Ask Ed

The prominent position that the Siegel Company enjoys in the pigeon sport supplying fanciers with medications, loft supplies, electronic timers, and even pigeons, has put proprietor Ed Minvielle at the crossroads of an immense thoroughfare of knowledge, built through 40 years of racing along with nearly 15 years of supplying fanciers with top of the line products. Ed regularly travels to Europe and across America, and is always involved in learning more about this most fascinating sport of ours.


Below you’ll find a wide range of questions that fanciers typically bring to Ed, with succinct answers just a click away.



When should I give my pigeons medications?

My advice about medications differs with each fancier’s specific situation. Some fanciers raise pigeons only for their own personal enjoyment, do not compete in races and rarely bring in new blood. Others, like racing fanciers, have their birds mixing with large flocks of pigeons every week during race season, and their birds are being subjected to physical stresses that the average domestic pigeon may never encounter. The show fancier also has specific requirements, as his birds are occasionally hauled long distances and kept in small cages. At times, these show birds are also being mixed with large numbers of other birds. Thus, the medical requirements for each fancier’s flock are very different.

It’s my opinion that medication should only be given if there is a specific purpose for doing so. For a fancier to have to medicate very seldom or never, several conditions must be in place.

Quarantine new or strange birds for three to four weeks before allowing them into your flock. Most of my calls from fanciers regarding health problems in their lofts come as a direct result of bringing in new birds, and almost every time the new birds were allowed into the loft without being quarantined.

Select your new birds from healthy and sound breeding stock. If you purchase stock from a fancier who has to put medication in his water every week to keep his birds healthy, then you will have to do the same.

Minimize stress within the loft. This is a very broad category, but it implies simple common sense. A good loft design protects from heat, cold, and drafts. Proper feeding and watering, excellent sanitation, and avoiding overcrowded conditions will go a long way in keeping a flock in good health.

Medicate with a purpose. Develop a sound preventative medication program if your situation calls for it. Remember that over-medication can be as much of a problem as disease.

If your birds are ever mixed with those from another loft or with wild pigeons, a fancier should follow a preventative program to treat his birds on a regular basis for the most common pigeon diseases.

What does a fancier need to know about canker?

Canker is also called Trichomoniasis and is the most common of pigeon diseases. It is caused by a microscopic protozoan which is flagellated, therefore mobile. It can be transmitted from one bird to another, usually through the drinking water, and parent birds can infect their young through feeding.

Symptoms in infected birds are a definite reduction in activity, ruffled feathers, loss of weight, increased water intake and diarrhea. Cheesy yellowish deposits can often be observed in the mouth or throat. In advanced stages, a stringy mucous and putrid odor can be detected in the mouth. Young birds are most susceptible.

To prevent canker, control stress, maintain regular feed and watering schedules, sanitize drinkers regularly, isolate and observe any newly acquired bird for several weeks, and administer an anti-canker drug on a regular basis throughout the year. Veterinary recommendations vary from once every three months to once a month. This will depend upon incidence and susceptibility in your own flock.

See the Canker section of the Siegel’s catalog for a variety of medications for prevention and cure

What should a fancier know about Coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a highly infectious and very common disease caused by a protozoan that infects the intestines of our birds. It is usually present to some degree in all pigeons, but most adult birds have developed enough immunity to the disease to remain healthy. Young pigeons are most often infected, or birds that have been subjected to severe stress (i.e., racing, showing, lack of feed and water, or relocation). Adult birds may become infected from drinking unclean water or from being in contact with moist droppings.

Symptoms of Coccidiosis include little or no desire to eat or drink. Pigeons with Coccidiosis will remain puffed up on perches, and they lack any desire to move, often closing their eyes. Droppings are usually very loose, greenish in color, and may become very watery. Weight loss is another symptom, and death can occur in young birds.

To prevent Coccidiosis, keep the loft dry and sanitary. Do not allow feed to come into contact with droppings, and regularly disinfect drinkers. Do not allow birds to drink from gutters or mud puddles, and keep the feed and water free from contact with rodents. Always isolate new birds for several weeks, since they are a primary target for the spread of Coccidiosis. Birds returning from a race should be given a preventative treatment shortly after their return, especially if out overnight. Race baskets should be disinfected weekly.

See the Coccidiosis section of the Siegel’s catalog for medications for prevention and cure.

What should a fancier know about E. Coli?

E. Coli, also called Collibacillosis, is now thought to be more prevalent in pigeons than once suspected. E. Coli is caused by gram negative bacteria which can invade the loft through infected dust particles, in rodent droppings, and through infected pigeon droppings coming contact with eggs in the nest. Infected adult pigeons will emit the bacteria through their droppings, so that E. Coli can be spread quite readily throughout a pigeon loft.

Symptoms of E. Coli are diverse, because the E. Coli bacteria can manifest themselves in any part of the pigeon’s body. Most often, young will die in the nest. Adult birds will become listless and lose weight. Their droppings will become loose, mucousy, and greenish-yellow in appearance. Sometimes the droppings will have a foul odor. Occasionally, some birds may nave nasal discharges and respiratory problems associated with this disease.

To prevent E. Coli, maintain good loft hygiene and keep rodents away from feed and water. Keeping dust and ammonia levels down will also help to control any outbreaks.

For medications for prevention and cure of E. Coli, see the E. Coli section of the Siegel’s catalog.

What should a fancier know about one-eyed colds?

One-eyed colds are usually associated with a peck in the eye or some other type of physical injury affecting the eye. They are also often confused with the onset of mycoplasmosis.

The symptom of a one-eyed cold most commonly noticed is a watery or mucousy discharge in only one eye. But occasionally both eyes will have a watery appearance. Sometimes one eye can become completely shut depending upon the degree of infection.

To prevent one-eyed colds, maintain proper ventilation and do not allow overcrowded conditions. Keeping dust levels in the loft to a minimum is considered good loft hygiene, because many types of infectious bacteria are carried by dust particles.

See the One-Eyed Colds section of the Siegel’s catalog for medications for prevention and cure.

What should a fancier know about Paratyphoid?

Paratyphoid is also called Salmonellosis. It’s a common and widespread disease caused by a gram-negative bacterium which is flagellated and, therefore, mobile. It can be brought into a loft through introduction of infected pigeons, by rodents, through inhalation of infected dust, on the soles of fancier’s shoes, by roaches, or through contact with wild pigeons. Often, and adult bird that has overcome the disease remains a carrier and continues to emit infected droppings.

Symptoms of Paratyphoid are varied, because Salmonella flagellates can be found throughout the body in severely infected birds. Most adult birds will show rapid weight loss, along with somewhat loose, greenish droppings. Some birds may develop swelling in the leg joints or feet, or they may develop wing boils. Other birds may have the “twisted neck” syndrome commonly associated with PMV. Baby birds will often die in the nest before the second week after hatching and may show labored breathing. Another symptom is young dying in the egg.

To prevent Paratyphoid, maintaining loft hygiene is critical, since salmonella flagellates can live in the droppings of pigeons for some time. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of lofts, feeders, and drinkers are imperative. Minimizing contact with rodents, roaches, and wild birds is as important as quarantining newly acquired birds. Maintaining an acid pH level below 4.0 in the loft is also helpful in keeping Paratyphoid under control. Several veterinarians have recommended the use of Nolvasan at one teaspoon per gallon of drinking water regularly to help maintain an acidic environment in the droppings. Regular use of the Salmonella vaccine has proven to be especially effective.

See the Paratyphoid section of the Siegel’s catalog for a variety of medications for its prevention and cure.

What should a fancier know about Pigeon Pox?

Pigeon Pox is caused by a virus which is generally carried by mosquitoes and other biting insects. When a non-resistant pigeon is bitten by a carrier parasite, the virus enters the bloodstream of the bird. Within five to seven days, small whitish wart-like lesions appear on the head, feet, legs, and beak areas. These deposits can grow to become large yellowish bumps which, if removed, may ooze blood. In time, these lesions will dry and fall off, so I advise fanciers to leave them alone.

To prevent Pigeon Pox, use the vaccine regularly. No other measure is successful; although controlling the mosquito and fly populations in and around the loft may be helpful. The only way to prevent Pigeon Pox is to vaccinate.

See the Pigeon Pox section of the Siegel’s catalog for medications for prevention and control.

Paramyxovirus--what should I know?

Paramyxovirus is also called PMV-1. It is a viral infection unique to pigeons and is extremely contagious, especially in the racing sport where hundreds and thousands of birds are mixed and confined prior to release. Direct or indirect contact through contaminated feed, water, or litter can also spread the disease. xxxx Symptoms of Paramyxovirus include extremely loose, watery droppings, lack of appetite, ruffled feathers, poor coordination and sometimes paralysis of wings and legs. In advanced stages, birds will show “twisted neck” symptoms, and many birds will die.

To prevent Paramyxovirus, the only product that is truly successful in the United States is the Maine Biological oil-adjuvant PMV-1 vaccine. Many fanciers are using the LaSota vaccine thinking they are protecting their birds, but challenge tests using the LaSota intraocular vaccine proved conclusively that the LaSota vaccine was not effective in producing antibodies for the pigeon PMV-1 virus. While the LaSota vaccine was effective for short-duration protection for NewCastles disease, this disease is almost non-existent in pigeons and should be differentiated from PMV-1.

See the Siegel’s catalog section for Paramysovirus to order Maine Biological PMV-1 vaccine. Injection guns may be found under the section for vaccination guns, syringes and needles.

What should a fancier know about Pigeon Malaria?

Pigeon Malaria is caused by a protozoan which attacks the red blood cells of our birds. It is primarily carried by the pigeon fly which acts as the immediate host. As many as one-third of flocks tested have shown malaria.

Symptoms of Malaria are vague. Except for some loss of gloss in plumage and reduced performance in racing events, there are no readily visible symptoms.

To prevent Malaria, pigeon flies must be controlled, because they are the primary carriers of the disease. Quarantining newly acquired birds, dusting or dipping birds after they have mingled with others, and eliminating contact with wild pigeons are vital steps, because curing this disease is very difficult.

See the Pigeon Malaria section of the Siegel’s catalog for medications for control and cure.

What should a fancier know about respiratory infections like Mycoplasmosis and Ornithosis?

These diseases all fall into the infectious bacterial category. Coryza is actually the descriptive term used to identify the thick mucousy discharges usually associated with both Mycoplasmosis Catarrh and Ornithosis. The bacteria (termed Chlamydia) in the case of Ornithosis) lodge in the upper respiratory tract and can be extremely hard to eradicate. Often, infected birds never completely recover. Although their external symptoms may disappear, they can remain carriers for life.

The classic symptoms of respiratory infections include mucous in the throat, open beak, and heavy breathing, rasping or gurgling while breathing. Another symptom is a watery discharge from the eyes, sometimes associated with swelling in the eye area. Other symptoms include discharge from the nasal area, and occasionally air sac swelling or crop swelling as torn air sacs trap air under the skin.

As is usually the case with pigeons, other diseases can quickly manifest themselves when birds are in distress, so other symptoms can occur, such as loose greenish droppings and loss of weight. Most often the only noticeable difference in our birds will be their unwillingness to fly, or their complete failure in the racing events.

Respiratory infections are the most damning to the racing fancier, because many pigeon populations are carriers of the disease in one form or another, and symptoms are sometimes hard to identify. But race results will definitely be diminished.xx To prevent and control respiratory infections, maintain adequate ventilation, without drafts, in the loft. Keep dust and ammonia levels low, which means not allowing droppings to accumulate. Control dampness and overcrowding. It’s also wise to limit contact with wild birds, since tests have indicated in some areas that as much as 70% of the wild pigeon population is either carrying or is infected with a respiratory disease.

Because sporadic treatment at inadequate levels can cause rapid resistance, it is not wise to treat without effective drugs for the proper duration. Proper quarantining of new birds is a must.

See the Respiratory Infections section of the Siegel’s catalog for medications for control.

What should a fancier know about Sour Crop?

Sour Crop is also called Candida, or Thrush. It is a very common disease, caused by a fungal infection of the digestive tract. It’s often associated with excessive use of antibiotics.

Symptoms of Sour Crop include listlessness, loss of appetite, weight loss, a water-filled crop, and frequent vomiting. The vomit often has a very putrid odor. Sometimes in lesser cases, thrush will show itself as just small whitish spots in the throat, which can cause confusion with Canker. Another symptom, not often noticed, is feather pulling in adult birds.

To prevent Sour Crop, avoid overcrowding, maintain a sanitary loft, and do not medicate indiscriminately, especially with antibiotics.

See the Sour Crop section of the Siegel’s catalog for medications for cure.

What should a fancier know about worm diseases?

The most common worms found in pigeons today are roundworms, hair worms, stomach wall worms, gapeworms, stronglylids, and tapeworms.

Symptoms of worm disease vary with the type of infestation. It is conceivable for pigeons to live with slight infestations with no ill effects. Severe infestations generally cause droopiness, loss of weight, and some diarrhea. Gapeworms can cause breathing problems. The best way to determine if a worm problem exists is to have the droppings checked.

To prevent worm diseases, keep a clean, sanitary loft. A preventative worming program in which all birds are wormed at least twice a year is advisable for this reason. Racing pigeons often mingle with many hundreds of other birds, and a racer can become infested through ingestion of worm eggs from the basket or through contact with stray pigeons.

See the Worm Diseases section of the Siegel’s catalog for medications for prevention and cure.

What should a fancier know about external parasites?

The most common external parasites that pester our birds are feather lice, red mites, pigeon flies, and mosquitoes. Since parasites like these can occur in almost any climate they must be accounted for when planning a loft strategy. Feather lice are the least harmful of all the pests that attack our birds, because the damage they do is primarily associated with the feathers. They can, however, create serious problems within the feathers, often chewing holes into the flights or causing other types of visible damage which can affect a show or racing pigeon’s performance.

The common red mite can be a real problem in some lofts if it becomes established. It commonly hides somewhere in the loft during the day and at night comes out from its hiding place to bite and feed on the blood of our birds. Other than being a nuisance and not allowing the flock to rest properly, they can help to spread an assortment of diseases.

The pigeon fly is probably the most dangerous parasite that can attack our birds. It lives most of its life on our pigeons, leaving only to lay its eggs somewhere in the loft. Pigeon flies bite our birds often, and besides causing considerable discomfort, they can be a major source of pigeon malaria.

Mosquitoes would have to be considered the next worst parasite to prey on our pigeons, simply because they are located in almost all climates. Mosquitoes are the most common carrier of the pigeon pox virus.

There are numerous precautions we can take within our lofts to help control external parasites. In the case of lice, pigeon flies, and even mites, we can control their numbers by quarantining new birds, and dipping or dusting our birds with pesticides. By keeping our lofts clean, we can do much in not giving the mites and flies places to hide their eggs.

See the section on external parasites in the Siegel’s catalogfor products for prevention and control.

Why are vitamins, minerals, herbal teas, and elixirs important to the pigeons?

Many fanciers overlook the importance of supplementing the diet of performance birds with these products, but the truth is, they may be the most important thing that a fancier can give to his pigeons, providing they are already in good health.

Supplements such as these, if given prudently, can add to a bird’s performance in the races, in the shows, and also as a breeder. Since our birds are kept in an unnatural environment, and they cannot receive all of the necessary vitamins and trace elements or minerals that they need from grain alone, it is extremely important that proper and timely supplements be given. In Europe, supplements are an important part of the program, on a weekly basis, all year long, and their birds are almost always in shining health.

For information on a variety of vitamins, minerals, herbal teas, and elixirs, see these section of the Siegel’s catalog.

Why are electrolytes important to the pigeons?

Electrolytes, or mineral salts, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, etc., help control the fluid balance in the organs and tissues by balancing the acid-base condition in our birds’ body fluids. Added electrolytes help shorten the recovery period after physical stress such as racing and feeding young.

For several products with these supplements, see the Electrolytes section of the Siegel’s catalog.

What should a fancier know about minerals?

It has been proven that at least fifteen different minerals are necessary for our pigeons to maintain proper health. These include calcium, copper, chlorine, fluorine, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, sulphur, and zinc. No pigeon grain gives all the necessary minerals for our pigeons to maintain peak health; therefore, it is essential to give mineral supplements. Most European lofts have minerals in front of their birds all the time.

For a variety of mineral supplement products, see the minerals section of the Siegel’s catalog.

What do picking stones and grit blocks do for the pigeons?

Besides aiding digestion, these products provide an assortment of vitamins and minerals in block form. Most European lofts use these in one fashion or another, usually by crumbling part of a block into a bowl, or sometimes putting the entire block in front of the birds and letting them have what they want. My advice is to crumble a little bit into the grit bowl twice a week.

See the Siegel’s catalog for a variety of picking stones and grit products.

Why should I give herbal teas and elixirs to my pigeons?

In my travels throughout Europe, I can’t help but notice how many fanciers use herbal tea at least once a week in their lofts. They administer it to old breeders, racers, and to young birds. So many great fanciers use it, that I believe there must be something to it. Herbal tea is considered to have a relaxing and laxative effect. And many of the herbs found in the tea assist in respiration.

An elixir is a product that invigorates, restores, refreshes, or stimulates a healthy vigor. The elixirs that Siegel’s carries have been tested over time and actually invigorate our birds to better health and fitness.

See the Siegel’s catalog for a variety of herbal teas and elixirs.

How do you pair your breeders?

Fanciers start looking back at their old and young bird racing seasons in November and start to look at bringing in new birds to their lofts. If they didn’t do well in the short races, they’re going to be looking for speed birds. If the long races were a problem, they’ll be searching for distance birds. You can investigate, search out good birds, buy them at live auctions where you can see them and handle them, or through online auctions which are becoming quite popular. You can do it all right, but remember that luck still plays a big part in getting the right birds to do the job for you.

One of the things that I’ve found to be the most successful is to get youngsters from very successful pairs. Highly successful pairs have proven that their gene combinations work, and will continue to work past the first generation behind them. I like to find pairs that are super successful, the more successful the better. The more pigeons that have come out of a pair and raced well, the better I like it.

As far as pairing the birds is concerned, I like to breed birds of the same type, unless I see that there’s a deficiency in a certain type. For example, if I am working with a short distance family that is becoming incapable of clocking at anything beyond 150 miles, or only on easy races, I feel that a deficiency has developed that needs to be addressed. In the U.S. this is not really good enough, because we fly a regimen that includes 350-mile to 400-mile races in young birds. In some combines, you don’t even start combine competition until you get to a distance of 150 to 200 miles.

You can improve that distance performance in a short distance family by bringing in a little bit of distance blood. And you can do this without necessarily sacrificing the speed. You’d bring in a distance bird whose family has proven it can also win at some of the shorter and faster races. Breed that bird into the speed family, and race the youngsters thoroughly. Then breed one of the best of these youngsters back to the speed family.

You can also go about this the other way, breeding speed into a distance family. Breed that cross back into to the distance family to introduce a bit of speed. One of the best known lofts that has done this successfully was the VanHee lofts. The Motta line of distance birds were found to be getting too slow for the races in Europe, so they bought direct Janssen pigeons. They introduced the Janssens one time as a cross, and then they took those half Janssen and half VanHee birds and they bred them back to the VanHee side, coming up with a ¾ VanHee, ¼ Janssen bird. They produced many national winners with this combination of bloodlines.

I like to pair my birds so that there’s always a genetic link between two pigeons. The studies I‘ve done on the subject really back this up. I’ve spent countless hours studying genetic percentages. I’ve found that there seems to be a common denominator between 28% and 37% common blood and a high degree of success in racing, and also in breeding. Especially linebred pigeons kept at a linebred coefficient of between 28% and 34%, or sometimes higher, seem to have more consistency in winning races than either outcrosses or birds that are inbred or linebred closer than that.

I try to find a dominant gene pigeon, a bird that has proven itself to be a super breeder or racer, and I prefer a super breeder that was also a super racer. Line breed at about a 31% ratio to that particular pigeon. This is the exact ratio of my bird that won 6th place at the Snowbird race and was also the 6th overall best pigeon in the Snowbird race and Snowbird futurity combined last year. It’s also the same percentage that was successful for me in some of the local futurities and the New Orleans Open Classic. It’s proven itself in my loft over many years of racing and keeping these records. In comparing it to outcross birds, in other words, those with no common ancestry within 6 generations, it is much more successful.

Often, outcrossing is just a shot in the dark. You can sometimes have fantastic success, but also a much higher degree of uncertainty or of complete failure with outcrossing. Why do people do complete outcrossing then? Because of the hybrid vigor that can sometimes result. If you pair two inbred pigeons that have no relation at all, you can sometimes get a boost called hybrid vigor. The percentage for success is around 17% or between one in five and one in six, according to the Europeans. A fabulous exception to this is finding a “nick pair” that gives you a much higher percentage of success. But generally, two complete opposites will give you between one in five or one in six success with a good bird.

With linebred pigeons from a good origin, the percentages go up to anywhere from one in four to one in three. So you have much higher odds for success with steady pigeons through linebred pairings. In some situations, a complete outcross pigeon will become a superstar, because it has not only the hybrid vigor but also the combination of genes that allows it to be a steady racer. And the hybrid vigor allows it to be a steady, great racer. So sometimes the outcross is a worthwhile effort. We do this to some extent every year, especially if we want to introduce one of the outcrosses back into one of the existing families later.

Using outcrosses that have a known probability of nicking is one way to reduce the uncertainty of combining two families. An example of one of these combinations is the pairing of Huyskens Van Riels with the Haveniths, which is done quite a bit in New Jersey. Many people know that Janssens have proven to be great crosses with many families. The Stoces with Grondelaers is another natural nick. One of the best natural nick pairs is the Golden Couple from Meulemans with Van Den Bosche blood crossed with Janssen blood. That produced an entire family of great birds based on an outcross pairing.

So there can be great value in pairing complete outcrosses with one another, but you increase your chances of success if you have some idea of the crosses that have been done and proven with success before. Some families of birds crossed with others have no success at all. The average combination seems to be no better than one in five or one in six.

We like to do a majority of our pairings linebred, but when we have a very inbred bird, in other words where we’ve made a combination of father-daughter or mother-son and produced a very inbred progeny, we like to cross that progeny to a completely different family. We do the father-daughter, mother-son pairings because we have found that when we take a very successful racer out of a super breeder and pair that successful racer back to its parent, we often get above average and sometimes even great breeders. If it’s a successful cock, we like to pair it back to its mother. If it’s a successful hen, we like to pair it back to its father. We try to race their young ones, and we don’t ask those young ones to be as successful in the races as we would expect an outcross to be, because those babies don’t have the advantage of having hybrid vigor.

We set a different standard and set of goals for the inbreds than for the linebreds and outcrosses. If they meet these goals, which are basically to be a good homing pigeon, be a steady racer, show some intelligence in coming home in a decent time (not necessarily win the race or even score a diploma, but come close) then we would consider that an indicator that this bird has ability and intelligence and should be given a chance as a breeder. We cross these to other families that we’ve done the same thing to, one that we already know would be a good nick with the first family.

In 1998, we took our best Horemans hen and bred her to her son From that pair we raised four babies and raced all of them. Two did fairly well, never winning but coming in good time. We bred from three of them in 2000. The ones that did OK in the races have both produced excellent clock birds for us. The one that did not race well has not. It’s something we’ve always done and will continue to do. We’ve had a great deal of success with it. Now we’ve found two future breeders for our loft, and they’re young, only ‘98s, so we know that we’ve got a young breeder that we can go with for a long time to give us a percentage of good pigeons every year.

So to summarize, we look to pair genetically linked pigeons, or we look for a complete outcross if we’re dealing with two fairly inbred birds. If we’re not dealing with an inbred pigeon, we prefer to line breed them because chances of success are greater. We’d outcross a bird that is heavily inbred. We’d line breed a bird that is not so heavily inbred or not inbred at all.

How are the inbreeding coefficients calculated? If you look at a 5-generation pedigree, the father and mother are considered to be equally responsible for the gene pool of the young one, so the pigeon in question gets 50% of its gene pool from the father and 50% of its gene pool from the mother. The offspring also gets 25% of its gene pool from each of its grandparents. 12.5% each from its great-grandparents, 6.25% from its great-great-grandparents, and 3.125% from its great-great-great-grandparents. This is as far as you need to go to figure out the genetic linkage.

I take the common genetic link between the father and the mother to figure out a bird’s genetic coefficient. If a bird is from inbred pigeons on only one side of its pedigree, its inbreeding coefficient is zero. But if it has common ancestors in the father’s and mother’s sides, or top and bottom of the pedigree, it has an inbreeding coefficient. How high that coefficient is, is just a matter of adding up the percentages.

What's your recommended approach for buying birds

The least expensive way is to buy in volume, buying a large number of late-hatch babies. Some people even arrange to purchase eggs from a breeder. Late-hatch babies can also be a good way to go. When I’m interested in buying birds from a breeder, I examine the race records and futurity records of their birds to determine the answer to these questions: How successful is the loft in its own competition? How successful are this breeder’s birds for other fanciers?

We go to Europe once or twice a year to purchase birds. Sometimes I go into a loft that I have been studying for some time, watching the results, to see the kind of pigeons that I’m looking for. We like to purchase middle-distance birds that have the ability to fly 300- and 400-mile races as young birds. These are the areas where the biggest money is to be won in the sport, and it’s certainly nice to have birds that can do that.

In selecting these young, we ask the fancier what his most successful pairs of breeders are, and at this point we are gathering information. It’s most important for us to know what the successful breeding pairs are in any particular loft. For example, in a loft of 40 to 50 pairs, surely there are 8 or 10 pairs that are outstanding among them in producing a higher percentage of good birds than the other pairs will produce.

We also will not restrict ourselves just to birds from established breeders. We also like to find a particularly hot young pair, especially if it’s a pair of birds that have produced two or three really good racers. We like to take babies from these. They often produce a higher quality bird.

Once we identify the top pairs in the loft, we make arrangements to purchase their young. Of course, we’re always trying to deal with reputable people, so we can be sure that we are getting what we select. Many fanciers in Europe will ask you to come and choose the young in the nest, letting you into the loft to copy their band numbers for later verification.

One problem with buying young birds is that you don’t always know how they’re going to turn out. We all know that, percentage-wise, fewer than 20% of all racing pigeons produced turn out to be good birds. So we know going in that in purchasing unproven young, you’ll be getting only 2 out of 10 “keepers.” You should keep this in mind when you purchase. If you’re dealing with reputable people, you can generally buy 10 youngsters for the same amount that one adult bird would cost you. Most top lofts in Europe will not want to sell their best racers or their best breeders for an affordable amount of money. In most cases, purchasing young will be the best shot you have. And if you do this, buy them from the pairs that have the highest success percentages, so that the chances of your getting good birds will go up.

A possible pitfall in buying unproven young birds is that you have so many more birds to breed from, and it takes so long to find out what their talents are. But there can be a real gem in the group, and if this bird were in the hands of the original owner, you’d not be able to buy it for any amount of money. So while there may be many birds produced that don’t pan out, you will get some truly good ones. All in all, purchasing young birds is not a bad way to buy pigeons.

The other way to purchase birds is to go after proven racing stock. Often, we purchase birds that come right out of the racing loft. Oftentimes, a bird that is not a great racer but a very good racer can be a very, very good or even a great breeder. Depending upon how they’re bred, some birds that are only average racers become great breeders. Naturally, if you can afford it, buying a great breeder gives you a much better chance of getting super racers. The old adage “the apple never falls very far from the tree” often applies in the case of breeding but not in all cases. Sometimes, a super champion that costs many thousands of dollars can be an absolute “dud” in the breeding loft.

Some considerations in making decisions about purchasing birds are how much you can afford to spend, and how good are the birds that you are considering purchasing. Often, we go in and buy birds that are going to be retired from the racing loft. We know of European lofts that like to retire their racing birds at four or five years of age. At this stage, these fanciers have already got a well-stocked breeding loft with an excellent reputation, and you can go in and buy a bird that’s been flying on the widowhood team or the racing team for two or more years. The bird is obviously a high-quality pigeon if it has managed to stay in a high-quality loft for this long and has earned its keep. A pigeon like this may be expensive, but will be very well worth the purchase price.

Regarding buying hens, we often like to go to a loft that races only cocks and has a number of excellent widowhood hens that aren’t being used for anything but to stimulate the cock birds. In many cases, you can purchase a good quality stock hen from a fancier’s widowhood hen loft. This fancier obviously uses some method of selecting the hens that he keeps. In many cases, they are racing these hens as young birds. So we try to select young hens that have had excellent racing records and have been put into the breeding loft or into the widowhood loft.

Many times these hens produce exceptional racing birds. As an example, a few years ago, we obtained a hen from Ferry Lambrecht that had been the ace hen of his club. He had been using her as a widowhood hen. She had no pedigree. All we knew was that she had been given to Ferry as an egg by Jean Claude Debieve. Ferry hatched the egg and put his own ring on the bird. He flew the pigeon as a young bird, and it turned out to be the ace pigeon of his club. To this day, we still have no pedigree for her, but we have bred from this hen. And in her first breeding season, bred with two cocks, she bred six multiple clock winners. She is truly an excellent breeding hen that is valuable in our loft, even without papers.

Another way to buy pigeons is to go for the really big money and to buy birds out of the breeding loft, or ace pigeons of certain competitions. Every year at the end of the season in Europe, champion birds are put up for sale. We’ve all heard about how much money these birds can go for. And while it is true that these birds are very valuable and have been great racing pigeons, in many cases they don’t prove to be good in the breeding loft. I would have to say that this is true in most cases. Few champion racers ever produce pigeons that race as well as they have raced themselves. Breeding from first ace pigeons is not a guarantee that first ace pigeons are going to be produced.

Very often, it has more to do with a pedigree. We like to follow a pedigree, meaning a family of birds that produces a high percentage of first ace pigeons. It’s likely to be a very good family to purchase young from. If you can obtain a high quality racing cock bird from the loft and a high quality hen from the widowhood loft, such a pairing of birds from a good family will very often produce much better than average pigeons, especially if the birds are related.

While ace pigeons are nice to have and can certainly be good advertising, the average fancier doesn’t need ace pigeons at all to compete at the highest level.

Purchasing birds from a breeding loft can be risky business. A pair of birds in the breeding loft that are for sale has probably not been as successful as the owner had hoped they would be. Sometimes, birds are sold from the breeding loft only because they didn’t pan out.

Occasionally older birds can be bought that have been high-impact pigeons, because sometimes fanciers want to breed only from very young birds. In this case, some older breeding pigeons can be purchased at fairly reasonable prices. You have to be patient and willing to work with these birds. I advocate putting their eggs under younger foster parents. You can produce extremely high quality pigeons from such pairs. Normally the reduction in performance that you see in the youngsters of older breeders doesn’t have to do with the parents’ genetic quality as a breeder but in the reduced level of care that older pigeons can give the young once they are hatched. A younger pair can care for the babies better, but the genes of the parents are obviously still the same. Set up foster pairs that are young, and “float” the eggs from the older breeding pairs to them to be raised. In this way, high quality genes can be brought into your loft without spending an exceptional amount of money.

We have managed to purchase birds from lofts that are being completely sold out. Such sales, in which every bird is accounted for, often yield gold-mine pairs for fanciers that are lucky enough to purchase them. All the records are available for the best pairs in the loft and the best results in the loft. If you manage to get those pigeons, it is up to you the fancier to get the same kind of results.

Another way to buy birds, especially in the U.S., is from the auctions of convention races and futurity races. After these races, the top position birds are often sold. Frequently, we’ve seen some of these birds go for very small amounts of money. If I were a beginner and I knew that a fancier had entered stock into a futurity or convention race, I would not hesitate to try to purchase this man’s birds after the race. For as little as $75 to $100 you can acquire these birds that have gone through all the training, and have given a good accounting of themselves in the race. Once you have the bird, you can even call the breeder and ask to purchase a pedigree. Most breeders are very hesitant to just give a pedigree, but some will. High quality pigeons can often be obtained in this way.

I’ve often been asked this question by new fanciers: What do I look for in a breeder? One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is what not to look for or pay so much attention to. I think it’s very important to try to look for in a breeder exactly what the owner of the family looks for. We’re going to make the assumption that you’re only dealing with very successful fanciers in trying to buy breeders. Some of these people are eyesign specialists and they only want to look for eyesign. Others look for performance only. Some look at the wing and the overall body make-up. Generally, I’ve made myself aware in the years that I’ve been in the sport of the various things that I like in my own pigeons. Then I look at the pigeons in a particular fancier’s loft to see if he likes the same things in his breeders that I do. Is the pigeon I’m interested in first of all very closely related to his best breeders and racers? Do not buy a bird from a fancier if it is not of his core bloodline.

Many fanciers will sell birds that they have brought in and tried without success. If the bird up for sale is not at all related or closely related to the core blood of the family, you have to assume that the fancier wants to sell it because it has not been successful. You need to be purchasing from the stock that is producing the very best for him. The first criterion is “Is the bird from the same genetic background as the core birds in the man’s loft?” This is what I mean by pedigree. I am not referring to just a piece of paper. In Europe and in the U.S., lots of fanciers don’t like to write or keep pedigrees. When I refer to pedigree, I am really speaking about the actual genetic background of the bird. Sometimes we get hung up on a paper pedigree and forget to look beyond that.

Second of course, is the bird itself. What did the bird accomplish? Was it a racing pigeon? Did it race well? Was it a breeder? Was it simply a pigeon that was bred for stock? Is it a baby? If so, then it should be from a pair of birds that has been very successful. If it was bred to be a stock pigeon, it should be easy to determine why it was bred for stock. Perhaps the brothers and sisters of this bird are great breeders. This could be a very wise purchase.

The third thing to look for is whether the bird is well balanced. I think balance in a pigeon is a very important factor. Is the bird strong? Does it give you the impression of having strong character, not only in the body and the muscles, in the frame of the bird, but also in the will of the bird? Is it a bird that gives you the impression that it is an athlete?

Many fanciers, of course, like to look at the eye. I like to see a beautiful eye, but be aware that there are a number of families of pigeons whose owners paid no attention to the eyes at all, yet managed to bring out great quality pigeons. Some of these families of birds became very linebred and inbred pigeons, so that the inherited qualities, i.e., the fixed traits in the pigeons, may not include a great eyesign. One such family that I can note is the Dr. Horn Busschaerts. I’ve seen a number of these pigeons, and these eyes not impressive. They’re certainly not pigeons that would win an eyesign show, but I know of some of them that have bred outstanding birds. So eyesign is a personal matter, one that you must decide whether it is something you prefer or absolutely must have in your own loft. But be aware that eyesign in and of itself is not a major criterion for top racing or breeding results in some families of birds.

What do I like in the muscle? Personally, after having handled many thousands of pigeons, and having such noted experts as Brad Laverne and others teach me a few things about handling pigeons, I have come to be able to recognize suppleness in a muscle and feel the vibrations in a muscle. Suffice it to say that I like to have a pigeon in the hand that has the feeling of buoyancy and has a good supple muscle, a muscle that I can dig my fingers into gently and feel a swelling of muscle. This generally indicates the bird possesses, and is likely to pass on to its young, an abundance of the tools that are necessary to fly, not only for a long time but also quite quickly.

In terms of wing, I personally have seen champion pigeons that had both strong wings, very abrupt, (sometimes called “snappy” wings) and other birds that had very loose wings. I am not enough of an expert in that regard to give an opinion. I just know that there are certain things that I like to feel. I prefer to have a supple wing in my hand, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t breed from a bird that has a snappy wing.

One of the other criteria that I might look for is a rear end that’s got strength. The tail set is not wobbly and moving around when you’re handling the bird. A bird with a strong back will generally have a tail set that extends straight back from the pigeon when you hold it in your hands. In holding a pigeon, I see some fanciers squeeze and almost mangle a pigeon when they handle them. I like to hold a pigeon as gently as possible, as though the bird hardly knows it’s being held. Pigeons are highly sensitive toward people that are manhandling them, and they tense up. Allowing a bird to relax in your hands will enable the bird to reveal its inner qualities. So, I like to hold a bird as gently as possible, and in many cases after I’ve held the bird for a few minutes, I can open my hands and the bird will just sit in my palms, not even attempting to fly away. When a bird is totally relaxed, you can then feel its inner qualities.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a great student of the genetics of racing pigeons. I like to pair birds in such a way that I bring out a common inheritance. I firmly believe that any great family of pigeons has a founding pigeon or two at the base of the family. Those founding pigeons had special gene combinations, or gene pools, and a percentage of that gene pool is passed on to the babies. We have discovered that in linebreeding very often a combination of the genes will bring back a high percentage of the gene combinations that formed the family. But random inbreeding can deteriorate a family faster than anything. So we never breed from pigeons for more than two generations that have not been tested very thoroughly.

In pairing two birds that are related, we try to breed to a breeding coefficient between 28 and 37 percent. That is the ideal that we have discovered for producing not only a high number of high quality racing pigeons but also a very high number of very good breeders. Breeders are discovered through the racing. Very often a bird with a breeding coefficient of 28 to 35 or 37 that has been a very good racer or even sometimes just an adequate racer will make an exceptional breeder. This has happened so often, not only in our own loft but also in the lofts that we have studied for over 20 years, we know that finding the proper coefficient and breeding to that coefficient, meaning related pigeons, is important. Taking a good or better than average racing bird with that coefficient and putting it in the breeding loft is the surest way of succeeding from one generation of birds to the next in any breeding loft.

I often hear fanciers make the remark that this or that bird is not “pure” so they don’t want to breed from it. I can’t imagine this statement being made in our sport. First of all, to attain “purity” from a genetic point of view, you’d have to breed a brother to a sister for five generations or more, and you’d have to start with inbred stock to begin your process. So to attain genetic purity in the truest sense of the word is a completely false statement. If by “pure” the fancier means he’s not working with linebred or inbred stock, there is a little bit of merit in that statement only from the point of view that he feels he’ll get better results from a linebred or inbred pigeon. But in reality, it’s not so much the individual bird itself but the combination of that bird to the other pigeon you’re pairing it to that provides you with the breeding coefficient or racing coefficient that you’re looking for.

One great example of this in a family we should all be aware of is the Meulemans pigeons. In the 1970s the famous “Golden Couple” was put together in Karel Meulemans’ loft. This Golden Couple was a combination of a supposed Janssen hen and a Van Den Bosch cock, and it was supposedly a well-known fact that the Van Den Bosch pigeons were some of the original birds of the Huyskens Van Riels. So some people like to say that the Meulemans are a combination of the Janssens and Huyskens, and this could be a somewhat accurate statement.

But to make the statement even more clear and to understand the study, the Golden Couple itself was a crossing of Janssen and Van Den Bosch. Their children were super pigeons. Indeed, there are few pairs of birds ever put together that were more prolific than this Golden Couple. But what made the Meulemans family so popular, and still popular today was that the children of this pair were such great breeders. The famous “Piet” which went to Germany and bred for the millionaire Hermes. Of course, everyone knows about the famous “Kadet” and how many champions that bird produced. There was the “Merck,” the “Schone Donker,” the “Junior,” and on and on—so many champion birds. All of them were crosses and were great breeders, and in many cases great racers. So there is a prime example of a complete outcrossing that produced great pigeons.

So what did Karel Meulemans do with these pigeons but breed them back to the family. As an example, Kadet was bred back to another Janssen hen. Some of the other brothers and sisters were bred back to children of the other birds. The family was basically put together after first discovering a super gene pool and then combining this gene pool with itself. I think if there was any mistake that Karel Meulemans may have made in his ongoing breeding performance was that he bred the birds too close for too many generations and probably sold too many birds from the family without positive proof that his pairings were working. Yet today, there are still quite a few supreme Meulemans pigeons in the United States breeding really good quality birds.

We imported a Meulemans hen from Wilhelm Wulfmeyer in 1994 and sold that hen to a friend of ours in 1996. That hen bred the second National AU Hall of Fame pigeon in 1997, crossed back to a Janssen. So Meulemans pigeons still have quality, but the fact is that the whole family was started with an outcross, a pairing of two totally unrelated pigeons whose children turned out to be great breeders. So don’t shy away from an outcrossed pigeon as a breeder. Only remember that in using an outcrossed pigeon as a breeder, the bird it’s paired to is ultimately of great importance. Often, the final impact that a bird has as a breeder is based on the bird it’s paired to.

As a rule, I don’t like to see more than two crossings done in the breeding procedures with my own birds. Once I make a crossing, the criterion for the crossing is that the bird has to be supremely successful in the racing. Not just a one-time big win. What we look for is a pigeon that is consistently in the top 10% of the birds entered. If it’s in our own loft, and we send 10 birds, it should be the first bird home. If we send 20 pigeons, it should be the first or second bird home. If we find a bird that does this very often, then we consider this to be a top 10% pigeon. In club competition, if it’s in the top 10% very often and occasionally may fall into the top 20%, this is very good. The same goes for combine or concourse competition.

If we can get a bird that is in the top 10% consistently and the top 20% most all of the time, and it is carrying a breeding coefficient or not, then it is considered a possible breeding quality bird. If it is an outcrossed pigeon that has been a consistent racer and we want to consider breeding from it, then we will try to find another bird that is related to this pigeon.

In the end, there is only one standard for choosing breeding stock, and that standard is success in the racing performances. Pigeons that cost virtually nothing can have good racing performances and can be valuable from a breeding point of view. Other pigeons that cost many thousands have great racing records are also probably valuable for breeding, but only in the right combinations. If a supremely valuable pigeon is not paired properly, it won’t produce good pigeons. So keep in mind that the value of the birds you select as breeders lies more in how you pair them than in anything else.

How should I vaccinate?

I’m often asked about vaccinating against several diseases at the same time. In my experience, some combinations work and others don’t.

It’s generally all right to vaccinate for PMV and Pox at the same time. Colombovac is a combination injection for PMV and Pox, and is done subcutaneously, or just below the skin of, the neck. Most vets prefer the loose skin of the neck as the site for this vaccination, and it must be done just below the skin. But the verdict isn’t completely in on the results of this combination vaccine. Maine Biological PMV-1 vaccine can be given at the same time as Maine Biological Pox vaccine. PMV injections are given just below the loose skin of the neck, and Pox vaccinations are done with a brushed-on vaccine, usually on the upper leg.

PMV and Salmonella vaccinations can be done at the same time, using two different injection sites. Do not mix the vaccines. Salmonella vaccinations can be given, subcutaneously, or just below the skin, of the neck or groin.

About medications in general, I am not a great fan of the 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 combination medications. I don’t like mixing more than two medications at one time. Each medication is specially formulated for a specific disease and a specific dosage duration. Therefore, mixing these medications with varying dosages can be more harmful than good, in the long run. You can successfully mix several medications if you’re going to administer them immediately, and if you know the exact dosage and duration for proper treatment.

But generally I don’t like the “shotgun” approaches. What works best in the long run is medicating for a specific disease. That way, each medication can be administered in a specific way for a specific condition. In the long run, the “shotgun” approach could hurt your birds.

Be sure to check the PMVand Pox medication sections of the Siegel’s online catalog.

What do I need to know about pigeon diarrhea?

Sometimes pigeons develop diarrhea, not when they are actually sick, but after medication treatments. Their loose droppings are due to the chemical imbalance created by the loss of the lactobacillus bacteria or “friendly bacteria” which inhabit our pigeons’ guts and help the digestive process.

See the Siegel’s catalog for diarrhea remedies.

What are the breeding practices you use in your own loft?

I first started collecting toward the birds I have today in 1977.

Like most people, I accepted a lot of what people gave me, and I bought birds here and there. I was reading about Janssen pigeons, and people were recommending them, so I bought a few Janssens. The first two years, I can remember having 85 birds, some purchased, some gifts—a real hodge-podge.

I’ve always been interested in studying genetics. So I turned toward breeding pigeons from a genetic point of view. My studies had taught me to breed the best to the best within the family as close as possible. I realized that although my birds were a hodge-podge, some of them were producing good birds from the beginning. The key is to isolate the best breeders.

You have to test a bird on more than one mate. I took my 85 birds and paired them randomly, trying to balance things body-wise to produce a medium-size bird with good muscle and not too deep a keel—not too extreme in any degree. I began to train and race the birds.

I won the first race of the first season I competed in, despite the fact that people were saying it was going to be tough, as a beginner with my loft position. But I won five out of ten races that season. After the season was over, I evaluated my birds, and traced the winners back to only a few birds. These went to the top of the list for next year’s breeding. I did this for three seasons without adding any new birds.

I switched pairings each season to allow “the cream to rise to the top.” Out of these pairings, I discovered the Celeste Hen, the 1832 Hen, and the Frill Cock. All had Janssen backgrounds, and all had bred above average to excellent racers with every pairing. Once I’d identified the best cock in my loft, the Frill, I began to breed him back to these two best hens.

After this, things really took off. The Frill Cock to the 1832 Hen produced Cisco and Diablo, both Birds of the Year in both club and combine. This pairing also produced Gringo and at least five or six other excellent racers. Gringo was not only a steady racer but became an excellent breeder. The pairing of the Frill Cock to Celeste produced Amigo, Maria, and Beatrice.

I bred Gringo to Celeste, always staying as close as possible to the three dominant breeding birds in the loft. This pairing produced several excellent breeding hens. Children and grand-children of these birds are still breeding in my loft today. I bred Diablo to Maria and produced Pueblo, a hen I gave to Steve Van Cleve. She bred the Texas Center Convention Race Winner in Wichita Falls for Steve. Pueblo bred winners at an incredible rate, almost one in every nest. But this fantastic bird was stolen, and when we got her back, she was done as a breeder.

Several other children of Diablo and Maria have bred good pigeons. Children and grand-children of the above-mentioned birds are still breeding in my lofts today. An excellent example of my inbreeding philosophy follows. I took the 1832 hen and paired her to her best son, Cisco. This mating produced the 1008 Hen, who became a foundation breeding hen for Joe Carter of Houston. This hen bred for him three 1st Houston Association winners and over 20 other club winners.

We’ve added to the family as the years have gone on. I bought a cock from Campbell Strange from the “Schalie” Janssen blood. This cock bred to a daughter of Gringo and Celeste produced a lot of good birds. For example, Blue Beauty was the second highest point pigeon in my club and a 300-mile winner, and the 205 Cock was a 200-mile winner and also finished at the top of the high point winners in club standings. Today, the old family still exists, and we keep breeding along the lines of those three dominant birds.

When we find a pairing that works, we keep the young from the pairings and breed them back into the family. This family of birds is responsible for more winners in south Louisiana than we can count. At one point, we were able to trace over three seasons in my club, in both old bird and young bird races, from 100 miles to 500 miles, in which either the first- or second-place bird in every race was of this family of Minvielle Janssens. They are no longer quite as dominant, but they still produce outstanding birds almost every year.

In addition to my old Janssen-based family, I’ve been going to Europe each year since 1989 and have made contacts that have developed into good friendships with some of Europe’s top fanciers. When I visit with them, I make it a practice to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open. My philosophy has always been not to try to impress but to learn by listening. In this way, I’ve learned that some of the dominant families in Europe such as Grondelaers, the old Van Loons, the Schellens, the Stoces, and many other families that are not so well known in the U.S. all go back to common origins.

In that vein, I decided to buy the best I could of those common bloodlines. I started off going to the lofts with the biggest names, but soon saw that sometimes the biggest names are selling so many birds they don’t have the best selection.

Not in every case do I purchase from the biggest loft. I try to find the super breeding pair in every loft I visit. These are the key pigeons to take youngsters from. Whatever “nick” or combination of genes that has caused their young to perform superior to all others, you want in your loft.

Just a few of my key choices have been:

–From Jean-Claude DeBieve, direct children of his famous “Driebander” and grand-children of “Plaisant” and “Emilie”

–From Willem DeZutter, direct children of “Wondere Dunky”, “Cent,” and “Manue”

–From Ludo Claessens, direct children of “Voske 54,” “Supercrack 69,” and “White Golden”

–From Jan & Kees Bleeker, championship middle-distance competitors in Holland, direct children of their foundation pairs

–From Maurice Casaert, middle-distance champion of Belgium, children and grand-children from his foundation pairs

–From Van Cauter-Plas, where the original Schellens exist in their purest form, grand-children of world famous “Fenomenal”

–From Filip Herbots, children and grand-children of the world-famous “National I”

–Also, a hen from the Meulemans strain of Wilhelm Wulfmeyer and Heiner Nordmeyer, down from the world famous Golden Couple of Karel Meulemans, that has produced a second national Hall of Fame pigeon for Steve Van Cleve

We are currently breeding from 42 pairs, all hand-selected in Europe and paired according to pedigree to produce the highest quality racing pigeons we can produce. Since we believe that good pigeons breed to their pedigree and race to their pedigree, success will follow. Certainly in the case of our loft, it already has, with top racing birds being reported to us from all over the United States.

For more information about how you can obtain birds from Ed’s loft, visit the Our Loft section of the Siegel’s web site.

What are "droppers" and how do I use them?

Droppers are pigeons that are used as decoys to bring racing pigeons out of the sky and into the loft quicker. They’re usually brightly colored, calm, and mingle well with other strains. Strains such as turbits, frill backs, owls, and satinettes work well. These birds are slightly smaller than racing homers, so they aren’t likely to try to dominate the racing homers. Since they are not flying breeds, they’re not likely to try to fly with the homers when released.

Droppers can be trained to drop to the landing board. This is the talent that makes them so valuable to the fancier. Some fanciers cut the end flights of the droppers shorter, which induces them to want to come down quicker. If droppers are trained from an early age, they can be tossed up to go directly down to the landing board. When a fancier sees his homing pigeon coming in from a race, he tosses the dropper into the air. The dropper coming down to the landing board lures the racing homer to do the same.

In California and other parts of the U.S., fanciers use special droppers called Casanovas. Originally bred in Spain, they are slightly larger than a homing pigeon. Casanovas are extremely passionate, with the males being very aggressive and the females being amorous. In old bird racing, they’re used to help prepare the racers for the race and to get them to come home. Casanovas don’t like to fly, either. When they’re tossed up, they come right down to the landing board.

Most lofts keep five or six droppers. Once a dropper is trained, he can be used for many years. I remember visiting my old friend Tommy Mooneyham, who had only one old dropper in his loft, and once when I asked him which pigeon in his loft had won the most races, he pointed to that old dropper and said, “That one!” Tommy perfected the dropper’s work by using hooples, devices which look much like oversized tennis racquets that can be used to run the birds in. Nobody could out-trap Tommy Mooneyham with his old dropper and his hooples.

Thirty to forty percent of pigeon fanciers use droppers. Most people keep their droppers with their young bird team, but away from widowhood hens or widowhood cocks. You should refrain from using aggressive birds like Modinas, because they can cause disturbances in the loft by breaking eggs and fighting. Also, avoid birds that can fly well, because they’ll take off and fly with the homers.

What do loose droppings indicate?

Loose droppings are a sure sign that something is off in the gut within the digestive system. The problems can be caused by viruses such as adenovirus, circo-virus, PMV, or pox. They can be caused by bacteria such as salmonella, e-coli, or even worm infestations. Over-medication can also place stress on a bird and cause loose droppings as can hard racing and hard training.

Good droppings should be firm, about the size of an acorn, have a brownish color, tipped in white. The color depends upon the feed that the bird is getting.

Loose droppings can be mushy, slimy, almost pure water, lime green, dark green, or yellow. Each color indicates a different condition.

What do you think of money in the sport? Is it good or bad?

A lot of people in the sport have different motivations for flying pigeons. I’ve heard people criticize how much money is coming into the sport and how costly everything is. This is not necessarily bad.

Generally, anything that people consider expensive, they also consider valuable. It’s not a bad thing for a pigeon to be valued at $20,000. It makes people outside the sport take notice. It may make people realize that there’s more to these pigeons than the average person thinks. Money can attract respect, and our sport needs this.

Regarding the one-loft races and gambling, I agree that they sometimes make people show their worst side. But all in all, they’re good. Certainly, no one would complain about a racehorse being worth $1million. What is wrong with a racing pigeon being worth $100,000? It does evoke respect.

There is something very basic in our nature that makes us love gambling. It is being proven around the country and the world that many people love to gamble. I believe that a lot of people wouldn’t participate in our sport if they didn’t have the opportunity to gamble on the races. You have to respect their motivation for being in the racing pigeon game, because the fanciers who enjoy the gambling aspect add significantly to our numbers and to the value of our birds.

My opinion of the money in the sport is that it doesn’t do any harm and, in the long run, it may do our sport a lot of good. Generally, the more that something is worth, the prouder people are to own it, because of its perceived value. People need to be prouder of their birds. If anything is wrong in the sport, it may be that people aren’t proud enough of it.

As far as hobbies go, people find the money to do what they truly want to do. Racing pigeons is no more expensive than golfing or fishing or hunting. With golf go expensive clubs, shoes and other equipment, along with costly club membership dues and green fees. People have also been known to bet on a golf game! Fishing as a hobby entails owning and maintaining a boat, high-quality rods and reels, and paying for fuel, licenses, and bait. Hunters who are serious about their hobby pay each year into leases, own expensive guns, expensive dogs, and specialized clothing. They pay transportation costs to get to their leases, and each year buy licenses and ammunition.

We should hope that our birds become more and more valuable and that our sport continues to grow. It’s smart to introduce younger people into the sport. When they’re ready to settle down, they may want to participate. If you just look at the numbers, you’ll realize that our sport is for people who are settled, older, and retired. Most people come into the sport for a few years as a youngster and then come back to it after finishing school and establishing a family. So the issue of our sport being too expensive really isn’t an issue, because those who are participating in it are financially most able to.

What is the "Siegel’s Pigeon Giveaway"?

At Siegel’s, our commitment to our customers runs deep, and our appreciation for your support runs even deeper. To show our appreciation, we give away, to a winning customer every month, a set of babies from one of our outstanding imported racing pigeons. 

The Siegel Company has been in business since 1929, and for most of this time, we have purchased and sold European products to our American friends. Because of our long-standing business relationship with the European community, we have developed many good friends in Belgium, Germany, Holland, and England. And some of our friends are internationally known pigeon fanciers.

This provides us with unique access to some of the world’s foremost racing pigeons. Since ours is a competitive racing loft, we are constantly searching for and adding top birds to our stock lofts. Many fanciers who have visited have been impressed with the extraordinary quality of the birds that we have imported over the last decade, and many fanciers have been successful with their progeny.

Our decision to share these birds with our customers revolves around our commitment to see our sport grow and prosper. We are fully aware of the exorbitant prices that top racing pigeons are commanding today. In giving away birds of this caliber, we hope to provide fanciers with bloodlines that they might not otherwise be able to obtain. This is Siegel’s way of giving something back to our customers and to our sport.

Read the rules for the “Siegel’s Pigeon Giveaway.”

What are the rules of the "Siegel’s Pigeon Giveaway"?

Throughout the year, I select outstanding pigeons from among the nearly 90 pairs in our breeding lofts with which to fulfill the “Siegel’s Pigeon Giveaway” prizes that are won by our customers each month.

I enjoy strategizing to give the winner birds that I think will do especially well in the races in his area of the country. We supply pedigrees to the winner, and we guarantee the babies to be healthy and sound.

As a Siegel’s customer, every purchase you make automatically gives you a chance to win. On the last business day of each month, we draw at random a winning invoice number from all of the purchases that have been made during that month. We then have the pleasure of notifying the customer to tell him about his winnings and we announce it here at!

In lieu of purchase, you may enter your name for any month’s drawing by writing “Siegel’s Pigeon Giveaway” along with your name and contact information on a 3″ x 5″ card and mailing it to us. At least once a year at random, we draw the winner from these cards.

As soon as a set of babies is of weaning age, they are sent to the winning customer. We ask the winner to pay only for the shipping box and the shipping charges. And recently, a health certificate, which costs $15, has been added to the shipping requirements for sending the birds. In all, the total charge to the winning customer is $60.

Each month begins a new “Siegel’s Pigeon Giveaway,” so only customers who have qualified with purchases within that month are eligible to win. Availability of youngsters depends on the time of year, as we do not breed during the summer months, or during the moult. Shipping is also restricted during the hot summer months; therefore, if you are a winning customer during these restricted months, you will receive your prize later in the year when the shipping restrictions are lifted.

Siegel’s thanks you for your support, and we hope you win a dream set of youngsters!

Fill out the form to ask Ed any question you may have. He will respond to you in a timely manner. Your questions are appreciated.


A great gift idea for that special fancier is a Siegel's Gift Certificate, available in any amount, for a holiday gift, a birthday, Father's Day, or any other occasion.


Very prompt on shipping! Knowledgeable about all their products! And you can talk to a professional racer, Mr. Siegel himself!

Gary Donelson