An article by Susan McFarland which appeared on 17 January notes that racing pigeons in the US eat hemp...sterilised of course! Hemp is what Capt. Levi recommended in his book The Pigeon.
Scot and Susie Lindsey’s ride home from the Stock Show is a little less crowded than on the way there.
After their show pigeons were judged on health and appearance Saturday, the Lake Worth couple released more than a dozen birds out of the back of the poultry barn. Four were first-place winners.
Away the pigeons flew, homeward bound.
"They’ll be home when we get there," Susie Lindsey said. "I count them when we get home."
So is the life of a racing homing pigeon family.
The couple have been racing pigeons for more than 20 years. For nine years, Scot Lindsey has been the superintendent of the poultry barn at the Stock Show. That makes him the person who oversees the operation.
The trick is to raise the pigeons to know where to call home, so they always return no matter the miles.
How do they do that?
Training begins at three months, and consists of releasing the birds daily outside so they learn to fly on their own.
Eventually, the birds learn that when playtime is over, the ritual begins to call them home.
"We whistle, shake a can and talk to them . . . 'Come on boys!’ " Scot Lindsey said Sunday.
When they hear the call, down they come back, zooming back to their loft for the night, he said.
How far do they fly?
Once their home has been established, the pigeons are driven a little farther and released, progressively flying from 100 to 600 miles.
When released, they go up, circle a few minutes to get their bearings and then head home, Scot Lindsey said.
"The good ones go straight home," he said. "Some take longer than others."
How fast do they go?
A pigeon flight is measured in yards per minute. Winners can fly 1,200 to 1,300 yards per minute, which equals about 40-45 mph, Scot Lindsey said.
"Some have been clocked traveling more than 90 mph," he said.
Lindsey recalled one 324-mile flight of a pigeon taken to Conway, Ark. The bird was released at 6:50 a.m. and got home at 10:05 p.m., he said.
How are competition times calculated?
Today’s tech-savvy world makes things much easier than when Scot Lindsey began showing pigeons in 1989.
A chip is attached to the pigeons and scanned into a system upon takeoff.
When the pigeons get home, another scanner at the entrance of their loft enters the data as they fly by.
"Kind of like the scanner at the grocery store," Scot Lindsey said.
If the pigeon is taking too much time doing victory laps in the air over the house, a fancy pigeon (known as a dropper) is used as a decoy to bring the bird home.
"They follow the dropper," he said. "It lures the race birds in."
What kind of care is involved?
The Lindsey family owns about 300 pigeons. The lofts they are housed in are cleaned and disinfected daily.
Every day, the birds are fed twice and given fresh water. They eat a mix of corn, wheat, safflower, Canadian peas, maple peas, buckwheat rice and sterilized hemp seed.