Training of Pigmy Pouters Most Important
By Sidney Earl, Secretary, A.P.P.C. - Article date: 1974
Pigmy Pouters, more than most other breeds of pigeons, love to be handled, talked to, and have notice taken of them. Only while the Pigmy is actually blowing and strutting can a full evaluation of its makeup be determined. At best the various points of conformation are not as evident as when the Pigmy is performing. While in the loft the birds will perform to a certain degree, the performance can be brought to a higher level of accomplishment by proper training. This applies to the Whole stud, not just the contenders for a place on the show team.
In the selection of a show team, one does not go willy-nilly into the loft, grab up a few birds, and send them to the show. This will guarantee failure before one starts. The young bird should be handled every day, from the time they feather out in the nest, until the final selections are made after the moult is completed. By this time one has a pretty good idea as to which birds are most superior, and ready for formal training.
In order to train Pigmy Pouters properly, the fancier will need a setup composed of a number of individual cages, and a walking pen equipped with a mirror. The simplest cages are the familiar exhibition coops with four holes per section. These can be purchased from equipment suppliers. If the cost seems expensive, cages can be made from lumber scraps and wire.
The individual cages should be so arranged or constructed that the birds cannot see each other when confined in them. With the four-hole exhibition cages, this is easily done by fastening a piece of cardboard to each dividing partition. If you make your cages, the dividing partition must be made solid.
The walking pen should be set up near the individual confining pens. The individual should have a bottom that extends three or four inches beyond the front. This allows the placement of feed and water cups outside the cages. Shavings can be used on the bottoms to keep the birds clean.
For feed and water cups, one can use paper or styrofoam cups that can be obtained from any food counter selling hot soup. I use a spring clip type clothes pins to fasten cups to the cage bars. One caution: If you use exhibition coops, be sure to remove the V-shaped clip on them that is designed to hold a feed or water cup. Excited birds trying to get out of the cage can hang their foot or leg in this clip and ruin themselves. The walking pen should be set on a bottom that is covered with burlap from a feedbag, an old towel, or apiece of carpet. Dry droppings can be lifted off this material easily.
A mirror should be hung on back of the walking pen. This is used for training cocks. When working with hens, cover it with cloth or cardboard. The reason for confining Pigmy Pouters individually while training is to get them lonesome. Experience has shown that a Pigmy is friendly, and abhors loneliness. When he becomes real lonely, his response to pigeon talk is amazing.
Mated Pigmies do not show too well because they are not lonely. Free flying birds in the loft do not either for the same reason. After the birds are caged individually, they are left alone for three or four days, except to feed and water once a day.
The trainer has to know how to talk to then or acquire the knowledge. Put simply, you make sounds as near as possible to those of cocks and hens calling each other to the nest. A series of "A-woos" of different cadences and tones repeated several times will get the hens to blow, fan their tails, and strut. The same thing will get the cocks to blow and drive.
Now you use the walking pen. Each day, or if time permits, several times a day, put one or more of your hens in the walking pen. Talk to them, snap your fingers, handle them. Place them on the floor gently and hold their tails to make them strain a bit. Hold them against your face and coo into their neck feathers while stroking their backs with your finger. Then release them in the walking pen.
After the hens have had their turn, uncover the mirror and go through the same procedure with the cocks. You will find a cock will play to himself in the mirror, a hen rarely. With cocks that are reluctant to respond to you or the mirror, hold a hen in your hand on the floor of the walking pen in front of the cock. This should get him working. Sometimes a white handkerchief balled in the hand will do the same thing.
Conduct this program for a week to ten days. Then take all birds back to the loft for one or two days to freshen up and bathe. This cage, train, and release procedure should take the course of a month before the show.
During this cage training time, several cocks should be put together in the pen for an hour or so several different times. Repeat the process with your hens. This gets the birds used to being in a relatively small area with other birds. If you do this properly, the reward is good show pen behavior before the judge.
Do not concentrate all your training procedures on show birds alone. Remember you have birds not quite of show quality that will be used for breeders or sold. These should also be trained. Over the years, the entire loft will or should have been through the procedure outlined.
The Pigmy being a bird of contrasting colors and patterns, trimming may be necessary. This is done to clearly define the edge of the white and color markings, and to remove colored feathers from large expanses of white feathers, and white feathers from colored areas.
This is a painstaking and careful process. The bird should be studied in the walking pen, noting the feathers to be removed. Remove one or two at a time, place the bird back in the pen, and observe the result. Continue the process until the goal is reached.
The quick way of trimming is to pull the feathers not needed. I do not recommend this because the feathers grow back in six weeks. The feather to be removed should be snipped off close to the skin with a pair of fine pointed scissors. The result lasts a year. If : you sell a trimmed bird, be honest and tell the buyer where and how much trim is involved.
Another thing that can help is known as lifting a bird. This simply means you shorten a few of the lower Feathers between the back of the thighs and the vent, on both sides of the bird. You do not remove then: you shorten then. If you pull these feathers out, your bird will have a plucked look, or show patches of bare skin. Lifting is done to create an optical illusion. The idea is to make the legs look longer than they really are.
In lifting a bird, you should not shorten the feathers by cutting with scissors. You hold a whole row of feathers tightly between thumb and finger of your left hand. Using the thumb nail and finger nail of your right hand, you tear or shred off the ends of the feathers held in your left hand, a little at a time. Pose the bird and look at the results. It may need a little more. Improper lifting easily shows, and will hurt the birds overall appearance. Practice lifting on your stay at homes before you try it on your best ones. Some fanciers claim they can shorten the feathers with a burning cigarette. I have never tried this method.
In trimming the crescent, particularly cocks, remember the globe is inflated in showing. If crescent trimming is too heavy or deep, the globe may show feather under down or bare skin when extended.
Some fanciers tell me they do not trim, even think the rules, should be changed to disallow it. I feel that proper trimming enhances a bird's looks. It takes time and patience, but is worth the effort. AOC or slightly mis-marked whites can be trimmed to show as whites. If you have such a bird and dispose of it, be honest and tell the recipient what the bird is.
This article is designed particularly for fanciers and breeders of Pigmy Pouters who are just getting started, and who lack experience in training birds for the show pen. The general outline of the above procedure is generally applicable to all breeds of pigeons that are to be shown.
Do not forget to trim toenails. Delouse your birds. Some louse powders are colored and leave a stain on white feathers for a few days. If you use this kind of powder, it should be done at least a week before the birds are shipped.
Pigmies that are not stretchy or reachy enough can be helped by covering the cage front with cardboard just enough to make the bird stretch to see over it. A bird that is too upright can sometimes be helped by confinement in a low roofed cage. The use of block perches in the loft helps a bird's stance. They should be four to six inches from the side wall they are mounted on. Perches mounted closer than this will cause the bird to tip his tail and wings up instead of down. The ones I use have a piece of hardware cloth on then to give the birds a foot grip.
I hope this will help some of you to make a better showing with your Pigmies.