16. How to take care of the race birds is of greatest importance
The success or failure of the pigeon race is dependent on how the convoyer attends to the pigeons. Because of the various views on the care of racing pigeons in transit it is now necessary for transportation companies or owner drivers to ensure that the employee's working for them are fully informed and continuously updated on the care of racing pigeons in transit. Scientific studies are available free of charge and should be used. It is the duty of the convoyer to see that an adequate supply of clean drinking water is provided for the pigeons in his/her care at reasonable periods during transportation and prior to liberation at the point of release. It is the duty of the convoyer to ensure that the birds arrive at the race point in time to have a reasonable rest period. This rest period is to alleviate the stress which is caused by the long drive. Because of the fact that some drivers are fond of speeding, it is the duty of the convoyer to ensure that every effort is made to transport the pigeons at a reasonable speed 90km/h maximum. This will help to keep the stress level of the birds down. It is the duty of the convoyer to ensure that in warm weather 25C+(76F+) that the temperature inside the pigeon compartment is regulated in such a way that the Pigeons are kept cool. Recent studies have shown that during high temperatures the pigeons inside of these transporters can lose water content and body weight very quickly. The convoyer should ensure that during warm weather for every 100km of travel the vehicle should be parked for one half hour and the birds should be supplied with fresh drinking water each time. It is the duty of the convoyer to ensure that the birds are properly fed and watered at the correct time and ensure that every bird in his/her care has a "Fair Opportunity" to compete in the upcoming race. Because of the high cost of pigeon racing, the number of bad races and the continueing decrease in membership every effort should be made by the convoyers to ensure that he/she has done the job in an unquestionable way and provided the best opportunity for the racing pigeons in their care to succeed for their owners.
The mixture that is given to the pigeons inside the baskets in the transporter should consist mostly of mais. It should be stored in proper paper bags and it should be replaced with fresh food at least once a month. Food should be checked each week to ensure that the food has not become contaminated or damp. Any suspect food should be replaced immediately. Every week all sacks should be turned around.
When to feed the birds
If the race is an overnight race(the release is early in the afternoon and the birds home the next day) the pigeons are allowed to eat till 3 to 4 hours before the time of release. This meal should be light. The previous day on the road(between 15.00 and 17.00 hours) the birds can be fed the normal mixture consisting of mostly mais. When the birds are baskened 2 days before the race day(the so-called dayraces) the pigeons should be fed on friday between 15.00 and 17.00 hours at the release site. Feeding at the release site is the prefferred option as this allows the birds to digest the food in a stable environment. Many birds vomit during transportation.
Take care of good waterquality
The watertank and the connecting pipelines to the watertrunks must be emptied after each race. If this is not done very easily algae, viruses and bacteria(several kinds of E-coli and canker) will develope. When racing pigeons drink this kind of water the condition of the birds detoriate before the race begins. And when they arrive home the fancier has lots of trouble getting them back in shape again. Prevention is better than to cure! Next once every month the watertank and all connected pipelines plus the watertrunks of the pigeons must be desinfected and cleaned.
Watering the birds
Before the transporter leaves for the releasepoint all watertanks are filled with fresh water and all pigeons are watered. Especially youngbirds should have lots of possibilities to learn to drink water inside the transporter. When down the road the truckdriver takes his brake, the pigeons also should be watered and the doors should be opened to let the fresh air in. It is very adviseable when the outside temperature rises above 25C to take extra brakes down the road. As soon as the transporter has arrived on the releasesite the pigeons should be watered even as it is still night. In case of a hold-over the drinking water should be replaced every 6 hours.
The time to leave to the releasesite should be considered well. The transporter should leave early enough so that the arrival time at the releasesite is hours before the release takes place. Normally it should be one hour waiting for every 100 kms of driving. This is the time the pigeons need to get rid themselves of the stress that has accumulated during the journey to the releasepoint. In the event of a holdup the minimum time the birds need to rest before the release is two hours. During this time the convoyer also needs to water the birds and get the transporter ready for the release. The convoyer should also be careful in case of cold weather not to open the doors fully in one time, but to do it bit by bit. This is to prevent the birds from cooling down too rapidly.
At night and when the convoyer is not present with the birds, the transporter should be locked up so other people who have no business inside the transporter will not be able to get inside. The best way to do this is to install an extra door on the inside next to the existing one, but this one consists of gauze so the fresh air can get in at all times from there.
Prevent stress situations
If on the releasesite lots of transporters are waiting with their birds to release them, a release timetable is discussed by the convoyers. If the release is not the first one, then it is adviseable to close the doors almost totally when other transporters are about to release. If this is done the birds are kept quiet and a lot of stress is taken away before the birds themselves are released. If not, the birds that have to stay inside the transporter will go wild trying to get out too.
Always follow advice
Before the release takes place the convoyer always must contact the racecontroller and his advice regarding the release in regard to the weather must be followed at all times. Also the racecontroller must be informed well by the convoyer regarding the weather on the releasesite.
When a race with youngbirds is scheduled for a distance of 250 kms or more and for any reason the release cannot take place before 09.00 hours with an expected temperature of 25C or higher at 12.00 hours and the wind is a headwind, the racecontroller takes the decision to release from a shorter distance of about 125 kms. After the arrival the birds get at least 2 hours rest and the release will take place after 15.00 hours when the temperature has gone down.
Check for pigeons that have stayed behind
After the release the transporters must be checked for pigeons that have stayed inside for some reason. Pigeons that are ill or unable to fly home on their own, must be taken home and handed over to the racecontroller who notifies the owner.
The cleaning of the releasesite
When it is allowed to the clubs to put woodchips inside the baskets, then the releasesite must be cleaned up after the birds have been released. This is the task of the convoyer. The organisation must give him tools to do that e.g. a broom and plastic bags to put the dirt in. In Europe pigeon transporters are not allowed in many release sites anymore because of the dirt left after the pigeon releases. If we want to promote our sport well cleaning up the release site is something that will create a positive impression.
All problems and difficulties on the releasesite caused by transporters, convoyers or drivers must be reported to the racecontroller and from there to the organisation. The organisation will be held responsible for any damage and they should be informed who has caused the problems in the first place.
The convoyer must make a report of the total race on a specially designed paper. This report has to be send to the racecontroller after each race.
Copyright 1998. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole, in part, in any form or medium, without the express written permission of Steven van Breemen and Hubert Land, is strictly forbidden.
References: Transportationrules spring 1996 of Alfons Anker Foundation for the betterment of pigeonsport Hilversum, Holland.