An Englishman in Belgium~Brian Bolton Part 3

Young Bird Racing

There are three sections for the youngsters of which contain pigeons bred by Premier UK, Ronny Van Tilburg and also from Brian’s old Van Loons and Benny Steveninck pigeons. His current team are 88 from the first round and 60 from the second round. Any more than that number would restrict them from running in his opinion. There are 50 youngsters from Premier UK and the rest from Ronny Van Tilburg and Brian in the team.Fantail-4

Both the young bird and the old bird sections are the same. He has three sections for the cocks, and a hen’s section right next to them. He thinks it is important not to over crowd the youngsters and once they have had one or two 85 mile training races, they are separated into the different sexes and raced on the sliding door system.

They must have some experience before going on the system.

On a Wednesday there are federations training from Belgium into Holland, where there could be 150,000 liberated at the same time. This is dangerous for Brian’s young bird team as they can get swept away with them if they are out exercising at that time. Last year he had 80 youngsters going nicely and a huge kit swept them up and 40 went missing. Another week 30 more went so he learned the hard way that at this new loft location he must get his birds well trained as early as possible.

Last years losses were a real set back but he also thought they were not healthy enough due to the loft environment, which he has now corrected. The reason he was concerned about the environment is because he had taken them to the vet to be health screened. There they had swabbed them, which tested positive for bacteria so they were treated and after the treatment, the Vet re-tested which proved to be negative.Cock-Flyig-Tiles

After two weeks the form dropped again.

So back they went to the Vet again who did another test and this time they proved positive for different bacteria, which is when Brian realised he was walking in the problems from the car park. He has now corrected this problem and is much happier with the current team. They are healthy and running well so will need to begin training soon.

In Belgium fanciers will have their youngsters with the club training from 85 miles 6 or 7 times before racing begins in May. The young bird Nationals are from 320 miles upwards for youngsters of which there are 7 of them to race. There can be a lot of pools to play for but Brian does not gamble on his pigeons, he does not race for the money at all, he just wants to do well with them in the results.Fantail

The young birds are raced on the darkness system which consists of making the internal young bird sections dark, at set times of the day to imitate winter conditions. The youngsters will then begin a body moult in the beginning of the year instead of during the important races in September.

There are several variations of the system depending which races you plan to compete at the highest level in.

Brian began with the darkness system in the early 1990’s, and at that time fanciers using the system in Belgium would breed their young birds during the winter months. Brain and John, his partner in England, liked to couple on the 14th of February which meant they were then put on restricted eleven hours of daylight on the 1st of April through until the 21st of June.Curtains

But they noticed that on the last races they were just beginning to throw their cover flights so they knew they had to keep them on the darkness longer. The following next year they kept them on the darkness until the 7th July and then they held them in good feather until the last race. Other fanciers decided to use the system too but, after trying it, thought it gave a disadvantage at the yearling stage.

Brian thinks this is because they bred them in the winter like the Belgians do, but did not begin racing them until July, which is normal in the UK. He says they are best bred in April for the UK racing, which is the most natural time to breed.  At the end of July the lights are put on until 10:30pm to give them three months of summer daylight hours.

The seasons have been shifted for the pigeons by only three months instead of six!Darkened-Loft

Once the racing season is finished in September the lights are turned off and they go immediately into a full moult again., bringing them back to normal for the following yearling stage. The fanciers in Belgium, who race their youngsters in May, have to winter breed and put them on the dark straight away. Only to be taken off it in May and those young pigeons are raced until they loose their cover flights on each wing. It is then the April bred pigeons take over until the end of the season.

Brian’s young bird loft faces west and in the early season it can be very cold and draughty, but during the summer months it can be too hot and oppressive so he has various controls to try to minimize the variation in temperature. The curtains for the darkness system are automatic and connected to a timer, although he can over ride it by the press of a button. The lights are also on a timing system, not to make it easier for Brian, he is there all the time anyway.Lights-Timers

This ensures the pigeons get regular daylight to keep them correct.

The youngsters are fed a Young Bird mixture by Ronny Van Tilburg. and on this they exercise very well around the loft. Brian thinks one of the major problems with pigeons is fungus infections via the corn and he takes great care in his feeding to prevent this. Ronny Van Tilburg mixtures are the cleanest available and Brian says fanciers come from miles around to get these mixtures.

Finally I must thank Brian and Michelle for allowing me to visit their lofts and for their kind hospitality.  Brian held nothing back and showed me everything about his lofts and systems. To me that is the sign of a true fancier who wants to see success in the sport for all. I wish them all the very best for the future in Belgium.

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