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Pica Reference Guide

The Spanish Sporting Pouter 

A great reference for those who wish to raise, keep and sport the Spanish Pouters called Picas or Deportivo. This literature discusses the basics of how to get started with Picas. Information made available by Ferry Dekok. Developed by Darren Yang, Inspired by Alan Bliven and prepared for anyone fascinated by these ambitious birds.

Introduction

These performing medium sized “Fabios” of the pigeon world are full of zeal, driven by one attribute, to seek out the hen with a white feather hooked to her tail, mate with her and bring her home. Picas are found in a variety of colors like many other pigeons. Picas are solely a performance breed, though Pica fanciers do show their birds in action for audiences to enjoy. There are many different levels of Sueltas (competitions), for example in the cases of smaller Sueltas, the most common one is that Pica fanciers will bring the cocks over to a friend’s house for some friendly competition. The name of the game will be stealing the hen from the friend’s Picas by out performing the other cocks she is used to flying with. The visiting Picas do not have a nest box for the hen to follow them back to. Medium sized Sueltas take place for example after a church ceremony; a local club will release the Picas so everyone can enjoy watching them chase after the hen. The other Suelta is a huge event where Pica fanciers can come to compete for a championship. A couple of weeks before the event date, the Picas are taken to the club location where the Suelta will take place that's taken care of by the local Pica club members. This way, the Pica cocks know where to bring the hen when the event starts. The bottom line is that in any size Suelta, points are given to the cocks who steal the hen by out performing the competition in both flying capabilities and great ground work.

 

History  

In Spain and in many other parts of the world now, the Palomas Deportiva or A.K.A. Picas are flown in competitions called La Suelta. This is a competition where Pica cocks are released into an unknown area and the hen is released into a designated area with a white feather tied to one of her own tail feathers, or two. Pica cocks are diligently painted for individualism and scoring purposes.

The Pica sport was developed in Spain when Francisco Franco was ruling in the 1940’s.He was born on December 4th, 1892 and died on November 20, 1975.

This ruler loved the thieving pouters very much, especially the Sueltas with the old Valenciano Pouters. He ordered laws to keep the Sueltas under special protection and some of them still exist today. For example, during a Suelta, the cocks are protected if they are in someone’s yard. The owner of the pigeons does not have to ask permission for his birds to be in that yard. Legally the owner can come into the yard and collect his birds if he wishes to do so. If the hen lands in traffic followed by cocks, they are protected and cannot be harmed, meaning that the street will be closed for the Suelta. Franco loved the pica Suelta so much and wanted everyone else to participate only in that sport and he forbid the Sueltas of other Thief Pouters. All the other flyers of Thief Pouters had to stop raising their breed to compete in Sueltas and breed for show purposes only or continue with only the Picas sport. This is one of the main reasons why the show standard exists today.

Not everyone was happy to hear that, so the brave went on breeding projects to improve their Thief Pouter breeds. All in all, the fanciers started mixing different breeds and formed the modern sporting pouter. The first Picas, are a result of different Spanish breeds.

 

La Suelta

The Suelta can take place just about anywhere as long as it is a safe environment for numerous picas for a little while or days. Before the Suelta, some pica fanciers show their birds. The Suelta is broken into three departments of scoring. The cocks are released together and the time starts, after 5 minutes when the cocks have gathered in a flock, the hen will be released in an unknown location. The scores are as follows:  

1.      General Pursuit:

·         2 points added to the scoreboard for the cock for each minute the cock is in pursuit of the hen in a one hour Suelta

·         2 points deducted from the cock's score for each minute he is away from the hen in a one or two hour Suelta

·         1 point is given for each minute the cock is in pursuit of the hen in a two hour Suelta

 

2.      In the Air Pursuit:

·         5 points for each attempt the cock tries to free the hen from the flying flock

·         10 points for the cock that succeeds

 

3.      On the Ground Pursuit:

·         5 points for each attempt the cock tries to free the hen from the crowded flock

·         10 points for the cock that succeeds

 

4.      Pairing:

·         20 points for the cock who copulates with the hen

 

Painting Pica Cocks according to the Color Card

An appointment is made with the club to determine what color the Pica cocks are painted; therefore, the “judges” can distribute the points to the right Pica. Each Pica will have it's own pattern because it will be easier to identify and will be registered on a color card.

 

What kind of paint is it? And how long does it stay on the pica?

Special paint can be imported from Spain or dry powder paint which is used to paint clothes also can be used to paint the Picas. Instead of mixing the dry paint with water, mix it with a small amount of pure alcohol, therefore the alcohol will evaporate quickly leaving behind the color. The color stays on the Pica until he molts. 

 

How to get started?  

First thing, first, when deciding on getting a pet, there must be a place for it to live, so start with the loft that will be needed to accommodate the Picas comfortably. To keep Pica cocks disciplined, the pens for them are smaller. Keep in mind that they are not like other breeds of pigeons that are kept in huge lofts and are free to fly around the loft as they please. These pigeons are rarely touched and uncultivated.  Picas are very tame pigeons and attach themselves to humans quickly. It also works vice versa, once a person owns Picas, he will find it very hard to get rid of them. Picas will always follow their owner and keep a watchful eye on what he is doing at all times. There is never a boring moment with raising Picas. They are easy to handle and take care of and stay very healthy.  

There are basically two different size pens that are needed to keep Picas. The sizes can be adjusted accordingly to different designs and preferences.  

1.      Hens:

·         16 x 16 x 16 inches  

2.      Cocks alone and Breeding:

·         24 x 24 x 24 inches  

It is a good idea to keep the cocks and the hens separated individually at all times so they will not be in direct view of each other. The cocks are put in larger size pens for training purposes and that will be the place for breeding in the future. It is not necessary to keep them in dark boxes as they do with other thieving pouters. They are very territorial and envious of each other. So, keep them separated at all times unless the pair was put together to breed.

For breeding I keep many pairs in a 10 x 8 loft without any problems. I also keep Homers and other breeds of Pouters with them. Picas make excellent parents and I use them as Fosters for other breeds.

 This is a simple 16x16x16 cage for the hens.

This can be made by 2 pieces of 8’ x 4’ ply wood. This is a very simple and cheap design that anyone can make. If the bars are not desired, replace it with the extra plywood. Inside each pen is a 16x8 inch shelf.

  

 

 

Here is an example of a pica breeding pen and a single cock pen, 24x24x24 inches

This will take 3 pieces of 8’x4’ plywood. Inside each breeding pen there is a 12x24 inch shelf.

 

What kind of feed do they eat?  

Any normal pigeon feed will suffice. Feeding is to keep them alive, healthy, keep them conditioned and to train them in knowing who their owner is. The other important part of feeding time is to make a whistle sound, for example with a whistle. This is also a way for the Picas to identify their owner.  Or simply use your voice or shake a can of feed when it is feeding time.

Make sure that it is not something common, make it unique. Feeding time should be the time the owner uses to bond with the birds, especially the hens. Use food to make this happen.  

Make sure that it is something habitual so the Picas can recognize you and associate it with feeding time. Feeding time should be the time the owner uses to bond with the birds, especially when they are young. Use food to make this happen. And as always, remember to keep fresh water daily, grits and minerals.

In Spain they normally feed Picas who fly in big Sueltas with 50 percent Corn and 50 percent Vetch (a European bean). Before a huge Suelta championship they will also feed the Pica cocks the same feed. This way they be used to the feed.  The breeders in Spain agree to feed this same food to all the Pigeons in competition. This is done because they have to send their birds all over Spain to compete in many different Sueltas. It's a big drawback if they had to be a wide variety of grains. After experimentation, they concluded that Corn and Vetch contains the best ingredients for competition birds. 

For overall maintenance, any pigeon feed should work, one recommended feed is the racing pigeon feed, because it has a lot of protein in the feed because during winter and molting season they will have plenty of protein in their system. And like all other pigeons, use regular vaccines and medication. Also, keep plenty of grits and minerals for them.  

 

How to breed a new line of picas?  

First, acquire Picas at the age of three years if they are available because they are probably experienced Suelta flyers and are disciplined. If not, the young ones will work, but it will be a little while before they can breed. Picas breed best during the warmer season because they have a habit of leaving their young too early so breeding in the warmer weather will cause the young to have a better survival rate. In other words, if they breed during winter, chances are the off spring will freeze.  Find someone that owns Picas, they will almost give away a pair or two for someone to start out with if they feel you are a potential Pica enthusiast. If not, buy some.

Breed them like any other pigeons and breed many for next the couple of years. Here is a guideline to follow when breeding picas: start with two different lines of picas and cross them accordingly.

This will be the stock birds to choose from. In the end there will be plenty of Picas, which only the best will be chosen from. Give the rest away to other pica enthusiasts, or sell them cheap as pigeons for meat only.  

·         The true Pica enthusiast will sell only quality birds, never poor, inbreed, unhealthy birds. The last thing they want to do is sell or show the new Pica enthusiasts that picas are a poor quality breed.

·         For example, let’s say, you see someone who sells Rollers and you decide after talking to the person that you want to buy rollers  and start your own roller loft of rollers. You paid a very cheap price for them. Come to find out, they can not roll, or roll poorly. This will cause their outlook of rollers to be somewhat disturbing. In today’s world, unfortunately there are people who will quickly make a quick buck by selling you poor quality birds. That's the last thing you want to happen and true Pica enthusiasts do not want to do that to anyone as well. They carry their Pica pride high and frown upon anyone who does that.

When buying Picas choose them carefully and ask a lot of questions, especially where they originally got their Picas from and if possible to  buy from a different breeder as well to ensure two different bloodlines.

From the best that are chosen, breed them. For example, one usually uses around 4 pairs to breed or more if the room is available. Picas should not have any problems being good parents. If they are young, they will get better as they grow older. The bond between mated Picas can be broken, but there should be no problem after a week, and he will be back chasing hens. Just keep in mind that if a red colored hen is used, the bond can not be broken easily, for some reason the cock will become attached to the red color on the hen. If the bond is broken, the cock will only want to chase red hens. This will be frustrating, because the cock will not chase the hens used in the Sueltas, for example in Spain, blue and dark colored hens, and in Holland blue bar hens.  

Separate the young (squeakers) from their parents as soon as they start to eat on their own. Segregate them into a “youth” pigeon loft. This is where the observation will take place as they mature. When a Pica matures by cooing and fanning its tail, take the pica out and separate it from the others. Picas are very aggressive and territorial; they will literally destroy each other in a small loft. Some pica cocks start to fight as young as 3 to 6 months old, or even when they start to pair up. This is when you must separate them from the group and let them breed. Keep them in the youth loft for as long as possible. As soon as the hen is spotted, tie the white feathers to her tail feather. For a young Pica cock, you must start training as soon as possible. For the young hen, it is a little different. The diagram shows the following for both cases  

1.      Young cock:

·         Move him into his own pen

·         Add a blue bar hen or a blue checked hen with the white tail feathers in with him to start his training, let them breed if possible  

2.      Young hen:

·         Move her to a smaller pen and tie the white feathers to her tail feather if she is a blue bar or dark colored hen

·         If she is a different color, set her aside and do not tie the white feathers to her tail feather, you will use her for breeding or give her away to someone who might need her. That is if you have plenty of hens. Remember to do not let her make contact with the cocks or see the Pica cocks  

3.      Both sexes:

·         They will mate, let them have their first set of young. When they mate again and start the next batch of eggs, remove the eggs after 10 days, separate the hen from the cock and leave the cock alone in that same pen for 2 weeks in a 16x16x16.  

This will be the foundation or the starting point for the training of picas.  

Training in the early stages  

There are many different ways to train Pica cocks; there is not one that is better than the other. But never let them fly or train with any other breeds of pigeons. First off, there are none better to train with except other Picas. Most importantly, if one decided to train the Picas with for example homers, then during a Suelta or even training, what if a homer flies by? The pica will follow that homer to her loft or home. So never let them near or make contact with any other breed of pigeons if you plan to fly them in Sueltas. This also applies to the hen, never use a different breed other than a pica for training and Sueltas for the same reasons as stated above.  

Here is an example: a good amount to keep and train is about 6 cocks and 3 blue bar hens. The more birds the less interaction there will be with them. Once you get to get to that amount, the first step is to train the cocks to chase after the hen. In order to do this, separate the cock from the hen for 2 weeks. When they are still young they will rely on the owner for food and nourishment; that will be used to the owner’s advantage. When it is feeding time, let them out hungry. Using the feed and the special call of the whistle, it will tell him to go back inside their pen for food. Repeat this daily until it is a ritual. Keep in mind that when the cocks grow older, it will be easier to lure them back into their pens by using a hen for bait and they will have food readily available when they are in their individual pens.  

The next step is if all the birds are around the same age. For example, if there are Picas around the age of 3 to 6 months, leave them in the young pigeon loft and take out the different color hens as soon as possible. Tie the white feathers to the blue bar and blue checked hens and let the cocks start training this way. When the cocks are mature by cooing and displaying, take the hens out one by one until there are none left. This is to motivate the cocks to chase after the hen. When training the young cocks in flight, let them fly with the hens and after some time use fewer hens, until there is only one that flies with them. Then after completing that step, put the cocks into their own pens.

They are many methods, and based on the cocks there is different approaches one must make to accommodate each cock. Some people start with this one and then go to the step before prior. Don’t be scared to try these methods, they are very easy to learn and with experience one can develop their own methods.  

Training the hens is different from the cocks. Establish a special bond with the hen and by using the special whistle call and food. The overall accomplishment is to make the hen believe that she is your partner or mate. She will listen when the whistle call is made and return when she is called. In the Suelta, if she has had enough of the game, she will return to the owner. She is rewarded with food and then locked up and another hen will be used in her place.

Note: It is very important to take great care of the hens, for they are the masters of the Suelta. If they lose trust in the owner, they will sometimes fly away from the cocks in fear, deserting everybody. So, she must trust you at all times and never lose that trust.  

The hens are also locked up separately at all times so they do not mate with each other and continue to lay eggs even though there is no way for the eggs to be fertile. When the hen has fully matured to adulthood and sexually active she will have food readily available at all times. The time a hen is ready for a Suelta is when she is sexually active. By keeping her separate at all times, she will only have one thing on her mind, to mate with a proving cock.  

 

Training for the suelta  

Training for the Suelta is done simultaneously for both sexes.  

1.      Release the cocks and time them for 5 minutes

2.      Release the hen after the 5 minute mark

3.      The cocks will find the hen and pursue her

4.      Call the hen back or when she has had enough she will return  

Note: The Suelta training could last minutes, hours or days. If the owner can not be heard by the hen, she could stay out for days. The cocks will still pursue her even into the hours of the night.  

Depending on the weather and time of year, Suelta training is as follows:  

1.      Spring to Summer

·         Twice a day  

2.      Winter to Fall

·         Once or twice a week  

Or as many as the owner prefers to have. No one will hardly notice the difference when the cocks have been locked up for months and then released into a Suelta. The cocks are always ready to chase after a hen.  

Recommendation for a Suelta training:  

Start with two cocks and see how they work then add a new cock every other day. Let them grow in pride and in self esteem and that gives them the opportunity to build their character. Continue with this until you have completed the whole group. If it does not work out the way it should, go back to two cocks and start over. Or even one cock and one hen if it is the case. Sometimes there has to be a winner in order for the cocks to grow. At this point, it will be trial and error. On another note, remember to change the hens. Call the hen in and change her for a different one, so the cocks will not be used to one hen only.

Also, the cocks must be much tamed to the human touch. The only way to do that is to touch them/pet them every day. Play fight with them, throw them away and let them come back and repeat it again, hold a hen as bait and let them fly and sit on your head, hand and arms. The cocks will like that and together you all will build a special bond between everybody.

If there is a noticeable amount of cocks flying well and staying close to the hen, and trying to lead the hen away from the group then that means they are being trained well. Build up their condition for about one to two hours each time there is a Suelta training. Picas can go for days, but in real Sueltas it mostly last approximately one to two hours. So after training for one to two hours, stop the training and call the birds in to rest.

Small Suelta  

After noticing good development of the Picas in training, then it is time to take them to a friend’s house for some friendly competition. Choose a nice sunny day to bring them over to a friend’s house. Make sure the cocks have not flown that day to prepare them for the small Suelta. Make certain they are conditioned to fly for a couple of hours and want one thing, the Suelta hen. Your friend should have prepared some hens and they should be in condition to fly and are sexually active and deprived.

Next, put the cocks into wire cages that surround the Suelta hen which is also in a wire cage in the middle so the cocks can see her. Observe the anxious cocks build up their drive for the hen. If there is any doubt in a cock, this is now the time to say so and remove him from the game. The others should now be ready, so release the cocks and have confidence in them. Hold the hen and tease them, by pushing them away and play with them. When the cocks start getting bored and start to fly away in search of another hen, then release the hen and enjoy the Suelta before the cocks are gone. Your friend should have some cocks as well and all of his cocks are released at the same time yours are.

The cocks will follow her to the moon if she takes them there. After some time she will come down and your friend will be able to call her back to him and the cocks can be gathered or if the hen goes into her loft, the cocks will follow her inside and you can gather your cocks that way. You can do this over a period of time and if you and some friends decide to organize a small championship in someone’s backyard, feel free to do so.  

 

Where are the best picas found?  

No one really would sell their best Picas and especially give them away. They will let birds go because no room is available and from there a new bloodline can be started, so planning to breed a new bloodline is the best way to go. Follow the breeding instructions in the breeding section. There are numerous ways to breed good birds, for example start by an out crossing project to other Picas and then cross back into the main line (the birds you started with). If you notice the out crossed picas are better than those of the main line, then go with the crossed birds. Or the option still remains to start two different bloodlines in which case, you will cross them back and forth when needed. Keep in mind that when crossing into the colomba livia the bloodline will fall generations back. This is all depending on the off spring; it will depend on their performance and abilities. All in all, to answer the question, the best picas are found in the Sueltas of course.

 

Show Standard for Guttarossa Palomas Deportivo Pica

Head:  From the side, the head must be shaped like a sheep's head. The head cannot be too long or too wide from the frontal view. The head should be more developed in the cock and less for the hen.  

Beak and Nails: The beak must be black, wide and strong from the base and curves down to the front. The nose top must be white and dry and not too big. Below the beak, there may be three small wattles, also not too big, except for older birds. The nails must be black also.  

Eye: The eye must look lively and healthy with a strong and arrogant look. The iris must be red in color and showing no fear around his surroundings.  

Neck: The neck should be proportionate in size according to the body. While cooing, it should take a impressive shape.

Crop: The crop takes a shape of a pear while slightly hanging down the throat without showing a double chin. While displaying the crop, it must be filled up to the shoulders.

Body: It must be muscular in a harmoniously shaped line, richly covered with soft plums and feathers.

Tailbone: The tailbone must be short and elastic.

Breastbone: The breastbone should be straight and run into the crop.

Back: The back should be wide and flat near the shoulders and smaller towards the tail and richly covered with soft plums.

Wings: The tips of the wings should be resting on the tail feathers. The tips should not be longer than the tail feathers. It can be a little shorter. The last four wing feathers should be as long as possible but receding in harmony with the rest of the wing. Good ventilation, not to wide but small, flexible and round on the end. The arm feathers should be rich plumed and in harmony with the hand feathers.

Tail and legs: The legs are short and firm. The tail must be in harmony with the body and in harmony with the wing. His tail has a normal somewhat up position.

Attitude: The Pica must have an arrogant and strong appearance while his eyes are looking around his surrounding without fear. His voice is loud but full and relaxed sound.

Weight: Male 400 gram; Female 375 gram. The weight should be are according the size of his body.

Exceptions: The white birds may have a black and/or white beak and nails.

The tailbone may be at the basic not being wider the 5.25 mm. The end may not being wider then 3 mm.

Score:

10 points for head, eye and expression

30 points for muscle and balance

15 points for bone (system), breast and tailbones

15 points for back, tail and end of the tail

30 points for wing and quality of the plums  

Total of 100 points

 

How to tie the white feathers on to the tail feather of the hen

 

There are many ways to do this, here are two: 

1: Using a vent tube from a bicycle, cut off a small piece of the hen’s tail feather. Insert the vent tube about one inch over the tail feather. Insert a duck feather or pigeon feather that is white on the other side.  

2: Using white duck feathers, cut off the tip of the duck feathers (the part that goes into the duck) Cut off a small piece of the Pica hen’s tail feather. Slide the duck feather one inch over the cut off pigeon tail feathers. Using a needle and thread, carefully puncture through both of the feathers. Wrap the thread around the tail feather tightly and tie a knot. Or instead of using a needle and thread, simply use regular duct tape.  

 

 

Works Cited

Kok, F. D. (2007, November 15). Pica Fancier. (D. Yang, Interviewer)

 (Bliven, 2007) Alan Bliven. Circus Lofts http://www.cichlidlovers.com/birds_pica.htm

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