WHAT IS A PIGEON REALLY WORTH???
Tom Barnhart, Lima, OH
AU Certified Judge of Racing Pigeons
Above all, the true value of a pigeon is determined by the owner and the prospective buyer. As a former auctioneer, I am well aware of "true market value", and that is defined simply as "whatever a prospective buyer is willing to pay". The birds I am offerring for sale, however, are not in an auction. They are simply listed as surplus birds that I wish to sell, and along with them I am listing an asking price. If that asking price is too high for you, then simply don't buy. If you think it is a "good" price, and perhaps even a "bargain", then by all means jump right in and purchase the pigeon.
"How," one might ask, "is the value of any pigeon determined if it is not being offerred at auction?" There are three components that determine a pigeon's true value. They are: performance, pedigree, and conformation. I will treat each one separately here.
PERFORMANCE. Performance should be the number one consideration if you are purchasing a racing pigeon or other flying type pigeon. A racing pigeon with a racing record, whether a winner or not, should be considered far more valuable than one that has not been flown beyond the owner's back yard. A pigeon that has placed or been awarded a diploma is worth even more, and of course a race winner even more than that. Beyond that we can also consider the level of competition. A winner in a race with several hundred pigeons and several lofts competing is more valuable than a pigeon that wins a race with less than a hundred birds and only five or six lofts competing.
Another aspect of performance, and this can be applied to any breed of pigeon, is breeding performance. Has the pigeon bred offspring that are deemed "good" by whatever standards are being applied? If so, the bird is more valuable than one that has not done so.
What about young birds? Obviously they cannot be judged on performance. They must be judged on some other criterion. And that takes us to the next consideration.
PEDIGREE. One can enhance his chances of producing winners if the young birds being purchased are out of winners or close relatives of winners. Children of winners and children of the parents of winners are much more likely to become winners themselves or to breed winners. One must keep in mind, however, that (1) a pedigree is just a piece of paper - it does not fly or breed; and (2) a pedigree is only as good as the person who wrote it. Sometimes a well-meaning fancier provides a pedigree that a knowledgeable fancier can immediately recognize as inaccurate. There are certain genetic combinations that are impossible, and they often occur in community lofts. A case in point: My own pigeons recently produced a blue bar and a blue check out of a pair of barless blues. This of course is genetically impossible; the young must be illegitimate, and they were indeed raised in a community loft. A pedigree is much more likely to be accurate if the pigeons are bred in individual breeding pens, where the hen cannot be bred by any cock other than her own mate.
Also, remember the first point made in the above paragraph. The pedigree is just a piece of paper, and not every youngster out of a winner is going to be another winner. Besides pedigree, then, how do we evaluate young birds? That is where the third consideration comes into play.
CONFORMATION. Let me preface this section by saying that this is the primary way any of the fancy breeds are to be evaluated. In those cases it is a "What you see is what you get" situation, and for most breeders of show pigeons the pedigree isn't even considered. Those fancy breeds are judged strictly on conformation as set forth in the breed standards. Racing pigeons, however, are another matter, and conformance to a show standard is not something we should put our faith in. Most of us, however, do like a "pretty" pigeon, and to most a "pretty" pigeon is one that conforms to our own ideas of what a pigeon should look like. In most cases that includes condition, color, and overall structure. Can these things tell us anything about a pigeon's capabilities as a racer or as a breeder? In most cases not, certainly not color. Condition is an indication of the bird's overall health and a bird in poor physical condition is not going to perform well either as a breeder or as a racer. However, when in good condition the same bird might perform just fine.
What about physical structure? Here is where we can start evaluating untested young birds once we get past the pedigree. Long, ill-proportioned physical specimens do not perform well, nor do overweight and flabby ones. If an untested young bird "feels good" in your hands; that is, fairly solid, well-proportioned, and seemingly in good health, and it has been bred from a colony of high performing pigeons, then it has a much better chance of performing well. If however, the same pigeon was bred from an underperforming colony, or an entirely unflown colony of pigeons, then the chances of it becoming a good performer are much lower.
CONCLUSION. The bottom line is simply this: If you desire performance, choose your breeders from among your best performers. If you wish to improve what you have, breed from your best flyers and the parents of your best flyers. Do not rely solely on what you see on paper (pedigrees). Regardless of fancy pedigrees, eliminate from your breeding program those breeders who do not prove themselves by the performance of their offspring.
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