Kidega finds gold in pigeons for sport

Saturday January 23 2021

Denis Kidega is rearing pigeons in the hope of entering them in international sporting events for cash prizes. Photo | Denis Bbosa

By Denis Bbosa

A dove or pigeon is mostly referred to as a sign of peace by Christians worldwide, but Denis Kidega, a poultry and horticulture farmer at Nsimbe Estates, has turned that belief into a business venture.  

Unlike in poultry, you need to have passion, care and patience to venture into the pigeon rearing business lest you risk reaping losses.

Put succinctly, Kidega says he and his partner at Fiduga (a flower cuttings exporting company in Mpigi District) Jos Melsburg, take rearing the pigeons as a hobby which they believe will transform into a lucrative venture in the near future.
Starting out
Kidega’s first attempt to keep pigeons started on a sad note as a 12-year-old in Gulu District.
As the family was returning to Gulu from Kitgum, he lost his pigeons because he lacked the knowledge, at the time, of training the birds to return to their loft.

As fate would have it, when he was employed at Fiduga as the technical manager, his boss brought pigeons and had vast knowledge about them.
“This is the fourth year that we are rearing these pigeons. We started with a mother stock of 12, which we do not release because they came from far and I can assure you this is the best breed you can have (from South Africa),” he says with pride and satisfaction.

With good furniture, wire lining, entrance and exit channels and located in a leafy and serene environment, their five segment loft (pigeon house) shows the class and commitment Kidega and his colleagues have invested in the project, not reserved for the faint hearted.

Training the pigeons
In chicken rearing, the more birds you have, the higher the rewards that await a farmer. In this case, however, all that matters is the quality of the pigeon and how well-trained it is.


Their mission is a strategic one that leans on hope and persistence plus the willingness of potential farmers and concerned government bodies to come on board and support a new project laden with potential of reaping millions in revenue.

Kidega envisages a day when he would take some of his well-trained pigeons to compete in international races such as the recent one in South Africa that weighed about Shs385m.

The technique in pigeon race is simple. The birds are carried far away from their loft in cages and then liberated at ago – usually at a distance of more than 500 kilometres - to observe which one relocates and enters its loft faster to win the prize money.
If it does not enter and the ring is not detected by the clocking machine at the entrance, it has not won.

In South Africa, 2,627 pigeons were liberated in the early morning of  February 3, 2018 in Colesburg and were expected to make their way back to their loft in Sasolburg. But two weeks later, only 1,569 pigeons had returned, which means that 40 per cent were still missing.

That points to the extra training Kidega and his colleagues have to give their birds if they are to ever take part in such money minting but challenging events.

Kidega maintains that their target for now is internal competition, limited within their stable among workers. He urges more Ugandans to embrace pigeon raring for sports so that they can make it national and later dare the international stage that has heavyweight participants like China, US and South Africa.

“At the moment, we train them from a distance from here to Gulu and Nimule. At a speed of 1.2km per minute, the pigeon takes three hours to fly back from Nimule to Mpigi,” Kidega reveals.

To measure up to the international distance of about 550 kilometres, Kidega has engaged the South Sudan Embassy to allow them extend to their territory, but works with their Wildlife Authority and Ministry of Agriculture is still in progress.
“If more Ugandans can get interested in taking on the venture, we can form a club of farmers that will make international participation easier.”

Breeding quality pigeons
Kidega, says they expertly pair the female and male pigeons, depending on their speed rates.
“Most of the mother stock pigeons are now eight years old. We pair them for eggs after getting the one that came fastest in our international competition and the young ones are a good breed. We incubate the eggs (it lays only two) and after 21 days, we get young ones that we release within four months,” he adds

The pigeon is first oriented around the loft, then started on a two kilometre journey, then four, before it upgrades to 20 and after two months of training, the bird is ready for longer distances.

The pigeons used for racing are bred in captivity and spend their lives in the care of humans making them completely dependent on humans to survive.
They are not aware of predators and do not know how to protect themselves from the elements or even how to hunt for themselves.

“It is a little bit expensive. It can take you Shs1.5m to get about 45 birds, excluding the veterinary services,” Kidega warns prospective farmers.
It is advisable to get one clean person attend to the loft to avoid the smell. Interestingly, you can eat the poor performers.

Kidega feeds the pigeons on grass, groundnuts, broken rice, sea rolls and soya and feed them regularly to maintain their high performance. But he also spends Shs100,500 on grade II flour, which he cooks into ugali (posho) for the birds.

“The birds are comfortable with me in a way that I can hand pick them without a struggle and closely observe the state of their health,” said Kidega.
He vaccinates them against Newcastle disease, one of the most dangerous infections with a 100 per cent mortality rate in birds, once a year.

Value for money
Kidega sells each bird at Shs300,000. He hopes to increase the amount to Shs800,000 or Shs1m, depending on the level of training and condition.
“Because we spend a lot on them, the birds are expensive. We sell a pair at Shs600,000,” Kidega says.

He believes the government can reap big if they added pigeon rearing to a list of tourism entities – because pigeons are such fascinating birds that can get tourists pouring in to interact with them.


Of course having many pigeons calls for high maintenance and that is why after four years, Kidega has 28 birds of which 12 are female.
Then again it is a costly venture if one was to take several birds for competitions to countries such as Germany, China and South Africa.

The lack of competition at the moment is equally frustrating for Kidega and colleagues at the moment as they are limited to internal challenges.
It would also require anyone willing to start up the venture to save about Shs1m - Shs3m to set up a standard loft.

Kidega is concerned by the perception of his  neighbours that he practices witchcraft because he rears pigeons. He hopes they will grow to understand the beauty of rearing these special species.