sitting just a couple of hours before you send it to race, don't forget to put it back where you got it when you have sent the race bird.
Slide a mirror in-between the nest bowl and wall of box the pigeon will see its like in the mirror and will think an intruder is waiting to muscle on in.
Most of all make plenty of notes and observations and find the best racing conditions for the individual pigeon, sometimes you will be amazed what motivates them !!!???   

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Widowhood   This in my opinion is the most consistent and fastest form of racing pigeons, Widowhood cocks when on form are very hard to beat and the best thing is you can keep them like it for weeks, get a good team of widowhood cocks on song and the members in your club will always be waiting to hear what time you have clocked in !
How's it done ? First of all you have to have the pigeons healthy and fit as explained in the
management  section and I always like to have the cocks away from the hens after breeding at least 4 weeks before the first race. Ok you have 4 weeks to get them ready for the first races which are normally sprint events, make sure they have had a nice rest after the rearing of young, keep them in the loft for 4-5 days and gradually get them onto a light diet 50% depurative 50% race mix, you don't need to feed heavy mixes for a while yet. This is all explained in the feeding section,after this period of rest you should notice the droppings in the birds box begin to get nice and tight, if this is so and they look good and you have not noticed any problems you can begin to get them out around the loft for exercise.
I have found this is a good time to put them on an "Open Hole" (let them go in & out as they please) for a few days, you don't have to be too strict with them just yet, they will be up and down, cooing around in their box and generally enjoying themselves so that little bit of freedom I find does them the world of good, and it will be the beginning of getting them super fit. But this can only be done if you have a small entrance hole which you can leave open and is out of the reach of predators "CATS".
Whether you do or you don't have them on an "open hole" for a few days, just start as follows.

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You now need to start a routine for yourself and the widow cocks, let them out AM: for 30 minutes and the same PM, or as long as they are flying but at this stage they will probably only fly for 10 minutes, they will just pop in and out of the loft and maybe have a quick spin around home, that's fine you can't expect them to fly for hours non stop just yet. Don't be disappointed because you have been told they should fly for an hour morning and night and yours don't, believe me they will not do it yet.
Keep them to this routine for a week (take into account if you have them on open hole for a few days) but make sure the time of day you let them out is around the same time each day, you want them to be consistent then so must you. The feed system at these times is explained in the
feeding section.

You are now ready for week 2, the birds should be fairly active by now so you can increase the period they are out of the loft to 1 hour each time, but due to the way they are fed on the widowhood system they may or may not fly for a longer period at the begging of the week, your aim is to have them buzzing towards race day. Even so, now they are firmly on the widow system they should burst out of the loft when let out and take to the skies with zest! They will begin to clear from the loft and leave you wondering where they have gone, then back they come spread across the sky clapping and gliding around.
By the end of this 2nd week you and your birds should be in the right shape of mind to ready yourselves for the tasks ahead.

Week 3 and you can start to get them really into race fitness, If the weather is fine and the wind is not a cold easterly you can start to give them some training flights, Do not train your birds if the weather is not on the good side you only need a couple of bad training spins and it will knock your birds back, get some nice easy ones in and it will help with the confidence.

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How far do you take them?
Well there is many varied opinions on this, some take the birds 30-40 miles even 50 miles, certainly they will become very fit but personally I don't think they need such distances, I think the object is to just freshen them up so that they know the racing season is upon them and once they leave the basket their rewards are at home. A 15-20 mile training point is ideal, you should be able to get them fit by just having them right when flying around home. I very rarely train my widow cocks after the first race because unless they are not performing they don't need it, Keep them fit around home and give them the motivation to race home, simple!

Should the birds be paired and sitting while training the cocks?
You will read many articles that say to repair the birds and give the cocks some training spins when sitting so they can fly back to their hen and when the eggs are ten days old remove the hens and let the cocks sit out the eggs this will also help hold the casting of flights for a longer period. This maybe true, but there is no need to do it. Why make extra work for yourself.
Keep your cocks away from the hens and they will hit form almost straight away, they will hold their flight feathers just as well as the other way and you will get all the racing you want to out of them. Many times I have started the season winning the first 4 club races,  have been up the top in the federation and have a good result in the early open races, Even won the first 6 club races using this method.

Do you show the hens on these training spins?
Again I don't bother, Remember these training flights are just a reminder for the birds, to get them thinking again, of course the yearlings do not know the system but when they start racing I can assure you they will learn very quickly, They will not trap into the loft very well for the first couple of races, because they will be unsure and nervous so have a little patience but by the third race you can be clocking them to win!    The old birds already know the system so you might already be winning with them.
What I would suggest is to put a couple of peanuts in all of the boxes for their return from the training flights this gives them a little reward without having to spoil them with the hens. 

Almost ready!!
We are up to 4th week now, the pigeons should be fit  and starting to get you a little excited when you watch them fly, Hopefully you would have got 3-4 spins in last week, there is little else to do this week apart from maybe 2-3 spins up to Thursday, the rest you already would have been doing, don't worry the feeding etc is explained elsewhere.

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Its Friday!!  Here we go then, 4 weeks of effort to get them ready now all you want to do is thrash your club mates. About 1\2 hour before you are ready to couple the birds go into the loft, let the cocks have their nest bowls, shut the loft and leave them alone until you go back to show the hens.
When you go back into the loft you will find most of the cocks in their nest bowls calling for their hens, you will find it much easier to shut the cocks in one half of the nest box now, so that when you let in the hens they will go to the box you had them paired in, this stops the cocks and hens jumping in and out of the boxes and flapping about all around you, just lift up the nest box door and let in the waiting hen and then lock back the door so that the nest box is all available.
This is why I tell you to not do too many at once because you need to be in control and this is quite a lively time. Keep a close eye on the couples try not to let the cock tread the hen, that is his main reward for arriving home, Do not leave them in together for to long you don't want to take the edge off them, 2-3 minutes will be enough.
Remove the cocks and leave the hens locked in the box with a water cup, feed a small feed to the hens about 1 hour before the cocks are due to arrive home, this will take away their hunger and they will pay all their attentions to the cocks when they return. Only lock the hens in for day races, if there is a holdover remove them and put them back to their own section, feed and water them there and return about 1 hour before the cocks are due to arrive, this also applies on 2-3 day channel races.

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Summary: Now you are on the widow system, keep constant times when you go to the loft, make sure the birds are exercising well towards the end of the week, if your not happy give them a couple of 12 mile training flights but don't show the hens for these. If your birds encounter a difficult race and had a very hard fly don't kill there spirit and send them straight back the following weekend, watch them around the loft in the week, they will tell you if they are fit to go again. Treat them as you would want to be, look after them and they will look after you, Follow as I have said above and you should have no problems.

Tips & Tricks

No Secret weapons I'm afraid, Good management, Good pigeons that are fit & healthy and the magic word "Motivation". When the birds are right that little extra they need is motivation and as I have said before there are many ways to apply it.
To accompany the widow cocks  you must have hens that know their job, it is no good having hens that  pair to each other during the week they are separated, they will show no interest in the cock when shown on the night of basketing, this in turn will spoil the cock and he may not perform to his maximum ability.
A good way to wind up the cock is jealousy, shut his hen in one half of the box with the nest bowl then introduce another cock to his hen, he will not like this one bit and do his utmost to get in with her, show him to the intruder and his hen then put him in the basket, you will get a good race out of him but don't do this to often, swap the method around with the other cocks.
They do not always have to be together on the night of basketing, try keeping the cock locked in one side with his bowl, and let the hen just nod to him on the other, when he is at his most frustrated point put him in the basket and send him, you can also do this with the cock and hen the other way round.
Having then together for a couple of minutes is most practiced, the cock and hen can frolic and caress each other, the cock is back bonded to his hen and will want to get back to her as soon as possible . 
Also it is not always necessary to show the hens, just let the cocks have the nest bowl, then send them to race, if you have practiced this a few times the cock will know his hen will be waiting for him on his return.
But generally I think its better to show the hen in some manner.
You will read other methods or see them on videos etc, all I can say is to try them until you find the best motivation at right at the time, the only way to stay one step ahead is to not get left behind so don't be afraid to try the unusual.

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Racing Hens To be honest I have only practiced this for the last 2 seasons and I myself still have things to learn, but when you get the knowledge behind you from looking after and racing the cocks you will be able to create yourself a system. You can achieve some good performances racing hens, but you must keep them totally focused on the cock to get the best out of them.
You need to keep the hens flying for longer periods than the cocks and only feed them once a day until the last 2 days before the race, this procedure I find helps stops the hens pairing together and helps greatly in the non laying of eggs, which we do not want either to happen. When the hens are not flying they are kept in a large cage inside the loft, which I show you in
Loft Design.
Racing the hens can bring great rewards, when they are on form they will race as good as the cocks, if you fly only the cocks it will hard to convince you so you will just have to try it.
The only awkward part is, if you send cocks and hens on race day it can be hard work when the cocks and hens arrive home, if you were going to send both cocks and hens I think it would be better to leave this until the big races like the national events, it would not matter then how awkward it would be if either cock or hen arrived to win!
The system to race hens is as follows: Once you have let out the young birds and cocks out for their morning fly, its time to give the hens their liberty, if everything is well you will probably get them flying for 2 hours, much longer than the cocks would do, once this initial fly is over just let them go up and down as they please, put a bath out for them, once they have dried from the bathing they will go for another fly.

If you are fortunate enough to be at home during the day, you can take the hens for a 15-20 mile training spin Monday to Friday. So the object is to get them to fly as much as possible without overdoing things, this will also help with the non laying of eggs and stopping the hens from pairing, they will lay eggs that's what they are supposed to do but we don't want it to be too frequent so don't worry if they do lay from time to time. I don't let the hens back into the loft until about 4pm, this after being out since 9am. It is difficult to manage the hens this way if your not home or you can't pop home during the day,     
you must also make sure you do not have a problem with predators or cats, if you have this system will not work.
I find it easier to have a stall trap on the front of the loft for the hens so my wife can just drop it down when ready to let them in, I then take over about 5:30pm when I arrive home, then I will get them into the special cages ready to feed them around about 7pm this later feed will settle them and they will go to perch for the evening.
The night of basketing you just follow the system for the cocks, then decide whether you are sending both cock and hen or maybe just the hens or a proportion of each. When they arrive home on race day they will fly straight into the cocks section to their nest box.
I believe the secret to racing the hens successfully is to Keep them flying, do not feed them to heavier mixtures, and keep them from pairing this is a must!

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Young Bird Racing  First of all you need to decide what you want to achieve with your young birds whether or not you want to race them hard or try to retain a good team for future racing. There are various ways you can race your young birds, I will tell you about these shortly but first and most important is the training before any racing starts. You will find it very beneficial to learn your young birds how to look after themselves once they are in the race pannier, what you need to do before they are to strong on the wing is to put them in the basket as many times as possible, while they are in the basket you can learn them to feed and drink this is very important, many young birds are lost because of dehydration during the race so train them to drink from the pannier before the race and you will drastically reduce this problem. Now before you send the young birds on any training flights make sure they are flying around home well and starting to wander, this is the time to start your training, take your time here don't let them go 20 miles straight away educate them well, the more training you give them the better they will be. When you start to take the young birds out for training spins make sure the weather is fine, preferably clear and sunny, try to avoid fresh east winds. For the first 5-6 training spins take them 5-7 mile away this will install confidence into the young birds. Next stage around the 12 mile mark will suffice, give them another 5-6 spins from here, once this stage is completed you will find they are quite confident now and once out they will circle and then head for home. Now they have had 12 spins you can move them up to the 20 mile point again 5-6 spins from here, follow these same methods for 25 and then 30 mile so by the time you have finished at 30 mile they should of had 30 spins, don't let this put you off believe me they and you will benefit from it when racing. Once they have had this its time to get them to think a little harder, take them 10 mile east and west from the 30 mile point you have just finished at but make sure these new points are no more than 20 mile from the loft, at each new point give them 3 training spins, you will find that this will mess some of them up completely but it will educate them to try and keep their line of flight.
36 training  flights and still not finished, back to the thirty mile point give them 2 reminders from here then you can jump them up to 40 mile 3-4 from here, then 50 mile 3-4 from here. After the above program you should have a very competitive team of young birds, this all boils down to hard work on your part but do you want the success bad enough to do it!
When following this regime make sure you do not keep the young birds too light on the corn, they will need that little bit extra to retain the muscle and fat.
Also some young birds will find this hard and some will make mistakes and be on the wing for hours, use your judgment so if some look a little flown out, hold them back and give them a rest but don't skip the above program keep them to it. Once racing keep them going, 2-3 times a week give a short spin from 15 mile, again if had a hard race use your judgment.

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Natural?? Darkness?? Light?? Widowhood??

What do I race I here you say, The darkness and light systems have a definite advantage on the pigeon as regard to the molting condition of the bird, I myself do not practice either fully but will explain to you the basic working of the systems.

To adapt to this system you must have a loft that you can darken down and you need to get them on it by early march at the latest. Once weaned give them a few  days to make sure they are feeding and drinking ok , you will only do damage to them if you just darken them down and they haven't fed or watered themselves so be careful here.
When you darken the loft you must block off any light into it during the given time period, so use shutters or dark colored curtains etc to do the job but do not block off any ventilation this is very important it will cause problems to the birds and they will not race very well. 
You need to darken the loft from 5pm to 8:30am you can swing it a little bit if this doesn't fit in with your working hours after the darkening period the birds have normal daylight, you follow this up to around June 12th then you can stop darkening and leave the birds to the light and dark hours of mother nature. By darkening the loft it will bring the birds into a body molt but they will retain their flight feathers so when the racing season starts they will be in perfect condition and it will carry them through till racing finishes, thus having the advantage over young birds that would be heavy in molt towards the second half of the young bird race program.
When the young birds have finished racing and start to idle about the loft you will find they will begin a natural molt and by Christmas time should have molted ready for next season.

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Light  This system involves extending the light hours of the pigeon, to do this you will need to install lights into the young bird loft. With this system the young birds will have a complete body and wing molt, the lights are left on for at least 22 hours out of 24 and you must do this until the end of June after which you can return to the normal light\dark hours of mother nature.
It is better to put very early bred youngsters on this system because you want to try and get the wing molt through as early as possible. Again the advantage of this system is the perfect condition of the wing and body feathers.
Sorry to be brief on this but still gaining knowledge so like wise watch video's & read up on the subject or even check it out on the net!
More information will appear here later.

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Widowhood  Yes with young birds! The best way to practice this with the young cocks is to have a perfectly designed young bird loft, which has a section specially for the young cocks. Wean your young birds as normal into the young bird loft and get them out flying, when they have had a few training spins it is time to select your candidates. In one of the young bird sections construct twelve nest boxes these don't have to be large but you need to be able to shut the hen in so if you are a bit of a handy man a design by yourself should be no problem? In this section you will put 10 young cocks, I normally use my eye as a judgment as to what goes in here. Look for the young cocks that are dominant, the ones that will defend their perch at all cost or guards a little corner keeping intruders away, watch them fly, the young cocks that take off on their own for a quick spin and are back chasing the hens these are all good signs that will help when selecting your 10 young widowers. Once you have made your selections shut them in the new section for a week so they can settle down and choose a nest box. When you are ready to let them out just keep them a little hungry, it just makes it a little easier to get them back in.
When these cocks go out for a fly they must be out on their own and not with the rest of the young birds otherwise you will stop the system, treat them as you would with the older widow cocks.
Now you should have quite a bit of time on your hands to learn these cocks what is expected of them, you now need to select their mates, here you can do two things, use the older hens that you had paired to your widow cocks or some of the young hens you have in your young bird team. If you want to get your system really buzzing use the young hens which in turn will also race out of their skin to get back to their cock, this way you will have 20 very keen young birds entered in a race.
Pick out ten hens that are always showing up to the other cocks and show a keenness to pair, when you have done this put them in with the 10 young cocks, leave them to find their own partners (may take a couple of days) then take a note of the pairs and remove the hens. The hens need to be kept apart from the other young cocks so the best way to achieve this is by having 3 sections in your young bird loft, so you can have... young cocks...young hens...widow cocks  but more on this in a minute.
Keep the selected hens away from the young widow cocks for a couple of days, then after the hens have had their normal flying period, get them in and  let out your 10 widow cocks, if you can get the system working really well you can let out all the cocks( the other separated cocks) but you might have difficulty getting the same ten back in the widow section but try it and if they do it will be much easier for you, give your hens the morning feed as normal then put the 10 widow hens in the cocks nest box while they are out flying, when you get the cocks back in their hen will be waiting for them, leave for 30 minutes and remove the hen, feed the cocks as normal, do this every other day for 10 days after which do the same method but  take the cocks for a training spin instead so they arrive back to find their hen waiting for them. It will do no harm to reverse the system some days and do exactly the same but with the hens instead.
About 10 days before the first race keep them completely separated then on the day of basketing (Friday) feed them am and after about 1 hour let the hens in with the cocks until you basket them, some weeks you can leave them apart until about 1 hour before you basket them but I would not recommend you do this all the time. There you have it a widowhood system for young birds that works!

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Semi widowhood  I mentioned the 3 sections, well all you do is treat your birds basically the same as the widowhood young birds, but you do not use the nest boxes, you have two sections, one for the young hens and one for the young cocks. Keep them separated all week until Friday am, feed them in their own sections, then 1 hour later open up both sections and let them run together until you basket them.
Put up some shelters by just wedging a piece of board against the wall and pop a nest bowl behind them, this will encourage the birds and will help with the motivation.

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Natural Now if you have the luxury of having a four section young bird loft you can practice all the above and still have a section for a small team which will be paired up and sitting eggs and maybe have the odd young squab in the nest but personally I think you are just as well to let them sit eggs only. But if you only have three sections keep then hens and cocks separated for the first 4 races and then put what will be paired in to one section but keep the young widow cocks and hens on the same system, if you have some spare cocks or some spare hens put them in the natural section and they will find their own mates, maybe half of them will not pair anyway, it doesn't matter, put plenty of straw in the section and nest bowls etc and let them get on with it, give them regular exercise but not with your widow youngsters.
Beware of sending the hens if they are about to lay you must check them before you basket them, if they are close to laying they will seek the attention of the nest bowl for most of the day and you can examine the birds vent (egg exit) if they are close to laying the vent will be expanded if this is the case do not send them.

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Summary: I think the first step to successful young bird racing is to make sure you have no health problems with them, any that are constantly hunched up and don't want to fly etc they will be of no good to you so eliminate them from the team. Once you have a healthy team of youngsters that are flying well give them as much training as possible with out causing them to much stress.
You will lose some training and racing but after a tough training program it should limit your losses during racing.
I know the above methods can be time consuming, it would be useful to have some one to assist you, but all you have to do is be dedicated and apply the methods with the time you have available, only hard work from yourself will help to achieve your goal, there are no short cuts so stick to it and the rewards will be yours.

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