Ask Horst

Over the years, we've been asked a lot of questions about racing, breeding, and maintaining pigeons. On this page, we will try to provide answers to common questions. Do you have a question you would like answered? Email Horst at HHackemer@aol.com. The most recent answers appear at the top of the list.

#58 - Pet Shop Wisdom (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, April 15, 2010)
Q: What do you think about grading pigeons by withholding feed to test their stamina?

#57 - Cold Weather Flying (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, April 1, 2010)
Q: How do you handle your race team during a cold spring?

#56 - Always Something to Learn (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, March 15, 2010)
Q: What’s the value of attending a seminar?

#55 - Fat Hens (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, February 1, 2010)
Q: Do you really think fat hens can be better breeders?

#54 - Moritz the Cat (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, November 15, 2009)
Q: I've heard you have a cat with your pigeons. Are you crazy?

#53 - "Magic Juice" and Secrets (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, October 1, 2009)
Q: Are there secrets I need to know to be a good pigeon flyer?

#52 - My Mentor George Spannenberg (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, September 15, 2009)
Q: Did you have a mentor when you got into pigeons?

#51 - Stupid Birds (published in the Racing Pigeon Digest, September 1, 2009)
Q: How do I train my pigeons so they’re not “stupid”?

These items were published prior to 1998

#50 - Maintaining Feather Quality
Q: Do you feel that there is any difference in the feather quality between a light colored bird and a dark colored bird?  If so is it ever enough to affect the bird's race performance?

#49 - Front Runner Pigeons
Q: What do you mean when you call a pigeon a "front runner"?

#48 - Florida: The Level Playing Field
Horst responds to those who took issue with #47.

#47 - Living in Florida
Q: Why should anyone consider moving to Florida?

#46 - Extended Light
Q: I am currently preparing to pair up my breeders for next years young birds. I have some lights on them to help as the days are short Nov 25. I will have the lights going about enough to make 14 hour days. My question is when do I quit using the lights. I got to thinking and I don’t want to have my old birds moulting during the race season nor do I want to delay young bird moulting to mess up their season.

#45 - Aflatoxins Research (see also #27)
Q: I'm trying to find evidence, other than anecdotal, that aflatoxins do in fact harm birds. Are you aware of any such figures or research?

#44 - Training Old Birds Just for Futurities
Q: Every year I buy local futurity bands to support their races. I only fly old birds--if I wanted to fly these birds in the futurities, how far do I need to take these birds to get them ready? And do you think without them being in any races they would stand a chance against the more experienced birds?

#43 - Sending Young Birds to Races
Q: What is a rule of thumb to use in sending young birds to the races? Should I send all the healthy young birds to every race or should I divide the young birds into teams sending them only every other week. We race young birds up to 300 miles. For example: Should I send them to a 250 mile race and then a week later send the same birds to a 300 mile race?

#42 - Sexing Young Birds
Q: How do you sex young birds? And, is there an instrument that can be purchased to do that with?

#41 - Young Birds that Mature Later
Q: I've seen untrained young birds turn into stars at two years old. I also watch the futurities and the continual training of young birds each and every day. While the "cream" may rise to the top, how about the "sickening factor" on those that may otherwise develop at a later date but are lost before they ever get the chance to prove themselves. Aren't we as fanciers throwing many away? What strain would you recommend that can withstand this YB punishment?

#40 - Lice and Mites
Q: What do you use to treat for lice on pigeons? Can you ever get completely rid of them? What is the difference between lice and mites?

#39 - Youngster With a Deformed Leg
Q: Lately I've had several people ask me in different ways about youngsters growing one or both deformed legs out to the side. The latest person asking me this question stated that his best pair of pigeons raised a youngster with the leg out to the side last year and then again this year. Is there something genetically wrong with his pair of pigeons?

#38 - Pair Feeds Only One Youngster
Q: Why didn't my pair of birds feed their two young birds at the same time? They only fed one and the other is dying. It's happened two times. What can I do? Please help me!!

#37 - One Cock and Two Hens
Q: How do I mate one cock with 2 hens?

#36 - Foundation Breeders
Selecting and Acquiring Foundation Breeders

#35 - Winter Feeding
Q: What do you suggest for a winter feeding program?

#34 - 1999 Old Birds System of Flying
Q: Looking at your 1999 old bird race results I see that your hens greatly outnumber your cocks. Were the cocks flown? Saved for later races? In short what system did you fly for the '99 old bird system?

#33 - Minimizing Fighting Between Cocks
Q: I always have a tremendous amount of fighting when I put my young cock birds into the old bird loft. Can you tell me a way of minimizing that?

#32 - Keeping Youngsters Warm
Q: Regarding early breeding, what do you do to insure that the youngsters aren't chilled during the cold winter months? Do you use supplemental heat, or just proper nesting materials and no drafts?

#31 - Hours of Light for Breeders
Q: I am currently preparing to pair up my breeders for next year's young birds. I have some lights on them to help as the days are short. I will have the lights going about enough to make 14 hour days. My question is, when do I quit using the lights? I got to thinking and I don't want to have my old birds moulting during the race season nor do I want to delay young bird moulting to mess up their season.

#30 - Varieties of Peas
Q: Is any one pea (Canadian, Maple, etc.) better then the other for breeding youngsters? Also is there a difference in protein content in the various peas used for pigeon feed?

#29 - Selecting Young Birds for the Old Birds Team
Q: How do I decide which young birds to move to the old bird team at the end of the season?

#28 - Separated Hens Laying Eggs
Q: When I separate my hens after the breeding season some of them continue to lay eggs like chickens. Is this harmful to them? Is there any reasonable way to reduce their tendency to lay eggs?

#27 - Aflatoxins (see also #45)
Q: Is there anything you can tell me about birds being poisoned by feed?

#26 - Chemical Poisoning
Q: The breast skin of my birds is a dark maroon or grayish color and the birds will not take a bath. My losses are high and my performance is terrible in the races.

#25 - Birds Landing in Grassy Field
Q: I have a small team (4) of young birds I'm racing this fall. It is a small team because I've sold my house and will be moving after YB season. These birds are entered in special races. I noticed a week ago, while the birds are loft flying, they will land about a quarter of a mile away in a recently mowed grass field. They will stay there for 2 to 20 minutes before taking off and flying around my yard. If I spook them up from one site they merely fly farther and land again at a greater distance than before. It will be difficult to continue to chase them up as it is a great distance from home and the landowner will likely be perturbed if I trespass on his property. I have salt, mineral and grit in the loft. Any suggestions how I can break these birds from this habit? Is it something I should be concerned with for training/flying purposes? Thank you!

#24 - PMV (see also #11)
Q: How and when do you vaccinate for PMV?

#23 - Giving Birds a Bath
Q. My birds do not want to take a bath. Is there something I can add to the water so they will take a bath?

#22 - Resettling Young Bird Team
Q: I have to resettle my young bird team about 4 miles north of my present location.They've been to 10 miles before I poxed them and shut them up for about three weeks. The first race is 9/18 and I can't move them to the new location until 8/15 or so. What would be the best way to get them use to the new location in time to fly the first races or should I wait and fly them later in the series?

#21 - Hawk Bait
Q: What makes some birds "hawk bait"?

#20 - Pox Vaccine Reaction
Q: I vaccinated 1 week ago for pox - I used the brush on method. I am afraid I vaccinated too close to race day. We will be starting on August 7th. Prior to the pox vaccine my birds were training great - 1 mi. a min.. Now I have experienced some losses and my birds have slowed down. Respiratory and canker are in check, I know that the vaccine took - could this have slowed them down and be responsible for some losses? I have them out about 30mi. If so, how long do I wait to continue training? Please advise -

#19 - Pro-Biotics
Q: What exactly is a pro-biotic? Can this be obtained on its own to use as an additive to personal vitamin or mineral mixes?

#18 - Chicks Dying in the Shell
Q: My chicks are dying in the shell. What can I do?

#17 - Power Lines
Q: I am having horrendous problems with my birds hitting the power lines behind my home out over the pasture. I have lost 17 birds to the wires this year. I have had many more injured, torn breasts, broke legs, etc. I can't think of anything I might do short of quitting pigeons.

#16 - Moths in Feed
Q: I have an African Grey Parrot and lately I've noticed a moth problem. I keep its seed supply in a tupperware container in a cabinet so I can only assume they are feeding on the seed in his cage. What can I do to get rid of these pests? I've tried everything but they always come back and I don't want to use spray or something that could harm the bird. Help!

#15 - Birds with a Dark Skin Color
Q: My birds' skin is a dark color. What can I do about that?

#14 - Damaged or Broken Flights
Q: How can I fix damaged or broken flights?

#13 - Wild Cats
Q: How do you deal with wild cats?

#12 - Flying Old Birds with a Small Team
Q: Can you give me some tips for effectively flying Old Birds with a small racing team?

#11 - PMV (see also #24)
Q: How often do you vaccinate for PMV?

#10 - Medicating Race Birds
Q: What is your philosophy when it comes to medicating race birds?

#9 - Bonte Cock
Q: Who was the Bonte Cock that I see so often in your pedigrees?

#8 - Feeding in General
Q: What can you tell me about feeding in general?

#7 - Losing Race Birds
Q: Why am I losing so many race birds?

#6 - Mating Procedure
Q: What is your mating procedure?

#5 - Pellets
Q: What do you think about feeding pellets?

#4 - Breed Early Youngsters
Q: How do you breed early youngsters?

#3 - Breed Recessives
Q: How do you breed recessive pigeons?

#2 - Feeding Breeders and Flyers
Q: How do you feed your breeders and flyers?

#1 - Young Bird Training
Q: What advice can you give on young bird training?