I haven’t written much about pigeons so far – but today is different because today one of my favourite pigeons will go for her first trip away from home. The farmer here keeps racing pigeons and at some stage, they slowly get trained up to fly longer distances. So for a few months, they simply fly around at home. They know their home and stay close enough. They might fly off exploring a bit but after a while they always come back. Maybe 1 in 100 pigeons gets lost at home.
Then, they are taken up the road – usually just as little as half a kilometre. In pigeon racing terms that’s called a pigeon toss. Though they aren’t tossed, they fly on their own out of a special pigeon box/crate. From the first tossing point, they can actually see their home when they are flying up in the air. It’s not usual for them to get lost but some very silly birds might not make it home on the same day. Most pigeons need 1-2 minutes to fly the distance. Some pigeons take their time and go exploring. Very few come home the following day. I always wonder what they’ve been doing.
Bit by bit, the distances get longer. It’s not because they need to get fitter – after all they sometimes fly around home for 2-3 hours without a break because they enjoy flying – it’s to get them used to flying home. Some fliers believe that really good pigeons do not need such training because they can easily navigate home – but I think that’s a bit too much of a risk and so does the farmer.
Yesterday, the younger cocks (1.5 years old) had their first training. My absolute favourite was the one who came home first – by 10 seconds only, but nevertheless! Last year, my favourite cock bird never came back from a (short) race. My other favourite bird among the cocks didn’t come back yesterday. So I hope to see him today.
Today, the hens will be trained up. Lucy, my favourite pigeon of all, will have her first training today. She’s named after Lucy Lawless because she was so tough and survived quite a few bad moments in her pigeon childhood. Other racers would have killed her when she got so sick but fortunately, the farmer her doesn’t believe in killing off the sick. He looks after them. And even though Lucy was really, really bad (she needed three “operations”), she pulled through and is a lovely pigeon now. She didn’t get trained up last year because we (well, I, to be more precise) didn’t want to put pressure on her or stress her.
So, today is the day. I just hope, she won’t get lost.