There are many systems for training Old Birds but the majority are variations based upon the following:

  • Natural
  • Widowhood
  • Double Widowhood
  • Celibacy

The Old Bird systems are based upon motivating the birds to respond to their strong instincts for mating and parenthood, thereby encouraging and motivating pigeons to fly faster to reach their home loft.

The various systems have their general positives and negatives although in practice pigeons are different and some respond differently or more strongly than the expected behaviour, the good fancier observes these exceptional traits and uses them to their advantage.

During my Loft Visit Reports I will be recording Fanciers different management  methods and I would welcome readers replying to this article with your views and opinions on this article and your own systems.


This system basically allows the racing pigeons to mate, lay eggs and raise young different birds respond different to various stimuli i.e. some will respond to racing to eggs and others to very young birds. This enables the fancier to prepare different pigeons to be in different ‘states’ for specific races and have different pigeons in their best ‘state’ for each targeted race.

The advantages are:

  • * The Fancier can race both Cocks and Hens
  • * The Fancier can breed from the Race Team
  • * No additional loft accommodation is required
  • * As the pigeons are not in the right ‘state’ for each race they are not over raced and    often have the energy for the longer races later in the season.

The disadvantages are:

  • * The Pigeons do not stay in form ‘ideal state’ for very long
  • * Some pigeons when sitting eggs eat less food and lose form
  • * If a pigeon losses its mate then they generally become de-motivated and it can take   some time to re-mate them and bring them back to racing form
  • * The raising of youngsters can be an energy sapping task causing racing birds to underperform.

It is the Fanciers art to keep an eye on each pigeon and ensure the disadvantages are kept to a minimum.


This system generally only races the Cocks using the repatriation with the hen as motivation. The cocks and hens are housed separately and only allowed to see other when the cock returns for the race and with some variations prior to basketing.

The Advantages are:

  • * The Cocks stay in form for longer periods
  • * The Cocks are highly motivated to return to an ardent Hen
  • * The Cocks generally exercise well around the loft and require less road work

The Disadvantages are:

  • * The Racing Ability of the Hens is lost
  • * There is a greater need for a Stock Loft as limited young birds can be bred from the racers
  • * The Cocks and Hens need separate accommodation, preferable out of sight and sound of each other
  • * The Cocks and Hens must be exercised separately
  • * If the Hens mate together and become less ardent with the Cocks the system advantages quickly diminish 

Double Widowhood

This system is designed to race both cocks and hens

The Advantages are:

  • * The Cocks and Hens hold their Form longer than on the natural system
  • * The system takes advantage of racing both your best Cocks and Hens
  • * The Birds exercise well around the loft and require less Road work

The Disadvantages are

  • * The Management Time is increased
  • * The birds need to be exercised separately
  • *  A strong Stock Loft is required to produce Young Birds to race
  • * One needs separate accommodation for the Cocks and Hens 


This system Houses and Races Cocks and Hens separately and unmated

In some variations the Cocks and Hens are allowed to mix before basketing and on return from races

The Advantages of the system are

  • * The Cocks and Hens hold their Form for longer periods
  • * The better racers of both sexes can be raced

The Disadvantages are:

  • * Requires more Management Time
  • * Requires separate accommodation for Cocks and Hens
  • * One will require a Stock Loft to produce Young Birds for Racing

Different Training and Management Systems for Young Birds

There are a few different systems for Training Young Birds they are generally based upon manipulating the biological clock by controlling the daylight hours although some mature young birds can be motivated by the urge to mate.

Their are also common systems used to train Young Birds and theses include:

  • Natural
  • Darkness
  • Lightness


The Natural System is as it says it lets the young birds mature naturally from weaning through to racing. This system relies on the Fancier keeping an eye on the moulting process especially the condition of the flight feathers if a flight feather is about to ‘break out’ it is considered that is painful for a bird, equally a pigeon might  fly well with one flight missing but two would be too big a disadvantage, Obviously a pigeon with lots of body feathering missing is in no condition to face a tough race and is consuming to much energy replacing feathers to give its best racing performance.

The advantages of this system are:

  • * The pigeons mature naturally and the good pigeons are well prepared for Old Bird Racing.
  • * If the Young birds mature early enough they maybe motivated by the urge to mate

The disadvantages are:

  • * The Fanciers has to keep a close eye on the state of each birds moult position
  • * There could be limited opportunities especially near the end of the season when the pigeons are in a good condition to race.
  • * The period the birds are in top form is limited
  • * The birds mature naturally (which is more slowly than pigeons on other systems) and this may put them at a disadvantage against pigeons on different management systems.


The Darkness System relies on manipulating the number of ‘Light Hours’ experienced by the young bird from weaning for ten weeks or more. This is generally done by fitting blinds to the Young Bird section/loft to limit the light hours to 10 hours per day.

The limiting of the light hours fools the pigeons biological clock into reacting as if the summer was ending, so the pigeon starts to moult its body feathers ( but not its flights). Pigeons on this system seem to mature more quickly.

The Advantages of this system are:

  • * The birds seem more mature than pigeons raised naturally
  • * The birds moulting position is more stable during the racing season
  • * The birds maintain their form for longer

The Disadvantages are:

  • * The system can induce more stress than pigeons raised naturally
  • * The light hours must be strictly adhered to so you will need electronic timers or be very diligent manually manipulating the blinds


The Lightness System increases the light hours the birds are exposed to by having artificial lighting. This causes the early bred youngsters biological system to promote an early moult and the bird matures early.

The Advantages of this system:

  • * The birds mature early
  • The Disadvantages of this system
  • * Very Often the Fanciers have to pull the later flights to promote the completion of the moult .

In conclusion I have briefly covered the main systems in use in the article and pointed out the main Pros and Cons I will cover each system more fully in other articles and different variations used by Fanciers when I carry out Loft Visits. I look forward to your comments on this artificial and please submit your system and experience for reading and discussion by the Pigeon Fraternity.

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