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Questions & Answers

The Mini Course The Art of Breeding generates quite some questions from readers from all over the world. I will try to answer them here.

I hate to bother you on this subject as no doubt the answer is in print in one or more of your many well written articles. I started reading again your “Art of Breeding” and it immediately triggered a question I have had on the subject for quite a while.

Do you ever recommend breeding father to daughter or mother to son for inbreeding? In 2003, I had what I thought was a once in a life time special YB hen. In her YB season she was 5 times my 1st bird home to the loft and outright won 3 races, including the whole state of Michigan. Her parents had been great breeders individually. So I bred her to her sire for only one round. Both turned out to be cocks. These cocks looked just like their dad. Then crossing these inbred cocks with other good hens I have little to show for it. In fact, I think both these ‘father-daughter’ inbred cocks tend to be infertile a lot of times (“shoot blanks”) . The super hen has yet to produce a good flier when mated to what I thought were above average cocks.
I’m not sure I’m making any sense, but my experimentation here with ‘parent-child’ inbreeding has largely left me disappointed. I never race the inbreds, but only use them as breeders. But it looks like your form of inbreeding is sibling to sibling. Is that correct? Maybe I should mate my super hen to one of her half-brothers. I don’t have any full brothers from the original pair (which are both gone now).

This is an interesting question but not so easy to answer from the other side of the ocean without having seen or handled the birds. But I will give it a good try.

Because of having raced young birds extremely well I know it is very difficult not to get over exited about it. For me only those races with 2 nights in the basket raced under real pigeon weather(sun, heat and headwind) were considered so important that I would place a young hen in the breeding loft. Why a hen? Simple because after their first year they would never fly over 200 kms. Cocks would and for that reason go into the breeding loft after their racing career as a 2-3 year old.

Back to youngbird racing. I invented the darkening system and a light system different then used in the US. These systems have been adopted by all the great racing loft in Europe. And those who race normal cannot get on the racing sheet. Are their birds worth nothing at all then? No absolutely not. Youngbird racing is all about systems and nothing else. If all would do the very same it would be a matter of quality, but more the old matter again of location on the short end and the wind. That is what you see happening over here again.

So if you would have knowledge on systems and your clubmates not this would make a lot of difference on one hand. On the other hand we tend to believe good race results make a good breeder. This is absolutely not so. It is just an indication. You need to be very knowledgeable to understand the why: is it the loft, the location, the used systems, the training, the feeding or the outstanding quality of the birds?

That is one part of the youngbird thing. The other side is the development of the birds. Youngsters are not grown and developed. That is finished after the moult when they go from a yearling into an old bird. Then they have got their final structure and most birds have gone out of balance then. This is the main reason of older birds stop performing. Next we have concentrated too much on youngbird and yearling racing. And so have set up families to be matured at early age for racing. Personally I would look amongst older birds to find the ones better capable for breeding. Ace pigeons are my favorites here. So I consider later mature birds better or the ones of early matured strains that develop good balance in their second year.

Of course close inbreeding is the way to preserve good genes. But many fanciers believe this way is easy and using it they hit the Jackpot. This is absolutely not the question. First of all the family must be capable of handling inbreeding very well. Inbreds must be capable of racing very well also. Next their should be not many things noticeable of a fall back in vitality. You are mentioning your inbreds being infertile; this is a signal the strain cannot handle inbreeding very well. Or that the inbreeding has been gone too far already. But I don’t think so because you are not mentioning this.

Close inbreeding, half brother x half sister or further up down the road sooner or later ends with the not being ok characteristics of birds. For me the most important are: Vitality, Intelligence and Balance. Things you cannot judge from a distance properly. A good picture would help, but there is nothing like judging the bird in your hands and seeing it in action on the loft. Next there is always the matter of a pair to click. And that is a totally other ballgame.

In the past I have never done that close inbreeding, but now I practice it more. However I’m not very disappointed if the results are worse. Most of time they are and sometimes you are very lucky when it clicks and suddenly you have a whole new frontier in front of you.

I do hope this helps for you.

Steven van Breemen.

In the following section of your mini-course, where "Klaren 46" is paired with "Hen X", did hen X change or are all the later offspring full brother and sister, or are there numerous 1/2 brother sister pairings ? Quite by accident I have found myself with two generations of full bro x sis, very similar to your pattern. I crossed last male from this back to orginal hen, with very good results. But from here I am lost as to direction and have now mated this last exceptional hen to a son from the orginal cock when mated to a different hen. I AM PRODUCING GOOD RESULTS, BUT DON'T REALLY KNOW WHY, or how to proceed in future generations, as I never planned the full bro x sis matings in the first place.

In this system it would have been perfect if hen X would have changed in the pedigree with all the offspring because then the breeding back of The Klaren would have been best. But occasionally the hen X returned a second time.

Problem was when I started to breed according to this system I could only lay my hand on grandchildren. In the time were direct children were enough around I did not keep pigeons because I was then stiil very young. Would this be not so I would have worked with halfbrother x halfsister matings as this would have been much quicker and easier.

In your situation where you breed children of mother x (brother x sister) I would advise to cross. That good results show is a very good sign pointing out your family can stand inbreeding which is very important when building an own strain.

I do hope to have your question answered to satisfaction otherwose do please ask!

Steven van Breemen.

I very much enjoyed your mini articles published recently on here. I have a question. Your methods of breeding from grandchildren of "Klaren 46" indicated that the grandchildren all had in common only one parent from "Klaren 46". In your method is their any care as to whether the one relative appears at the top or bottom of the pedigree?
Or is it important to only inbreed where 'Klaren 46' appears only at the top of both grandchildren's pedigrees? Again, thank you for a fascinating series of articles and i hope to find your book and read in more detail.

In this system it is very important that only The Klaren '46 is the only returning bird in the pedigree. Because you are working from grandchildren it is a bit far away and as soon as others also have influence the inbreeding isn't pure anymore. Then the results aren't the same. It does not matter where The Klaren '46 appears in the pedigree as long as it is only him returning.

Steven van Breemen.

I had a question regarding how aggression in protecting the nest relates to mordant/character of a pigeon in evaluating breeding stock. If aggression protecting the nest is not related to mordant/character, what is it related to, if anything?

I consider nestlove as I call it to the mordant/character group. I do like it a lot and would love to see it in all my pigeons but this is not so. Certain lines/families do show it but not all. Personally I consider it very positive.

Steven van Breemen.

Thanks for your nice long reply to my inquiry on inbreeding. I get down-hearted with the sport because there is so much to learn and I'm not the brightest bulb on the street. The pigeon sport takes too long to get feedback on your system and breeding efforts.

I really favor YB racing over OB's. It fits my work & personal schedule better. But I have to admit that it is not fair to the birds not to evaluate them more fully as OB's and at longer distances.

You mentioned the systems as being more important for YB's and that I can definitely agree with. Way back in '92 I was given a boot leg copy of your Darkening Method. I've only been racing since '90. But I started using the darkening method the very next season and immediately started seeing the improvement. Back then I was the only one in our combine that was using it. In '94 I had an excellent YB season scoring high up on the sheet and I won a big race that year even being way off line from the rest. But that was the last of that. By '95 everyone had heard of your system and was using it. Those that didn't darken their YB's did pitiful. So I lost my edge. I can still do OK if the wind is right and all the other factors are in my favor. I've used the darkening method every year since '93. But here's my slant on the darkening method..... I think for us "working stiffs", the system creates Dummies! I can't really work with the YB's due to my work schedule and the darkening hours. I have these brilliant looking YB's but they are as dumb as feral pigeons. I end up losing large numbers of YB's either on a fly-away or on early training tosses at short distances. Most on the team are "follow-the-leaders", and if the 'leaders' aren't intelligent then there goes the team in 'one fell swoop'. I've tried different ways to train them and to get them routing, but every year I end up with significant losses. The YB's that remain go onto have pretty decent performance. I think at least 3 if not 4 times I've bred the Champion YB and have won my share of races. Incidentally, I'm not alone with this dilemma. Most if not all fanciers who use the darkening system have substantial losses somewhere along the season. (Many don't admit it, but they do lose lots of birds).
I'm positive it is not a health issue either; these darkened youngsters are just plain dumb!

We start our YB races in late July (~ 100 miles) and our last YB race is in mid-October (~ 300 - 400 miles). You mentioned in your reply about a (new?) lighting method that many great fanciers in Europe have now adopted. I breed early youngsters; my 1st round has already hatched and some have been banded. Will the light system work in this Northern latitude? Many fanciers in the southern states use a light system where the lights are on 18 -24 hrs right from breeding section on into early May. Around May 1st they clip & pull the outer 2 flights and some even do the tail. They are locked up for 4 - 6 wks and forced into a power molt by putting them on normal hours or a somewhat darkened schedule. But these lofts don't start flying YB races 'til late August or early Sept and race into Dec. I don'tknow of anyone personally using the light method in the northern states.

I think a lighting system might work better for me and my work schedule and seemingly the birds would be smarter. I can let the YB's out where they can adapt to both sunrise & sunset normally.

What is your opinion? It's OK if you are too busy to answer my questions. I suspect that you spend a lot of time giving advice to fanciers all over the planet. Quite possibly you could direct me to a web site where maybe these questions are already answered. But I am interested in whether your Lighting method might adapt to my circumstances.

Thanks again for your advice on the breeding aspect.

All the best and good luck this season.

Well we do not all breed bright pigeons! The racing season is to find out what the dummies are. First of all I think it is very important to select on intelligence of the breeders. If you don't do this hard enough the effect will be a lot of stupid youngsters. Doing so you can influence the offspring. Next you really need to train them hard and you should not be afraid to single toss them. This way you will loose the dummies already before the season starts. Understand also the orientation system is a fine system and a recessive one; so it always goes to the other side you want it in the breeding. So breeding dummies is normal, but you do can influnece it a lot with selection and training. What also helps is putting youngsters during the day in an aviary attached to the loft.

The time when you race youngbirds is too late to use my light system. It is a combination of darkening and light system. It is used here from half JUly till the end of August and it does speed up the moult of the big flights. After the 5-6th flight has dropped the birds should be stopped racing as the small feathers will comes off like snow then. Therefore the US light system would suit you better.

Hope my answers are clear to you otherwise do please ask!

Steven van Breemen.

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