Pigeon racing: not just for birds – Cross Timbers Gazette | South Denton County | Mound of flowers
by Dr Murray
The eight-month-old girl ran into her home near Krum in west-central Denton County after flapping its wings on a 300-mile, seven-hour return journey that began in the west from Texas.
The homing pigeon was trained by Bob Stubbs, a passionate and pigeon trainer who lives with his wife, Karen. Their property has a sophisticated two-story loft where their pigeons comfortably live. Runners can be either females, called hens, or males, called roosters. The chicks hatch from their eggs in late December and are banded within five to six days.
Stubbs, formerly of Argyle, is a member of a 17-member club called the Denton Invitational Racing Club. Members race their pigeons in races organized by North Texas Futurity. Before the members make their birds run, they start training them when they are only about four to five weeks old.
âFirst I take them out of the attic and put them on the landing boards,â he explained. âThen they learn to use the hatch to get in and out of the loft. In June or July [at six-to-seven-months-old], I release them at the end of the road and they start to roam or roam the countryside for 20 to 30 minutes.
Then he increases the distances. First, he takes them away from the attic at a distance of 5 to 10 miles; then, 15 to 20 miles away.
âI love teaching them,â Stubbs said. âThe more confident they are, the more likely they are to win the races. Most pigeon trainers train their birds according to the direction of flight they are going to follow in the race. I don’t just take them to free up points that are east or west of the loft, I also take them a little north and south of the loft in case they have to fight the wind.
In August, training slows down due to the hot weather.
âThey handle cold much better than heat,â Stubbs said.
In cooler weather in September, the pigeon trainers pick up the pace of training; they take the birds 25 to 70 miles from the loft “to get them used to”. Then they are released from a training caravan 100 miles from home. Pigeons do not always return home immediately; indeed, they can be missing for four or five days.
Before a race, Stubbs attaches special tags to the birds. The tags contain a computer chip with an electronic timer that is activated when the pigeons are released.
When the carrier pigeons return to their loft, electronic readers under the landing boards at the entrance record the exact times of their arrival. Electronic time readers are accurate to 1/100e-of-a-second. The speeds of the pigeons are recorded in yards per minute and are compared to the speeds of the pigeons of other members of the racing club. Then the winners are declared.
On Saturday 14 November the couple entered 32 pigeons in three different races. The pigeons were passengers in a special trailer that picked up the pigeons from the Stubbs, as well as others in the Krum area, and brought them to their release point in Seminole, Texas.
The driver freed the pigeons from the rear of the trailer by pulling a lever. The first batch of 16 pigeons was released around 7:30 am and the first three of these 16 pigeons arrived in Krum around 2:00 pm.
This particular race was a young pigeon race in which eight month old pigeons participated.
Certainly, weather and wind are factors that affect the times of carrier pigeons. At the time of the race, the birds encountered cloudy weather, southwest winds of 5-10 mph and the temperature was 41 Â° F. The pigeons returned at the end of the race to their loft on a cloudy day. , SSW winds moving at 5-8 mph and a temperature of 62 Â° F.
âIf the wind speed is less than 15 mph, that’s not really a factor in the outcome of a race,â Stubbs said. âHowever, if the wind speed is 15 to 20 mph, then that’s a huge factor. Then they have to push south and fly in an arc to get home.â
The pigeons of Rick Mardis de Ponder won first, second and third places in the race on November 14th. His loft is 294,040 miles from the starting point; the winning time was 1,302.073 yards per minute. The pigeons trained by Stubbs finished sixth, seventh and eighth.
âIf you are racing with pigeons you have to strive to improve your times from season to season,â said Stubbs. âEvery fall the release points from which the pigeons take off change. Release points [move] clockwise, so that everyone is on an equal footing.
Another way for pigeon fanciers to get a level playing field is to participate in bond races.
âA bond race is a race in which you pick your top five runners,â Stubbs explained. âThat way no one can ‘stack the game’. “
Outside Stubbs’ two-story loft, lights are mounted above the landing boards, so that if the birds arrive at night, they can see their home.
Inside, birds bask in the light of a 30ft skylight across the loft roofline and each bird has a small enclosure with access to an outdoor aviary. They also receive the light from the lights of the “blue moon” which encourage the birds to moult more and produce new feathers which allow the pigeons to run better.
The temperature of the air inside the attic is also important. Stubbs controls the ambient air temperature inside the attic by opening and closing entry holes, vents running along the bottom of the attic, as well as those running the length of its roof. When he opens the roof vent by pulling on a chain of louvers, air is drawn in through the bottom vents. In addition, the loft contains six heat lamps.
In the loft kitchen, Stubbs prepares and stores two types of food. The regular feed is loaded with safflower, corn and rice to provide the high energy needed by carrier pigeons. The feed used for breeding birds also contains grains, but also includes peas to provide protein.
Stubbs encourages breeding between its top performing males and purebred females. He knows which pigeons are the best, because Karen keeps performance records on all of her pigeons. Mating between a rooster and a hen does not happen immediately.
He places a rooster in a box separated from a hen by studs, so they can watch each other for 72 hours. Stubbs then removes the studs so that the birds can mate; then he moves the female and her eggs into a nesting box. The eggs hatch about 18-19 days later.
The “old” birds run in a 10 week series that begins in March.
The breeds of old birds are much longer than the breeds of young birds. During old bird races, the birds travel 500 miles before landing on their boards at Stubbs’ loft. Sometimes the old bird races last two days as the birds stop to rest overnight on the way back.
As the carrier pigeons approach their dovecote, Stubbs releases special birds called Chicos. These birds are called droppers because they guide the carrier pigeons to the loft. Chicos are a cross between Casanovas and Cassinettes.
The couple are both from Cottage Grove, Oregon, where Bob fell in love with pigeons as a child.
“Because my father had kept some [pigeons] before he had no objection to me doing it and he helped me, âStubbs said. “We had a lot of fun.”
Anyone interested in carrier pigeons can call Stubbs at 940-600-2958 to receive information.