racing pigeons sidebar

Charlie Coffing, a racing pigeon owner from Covington, Ind., said the purchase of a strong, fast bird can reach five- and six-figure prices. And winning quickly returns the investment.

For most, a pigeon is just an ordinary bird, cooing and sitting as a fixture on buildings, fences and utility wires. But racing pigeons are a step above, bred and raised for speed and distances.

Charlie Coffing, a racing pigeon owner from Covington, said one-third of the small birds is pure muscle. They have a body system geared toward absorbing oxygen so they can fly the long-distance races expected of them. And the races can be taxing, with birds burning off almost half of their body weight in one race.

“For them to fly 500 miles would be like us to run 100 miles,” he said.

Owners use vitamins as well as feed mixing the proper amounts of proteins and carbohydrates to get the birds back up to strength, oftentimes in less than a week.

Training for the birds starts when they are between 8 and 12 weeks old, prepping the birds to fly races until they are as old as 6 years. At that age, physically the birds are still able to race, but their mental incentive to return to the loft falls off, causing their speed to drop.

A good bird in competitive racing circles can earn top dollar, particularly in Europe where the racing is almost as popular as horse racing.

Coffing said the purchase of a strong, fast bird can reach five- and six-figure prices. And winning quickly returns that investment.

“If you can turn around some youngsters out of a breeding stock and win some of these $10,000, $20,000 and $50,000 races, you get your money back,” he said. “When you start winning races like that, there’s a demand.”

Recommended for you