Loft Design

So, after a 19 year break, the decision was taken to restart in pigeons. A L shaped stable block was converted into a pigeon loft. The building is stone built with a wing facing East and another facing North, the roof was slate with glass inserts rather than the traditional pan tile for a pigeon loft and Paul put a lot of thought and effort into turning it into what he believed would be a good loft. A new Southerly facing wing for Young Bird racing has been built for the 2009 season from the same materials and to the same design as the original structure and again is proving to be correctly designed as 1st, 2nd & 3rd Federation was won in the first young bird race to the new sections.

The original stable floor was tiled in the corridor and a new floor laid within the rest of the loft and covered with ply. The walls are plastered and painted over, dowelled walls were then added to a give corridor running the full length and partition walls added to create a number of subsections. These partitions vary between sliding dowelled and folding solid plywood with V perches attached. Hardwood floor grills and automatic cleaned nestboxes from Bernard Hermes in Germany complete the internal fittings. The boxes are cleaned at the push of a button regularly and the floor grills are lifted and the droppings & waste removed every two weeks.

Each section has its own independently filtered water supply and timed lighting (this is necessary as facing the wrong direction, without light it is almost dark within the loft at midday). The lights are on from 08:00 am to 18:00 pm.

Trapping is via open doors and the internal dowelled corridor entrances have a waist height landing board that houses the antennae’s for the Unikon ETS installed.

Heating is also available to control temperature and humidity, as obviously stone walls a foot thick do not allow the outside conditions to affect temperature as much in a traditional wooden loft, this prevents vast fluctuations in temperature but also has a negative effect as the loft is always cool. The temperature is set at 20 Degrees C and the Humidity is maintained at 50%.

Methods & Motivation

The race team are raced on total widowhood, but with a twist as various forms of “emotional terrorism” are used to get the pigeons to perform. These include pairing pigeons for specific races or pairing a cock to a different hen, territorial instinct e.g. additional boxes for certain pigeons and denying hens access to their breeding section.

The 2009 team consisted of 45 hens and 30 cocks, with some of the cocks being paired to two hens (one after the other). The first old birds are paired in January and all have the opportunity to rear (although some are foster parents to youngsters from the stock team). The very best hens have small sections that are behind the folding plywood doors and they are denied access to these during the week, having to perch on V Perches on the walls of the main Hens racing sections.

Another example of identifying and taking advantage of what makes individual pigeons tick is Bob's Choice, he is a timid pigeon when on Total Widowhood and blends into the background, however once he was paired to the Bourges hen in 2008 to prepare her for that race he suddenly blossomed and became dominant around the loft, following the return of the Bourges hen he was picked out to go to Clermont National and he returned to take 1st WDA, also beating the winner of the Durham Combine convoy that were transported and liberated with the WDA.

The Gypsy had taken an extra box and the cock from that box was removed from the team, however he was allowed to return to the section prior to marking when needed, the Gypsy then had additional territory to defend against this intruder and responded with big performances. The intention is that unless injured or selected for a specific race the pigeons will go to every race in the programme.

Prior to the 2009 season, after the last old bird race the youngsters would be moved into the widowhood lofts, Young Cocks would move to the Old Hens section and Young Hens in the Old Cocks section, the pigeons are allowed to settle in, pair up and rear are raced naturally until two weeks prior to the Young Bird National but are not allowed to rear. A couple of days prior to marking for the National the old birds are introduced to pair to the youngsters.

Training & Exercise

Both the old bird and young bird teams are allowed to get loft fit prior to the start of their racing seasons. The old birds are trained before the first race and then following that are not loft flown again, they are trained morning and afternoon. The pigeons are released at Scotch Corner which is on average a 35 minute flight. For any pigeons that do not go to that weekends race there is a gentle 90 miles run out from Barnsley on a Sunday, if selected for a specific race then these entries will be singled up.

The Youngsters are given two weeks solid road work, being taken morning and afternoon. After the first race the Youngsters again are trained twice a day from Scotch Corner (a 35 minute fly) Monday to Thursday. Obviously with Old and Young Birds when the training commences will depend upon the distance and conditions of the previous weekends race. The pigeons are allowed to bath on a Friday in the corridor and the heating is turned on to allow them to chill out pre-competition.