Advantages and Disadvantages of the Darkening System By Craig Goode

One huge advantage I have seen is at the young birds are sexually mature for the racing season. They can be put on the widowhood system and respond very well to it. I fly the double widowhood system with my young birds which really helps to motivate the birds to come home quickly.

My birds seem to be in top form week after week on the Darkening System. I usually have a large young bird team and most weeks I have more than enough birds ready to go on the race. The birds have a full wing and good feather coverage on their bodies. They are not stressed and they always seem to recover easily from a race.

Proponents of the Darkening System claim that the birds acquire adult immunity to diseases under this system. They are less affected by respiratory problems and viruses. Since beginning the sytem, I have had less health problems and diseases in my young birds.

Opponents of
the Darkening System claim that the birds reach maturity too quickly and will be too old when their training begins. They claim that great losses will occur because the optimum time for teaching the bird to home to the loft has passed. I have not found this to be true. I rarely lose any young birds as I train and I lose very few birds throughout the race season.

With the loft being closed up for a big part of the day to cause the birds to be in darkness, there could be a danger of poor ventilation for the birds which would cause respiratory problems and poor health. I have overcome this by installing a ceiling fan to help circulate air. I only run the fan when the birds are closed up. The rest of the time my loft has plenty of air circulation.

Another disadvantage of the Darkening System is that a few birds may begin to moult their flight feathers near the end of the season. I have only had this happen a few times. Most of my birds hold their feathers very well all through the season.

Birds on the Darkening System fly throughout the season with their baby flight feathers. This may be a disadvantage to them, but I don’t think so. I feel it is better to fly with a full wing of baby feathers than to fly while trying to moult them.

It is very painful for a bird to fly when a new feather is errupting from the quill. If stressed during this time by flying a race, the feather may be permanently damaged. The bird may return from the race, but probably not with a winning time. When you don’t feel well, you don’t perform your best. The same is true for your pigeons.



Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is considered the Father of Evolution in pigeons. He is the author of the "Origin of

 Species. His evidentiary facts written at that time still astounish nowadays. Among his theries we have: Like

produce like, offspring tend to resemble to their parents, organisms tend to increase in geometrical ratio where

life is favorable; there is a struggle for existance when there is an increase of numbers, the fittest survive,

the unfit perish, if conditions or environment change,a new standard is set resulting in a new set of survivors

 and eventually in a change in the species.( Re: Wendell M Levy)  .


Darwin & the pigeons

‘Believing that it is always best to study some special group, I have, after deliberation, taken up domestic pigeons’. So begins Darwin’s most complete example of his analogy between natural and artificial selection, such a thorough treatment that Darwin’s editor, after reading the first chapter, thought that the book’s main subject was the pigeon.

Darwin’s foray into pigeons started in March 1855, strictly as a means of collecting facts: there was to be 'no amusement'. To begin with he used his contacts from the barnacle years and some new ones acquired through friends and friends of friends to rekindle his postal-network. He sent letters to breeders and other experts asking for facts and where possible skins and skeletons for him to measure.

Soon though, as with most of Darwin’s studies, he became engrossed and set up an elaborate pigeon house at Down House, buying pigeons of many different breeds to perform his own crosses and experiments. The ‘no amusement’ plan quickly went out of the window; in November 1855 he wrote to his friend Charles Lyell, who was planning a visit, ‘I will show you my pigeons! Which are the greatest treat, in my opinion, which can be offered to a human being’. All the family, especially the children, delighted in Charles’ latest quarry.


His enthusiasm led him to join at least two societies of pigeon fanciers and he frequently visited others. At this time, Columbarian societies, as they are known, were dominated by class; there were clubs for gentlemen, and clubs for working men. Darwin went to both, socialising with and mining information from all types of men, all the ‘odd specimens of the Human species, who fancy pigeons’. When he received or asked for help from those who were less well off he always refunded them any costs they encountered. By seeking help from all quarters Darwin ensured his knowledge of pigeons was as complete as it could possibly be. With an army of fact gatherers, and skins and skeletons of pigeons and other domestic animals arriving daily by post he quickly amassed a mountain of facts he needed to discuss variation.

Why pigeons?

Darwin answers this in The Origin: ‘the diversity of the breeds is something astonishing’. There are many, many breeds of domestic pigeons all with different appearances and behaviours. Almost any anatomical feature is different between the breeds; beak size and shape, feather coloration, feather orientation, some have feather feet, some scaly feet, some webbed feet, some are very thin and tall, others fatter and larger, some have enlarged nasal skin appendages, some can expand their throats into a puff almost the size of their bodies, some have tail feathers which fan out like a peacock, almost all bones vary in dimension. Even behaviours change: some have odd coos, others have an odd flight pattern where they ‘tumble’ out of the sky. They even grow at different rates, and hatch at differing stages of development.

Yet despite this mass of variation, all pigeon breeds are descended from one wild pigeon species; Columba livia, the rock pigeon, which lacks all these fancy characters. In the 1850s there was a debate over whether or not all pigeon breeds descended from one stock. Most naturalists believed they were, but most pigeon fanciers believed they were descended from probably 7 or 8 species, and felt the naturalists too quickly dismissed domestic animals and made sweeping generalisations. When Darwin first started his pigeon work, he claims to have ‘felt fully as much difficulty in believing that they could have descended from a common parent, as any naturalist could in coming to a similar conclusion in regard to many species of finches’. But in the opening chapter of The Origin he laid out an argument showing that they were in fact one species.

This argument was based on a number of observations. For example he noticed the reversion of feral pigeons to appearances similar to that of the rock pigeon. He also concluded that all breeds can mate and produce fertile young. In addition he thought domesticating one species was difficult enough let alone seven or eight, and found no evidence for ancestry with any other birds than the rock-pigeon.

By uniting the breeds under one species, Darwin could then use the pigeons to show various points. First, he drew an analogy between the breeders' disbelief in all breeds being from one common ancestor, and that of naturalists and their similar disbelief about species of wild animals and plants: ‘may not those naturalists… learn a lesson of caution when they deride the idea of species in a state of nature being lineal descendents of other species?’. As an aside, Darwin produced a tree showing the relationship between the pigeon breeds; the first evolutionary tree for any real group of animals.

Second, he showed that amongst breeds of pigeons, breeders have been able of select for a vast number of traits, in almost any body part, and in behaviour. The discrete differences among breeds are linked by smaller, continuous differences among sub-breeds. Within breeds and sub-breeds, the traits which differ most between the breeds are often the most variable. This proved that naturally-produced variation has the properties needed to allow selection to occur, and for change to occur gradually, over many generations. If humans have been able to bring about such change in a few thousand years, why then couldn’t the natural processes of competition and death, acting over much longer times, not bring about the same change?

DEATH (sudden)

Type II adenoviral infections occurred in Belgium in 1992, and were characterized by sudden death in pigeons

 of all ages. There were

 very few clinical signs in affected birds prior to death. Occasionally, there was fluid, yellow diarrhea and vomiting. However, the major

sign was sudden death within 24 hours of the onset of illness, with none of the obviously sick birds surviving longer than 48 hours.

 Antibiotics had no effect on the outcome of this disease. Also: adenoviral infection,  Streptococcus bovis (now called Streptococcus

 gallolyticus ) is a possibility

  It is said that sudden depth can sometimes happen in pigeons. Then, the major cases have an Heath Attack.  



Most of the time, abnormal feather condition is caused by mites. the mites (itch mites most of the time)

lives at the base of the feather and break off the base of the feather. Permathrine  is a good product to use

 to get rid of them.








 Very handy chart to find informations about sickness. 

Choose a symptom and click on: 



There are many reasons for this situation in pigeons. Sikness is the most important one but before, be sure it doesn't occur because a pigeon has eaten sour or moldy grain or unseasoned grain. Remove any grain you suspect is not  It could also happen when  a pigeon is under stress.  

  By Pigeon Mania: Diarrhea is seen in pigeons of all ages. The intestinal type of infection usually produces a loose watery, green, voluminous and bed smelling dropping. It is important to distinguish it from the paramyxo dropping which is a watery splash with very little solid feces in the middle (looking like a worm in a splash of water). The droppings from paramyxo do not have any white (urates) from the kidney as paramyxo affects the kidney. In the salmonella droppings the urates (white matter) are usually visible, often greenish – yellow. The bird becomes light weight and wastes away.



By non identify name:

Anyway back to the article by Jim Vines about diatomaceous earth (DE) and Pigeon lofts….He had been using DE himself for several years but realized that very few others were aware of this wonderful product and especially it’s benefit to pigeon breeders.

Diatomaceous earth can be used to rid your loft of insects worms and parasites on the loft floor and in nesting boxes and in the feed with no diverse effect on the birds. Unlike Malathion, Seven Dust and other insecticides….. used for the control of insects and parasites…… Diatomaceous earth is not an insecticide, it is an all natural product with no chemical or toxins.

The article goes on to talk about the research that he has done using this wonderful all natural product that is good for everyone and everything.  The information that Jim offers in his article is something that all pigeon keepers should take the time to read

Diatomaceous Earth by Jim Vines

By Pets Healths & Feed additive:

Diatomaceous Earth is a naturally occurring fresh water sediment, (also known as DE, Diatomite, or Kieselgur) composed of microscopic remains (shells) of prehistoric diatoms; the most common form of phytoplankton. It has a soft and smooth texture when crushed and ground to a very fine and off-white powder. Some industrial grades can be harmful to people and pets for handling and consumption, that's why we offer only the highest quality Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. Your safety and satisfaction is our priority.




Dr. Colin Walker, a veterinarian who races pigeons, has provided us with a recipe for a good racing diet, which contains 12% protein and 4% fat. Here it is:

  • Base racing diet of 30 to 40% peas
  • 15% each of maize, sorghum, wheat and safflower
  • One to two handfuls of mixed small seed (millet, canary, rape, and linseed) per 12-liter bucket

You can adjust the diets by substituting the protein sources, such as using vetches (35% protein) in place of peas. Of course, you will need to adjust the level of peas to keep protein level from becoming too high.

Also, the breeding diet consists of 18% protein so you will need to adjust the levels of peas, beans or vetches to achieve that protein level.

Also, in both the racing diet and the breeding diet, remember to supplement as discussed above.

To give you a quick summary, the following nutritional supplementation is recommended, again by Dr. Walker:

  • Complete multivitamin/trace element drink one day per week in the drinking water (Multivite Plus)
  • Free access to pink mineral and balanced grit (PVM Powder and the Australian Pigeon Company’s Health Grit)
  • Wheat germ oil-based supplement together with yeast on seed for two or more feeds weekly (eg Polyseed Oil)
  • Chopped green vegetables with diced carrots weekly (or diluted carrot juice)

Again, other supplements may have some nutritional advantages and should be used wisely, such as commercially available teas that contain micronutrients and naturally occurring acids that help to protect the bowel from disease.

Overall, do not feed correct blend of seeds cafeteria style thinking your birds know what they need and will eat only what they need. Actually, the birds will eat only what they prefer- like a kid allowed dessert before the vegetables.

I hope that this article series has given you the information you need to equip your loft for optimal competitive and breeding performance by providing a complete and balanced diet.


Notes on Zoology: 


DISEASES (pigeon) (important items about it)

It is to be noted that the author of this very good article is Ad Schaerlaeckens. As it has been mainly written

 for racing pigeons, I remove part 1, 2 and 3 from it…

Fanciers that treat their birds against paratyphoid in fall (6 weeks before mating) do the right thing. He is against vaccinating unless birds are infected. In that case a cure should be followed by an injection.

4. He is strongly in favour of apple vinegar. It does not prevent Coli as many people say  but once the birds are totally free from canker they will not easily get it if you often give (apple) vinegar, that means nearly daily outside the season. There is no difference between vinegar and apple vinegar apart from the price. He does not believe in vitamins (nor do I) apart from breeders in winter. It should be a proper mix of A, D and E.

5. He used to believe in tea but not any more.

6. Due to the abuse of medicine more and more birds suffer from Mycosis.

Such birds have no appetite and in the crops is too much water or feed that is not digested. In extreme cases the symptoms are similar to those of Adeno Coli which is confusing for many fanciers.

7. Some fanciers find streptococci a problem but pigeons very rarely suffer from it. 

8. He does not believe in ‘one day cures’ after every race. If birds are sick they are not effective, if they are not sick they undermine resistance.

9. He found that pigeons may suffer from coccidioses while nothing can be found in the droppings. When birds eat much grit or eat in the yard coccidioses may be the cause.

10. The biggest mistakes fanciers make:

- They do not select strongly on results and natural health.

- They fall for all the crap that is advertised and that pigeons do not need at all.

- They have no patience and train their birds too often and at a too young age.

- Some finish their birds with Baytril. It must not be given more than 3 days.

- After some races fanciers complain about respiratory problems. In most cases birds were already very lightly infected before the season but they get problems after physical exertions.

12. There is nothing that you can do to prevent an outbreak of Adeno Coli apart from pray. Vinegar nor acids are effective.

13. It happens that fanciers ‘forget’ to vaccinate against paramyxo. When the virus attacks they use La Sota. This is a big mistake. La Sota is a live virus and you will make things worse.

Pox is different. In case birds have pox you may vaccinate.

14. Do NOT believe in products or medicine that are effective against different diseases.

15. The best treatment against canker is the following:

A cure of about a week before the season and a cure of 3 days every month during the season. In hot weather one should be careful and birds may be treated every 3 weeks. In cold weather canker is seldom a problem.

16. Especially Americans and Asians believe in ‘eye sign’. Eye sign is 100% B.S. for sure 

17. He has clients from Holland and Belgium. The quality of the birds is the same but Dutch fanciers differ a lot. They are more ambitious, they go for better birds and better methods while many Belgians still believe in the magic bottle.

18. Doctor de Weerd claims that pro biotics are a pure waste. His college dr. Schroeder fully agrees.

19. Do not think vitamins will boost condition and will turn your birds into winners.

20. Do not leave vitamins or medicine too long in the water, especially not in hot weather, since most of them expire real soon.

21. Do not forget grit (minerals, calcium) is the most valuable feed additive. And do not forget to refresh it frequently.

22. Do not think feeding is as important as many people claim. Ask 10 champions how they feed and you may get 10 different answers.

23. Do not enter birds for a race with a crop full of water. Such birds lack condition.

24. Do not withdraw birds from 2 day races to one day races. They will get ‘slower’. 

25. Do not think that all that is written is true.

26. Do not ask help from a vet who has a hard time handling a pigeon.

27. Do not enter birds for a race if their feet are not nice and clean and the bands are so dirty that you cannot read the number. Such birds are not in good shape.

So far part of an interview with young doctor Schroeder. Of course he is not the only good pigeon vet but since so many champions have confidence in him we should take him very serious.

15 Pigeon Diseases:  





Very good article:


The following medical formulary was compiled several years ago by a group of veterinarians .I thank them for their guidance in keeping our feathered friends as healthy as possible. More recent medications may have become available since that time that should be considered, as well as dosage changes from the manufactures.

1. Remember, all drugs are toxic and may have adverse side effects, including death. Very effective drugs may also be very toxic!
2.Please do not medicate unless you know what you are medicating for.
3. Always follow the current advice from the manufacturer for correct procedure and dosage.

4.If uncertain, please seek professional assistance.


Part of information in this Web Site:

 The following medical formulary was compiled several years ago by a group of veterinarians.  I thank them for their guidance in keeping our feathered friends as healthy as possible. Please do not medicate unless you know what you are medicating for. If uncertain, please seek professional assistance.

  •  Dimethylglycine (DMG) By Dr. Colin Walker  (Also called vitamin B15, and pangamic acid)

    DMG can increase oxygen utilization and thereby decrease lactic acid levels in animals under extreme stress.

    lactic acid values following training were significantly lower in DMG-treated horses than in untreated horses.

    in human research, it was found that DMG produced a 27.6% increase in the time it took trained athletes to become exhausted, compared with the use of a placebo (an inactive substance used to compare the effects of a substance being tested).

    DMG has been shown to enhance the immune response both by antibody production and generation of lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell.

    DMG has been found to increase resistance to respiratory disease, enhanced athletic ability, reduced shipping stress, and general reduction of stress.

    In athletics, DMG has been found to improve performance, stamina, cardiovascular function, oxygen utilization, recovery of muscle, reduced buildup of lactic acid, improved resistance to disease, increased calmness and more settled disposition, and increased production of ATP.

    Dosage for pigeons – according to a British writer, no more than 2 level teaspoons of the pure product (not a product cut with glucose, etc.) for one gallon of water.


    Goos article to read at; 






    Recently, the German have developped a very good
    product to treat young birds diseases. As you know,
    Chevita (German company) is working very hard to be
    amoung the first company to produce the best pigeon
    products in the world. This product is called:
    ADENOSAN and is now sold by Jedd's in USA and you can
    found it in most countries. It is a product that is
    higly recommanded to give to our modenas after a show.

    Read what follows:

    "Young Bird Sickness

    Young bird disease has spread rapidly around the world
    in recent years, causing severe losses among young

    This is a mixed infection, involving viruses and
    bacteria (especially E.coli and cocci, but also
    The pathogens are transmitted by air, dust and contact
    between birds, as well as via communal drinking water
    and feed.
    Outbreaks of the disease are promoted by stress
    factors such as weaning, the introduction of
    birds into a loft, vaccination, heat (accelerated
    bacterial growth, water shortage), may be catched in
    any pigeon show room, training of juveniles
    (basketing) and young pigeon flights.

    Symptoms of the disease:
    The disease can take two forms:

    Sudden death not preceded by any perceptible signs of
    A typical scenario sees young pigeons released from
    the loft for their daily training (on a hot summer's
    day, perhaps), whereupon they fly around for an hour
    and then return to the loft. They land on the roof or
    on the alighting ledge, do not respond to the
    breeder's attempts to entice them into the loft, and
    die within the space of a few hours.

    Death preceded by visible signs of illness:
    During the period between the onset of symptoms and
    death (lasting from 3 days to 1 week), the following
    symptoms are observed: lack of activity, puffed-up
    plumage, refusal of feed, swelling of the crop, weight
    loss, greenish-yellow faeces in puddles, vomiting.

    Recognition of the disease:
    Owing to the numerous pathogens involved in this
    disease, it is only possible to make a tentative

    Similar conditions:
    E.coli infection, hexamitiasis.

    There is no vaccine against young pigeon disease that
    could be used to prevent infection. However, sick
    pigeons can be treated with adenosan. And timely use
    of adenosan may also prevent an outbreak of the
    disease in birds suspected of infection.

    1. adenosan is used:
    For at least 7 days at the first symptoms of young
    pigeon disease.
    If the disease is only recognised at a later stage, it
    is additionally necessary to use a
    agent with antibiotic activity (preferably
    furazolidon+ ) in order to contain the bacterial
    infection.The active ingredient furazolidone has been
    shown to possess specific efficacy against E.coli
    infections in the gut.

    2. adenosan is used in the following situations, where
    there is reason to fear infection as a result of
    contact with other young pigeons:
    For a 7-day period when introducing new youngsters to
    the flock.
    During the flying season, for 3 days after flights.

    3. adenosan is used when a disease outbreak is likely
    as a result of a challenge to the immune system:
    In connection with vaccinations (paramyxovirus
    infection, Salmonella, pigeon pox) - for 3 days before
    immunisation and 4 days thereafter.

    4. adenosan is used where a change in gut flora
    predisposes birds to a disease outbreak.
    When treating birds for trichomonads, we recommend
    parallel administration of adenosan over a period,
    beginning 3 days prior to treatment."

    Raymond Julien,


     DISEASE (for humans from pigeons)

    Can I or other family members catch a disease from Pigeons?

    Answer: No, there are no diseases in Canada at this time that can be transmitted from Pigeons to humans or other Pets. Place some sawdust or clean dry sand in the box for litter to absorb droppings and clean the box out by removing the bird and placing the soiled litter in the compost bin. Normal Bacteria like E-Coli and Salmonella are present in Bird droppings, so good hygiene and thorough hand washing are always important.

    NOTE: Some owners are not willing to retrieve birds so it may be necessary to locate a fancier in your area who is willing to help by providing a permanent home. We will try to locate someone for you.












    First of all, let me explain what Oxine is. Oxine is know to be among the 3 best
    disinfectant and kill EVERY bacteria, virus and mold in a loft and has been
    tested to be 200 times more effective than chlorine bleach. What is of the most
    impressive things about Oxine is that it does it with such relative safety when
    used accordingly to the label instruction. It is so safe to use on livestock
    that it is also actually approved for use in the drinking water of all animals.
    In the drinking water for our pigeons, it is recommended to use about 10 to 12
    drops per gallon of water every 2 to 3 days. You can use it in the bath at the
    rate of 1/8 tsp/per gallon. It is highly recommended to use a fogger to be more
    effective. The recommended dosage is 6.5 ounces of oxine to a gallon of water
    and you can fog the birds, the coops, the loft and even yourself! .
    Please let me know if you need more information.
    I will come back on ivomec but pay attention to it as it can cause infertility,
    mainly for the cocks to a period as long as 3 weeks.


















    DMG (vitamins B12)


















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