Advantages and Disadvantages of the Darkening System

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Darkening System

I have had great success using the Darkening System with my young birds. It has helped me overcome other disadvantages I have, like a poor loft location and headwinds off the Great Salt Lake. This is the eighth season I have used this system. I had some success the first year, 1997, while I was learning, great success the second and third years, 1998 and 1999.In 2000, my fourth year, my young birds picked up the Adeno Virus. I lost many birds before I got on top of it, so I stopped flying to tend to my birds and so I would not infect the other pigeons in the club. I learned a lot about the Adeno Virus that year which has been helpful to me and others since that time.

In 2001, 2002 and 2003, I flew only young birds so I could spend more time with my kids and be able to watch them play sports. I had some good results with my young birds, but spent a lot of time these years experimenting with breeding theories. I used the darkening system with my young birds. My results were good, but not spectacular.

This year, in the 2004 young bird season, I am seeing some phenomenal results. I think what we have done with the breeding is really working and we are able to fully use the power of the darkening system. We are really excited about the results. It looks like we are going to have an awesome season.

Using the Darkening System causes the young birds to moult their body feathers very rapidly, but they do not moult the flight feathers. The system tricks the pigeons biological clock through manipulation of the length of the day. The shortened day forces the bird to prepare for winter by moulting the body feathers. As the bird moults, it also grows and matures. It becomes stronger and more muscular. This gives the bird an advantage when racing against birds that have not gone through a moult. The larger body size gives the pigeon more power and speed.

During this moult, each pigeon loses all of the feathers on the head, neck and shield, but will not lose the primary and secondary wing flight feathers. This moult occurs before the racing season starts in the fall, so the birds have great body coverage throughout the entire young bird season. They are not falling apart like most young birds do.
One huge advantage I have seen is that 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.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Darkening System By Craig Goode

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  1. #1 by allan on March 16, 2011 - 7:33 am

    hi sir chris, thanks for the nice articles i i like this tips.. so now i have new idea about darking system advantage and disadvantage.. so thanks for the sharing this nice articles! god bless you.

  2. #2 by Alister murray on February 27, 2011 - 5:01 am

    Strange comment about birds being too old to train to home.When I had a spell from racing,I had a 3year old cock that had never been away from home,only loft flying.Then I raced him after about half a dozen tosses,1st race he was my 10th bird home,2nd race he was my 8th bird home,3rd race he was my 4th bird home,4th race he was my 1st bird home,and also 1st club position.I have never had trouble training birds of any age.They are after all homing pigeons,Aren’t they?

  3. #3 by martin bandalan on February 3, 2011 - 12:08 am

    another one, if we apply the darkening system when do you start the training of YB in terms of trapping ang loft flying?

  4. #4 by martin bandalan on February 3, 2011 - 12:04 am

    does the darkening system applicable also in tropical countries?

  5. #5 by John Boyle on September 3, 2010 - 9:50 am

    Very nice article Craig. John Boyle

  6. #6 by Tony Harte on June 3, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    I live in Malta and our season is from November until the following may. I can see that it would be an advantage to have pigeons on the darknes from November but how long would this be an advantage?. Would it be worth thinking of having some birds on the dark and others not?

  7. #7 by Nick Demas on April 23, 2010 - 1:20 pm

    I keep hearing the old saying “Don’t fool with Mother Nature” I’m no expert but I don’t medicate when birds are not sick,I don’t change % of grain for the entire season,just garlic,honey, and some vitamins are added when I feel there is reason to.I have alway’s felt the most important vice was a well insulated and ventilated loft! Stress and overfeeding are the big don’ts in my loft. If the loft isn’t right nothing will be, especially when it comes to racing. Must not forget good grit and minerals. The birds love to bathe, that alone releaves stress. That’s how I feel. Thanks for reading.

  8. #8 by glen on February 22, 2010 - 12:29 pm

    great tips

  9. #9 by cristov dumitru on February 19, 2010 - 6:32 am

    thank you

  10. #10 by Henry Negvesky on January 22, 2010 - 7:45 pm

    I found out now that 35 days old is great and keep them there for 12 weeks , but not longer.

  11. #11 by Henry Negvesky on January 22, 2010 - 7:03 pm

    How would you build a loft for the darkening system . And how long would each bird be in their because all my young birds are not hatched at the same time.

  12. #12 by peter dempsey on January 22, 2010 - 12:18 pm

    I think that the darkening system has took racing young
    birds out of the dark ages and now its the only way
    to fly if you want to be competive

  13. #13 by PigeonRacingFan on January 20, 2010 - 9:13 pm

    Hey Don,

    Thanks for the question there is actually a few more parts to this article series, I posted the links to them below,

    Advantages and Disadvantages of the Darkening System ->
    Darkening System Setup, Feeding and Training ->
    Darkening System Pre and Post Race Season ->

    Hope it helps you out,
    Yours in the sport

    • #14 by Don Campbell on January 22, 2010 - 9:59 pm

      Cris yes this will help. however one section will be darken and the other one on the light system and in august i’ll be putting the lights on for 16 hours to keep them from going into the moult

      I’ve been in the sport for two years now and won two futurity races and scored 2nd in another and many more top prizes, Ive had some good luck so far 2009 Ohio classic race winner. about 900 birds.

      Thanks Don

  14. #15 by Don Campbell on January 20, 2010 - 7:58 pm

    Do you turn light on toward the end of the season to keepthe birds from going into moult?

  1. Craig Goode « Pigeon Racing Pigeons

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