As some of you will be aware, the school has been keeping pigeons for about a year. We started last year with show pigeons as it was the wrong time of year for racers, who have to be properly trained from a young age. It did seem as if we might be waiting for another whole year as everything shut for the pandemic. Although our birds competed in a national show and one of our hens was placed 4th, it is really the excitement of racing birds who can fly free that we have been looking forward to.
Imagine our surprise and excitement last week when we were contacted by the Royal Racing Pigeon Association to say that they could deliver our 12 fledgling racing pigeons, or ‘squeakers’ the very next day! They duly arrived and were settled in for a few days before we began training them. Most of the children currently attending have been to have a look at them and the children of key workers have been working with me to help to train and care for them. They are a super range of different patterns and colours : cinnamon, spotted, checked and those with random markings. They are now registered to the school and we have been trying to find out a bit about their heritage through their family names.
Once settled, we began to control the food supply and to associate feeding with the sound of a whistle. You can probably tell if you listen to the videos that we were whistling for a very long time! Yesterday was the momentous day when we allowed them outside for the first time in the hopes that they would return to the pigeon loft with the lure of food and the sound of the whistle. All did not go as we hoped! It was a very windy day and several of the birds panicked and took flight! Before we knew it, all but 2 of them were whirling around the school grounds and some vanished entirely. Fortunately I managed to usher the only 2 left on the ground back into the loft. We were all quite shocked. It seemed our dreams of pigeon racing had vanished into the windswept Theydon skies.
Fortunately most of them settled on the PE shed roof and after a several hours game of ‘cat and pigeon’ I succeeded in luring them back into the loft by bringing the remaining pigeons out in a basket and leaving them on the playground. Very quickly the birds seemed to calm down and become more trusting. They came down and were persuaded to take corn from their feeder which was gradually moved nearer to the open loft door. Each movement caused the pigeons to take flight again and it was touch and go whether we would get them all in. Eventually all the visible pigeons were in the loft .... bar one. Mr Bristow or ‘Dances with Pigeons’ as he is now known, helped to cajole the last remaining pigeon in.
Then it was time for food, more whistling.... and a head count. It seems all but one of the new pigeons made it back. It is apparently fairly common to lose 1 or 2 at this stage and we will be keeping an eye out to see if it reappears around training times. Otherwise keep your eyes open for a small, squeaky pigeon who might turn up at a bird feeder near you! I have joined a few lost and found pigeon forums and will see if we can track it down. However the occasional loss seems a small price to pay for the relative freedom which we hope our racers will enjoy once training is complete.
Meanwhile we will continue training our remaining fledglings and keep our fingers crossed! If all goes well, I am told that we could be racing within the UK by September. Watch the skies!