Back Home: Into the World of Competitive Quad-City Pigeon Racing | Local News

An imaginary racing track in the sky and the feeling of knowing where to fly is all a pigeon needs to find its way home.

Nestled in rural Andalusia, three tiny yellow houses in Denny and Jeannine Mosher’s garden are filled with 50 carrier pigeons. It’s not your birds hanging around town. Racing is bred there, like retrievers are bred for duck hunting.

Denny Mosher, secretary of the Moline-East Moline Pigeon Racing Club, has been a racing pigeon for 43 years.

“In the 70s, when I was a kid, you either knew someone who had pigeons or you were related to someone who had pigeons,” Mosher said.

Jeannine, Denny’s wife of 32 years, said she never knew pigeon racing was a thing until they got together.

“I’m just helping him,” she said. “But it’s his sport.”

People also read…

The club dates back to the late 1800s and was one of four pigeon clubs in the Quad-Cities. The Moline Club eventually merged with East Moline.

Pigeon racing began in Belgium in the 1800s and involves the release of specially trained racing pigeons which then return to their loft, or home, over a measured distance. Distances can range from 100 to 500 miles.

Mosher has won a multitude of races from as far away as Oklahoma, around 500 miles away.

“(They) let them go in the morning and they were back here this afternoon,” Mosher said.

When it comes to training pigeons, you need a lot of repetition. Training begins in the cooperative loft to prepare them for the race. Then the birds are taken outside to practice flying short distances to the loft. Slowly the distance is increased.

“Just like a runner, a football player, or any athlete, you have to condition yourself,” Mosher said.

A dovecote is similar to a chicken coop in which each pigeon has its own little place to sleep, has enough space to fly and has a small screened porch.

Although there is no specific ordinance relating to the keeping of pigeons, state law allows cities outside of Cook County to regulate, but not prohibit, the keeping of homing pigeons, race, leisure or exhibition.

Jeannine said each coop has a purpose: one is filled with young pigeons at the start of the racing season, one with older ones and another for breeding purposes.

Regardless of regulations, the Moshers clean the loft daily and bathe the pigeons once a week for easier maintenance of the blanket-like gray feathers that give off an iridescent sheen.

As for race time, the pigeons are dispatched to where the race begins and are tracked by a chip in an ankle bracelet.

Before taking off, the birds pass through a pad that registers them for the race. The chip captures time and distance after they return. It also lets the owner know where the bird is at all times.

Mosher said he usually gives up pigeons after about two or three years. Some move to a chicken coop for breeding. Mosher gives other pigeons to people who are new to the racing game.

“I want the winners,” Mosher said. “You wouldn’t take the horse from last place in the Kentucky Derby and send him into the sky.”

Comments are closed.