The winter breeding
This year I will try to pair the breeders in time, i.e. around November 25th, and perhaps also two compartments of racing cocks. I am convinced that the elder the youngsters are at the start of their racing season, the better it is. This also means that I prefer the young bird season to start later, but that is already the case in Liège. We start the racing year for young birds in late May and begin with 3 races from 120 to 140 km.
In good condition
It is obviously important that pigeons which do winter breeding are in good condition. We ensure that our pigeons moult well and that is already a challenge. We take care for them on regular basis: they receive sufficient food from a good moulting mixture, regular fresh minerals and a bath. We make sure they complete moult and that they are separated long enough before the breeding season, at least three months for hens. Further, we also give them occasionally multivitamins or Naturamine. Regarding health, we actually do nothing and as I write this - late September - it is possible that we will treat them in October against worms. It is also possible that the droppings will be examined for paratyphoid. Against trichomoniasis we do nothing, except perhaps early January, this way we treat the breeders and youngsters at the same time.
Fixed breeding pairs
Concerning pairing, the time is past when we separate breeding pairs who gave already good youngsters in order to give them other partners. Now, a couple that gave already good youngsters will stay almost "forever" together. What may happen is that the breeding cock for the first round gets another hen, these eggs are then shifted and the cock gets for the rest of the breeding season back his regular hen. The other couples are often formed by children from the best breeding pairs or good racers. Usually I prefer complete pigeons and I also try to have pigeons with a "search looking" or say a pigeon observing everything. That is not so easy, since one has to prepare this in advance. If we must find these pigeons at the day of pairing it is too late. And since we are talking about the eyes of the pigeons. I'm not like too much dark pigmented eyes. An eye must have color, but I prefer currently bright, shining eyes.
Should we choose pigeons with darkly pigmented eyes or bright, shining eyes for breeding or both?
There are however other properties that are important, but this is difficult to put into words and material for another article. And then, there is the fact that one needs to work with the material that is available. I'm not such a strong supporter of introducing many pigeons. No, I prefer to breed future breeders by myself, because one knows better his own pigeons.
I am quite satisfied with the mentioned fixed pairs who give youngsters with which I am particularly satisfied as to their model. Yet there is one pigeon that causes me headaches, namely "Master 174", 1003174/2012, the 3rd national ace-pigeon middle-distance 2014. This pigeon is indeed a very wise pigeon. Further, he is very light for his volume, but a long type. During the last breeding year, I paired him with best racing hen in 2014. As a youngster and a yearling she was 1st and 2nd ace-pigeon in "Indépendante Liège". We started their son in July and he flew three times in the first ten. This pair is definitely going to come back together, but when choosing a second hen we have to take care and choose a slightly shorter hen.
I always assumed that a normal loft - and I mean by this all pigeon-fanciers except the large colonies or breeding stations - must not engage in very close inbreeding. Yet, I come during the last years rather coincidentally to close inbreeding. We had during the winter breeding 2012 three grandchildren from the "178" from Jos and Jules Engels. One was already an inbred product, a cock born out of grandson x daughter "178". We crossed him with a daughter of "Olympic Blue". This hen was bred in family. So we crossed two inbred products. The only child from the above-mentioned pair is "Master 174".
"Master 174", mentioned in this article, is a crossing between Engels and daughter "Olympic Blue" who is from our own strain combined with the blood of Verbree.
Further, we paired the two other grandchildren "178". I have to mention that they were grandchildren of paternal side and that the maternal grandfather was always the father of "Argenton" Engels. The “Argenton” won as two-year the 1st prov. Orléans and 1st nat. Argenton. Moreover, the father from "Argenton" is also a son of the "178". Sometimes Jules Engels complains about the fact that his brother Jos breed to close in family, but that is an advantage for those who can get such inbred pigeon. Well, out of the grandchildren “178” we bred two youngsters from which we kept only the cock. It was a good racer, but unfortunately he was lost in the disaster flight of June 28th, 2014 from Gien. Meanwhile, he became father of two young pigeons, including our best yearling hen “Bella Figuara”, 1110263/2014, with 2 times 1st provincial and 2 times 2nd provincial, and her brother, who also flew well. The mother of these two good racers is a family product of our own middle-distance strain.
By chance I had a year later two children from the above cited "Argenton". They were such beautiful birds that I decided to pair them, this was a half-brother and half-sister pair. The children were placed in the aviary and after selection, we kept three cocks and one hen. During the last breeding season I just paired the hen from this mating and this with a cock from our own strain. Result: a young cock who showed that he has something to offer. It is obvious that during past summer I brought two brothers of his mother to the breeding loft.
Meanwhile, a friend and father, advised me to pair from our best long-distance pigeon, "Golden Eye", 2nd national ace-pigeon long-distance, two children. A daughter of this pair from half-brother and half-sister was one of our best young hens. She still has to fly another year, but it means that the experiment will be continued. I'll try another of such inbred pair, with respect on the future.
We also have the intention to make some pairs for the breeding season 2016 which are crossings from strongly inbred pigeons. I also remember that Jelle Jellema told me during an interview following his international victory Barcelona in 2014 that if one does inbreeding, he must try to breed the crack back, which he means to pair the "crack" with his best son or daughter. I'll see how I'm going to try this in my own loft during the summer, but this is definitely not for the winter breeding, because then I'm going to choose as said crossings.
one of the most passionate fanciers that I know, said to me that if one does inbreeding he has to do this with young pigeons and not when they are too old. Moreover, he told me that few pigeon-strains are suitable for inbreeding. We will certainly take this advice into account.