In response to the following question:
I have read your articles and writings for quite sometime...I'm always interested in your no nonsense approach to alot of subjects.
My question is concerning the hens kept for widowhood cock race team...
How do you keep the hens interested in their mates when separated and kept with only hens???The problem I've had is the hens become interested in each other and not so attentive to their mates when put with them??
My suggestions by Bob Rowland:
Keeping the hens amorous towards their mate is always a tough one but on one trip to Europe (1984) I spent 2 weeks with my friend that was flying right on top at the time. He had won 1st Nationals plus other 1st Provincials, etc. so he was flying amongst the elite of that time!! I was there specifically to learn tricks and methods about widowhood.
My friend used a very simple approach by only allowing his hens out into a big and very open wire floor aviary with no perches. This was only allowed when the cocks were inside. Even the windows of the boys were obscured so they paid no attention to anything taking place outside of the loft. His approach was to exercise the boys in the morning and after he called them in or locked them in, then he allowed the hens into the big aviary. He kept his hens there all day without any food or water so when he opened the window for them to get in, the hens virtually charged in to get their feed and water. Keep your hens on the HUNGRY SIDE!!
Once he had the hens inside, that building was shutdown so none of the boys could see any of the hens and they didn't even know that the hens were in there. Then the boys were kicked out for their evening exercise. This was his standard routine and it worked quite well but he also had a few more tricks to keep the boys at their prime. Should a hen not show the proper attention to her mate when she was shown just before shipping, then he would get a similar color hen and put her in the place of the hen that would not warm up properly to her man. HE KEPT PERHAPS TWICE AS MANY HENS AS COCKS!!!
I would think that certain lighting tricks were also used to keep the hens from getting too broody and I would also guess that the girls were held light on the amount and type of feed they received. If you feed the girls too well or too rich a mixture, they will try to mate up and once that happens, the boys do not race as well as one that has a hot hen. Naturally, territorial issues are also a big thing but this article is only about the hen problems.
All people try to find a purpose for their hens but I feel that the only purpose for the hens in old birds is to take care of my warriors. If they lose their excitement, don't plan on winning with those guys until their head gets back on properly. This may require a new mate!!! Of course we all hear about some story or another where a boy with a bad mate still came to win. Generally this does not happen where the competition is large. Only the most motivated and best conditioned pigeon which is of superior quality as an athlete will win.
In my opinion, having good hens is very important to our success both as a racer and also as a breeder. If I wanted to have children, my choice would be a young healthy woman that should be able to deliver vibrant children so by taking the very best young hens and going immediately with them to the stock lofts, you now have increased the opportunity for vibrant young ones. This does not mean that only young hens can produce vibrant children as we all know of the real special producers that continue to produce very good ones into their late life cycle. Remember, there are only a small percentage of exceptional pigeons so getting the proof early of what they will do for your future eliminates you from keeping a pigeon for 10 years hoping to find out if they are a special one. However, the special ones get too old ... too fast! My top breeding hen is 12 years old and still laying 2 eggs and if I pull those eggs, in 10 to 12 days there are 2 more in her nest. Also, everyone of her eggs is fertile and hatches and grows up healthy. Quality shows itself!
So in conclusion, your widowhood hens should serve the purpose you have them for and again, if they are a super racer, then breeding racers from them while they are young gives you the opportunity to have many babies from them. Remember that EVERY EGG should be important to you and allowing your best hens to drop eggs that serve no purpose is a big mistake. I don't know how many eggs a hen will lay in her life but those first eggs are perhaps more important than the last ones they will ever lay so why waste them? Retard the egg laying process even though the hens are only the widow hens. If you follow a similar method to this, it is only a short period of time and your quality of available hens should shoot way up and your biggest problem is with hens that get to be 4 or 5 years old and you have never raced a youngster from them. I have some 5 year old pigeons that have only raised 1 or 2 young ones and they were late hatches as I allow my widowers to raise a baby after the old bird races. Their mate is a hen that I know is good but have been waiting for a spot to slide them into the stock loft. However, each year there are more new top racing hens so some of these older girls slide down the priority list as future breeders. The biggest concern we should have is to eliminate the hens that are not special and this needs to be done early but after their young bird racing season. If we allow them to get to be mature, even the worst quality can begin to look and act pretty good. If we take them out of our future, soon we forget all about that specific pigeon regardless of what pair she is from.
SpringHill, Florida USA