Mangile's Pigeon Pages

American Pigeon Journal

June 1989, pages 31-32.

Many Questions For You About
Flock Pens and Individual Breeding Coops

By Robert J. Mangile
816 E. Atkinson Ave.
Pittsburg, Kansas 66762

Fanciers have pondered at length over the pros and cons of separate breeding cages as compared to flock or open loft breeding.  Evidence shows that over the course of time, flock pen matings always produce some illegitimate offspring.  There is something threatening to fanciers when they are confronted with this aspect of pigeon breeding.

Consider a few examples that likely occur in many lofts.  (1) ... A hen lowers her body for her mate in preparation for copulation and another cock begins fighting with her mate.  While they are fighting, a third cock mounts and breeds the hen.  The hen seems uninterested in the difference!  (2) ... A hen is nearing the time to lay an egg and the fancier removes her nest box.  She lays on the floor or in another nest.  The fancier either puts the egg into another nest or arbitrarily removes the third egg from the nest in which she laid her egg.  (3) ... A fancier moves a special pair of eggs or squabs to foster parents but looses track of them.  His ignorance is incorporated into his pedigrees.  (4) ... A fancier records a squab's band number in the wrong place.  The band number becomes part of a long pedigree representing the wrong bird.  (5) ... A fancier is slightly confused with squab and egg switching.  Absolute certainty is not established.  The temptation to deliberately cheat simply to keep the books in order is always present.  Does he make record entries?  Have you made similar record entries?  Are you smiling right now?

We can produce a powerful moral argument against all of the above but let us face reality; it does in fact happen.  Ironically ...everything is based on the accuracy and morality of the fancier and the pigeons.  When we pay big bucks for purebred birds, are we satisfied with the ‘status quo’?

There is apparent self-fulfillment among animal breeders who pride themselves with the purchasing and raising of ‘pure bred’ animals.  What this means to the average person in our society is quite obscure.  Terms like ‘pure blood’ or ‘pure gold’ suggests that impure blood or impure gold is less desirable.  But, quite strangely, the makers of ivory soap boast that their soap is less than 100% pure.

With respect to breeding pigeons, we can reduce some of the doubt with the use of individual breeding coops.  By breeding pigeons in separate coops a fancier might believe that their pedigrees could be recorded accurately.  But can they?   Over the years, my personal experiences with individual breeding coops has convinced me that things can get fouled-up just as easy.

Consider ... parings that produce eggs within a week or so after being placed into a separate coop and raising offspring that clearly were not sired by the cock in the coop.  This has generated much caution when selecting first round squabs for future matings.  My personal habits of switching eggs and squabs have caused several mistakes over the years.  Not to mention entering band numbers incorrectly; for example: 909 for 606, (upside down), or assigning it to pair number 968 instead of 986, etc.  Surely, this is not unusual to experienced fanciers!

There are many instances in which such errors may go undetected.  Consider a flock of pedigreed blue bar homers or white kings.  The birds are all of the same color!  How would we detect errors?  Impossible in many cases!  Would we care?  Does anyone care?  If anyone does care; why would they care?  Such errors have been going on for centuries.  Can we see ‘improvement’, in spite of pedigrees that aren't really accurate?  If it worked in the past it should work now.  Why bother with the concern?  Yes, it's all very confusing!

If I were asked to keep records of pigeons in a flock pen for three or four years as accurately as I possibly can, I feel certain that I would have an error in the pedigrees of many birds.  Particularly if I was hell-bent on keeping my ‘family’ of birds together, or in other words, I enforced ‘line-breeding’.  It would only matter of time for a single error to be incorporated into the pedigrees of many birds and eventually my entire flock.  Would I be upset?  Probably not because ... I would find too easy to ignore!  Worse yet ... no one would be aware or even care.  And, that is where I get confused?  Humans tend to ignore things that present problems that interfere with a clear focus.

My dictionary gives a definition for the word ‘pedigree’ as, "a recorded or known line of descent, esp. of a purebred animal".  Is this the definition pigeon fanciers accept?  If it is and if you acknowledge that at least some of what is stated above is credible, then you have a dilemma.  Is an individual breeding coop better than the open loft?  Yes!  After the first clutch all the offspring should be legitimate.

The question is not one of honesty but one of accuracy.  Have you switched eggs or recorded band numbers improperly?  Or, do you know for certain that your neighbor kid or another fancier hasn't jokingly switched eggs in the nest?  Are you absolutely positive of the sire and/or dam of every squab you raise?  Perhaps refusal to acknowledge such likely deviations is simply to avoid upsetting our mental apple cart.  Personally, I have doubts about many aspects of our hobby.  Individual breeding coops will eliminate some doubts but not all of them!  I need more ‘Information Please'.

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