Homing pigeons are specifically bred for their homing instincts and endurance and come with pedigrees that can rival those of race horses; proven pigeons can fetch up to $250,000. Races begin when birds are sent to the race’s starting point up to 600 miles away. Owners wait at the bird’s home loft for the return of their flyers. With a high investment, and the owner’s dream of a trophy on the line, training racing pigeons is a venture not to be taken lightly. Each owner and trainer follows their own tried and true methods that are built on some basic steps.
Keep your racing pigeons in a loft at the location that will be the end of the race. Usually the loft is in the backyard of the owner's home and will be your pigeon's home for as long as you own him for racing.
Feed and care for your pigeons in the pigeon loft. Racing pigeons must be feed a healthy diet that meets their nutritional needs during both the racing and off-racing season. They will learn to associate their loft as home, and as the end point of any race.
Train your pigeons in the training loft with the door open. The training loft should be large enough for the pigeons to build their flight skills and give them freedom to come and go. A training loft may or may not be the loft they were raised in; owners may choose where they want their bird to fly home to.
Train your pigeons to enter a pigeon trap by placing treats in the trap. The pigeon trap is placed in the loft for the pigeon to return to at the end of the race. This is so the owner can quickly get to the pigeon and enter the data as to when the pigeon returned home.
Train your pigeons to enter the release basket by feeding them treats. This is the basket they will be released from at the start of the race.
Train your pigeons to fly to the home loft from a distance. The distance you start at and then advance to can be at your own discretion. Each trainer uses a different set of points based on their experience with their pigeons. Usually pigeons are released as a flock only a mile or two from home to start their training.
Release your pigeons individually from increasing distances. At the end of their training pigeons are released individually 20 miles or more away from their home loft. Some trainers release their flying athletes over water as a final test before entering them into a race.