The Darkness System

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Mick Waterhouse a prominent English pigeon fancier sent me his Darkness racing system,
I have posted what he wrote on this page

Young Bird darkness System

To win young bird races you must put your youngsters on this system.

As soon as your birds are weaned, put them into a loft which you can darken out. This is when you should vaccinate your young birds

Don’t wait until about three weeks before racing.

To get your young birds to start moulting their body feathers give them garlic in the water for a few days and that will start the body moult.

They must be in the dark from 5pm until 9am the next morning. Not pitch black but dark enough so that they can see to get a drink from the drinker.

Let your youngsters out during the day from about 9.30am not straight after lighting the loft up. If you are worried about letting your youngsters out during the day, put them into a basket and put them on top of your loft, making sure that they are safe from cats etc. For a few days just to get them used to the surroundings. If you go to work and arrive home say at 5pm. put the young birds in the dark from 9pm until 12 o’clock next day but you must get someone to lighten the loft at midday. Let your young birds out after you have exercised your widowers in the evening but they must be in the dark for at least 15 hours. They will stay in the darkened loft until June 21st and take down all the blinds etc.

The youngsters will have a body moult   but not their primaries.

When the nights start to draw in around the 2nd or 3rd week in August put a light in the young bird loft and have it on from about 6.30pm until about 10.15pm. The birds will be in lightness for about 15 hours, you can buy n automatic switch so it will come on every night.

This is very important. When the racing is over at the end of September revert back to the normal daylight hours, take away all eggs and separate the sexes. This way the birds will go into the good moult. Don’t exercise birds for a few weeks only to have a bath about twice a week. Feed a good moulting mix.

Keep your eye on them if you get young bird sickness use Gem Supplements STRIKE AND GEMTHEPAX. Every week this will keep them in good health.

Whatever you feed your young birds with. ADD 50% Wheat. Feed 1 ounce per bird/per day. Train them hard and race them hard, this way you will lose the rubbish and will only be left with the best.

Hand feed them every day; fight them when they are on the perches. Make sure they trap well.

Separate cocks from the hens for a few weeks, then as you start racing the first week let them mix together. Separate them Saturday night. Next week put some nest bowls out for them when you let them together on Friday night. Separate again Saturday after race. Next week allow them to go to the nest boxes. SO EVERY WEEK YOU LET THEM TOGETHER BUT THEY CAN DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT EVERY WEEK. This way they won’t get bored after a few weeks. If you cannot separate your birds owing to not having enough loft space. Try putting a house brick in the middle of the loft floor. You will find that they will all want to perch on it. If you have 20 y/birds make sure you only have 18 perches. You must always have 2 perches less than the number of birds you have in your y/bird loft. If you can train every day basket your y/birds up at 9pm in the evening, put them in a safe dark place other than the loft and go training early next morning. Don’t let them sleep in the loft until Thursday night, don’t let out at all Friday. Feed only wheat when they return from race until Sunday, then back to normal feed.

Give them the same water treatments during the week as your widowers.

Young Bird darkness System Part 2

Racing young birds my way

When you have reared your young birds and have them on the darkness system, they should have been vaccinated as early as possible after weaning.
By now your young birds should have been basket trained and learnt to drink whilst in the basket or crate, they should also coming well from training every day. If you can try and get your birds to fly for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening.
I flag my youngsters at a very early age, so they get used to me flagging them, THEY GET INTO A HABIT OF FLYING AN HOUR AM AND PM
This should be how they all through the young bird season, you may find it hard to get them into the habit but you can do it if you want to win, if I can do it so can you, I get up as soon as it gets light enough to let my birds out (young or old), if it means that you have to go to bed a little earlier, then this is what you will have to do,
Train every day weather permitting up to the first race, it should be around the twenty mile mark on the line of flight right up to the first race, if you don’t want to loose many racing TRAIN THEM HARD
After the first club race let your youngster’s pair to whom they wish to, in fact try and get them all to pair, if you give them wheat germ oil once a week this will get them very amorous and they should pair very easily
Now put some nest bowls into the young bird loft, all around the floor of the loft also along the sides of the loft about two feet apart, Lean a bit of ply from the wall to the floor over each bowl, The size of the ply should be roughly eighteen inches by eighteen inches wide, Cover the bowl with the bit of ply then block one side of the bowl, if you cut a bit of ply at an angle to the floor and the wall this will block one side.
Once you have the birds down on eggs you may have to place some pot eggs into some bowls and they will sit them.
After the second club race, on the Friday afternoon about an hour before you basket the birds take away ALL the bits of ply, so now you have all the birds sitting eggs and are in view of all the other birds, this will get them agitated, this is enough for your third race.
When the birds come home they will find all the bits of ply back covering their bowls and nests, they will carry on sitting these eggs as if nothing had happened.
The next Friday two hours before you basket them for the fourth race, take away the ply and move every nest bowl still with the young birds still sitting eggs about a foot towards the middle of the loft, if you take a lot of care the young birds should not get off the eggs.
Leave them alone until you basket them for the race, so now you can see that the birds will still sit on the eggs but very agitated as some of the non sitting birds will be looking at the bowls with the birds sitting, the sitting birds are now trying to defend their territory for all their worth, you can let the eggs hatch and still carry this on every week. But it is much better to win the longer young bird races, so start them sitting to fit in with your race program.
Save all your egg shells from your stock birds when they hatch, save them in a jam jar because you can use them for younger birds to gee them up, after you have all the nest bowls near the drinker you can put a few empty shells around the nest bowls
If you have the time and space another good way to race your hens is:-
Before you start racing your young birds pair 3 young hens to the same cock, you need a loft where you can let your hens into the cocks department through a hole or sliding door, you need four or more cocks so that you can pair a young hen to each of them every week until all the cocks are paired to THREE young hens, try and not let the young hens lay, let them pair to the cock for about a week, Then another hen is paired to the cock, repeat this the following week so after about three weeks you have three young hens paired to the same cock.
On Friday night whilst basketing for the races let all three hens into the cock, they will all fly to the same nest box where the cock is locked in one side. Be quick and basket them, then do the same until you have all of the young hens basketed for the race.
They will get very jealous when all three are after the same cock, you can mess about with them every week any way you wish to,
Let the cocks into the young birds section when you have basketed all of your other young birds and only leave the young hens that are paired to the old cocks, but don’t let them damage themselves fighting, remember there is only one winner in your club so you only need one really keyed up to win for you.
You will find that you will get a few birds together every race
But what ever system you use YOU MUST HAVE GOOD BIRDS not good PEDIGREES The best advice I can give you is to go to the best flyer in your area within a 25 mile radius and try and purchase birds from his best, but the fancier you chose must want you to win with his birds as well THEY ARE HARD TO FIND but they are out there

Best of luck Mick Waterhouse