Racing Hens? Try it

Ok, hands up. Who races widowhood cocks and only cocks? Quite a few! The trouble with only racing cocks is that the hens are wasted. You could be sitting on several federation winners, and in some races the hens might even out-perform your cocks.

It is said that for the longer races, especially if the weather gets a bit dicky, and more especially, if there's a chance of a holdover, then the widowhood hens will come into their own. However if you don't race hens you will never find out.

Just think, by racing your hens as well as your cocks, you would effectively be doubling your race team. This increases dramatically your chances of winning more cards.

Furthermore if you have the advantage of belonging to two clubs, you could send your cocks to one race and the hens to another. You might have to occasionally have to deal with both teams arriving together, but it is a small price to pay for having the chance of two races each weekend.

The simplest way to race widowhood hens is to use the roundabout system. You just need two adjacent compartments linked by a door or corridor. Here cocks and hens are let out on rotation. Cocks let out, hens moved across to the cocks section, cocks let in to the hens section, hens let out of the cocks section, cocks moved across to the cocks section, hens let into the hens section.

When racing, if you use roundabout, try to keep it varied and interesting for the hens. For example if you have cocks in a section with nest-boxes and hens in a section with only V perches, let the hens stay in the nest box side occasionally when they return from a race. Put the cocks next door on the V perches. This will help motivate both sexes. For the next race hens will have developed a greater affinity for the nest box and the cocks will develop a desire to get back to what they see as their territory. This change of routine stops both parties becoming stale.

There are several other ways to race widowhood hens. One way is to pair your stock cocks to the race hens and the race the hens on pure widowhood always racing them back to the stock cocks. To ensure that the widowhood cocks can be raced as well you will need to pair your stock hens to the widowhood cocks.

This has several advantages. Usually stock birds are paired early. One or two rounds are taken from them and then they are left on pot eggs or separated. For the rest of the race season right through to next years breeding they are almost a liability. They need cleaning on a daily basis and they are consuming corn with little return. By using them as partners for your race team you are effectively making the most use of them and they then become an asset.

Another advantage of pairing stock cocks to hens and stock hens to cocks is that you will always have the appropriate mate to put into each nest box for when the racers return. This overcomes a major difficulty that roundabout fliers often come up against, when one of the race pairs is lost during the season. Using stock birds paired to racers, overcomes this difficulty. You won't lose them.

Whatever system you choose, the biggest problem is finding the time to exercise the cocks, and then the hens, and of course your young bird team, each for twice a day. If the cocks get an hour in the morning and the evening and the hens get an hour morning and evening and the young birds get an hour morning and evening that, effectively is 6 hours of the day gone. That is assuming you can get them all in at the right times and not have the odd one or two that start to mess you about. To most fanciers this is impractical, as time has to be found to go to work as well as have some time for family duties.

Also exercising the hens might become a problem if, on being let out, they immediately land and try to get back into the loft. Flagging them might help; if not then there is always the option of taking them up the road for their training.

One way around all this is to exercise your hens with the young birds. For the early races, pairing of the hens to the young cocks should not become a problem, as the young cock birds are usually to immature. In any case there will also be a pool of young hens to help distract and confuse the young cocks.

Using this system, you can let the widowhood cocks out for 1 hour morning and evening, then the young birds with the hens for at least once a day, in the evening. The young birds should be full of flying, often ranging for hours at a time; they will keep the hens in trim and very fit. This fitness regime can be built on by also training the hens with the young birds when road work is required. This will serve two purposes. It will keep the hens fit, and the hens will teach the young birds to keep a good homing line.

Another brilliantly simple way to cope with having to exercise cocks and hens twice in the day is simply to let them out together. The rank cocks will keep the hens buzzing by constantly chasing them. Also because most teams contain yearlings there will be few true pairs, as the yearlings tend to chase everything. They will then have to compete for a mate, which makes them keener. In addition during the season if odd birds are lost, the new single pigeons will also be trying hard to take a new partner. Sometimes there will be several hens all competing for a single cock, a great way to motivate hens. When the loft is opened after exercise the hens and cocks will drive back in to claim a nest box. The hens can then be separated again and put into their own section. They can then be let out again with the cocks at the next exercise period.

One real major advantage of racing your hens as well as cocks is that the hens get tested. At the end of each season you can tell which hens are your best, which ones to breed with and which ones to get rid of. Using this information, and with selective breeding using your best hens, your race team will get stronger each year.

The other major problem that needs addressing is that widowhood hens will often start to pair with each other. This is particularly true when the weather gets warmer throughout the season. You can immediately deal with this by separating any offending hens and reducing their food intake for a while. In addition to this, if you rigorously break down your hens early in the week with depurative, this will prevent inappropriate pairing and egg laying.

Remember hens are generally smaller than cocks and so you can get away with feeding them less than the cocks. Some fanciers routinely give their hens one day less sport mix before sending to the race-point, supplementing the richer sport mix with a lighter depurative for an extra day. This prevents pairing and also prevents fat deposits from building up on the hens.

You can also discourage pairing if you keep the hen section very sparse. There should be no shelves or nooks and crannies in which to tempt paired hens. There should be the minimum of perching possibilities so that the hens get very competitive for personal space. They should end up antagonistic to each other. This will prevent them becoming inappropriately amorous. A grill floor will also discourage nesting.

It will also help if you send the widowhood hens religiously every week, right through the race program where possible. By consistently returning to the cocks and seeing them on a regular basis it will keep their minds off pairing with other hens.

To prevent hens pairing, you can occasionally throw a very rank yearling cock in with the hens. You can also let them out together with the single cock for exercise. This is to keep the hens on their toes; they will become distracted from pairing to each other, vying for the cocks' attention. By using an inexperienced yearling cock he will be less likely to pair up immediately with one of the hens due to his inexperience.

In the hens section it will also help prevent pairing if the V perches are arranged only down one wall. Also if vertical boards are placed between the rows of V perches, this will prevent the hens from seeing one another.

However if pairing between hens does become a problem, turn it to your advantage. Race the paired hens as lesbian hens. They can then be raced back to each other, either sending each to separate race points or by racing one of the pair on alternative weeks. If eggs come along then even better, lesbian hens will race to each other to get back to the nest to cover the eggs, a great motivator.

Other variations can be used to motivate lesbian hens. For example if you have got a section of hens that want to pair, strip out all the attachments from inside so there is nowhere for them to nest. Then put nest bowls on the floor in pairs almost touching bet separated by a cardboard or wooden partition, so that the hens using the bowls can't see each other. The pairs of hens will then occupy a bowl each. On the day of basketing remove the partitions. The hens will ten become very territorial and with joust each other. By sending them in this condition they will rapidly race back so as not to lose their nest space. Later a variation of this can be tried by removing the partition and also one of the bowls. You the have 4 hens all racing to claim a single bowl.

Whatever method you choose, racing hens as well as cocks will add extra dimension to your race team, hopefully boosting your chances of winning and making the most of all the pigeons in your loft.

By Alan Wheeldon

Find us on Facebook
Follow Us