by Gordon Hughes, Derby, England [For PDF version Click Here]
With regards to training a kit to fly into the dark, it is first essential to learn how to fly them throughout the day. When one can do this one must then consider training in the dark. Fanciers in England vary in their methods, but my own method is as follows:
1. Birds must have undergone a thorough training as youngsters and must have made the minimum of mistakes when in training as youngsters. (I do not train young birds to fly in the dark; I commence dark training with yearlings.)
2. I keep the birds inside the loft and aviary during the winter, and after this period I arrange to liberate them for the first time at the beginning of March. Bearing in mind that the birds wings will be stiff one must cut the winter feed down, and get the birds hungry before liberation in the first instance, otherwise they will tend to alight somewhere else, other than the loft. After about one week, after being liberated on seven successive days the birds will be flying normally, perhaps for two or three hours in the daylight. Now is the time to make them very hungry, when commencing their training, especially in the dark as they cannot be controlled.
3. Now lights must be affixed on top of the loft, two 60 to 100 watt bulbs are sufficient, depending upon the size of the loft. Shades, (reflectors) should be fixed over the bulbs in order to throw the light downwards. The lights should be fixed on a strip of wood approximately three feet above the top of the loft.
4. The kit should normally be liberated in the daylight, and arrangements should be made for them to come down just before dusk. When the birds alight they should be left on the top of the loft with the lights turned on, and with the droppers out, until at least one hour after dark. They should not be frightened or disturbed in any way, and the fancier must stay with the birds in order to ward off any cats, or other animals that may attack them. If the fancier has two lofts whereby he can get the birds to fly from one loft to the other and back again in the dark, by throwing corn (grains) here and there, this will be an advantage, and teach the birds to alight in the dark. When the fancier is certain that the birds are fully used to being out in the dark, the kit should then be liberated about fifteen minutes before dusk, and left to fly about five minutes after dark, when the light should be turned on and the droppers liberated, and the birds must be gotten down as quickly as possible. This can be repeated night after night. Bear in mind that if the birds are not very hungry when first liberated in the dark they may not come down until the next day, in which case they may not be of any further use for competition in the dark.