The Eijerkamp Racing Pigeon Quality Criteria, to determine quality of racing pigeons.
In the following narrative we let Evert Jan Eijerkamp speak as he explains what Team Eijerkamp pays attention to in the selection of racing pigeons.
"Pigeon racing is a fantastic hobby" is a popular saying with which Evert Jan agrees and adds "Pigeon racing is an extraordinarily beautiful hobby".
Evert Jan states that the bromide that we have all heard, "we know nothing about pigeons" is to a greater or lesser degree true.
The legendary Piet de Weerd often said: "The basket is always the best selector!" Yes the basket will tell you if you have good or bad pigeons, but if you have many pigeons like Team Eijerkamp you cannot depend only on the basket, because you naturally not only breed with the top pigeons but also with children out of these class pigeons. There are many examples of good pigeons that were bred out of pigeons that had not raced all that well. That is why over a period of many years we have developed an extremely professional and strict selection system. The pigeons must satisfy seven criteria before we move them to the breeding loft. This is a total concept which we and Team Eijerkamp use to select all our racing pigeons here in Brummen called the Eijerkamp Pigeon Quality Criteria- EPQC.
1. Genetic Potential
The most important criteria is the pigeons genetic potential. To determine the bird's potential it is not essential to handle it. It is a matter of looking at the pedigree. I always say "that you can't make a race horse out of a cow". It is already difficult enough to breed top pigeons, that is, those "Exceptions", those that shine regularly or weekly during the season. That can only be done by looking at the pedigree where one should find several generations of top racing pigeons. That is pigeons that can win or "leaders" as Piet de Weerd used to say.
You have to find them on both the sires and dams side for at least three and preferable five generations and not just on one loft but on several lofts.
A good loft is not only one that performs well itself but is one that can turn other lofts into champions. That is where it begins. We call that genetic potential.
2. Charisma or Aura
This second point is one we find very important. What does the pigeon radiate? How does the pigeon carry itself, does its carriage say, OK here I am, now what? How does the pigeon present itself, does it look alert, does it show character? When you hold the racing pigeon: does it feel vital; does it want to get away? Does it look around? Does it look intelligent?
The third important point is when you hold a pigeon in your hand: How does it lay in the hand?
Good pigeons are always in balance. When you hold these pigeons, they lay flat in your hand, the back doesn't move to the right or the left. The back may be a little weaker but it is important that they are in proportion to each other. Hold that Ace pigeon - we have held so many- and you will notice instantly: when you hold a good pigeon in your hands there are no faults.
Balance is a very important point.
In order for pigeons to perform well the wing is very important. The wing can be divided into three important components. When I look at a wing I automatically look at the front wing and then the back wing. There is a small bone where the wing comes out of the pigeon's body; you should be able to only push one finger between the body and that bone: if you can insert more than one finger, between the bone and the carcass, than the back wing is too large. The second thing I do is take the back wing in my hand. The back wing and feathers must be thick and soft. When you open the wing it should not feel like you are holding newspaper. With a back wing like that, the racing pigeon can never develop real power.
When opening the wing I believe it is extremely important that the last four flights have a swallow type shape and that they have enough ventilation between them.
The best ventilated wings I have seen was about twenty five years ago at Westerhuis' in Gouda. Westerhuis selected heavily for the ventilation of the last four flights.
These are the power flights they use to develop the speed with which the birds fly.
This is extremely important!
Naturally the muscles are of great importance to the pigeon. Of course, we can observe many differences in muscles. Muscles can be long or short. Pigeons with longer muscles are suited to racing the one-day distance or further, while racing pigeons with shorter muscles are more suited for flying the short distance races.
I feel the muscles along the breastbone with three fingers; I call it playing the piano, when the bird relaxes in your hand than the muscles should start to vibrate or tremble. They must have this quality. Pigeons that don't have it, have "dead" muscles and these pigeons are done after 50 to 100 km and come down like a rocket, not on your loft but somewhere in a field.
Whether the capacity of the muscles is for long distance or short distance flying, they must have the ability to use sufficient oxygen.
Therefore, muscles are of great importance!
There are many people who have asked me: "I can't feel muscles, now what?" For these people I have another something else that they can use. If you can't feel muscles, than pick up a healthy pigeon. After a few minutes the pigeon will begin to relax, when it does look in its throat. The throat should lie deep within it so that you literally look over it. This hole should be as small as possible. If the pigeon has good muscles and a good throat you don't have to look any further, these are fantastic racing pigeons, they will usually be good performers. A good throat indicates small organs which lie deep within the pigeon. It means that the pigeon has as it were a very efficient motor, in other words we have a pigeon that uses very little energy on the way home.
We often visit other countries and have been on many lofts and I know that there are a number of knowledgeable fanciers and that they can pick out the good pigeons blindfolded as it were, by feeling the muscles and looking at the throat.
The pigeon's feathers, when in the hand should feel very greasy. What do I mean? I mean that the feathers, when the bird is in your hands, should feel waxy, or oily.
One of the last examples, that made a real impression on me, is the mother of the "Harrie", she is a daughter of the "Kleine Dirk". Truly one of the best hens out of the "Kleine Dirk" that I have ever seen!
When I held that hen in my hands, it seemed like I felt wax all over the hen. As if there was a layer of oil on her. It's like when you look out of the windshield of your car after running your car through the car wash you can see water drops lying on the car, this also happens to a pigeon with fatty feathering. Oily feathers, those that have it are almost always good pigeons.
Through years of experience I can quickly feel, in a split second, whether a pigeon has fatty or dry feathering.
Feathering is therefore very important!