By Alex Bieche
There can be several different styles or twists to flying widowhood. I will cover the three forms of widowhood that have worked very well for me or other flyers. In all three cases we never road train the cocks once the races start.
A friend of mine, Marc Massaro, several years back knew I did not like to train old birds once the races started and in his case he was sold on training, training and more training. In conversation, he stated that there was no way I could compete without training old birds at least 2 to 3 times a week. After winning five straight races in a row that year he said, “if I didn’t see it with my own eyes I would have never believed it.”
Now this doesn’t happen every year, that’s for sure, because we have far too much competition in our club. My case in point here is that there are several roads to Rome.
The reason I believe you can get top race results by not road training old birds is as follows. The learning process of racing pigeons is established and very necessary while they are young birds. When they are old birds you only need the listed items to put you in the winner’s circle: No. 1 Health. I’m talking about super health. Three weeks before you put your pairs together go through a good health program. Healthy pigeons will always act like they are full of fire and want to fly. No. 2 A good winning family that will win with the system you use. In my case I have selected top Janssens, Verbruggens and Schellens pigeons for the races up to 450 miles. No 3. A good loft with proper ventilation with no overcrowding. No 4. The best feed you can get your hands on. In this case I have seen many flyers wanting to save a buck and settled for a second grade race mix. This to me is like spending $100,000, on a race car and filling the gas tank with regular gas. These same flyers will invariably go out and buy all the fancy pigeon speed pills they read about and hope this gets them in the winner’s circle.
Now that you have the needed formula for success about 3 weeks before the first race we start preparing our race team. I like to work them around the loft the first week, working them up to 1 hour fly time. The next 2 weeks I will take about 10 short training tosses. Then 2 or 3 70 mile tosses and then one last toss of about 100 to 120 miles.
At this point they should be ready to handle any and all races coming up. All cocks in good condition are flown every race up to 450 miles. I like to use my Devriendt distance family for the 5 and 6 hundred mile stations. In this case one or two weeks rest before the event seems to work best for me.
In the first widowhood system, you mate your race team about 7 to 8 weeks before the upcoming racing season. Raise either one or two youngsters from each pair and then let them go down on a second round of eggs. After the 10th day pull the hen and eggs. Some prefer pulling the hen only at first and then discarding the eggs 2 or 3 days later. At this point forward you are now on widowhood.
The second widowhood system seems to work as well with some added advantages. In this case you mate your race team along with your breeders the last part of November. As easy day to remember would be the weekend after Thanksgiving. Your youngsters will be about 6 days old and ready for banding on New Year’s Day. In this case you can also use the paired widowhood cocks as foster parents. By starting early you can also have plenty of time to control the molt on each individual cock. The cocks that are completely through the molt are mated up while the cocks that need some speeding up to complete their body and wing molt are left un-matted for an extended period of time. Come race day all cocks will then be at the same level. Any broken flights are cut one half way down and then pulled 10 days later.
After the young are about two weeks old, the hens are removed alone with one half of the youngsters. The remaining youngsters are than raised by the cocks. This system keeps the team from going through a second round and resulting in a much slower molt for the duration of the season. The remaining youngsters are removed at 24 to 26 days of age.
The cocks at this time are loft flown only and are fed 100% barely. With the hens removed from the 6 to 7 weeks the cocks have plenty of time for total rest. Two weeks before the races the pairs are rematted for two days only, and then separated. I don’t want the hens to lay a second time at this point. During this time period the cocks are road trained Wednesday and Saturday showing the hens to the cock before basketing and also remaining with the cocks 15 to 20 minutes after the return. Once the weekly races start the hens are than shown just before basketing only.
The third widowhood system is used very successfully by the wonder boy of Holland, Marcel Sangers. In his case, he also puts his race team together along with the breeders. The pairs go down on eggs and then raised their young. Like the second widowhood system one half of the youngsters are removed along with the hens. The cocks are then raced feeding young for the first two races than switched over to widowhood. This system seems to get the cocks at their prime for the last 4 longer and more important races. All three systems will work. You may want to try one or two of them and see what system works best for you.