At the ripe young age of 5 Schmidt became interested in the pigeons that made their home in his father’s barn on their family farm, which is just a few miles from where Schmidt and his family live now.
The attraction of a little boy to birds led to a wide array of feathered friends, and Schmidt now has 400 plus pigeons. That number includes 70 plus breeds with a wide variety of characteristics and appearances.
“About half the birds I have are for sale, I sell to a lot of different people for different reasons. A lot of hobby breeders like to try different birds, and those who want to show birds and belong to clubs also purchase birds from me. The pigeons that are misfits and not desirable for breeding and/or showing are sold to dog trainers,” said Schmidt.
“The two most popular breeds for showing and those in clubs are the rollers and homing pigeons. The rollers are the ones that will be flying along and all of a sudden they will do a tumbling motion and appear to be falling from the sky. Many years ago parlor rollers were very popular; they are a little different from the regular rollers. They can’t really fly, and they were kept in homes for entertainment, when released they look like they will attempt to fly but instead tumble to the parlor floor. It made for excitement, with feathers and flopping around on the floor, and house cats loved the show. And, of course, the homing pigeons are trained to return to a location.
Some people think homing pigeons can be trained to come to a different location than they used to but that is not how it works. You have to buy a pair and let them hatch baby homers and then the babies will grow up to return to the place they were hatched. Babies are kept in a controlled environment, with water and feed, as well as some warmth in winter months with the windows closed. Then in spring, training can begin. You can’t just relocate a homer and turn it loose and have it come back to you. It will just keep going, and once it is tired, it will pick its own new spot.” said Schmidt.
“When you start training a homer you take him just a short distance from home to make sure he can get back. You gradually increase the distance, and eventually, they can travel more miles to return home,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt started raising chickens and had a large barn. When he moved to his current location, he went from the large barn to several small buildings and got into pigeon raising. The small sheds made it easier to customize the coops for the comfort of the mating pairs. It also made it possible to separate various breeds from one another so he could provide a softer environment for the more delicate fancy birds throughout the harsh winter months.
The homers and the Rollers are the stronger breeds and will produce more baby birds than the fancier breeds and will have a longer life span than the fancy birds. Some of the fancier breeds can be expensive to buy. The more costly they are the fewer there are of that breed.
There are many interesting breeds, like the short beak. They have a short face with a very short beak and some are being bred so the beaks become shorter and shorter. Their beaks are long enough that they can still pick up food to eat, but they are not good parent birds because they can’t feed the young. They need to eat the food then regurgitate into the beaks of the babies, but their beaks are too short to fit into a baby bird’s mouth. The short beaks need to be watched closely, and as soon as they lay their eggs, the eggs are removed to a foster nest, and a different breed of bird will incubate and raise the babies. They are interesting birds and neat looking just not good parent material.
“The serama breed have short legs and long tails that sweep the ground or they have long legs and short tails” said Schmidt.
Schmidt confirmed that the biggest risk for homers and rollers he releases are predators, like hawks and eagles. The biggest pest problem is that of mice, since there is warmth and always food. Lice is no longer the problem it used to be. It used to be necessary to powder the birds, but now breeders use an additive in the feed that prevents the lice problem.
Though birds of all kinds, including chicken, ducks, geese, turkeys, mini call ducks and peacocks are primary on the Schmidt farm, they have lots of company. Some of their nonfeathered fellow residents include: horses, mini horses, sheep, pygmy goats, donkeys, rabbits, a pair of pot belly pigs and dogs.
“I am drawn to all kinds of animals and have rescued a few. We usually have as many animals as money and the time to take care of them allows. The kids like the birds but tend to like the animals that they can have more hands on with, like my daughter who loves horses.” said Schmidt.