Q: How can I fix damaged or broken flights?

Flights on the race birds get damaged for various reasons. It can be anything from fighting to a fancier closing the top of a carrying basket onto the wing of a bird. Although this can be a horrible sight, it is nowhere near as tragic as it may seem.

I would say that 90% of the time the repair can be done quite easily. Heat your wife's teakettle to the boiling point so you have a stream of steam coming out. Then put your hand between the feathers and the bird -- in other words, hold the flight feathers closer to the body with your hand with the damaged feathers away from you.

Now apply steam to the damaged area. By having your hand between the damaged flight feathers and the body of the bird, you will not accidentally burn the bird with steam since your hand will feel the heat first.

At any rate, applying the steam to a bent or kinked feather will be like a miracle. The feather will straighten out in front of your eyes. Even feathers that seem quite damaged seem to repair themselves easily.

You may have to apply the steam to the bottom of the feather shaft as well as to the top. It also helps to run your fingers along the quill to help it straighten itself.

This procedure also works very nicely on tail feathers that seem to be bent. They will assume their normal position quickly.

Should you have a totally broken flight feather, then you have 2 options. The first is one of letting it regrow itself. In this case, cut the quill back clean and let the feather dry out for about 10 days. At that point, hold the wing butt (actually the base of the broken quill) firmly between your thumb and index finger. Now with the other hand, pull the cut-off feather straight out. Yes, straight. Try not to twist or turn the feather when you are pulling it out. This could easily damage the base of the follicle area and a damaged or crooked feather could grow in . If this should happen, it will always grow in crooked or damaged during subsequent moltings.

A second way to repair a broken flight is to splice a feather into the stem of the existing flight. The best way to do this is to get a corresponding feather -- in other words, from the same side of the wing and same order of feather -- from a breeding pigeon. I prefer to get an opposite color so I can easily see if my handiwork is holding up. For example, if you are repairing a blue or blue check bird, get yourself a white or red colored flight to splice in.

You proceed by matching the feathers with each other. Lay one on top of the other, then take a utility knife or razor blade and cut both feathers at the same time with a diagonal line. You now have a feather where the stem matches the feather to be repaired. From here, use your imagination. A needle inserted into both hollow stems or a similar pin with superglue does a good job. But please don't glue your fingers together!