Marathon racing pigeons or homing pigeons are the pigeons who travel a long distance and come back home safely.
They know the way back to their home, and thus, fanciers breed racing pigeons to win these prestigious races. Pigeon racing is a popular sport worldwide, and people breed marathon pigeons on a large scale.
For any bird who is racing, diet and parental details are important. Only the best racing pigeons can breed the next generation of the best flyers.
To aid you in raising the next-gen marathon pigeons, here is a comprehensive guide about them, including their diet, breeding, lifestyle, etc.
What Is Pigeon Racing?
Earlier, pigeons were used for sending mails. When the telephones arrived, their need as a messenger ended.
But pigeons were well-trained, and people started using them for entertainment purposes. Their racing started first in 1818 in Belgium when the first 100-mile pigeon race was organized.
Since then, pigeons have been racing marathons, known as marathon pigeons. This sport is popular worldwide, and pigeons fly from 100 miles to 1000 miles and come back home.
Related Read: Do pigeons fly at night?
What Is A Marathon Pigeon?
A marathon pigeon is a class apart. They look like normal pigeons, but they are raised for racing marathons.
The responsibility of identifying whether a pigeon will perform rests on the fancier. After all, the bird needs practice, proper diet, and attention to prepare it for flying long miles.
A marathon pigeon’s family history, physical buildup, and breed play a major part here.
Lifespan Of A Marathon Pigeon
The lifespan of a marathon pigeon can be as long as twenty years.
Since marathon pigeons are raised with the utmost care, they are vaccinated and are always on a balanced diet with regular exercise, their bodies are well built, and healthy.
Therefore, if you give them proper care, they can live long.
Is Marathon Pigeon A Distinct Breed?
Yes, and no. The pigeons can be from any strain, provided they are great flyers. There are pigeons like tumblers, parlor rollers, and other fancy breeds which can’t fly at all.
While racing or marathon pigeons can fly several miles. They are produced after the selective breeding of strong and flying birds.
Parental history plays an important part in determining whether a bird is a marathon pigeon or not. But any strong and well-developed bird can be prepared for racing.
Breeding Of Racing PIgeons
Breeding racing pigeons is not easy, especially if you are doing it for the first time. It requires patience, dedication, discipline, knowledge and time, and most importantly, the willpower to not give up.
The first step towards breeding a marathon pigeon is to identify one. You build a marathon pigeon from an ordinary one based on its physical traits.
When the pigeons are young, it’s hard to tell what will become of them as they grow. Then you need the knowledge to identify a proper pair that will breed the ultimate racing bids.
It can be assessed from-
- The physical traits of the bird,
- The knowledge of breeds as a fancier.
- The bird’s diet and pedigree
- Experience if a bird is fit for breeding racing pigeons.
What To Look For In A Marathon Pigeon For Breeding?
Certain physical traits must be present in a bird for breeding. These are-
- The tail must be aligned and not angled on either side.
- Must have a strong back and muscles.
- A pear-shaped body is preferred, indicating that the weight is balanced.
- Primary flight wings should be perfectly aligned and not wide.
- Feathers should be silky and smooth.
- Small feathers should be uniform, and last flight wings are preferred rounded.
- The pigeon breast should be a rosy pink, not too dark or too light. LIght-breasted pigeons are not considered fit for breeding marathon pigeons, and too dark breasts mean improper diet.
- A medium-sized bird is perfect.
If you are an inexperienced fancier, it is advised to take help for assessing a bird for breeding.
Sellers don’t often tell you the truth. Instead, they will portray their bird in the best possible light. So, take help from an experienced fancier.
The throat theory is also popular among fanciers. The throat curtain of a bird indicates the respiratory capacity of a pigeon.
The ideal throat curtain looks a rosy pink and can be seen at the back of the throat in the upper portion. A visible curtain is the best one. It should be symmetrical and well-formed.
A creased curtain or badly positioned curtain is not fit and should not be chosen.
A few tips to assess pigeon throat are shared below-
- A bird younger than 6 months need not go through a throat test.
- Only a bird whose physical traits are good should be throat-tested.
- A bird should be calm during a throat test.
- Open the mouth and then wait for a few seconds before you assess.
- The cocks must be tested more vigorously. You can pass the hens for a little imperfection.
Once you have selected your breeders, it’s time to pair them up. But it also requires due consideration.
- First, pair your best flyers together. Pairing the best with an average will only yield average birds and not the best ones. So, don’t make this mistake.
- Don’t pick too old a bird. A fertile old cock is acceptable but old hens are a no-no.
- Pair the same-sized pigeons.
You must prepare the best environment for your breeders, and you can take help from the tips below.
- Start preparing for breeding a month before the breeding season.
- Make them a separate loft from other pigeons.
- Get them vaccinated well before breeding season.
- Get all your birds checked for salmonella, coccidiosis, and others.
- Take due care of them and save them from any infections. Do not give any medications as they may interfere with breeding.
Raising The Pigeons
Pigeons usually lay two eggs. Once the pigeon is fertile and has mated, the hen will lay two eggs.
Related Read: Do Pigeons Mate for Life? When and How do they Mate
To check their fertility, put them under light and see if you can see any veins. If yes, the egg is fertile. The incubation period is usually 18 days.
Once a bird is properly grown, then you can assess its physical buildup and start preparing it for the marathons.
Diet and Nutrition Of Marathon Pigeons
A bird can’t fly hundreds of miles with a belly full of food that won’t provide enough energy. Thus, they must eat foods that are rich in fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Protein is essential for the muscle building of pigeons. On the other hand, fat is required most as it will convert more energy per milligram. Therefore, fat-rich food will be light on their belly and produce the most energy.
When training the pigeons, muscle building should be the primary focus. Before racing, feed them a fat-rich diet. Pigeons can eat a lot of things.
You can feed them grains, nuts, fresh vegetables, fruits, and packed pigeon food. For marathon pigeons, keep a strict eye on your bird’s food. 2 tablespoons of high-protein food per day is ideal.
Apart from this, fresh water is a must. And make a habit of washing the pigeon’s bowl twice a day. It will keep away any infections and diseases.
Training Marathon Pigeons
You cannot expect your bird to fly 1000 miles without training. You must train them. It should be paired with a nutritional diet and exercise.
First, you should start by training them to listen to you.
Next, train them to enter the loft after a long-distance flight, as the marathon ends when the pigeon enters the loft through the trapdoors.
Then you can start their flying time of 15 minutes. Gradually increase this time. But be patient with your bird.
Every pigeon is different. Some may start flying 300 km in one week, while others take a month.
Along with your pigeon, you also need to put in equal efforts. Don’t lose hope. But after a few days, you see no improvement; then maybe your bird is not the right fit for a marathon.
This is the essential information about marathon pigeons. You learned about their feeding, their breeding, aspiring, raising them, as well as training.
If you have any more questions, you can ask, or you have anything to add, feel free to do so.