Widowhood is a method of racing pigeons that has frightened many for quite some time. Many think that there are secrets to the system and there are those that felt it was a very time consuming method of racing our pigeons.
I have been racing pigeons on the widowhood method since 1976 so at the time of this writing, that is 30 years. During this time I have found that most of the wife's tales that others believe to be true are completely wrong. It is NOT NECESSARY to only race on a strict guideline of doing it the same as every one else. Whether you race just the boys, or you use a double sex system or even a same sex system where some only mate hens to each other, all have had some remarkable results over the years.
I prefer racing only the boys and I do what is referred to in Europe as a dry system. This means that you do not allow the boys to raise a youngster until after the season has finished. Many believe that for a male to lock onto his box and be very defensive of his territory, he must have brought up a young one in that nest. In past years I did not force my boys to mate with any specific hen as I felt that the natural love attraction may make the boys happier but there is really no way of knowing whether this is correct or not. Some of my boys would have eggs right away and I would allow them to raise up a young one in their nest and hopefully they would still be feeding that big baby on the day of the first race of the season. Many times this gave me a special performance from that male as I would take the hens away anywhere from a week to 2 weeks before the 1st race. This way the male would think that he was totally responsible for the feeding of that baby. Little did he know that while I had him out exercising or road training, the hen was allowed to feed the baby without the male knowing she had been in there. However, most of the time it was only an old male that had been on the system before and he had a special hen that he races well to. For my yearlings, the sun is not long enough to prompt them to want to mate early and if you attempt to increase the daylight hours to get them mated, you could suffer with problems of them moulting too quickly.
I preferred to begin by starting 75 days before my first race. However, here in Florida, there is not enough time between our last young bird race and our first old bird race. By allowing the pigeons to be together and to begin to nest, even if they were slow to go down on eggs, time was in my favor. If they mated immediately no eggs were laid until 10 days after the introduction and then taking another 17 days after the second egg is laid means that almost 1 month has gone by. Now if they were to raise a baby, that would give me another month and then I still had about 15 days to road train them.
I developed a method where I did not allow the hens and males to be out together as the local hawks in winter were deadly hunters so I began my conditioning by taking the boys about a mile away and releasing them to fly straight home. This I did when they were supposed to be on the eggs so they had some purpose in returning home quickly and running in. I quit allowing them to just loft fly until after the races began. This method worked wonderfully for me in Wisconsin but then again, I moved to Florida and there is not enough time between the end of young bird races and the beginning of the old birds. Therefore, I am still trying to find a method that will work well for me here in Florida. Perhaps I will need to start 2 different teams at different times so I can complete the entire series of races.
Many people feel threatened by not being able to race their hens and each of us must do what we feel comfortable with but I found for myself that trying to race a double widowhood system required about twice as much work and one did not get twice as many good positions. My advice is always the same and that is to only fly one sex or the other. I have found that if the boys see the girls too much, then they will not race at their best and yet for the girls to race well, they need to see the boys quite a bit. In my mind, these are two totally opposite systems.
I have also found that the boys race well as they establish their territory and by being observant, you will notice when little things take place within your loft. When my guys start acting like mountain men that have just come down from the mountains after a long winter, then I know that the fun is soon to begin. These guys will be battling with each other and chasing each other around and in general terms, they are full of fire. Until that happens, they are merely going through their paces without the motivation or attitude to come out in front.
As I already mentioned, I do not race the hens so trying to give you good information on how to do this or how to race a double widowhood system, I would only be guessing and if I thought those systems are superior, I would be doing them. My conclusion is that racing any system other than widowhood boys is a lot more work and the results are rarely that much better. Naturally, any pigeon on just the right day can give a spectacular performance but I try to use what I feel is the easiest and gives the most success. We had our first old bird race for the 2006 series on January 23 and since that time my boys have only left home when they are going to a race. Their entire training regime NOW is exercising for 45 minutes per day around the loft. They are beginning to show signs of catching on to what we are doing and that is promising as our season ends April 29. With 2 - 400 mile races, 2 - 500 mile races, and a 600 mile race in our schedule, it makes for a long season so coming out of the basket in a red hot condition for the first race will make it virtually impossible for you to fly all the races.
In conclusion, for me racing only the boys is my joy and while everyone else is busy working their birds down the road every day, I go to breakfast and then come home and allow my guys to exercise around the loft. Now, if they are not capable of giving me some very good races with this method, then I believe I will need better pigeons.
Hope this helps,
SpringHill, FLorida USA