Archive for November 2011

Breeding to improve   1 comment

When we are really serious about building up both families and similar mixes of racing pigeon hybrids we must sit down and devise a plan. Where do we want to be in five years, ten years e.t.c. Do we have the pigeons that are capable of competing at the highest level from the distances we would like our birds to feature in the top prizes?

If we do, then how are we planning on improving them? Mendelian theory teaches us that ‘like begets like’. What I have learned over the years and in training as a Veterinarian is that it pays to only concentrate on improving a few traits in our birds at once. If we try and concentrate on too many improvements in our birds at once then there’s a good chance it will all ‘get stuffed up’ and only a very slim chance of success. Further, once we put a trait into our birds it can be very hard to get that trait out. So with our experimental matings we have to be careful we don’t go overboard since pigeons are only useful for so many generations, therefore we want to try and make some improvements each breeding season from at least some of our pairs.

I am lucky that in 2001 I bred a BCH 219, she was a latebred and I lived in Three Kings at the time and flew in the West Section of the ARPF. She won a hard West Section Federation Flock and Yearling Championship race from Johnsonville. When I shifted to Onewhero where I currently live I tried her with a couple of cocks without real success and then I decided to pair her to her Great Grandfather ‘Houbie’ which was Greg Clarke’s best race bird. To cut a long story short it is out of this mating in 2005 that the gun Young Bird Cock for the 2006 season 577 arose. Also the brothers and sisters of 577 that can ‘breed them’. ‘Houbie’ was a straight Houben bred down from Blenhaven stud Houben imports. 219 is Houben on the cock side and my best Jansen’s on the hen side, the Jansen’s that can fly and win all the way to Invercargill but particularly from the shortest race point to ChristChurch.

So 577 and his siblings are 3/4 Houben and 1/4 Jansen by pedigree. 577 is 69% linebred to 5 generations. He is reasonably linebred but he is also a tough pigeon, but not big, apple bodied, chunky, full of character and intelligence. I normally try him with several hens each year but I have a lot in the stock loft directly off him and ‘No Toe’ is off an unraced son of 577 to a daughter of 219 when 219 was mated to the ‘Big Blue Cock’. Now there is a story here because the ‘Big Blue Cock’ flew also in 2006 and I sent him every week, Young Birds and Old Birds. He was very tough and very sound constitutionally and he never showed any sign of physical weakness or stress. I thought, that those are two characteristics that I would like in my birds, but I didn’t want turkeys like him and I was lucky that 219 is small). In fact most fanciers wouldn’t breed off a bird that big, but I have never bred one as big as him, thank God, because he never ‘touched paper’ past Raetihi i.e. 150 miles.

However mated to 219 he breeds 69% linebred children which have both solid bodies that can take a lot of racing and fairly strong constitution. In fact they all look sheer class and perfection. But as nature would have it some children are stronger constitutionally than others and the ‘Good Blue Hen’ off him to 219 did show a tendency to get a runny nose from time to time which required medication. However in 2009 she won the Young Bird Futurity Overall, the Eastern Union Young bird Otaki and 4th Jack Longville Race all as a Young Bird. She has thrown good youngsters but some also show a tendency to get a runny nose but I have been mating her so the offspring are 88% linebred to six generations.

Now the mother of ‘No Toe’ was consistent however she wasn’t the best performer off the pair ‘Big Blue Cock’ to 219 but she was the toughest and had the best constitution, better than her sister the ‘Good Blue Hen’. The ‘Big Blue Cock’ like 219 is half Houben 1/2 Jansen, in fact he is off 134 which is a sister of Houbie  and ‘the Unrung Blue Cock’ which is off my best Jansen’s i.e. he is a son of the ‘Hardluck Hen’ and the ‘Blenhaven Cock’. ‘No Toe’s’ sire is a son of 577 and my best Jansen Hen in 2006 ‘572’. 572 was an exceptional hen and came with number 5 when I had the first 3 places in the Old Bird National East Section from ChristChurch in 2006, a fly in the 1600’s m/min. She also was 2nd Open Federation Yearling Futurity Ward the same season amongst other positions. ‘No Toe’ is thus impeccably bred and is 88% linebred  to 4 generations and has 219 as Greatgranddam on the cock side and Grandmother on hen side. I don’t normally like breeding this close however the mating seems to have worked since if you read the previous articles on my birds the 2 sisters are also good. I have stopped ‘No Toe’ and will breed off her soon to a son of 577 ‘The broken Wing Cock’ which bred my 2009 East Section ChristChurch Old Bird National winner. The progeny will only be 65% linebred and will have 577 as Grandsire on the cock side and 577 Greatgrandsire on the hen side. 219 will also be the Greatgranddam twice.

The other thing I realise that I should do is to mate 577 to one of his half sisters i.e. a daughter of 219 and the ‘Big Blue Cock’. So 219 would be a double Grandmother in the resulting progeny. However I would aim to use one of 219’s daughters that has the most disease tolerance and vigour. One shouldn’t be timid to go that close if both the quality and the hard selection is there. I will also race the progeny to help weed them out. Some fliers believe in keeping the weaker specimens because it may mean they have more homozygosity in their gene pool but I’m not sold on that idea. You would have to outcross them and you may have too many not so good genes that can’t be compensated for genetically by the crossing or from the resulting hybrid vigour. If I go down the path of using any less disease tolerant very linebred specimens for breeding it is likely that they would be pretty good racers even if they required some minimal medication at some stage during the racing season but nothing in the non racing time of year.

So in conclusion using Houben/Jansen crosses to start to forge a family or using other crosses can work and the vigour can be quite strong even when continual linebreeding at high percentages occurs. It’s going to be interesting how long I can keep linebreeding these birds but I have a lot of the bloodlines and if I keep selecting with all the good racing characters in mind whilst selecting against the lack of disease tolerance and weak constitution then I should be able to keep going for quite a while. As it is I haven’t bought in any birds for 13 years and who knows maybe I can keep going down the path of selection and improvement for another 13 years God willing and forge a family of prepotent birds. I guess that’s what we all aspire to, isn’t it? However during the next five years I will have to select very wisely to improve the chances of producing hardy, disease tolerant super birds that will fly all distances. I believe very strongly that ‘this is the way of the future’ for my loft.

Posted November 22, 2011 by ferguselley in Breeding better pigeons, Ferg's birds

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Loft doings since Ward race   Leave a comment

Well it’s 3 weeks to the day since the Ward to Auckland Federation Lofts Race. A few things have happened since then including Laurie Hill winning the prestigious Henderson Classic last weekend. That’s 6 times now. As usual he’s been holding back for it, but he wouldn’t be the only one). Grant Annette actually won the Christchurch Combine for that liberation, his bird leading the field by around 7 minutes. He clocked the same bird in the Federation Raumati to win 1st Yearling so it’s a good bird and surprise, surprise, off a hen I gave him whose mother won the West Section Young Bird National and backed it up the following week winning the Avondale Invitation Argosy from Palmerston North. Anyway, the moral of the story may be that free pigeons are the best, or at least can be and shouldn’t be underestimated!

The Christchurch to Auckland race I just mentioned was held over until the Sunday due to a cold front crossing the South Island on Saturday. There’s a few happy Auckland fliers who’ve got an easy Christchurch into their birds leading up to the 3 Federations South Island races viz Old Bird National from Christchurch, Timaru and the biggie with the most tempting prize money the Invercargill, the ultimate challenge and testing ground and definitely not for the faint hearted!

As I said in the previous article I mated my birds up on the 10th of this month and the hens started laying yesterday. They’d been going o.k. to the perch, in fact a lot better than o.k. Basically celibate with the odd lessie hen laying. Since pairing, the birds have been very amorous, the warm weather certainly helps and the other day I went in late afternoon and it was like a Roman orgy!. Cocks bumming each other, billing together, all lining up for a bit of action. Seems like they were making up for lost time but they’re certainly happy and I should have had my camera! They’ve  appreciated a nice bath every second day or so on the grill floor during the warmest part of the day.

Seeing that I’d piked the weekend of the 12th November I gave those I’d basketed for the Blenheim a 30 mile toss the next day from the substation at the end of the Naike Rd. I hate driving for that long nowadays, it just causes more headaches. That’s only the 4th toss this season and the longest, 2 of the others were only 5km. After that I gave them 2 days of dimetridiazole last weekend. Didn’t let the mated birds out much as they tend to drop condition even if you hopper feed them. By the way please note I haven’t fed any peanuts this season and hope not to. Today the birds raced a blow home Raetihi, less than 2 and 1/2 hours so really motoring however Neville Rhodes took the first 3 places in the Pukekohe Club with 8 widowhood cocks entered, a brilliant fly.

He gave me some doxyt so I’ll treat the birds with it for 3 days since the Federation races are approaching and some of the birds may benefit from it with clearer sinuses and nasal membranes e.t.c  in better shape. So that’ll be the second time they’ve had respiratory and wet canker treatment this Old Bird Season.

Timaru basketing is on the 29th November and liberation on the 2nd December. It’s about 560 miles to my loft. I’ve got 3 cocks and 3 hens lined up for Timaru. One cock will be 2 weeks on eggs expected day of liberation, he’s a 2 year old Houben/Jansen hybrid. He flew the Christchurch Old Bird National very well last year. He had the Raetihi today and flew the earlier Fed Raumati and the hard Ward race, in fact he took about 10 hours, so he’s had the work. Hope the weather is good next week so he can have a Turangi toss on the Federation transporter then just loft flying and hope for the best. I haven’t sent any of the hybridised Houben/Jansens further than Christchurch before, but they should do it if conditions are reasonable as Mac Armstrong clocks straight imports even from Invercargill.

This pretty Blue Barr Cock is a son of the mother of 577 to a different sire. He was 2nd Old Bird National Christchurch 2010 coming with 1st and 3rd to my loft. I have had   a lot of success with brothers and sisters including the gun Blue hen in 2009 Young Birds which won 1st Open Futurity, 1st Eastern Union and 4th Jack Longville Race.

Brother of the previous cock and he’s massive!

Sending a 2 year old brother whose hen is yet to lay, he’s a big bugger and was late from Christchurch last year.He’s had a similar preparation but an extra Raumati. I’m thinking that I’ll send him to Raumati this coming weekend also as he needs the stripping down, hopefully it’ll be a 5 to 6 hour fly.

Hopefully it’ll be this cocks turn soon as he’s been very consistent, he’s a nephew of 577. He has the same grandparents both sides as alot of my good racers. I often put down 3 or 4 pairs that way especially once I find the ‘blood’ is nicking.

Houben/Jansen hybrid also. He flew Christchurch last year but didn’t make the front bunch, he’s a 3 year old and also flew Christchurch as a yearling but was behind. However he’s been pretty consistent this season and wasn’t far behind in the Ward. The hen he’s recently mated with didn’t get eggy so I’ve taken her away and sent them both to today’s Raetihi . He can see her every now and then, at the end of the day for 15 minutes or so which should keep them happy, but I don’t want the hen to lay as she’s underdone for the Christchurch National in 3 weeks, so she needs to go to the Raumati next weekend.

I’ll tell you about the 3 hens I’ve lined up to send to Timaru in due course. They were in with the cocks for a week and then I sent them to todays Raetihi and now they’re in with hens only.

Posted November 19, 2011 by ferguselley in Ferg's birds

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Take the poll to tell me what you want   1 comment

Weekends racing from Blenheim and ChristChurch to Auckland Federation Clubs   Leave a comment

Well it looks like I got the weather pretty well right for this weekend. I didn’t want a 4 day basket seeing it was a Wednesday boxup so I left them at home. Now they’re all happily mated up for the Timaru in less than 3 weeks and the ChristChurch National in 4 weeks followed by the Invercargill. The business end of the season for the distance fliers! Let’s hope that we get some good settled pigeon weather.

It should be a good race tomorrow from both racepoints and the liberation committee certainly have done the right thing holding the birds over. They’ll be fat by now!!

I hear Palmerston North had an Invercargill liberation today and it’ll be interesting to see if anyone down there got birds on the day. It’s about 540 miles or so depending on where you live so similar to Timaru to my place. Hope someone from down there let’s us know how they got on.

Might update this in the next few days for those interested.

Posted November 12, 2011 by ferguselley in Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds

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My favourite New Zealand links   Leave a comment

1).  This is a very useful weather site for New Zealand and it’s free and up to the minute wind, rain and temperature for many NZ towns, cities with 3 hour rainfall/wind predictions for next 3 days and 7 day rainfall/wind predictions at 6 hour intervals. Rural selection is more comprehensive than towns and cities. Rain radar option also very useful but please note that the weather may in some cases be better than on the ground and other cases worse, never the less very useful for looking after the racing pigeons welfare which must always be paramount in this modern age. Severe weather warnings and marine forecasts also very useful especially for those Cook Strait crossings.

2). Useful for current weather and forecasts. Just select forecast charts 1 to 7 day thumbnails.Tends to be not as up to date as the site but I find useful for seeing the size and intensity of expected cold fronts. Of course with weather predictions the cold fronts may come through slower or quicker, fizzle out before hitting land or intensify and combine with other cold fronts. The longer you study these weather predictions and recognise what weather actually later eventuates the more experienced one gets, but like the forecasters the hit rate is never 100%.

3). This is the official site of the Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation (ARPF) of the 7 Auckland Clubs . If your club uses the Auckland Transporter(s) then your liberation of race or training pigeons should appear on this site shortly after liberation. Occasionally there are liberation delays and these also are often posted on the site by Jim Cater our current Liberation Coordinator. He’s also the Publicity Secretary for the Federation. There are contact options through the site which he currently handles. There are also rss feeds available which you can subscribe to for site updates. The site is currently being revamped by Jim. Clubs are also planning on posting their news on the site also. If you are a member of the public and you find a stray pigeon with a life ring on then you can contact the owner through the site. We can also help trace birds from other parts of New Zealand. The main thing with a lost pigeon if you are a non pigeon person is to protect it from predators i.e. in a cage. Keep it warm, provide clean water and provide some form of sustenance. Split pea soup mix is good. Maize, wheat, barley, chicken pellets, cage bird seed and even peanuts (raw) are also good in most cases. Some pigeons are used to bread, but in general pigeon fanciers don’t feed it as most pigeons fly continually until they reach their loft (house). However, please note if you are a member of the public our members sincerely appreciate all birds that are reported and we all will make the best efforts to get the pigeons back to Auckland or to a pigeon fancier near you that doesn’t mind feeding an extra one for a little while)).

4). Fabulous organisation and bunch of dedicated bird lovers.Excellent site. I remember Pam Howlett well. Such dedication, words cannot do her justice.

Posted November 11, 2011 by ferguselley in Favourite Links

Tagged with 2012   Leave a comment

Fergus Elley to Terry
show details 12:19 PM (3 minutes ago)

Dear Terry, Brian had just this morning written to me about your one loft race. Anything to promote the sport is always good and you have a great 1st prize. Wonderful that it is the same year as the London Olympics. I have recently started a blog site and will add a section just for your race so please keep us posted. I will also send out an email to my pigeon contacts here in New Zealand in the next few days.

The site address is

You are welcome to send pictures e.t.c. as it would be good for my site and viewers can find the link to your site in the email below which I will place on the site now with this reply.

Cheers, Fergie.

– Hide quoted text –
On Fri, Nov 11, 2011 at 9:56 AM, Terry Williams <> wrote:

Hello Mr Elley,
My Name is Terry Williams and I run The Somerset One Loft Race in England , i have been in contact with Bruce Cossons with regards our race for the Olympics in London 2012, we have not been able to get hold of Bruce , so we got in touch with Brian Batchelor who is entering our race next year, If I briefly let you know to what we would like to happen , For the Olympics we are holding a special race year to run along side the Olympics, and we are hoping many countries will enter, we are hoping to have a £50,000  ($1000,000 nz dollar)  1st prize for the winner, but we need the entries to be able to give it, we have Hot Spot races to enjoy and the training is in between the racing , it is a tough race and the birds are trained to the best standard to get to the Final race, as the import of birds from out side the EU is really out of the question due to Defra rules, we would like to offer your side of the world a chance to enter,   We would breed the birds here in England from the stud that supplies our Swap Shop birds ( Reserves) these birds are top draw pigeons and have done well in our racing over the years, to be fair to all , you will only pay for the birds if they get to the Final race, you can watch and follow the races through the year on our web site, for a bird in the Final you would have to pay for the bird (to the stud) and the activation fee the the full cost £285.00  approx ( $570 nz ), you are then in the race to win the hopefully $100,000 nzds prize, We would hope you will be interested in some sort of Syndicate of your Federation members , the more that enter the better the chance , of course single entries can win the lot !!!! . if you could please discuss this at your next meeting , i understand you do not get NZ rings till August 2012 , we can put on UK rings on the birds !!!?  We have spoken to Brian and he knows us quite well and he gave us your address to contact you , Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon , Our web site is 
Terry & Jane Williams
p/s We lived in Whangarei  for 3 years ,        

Posted November 10, 2011 by ferguselley in Somerset, England One Loft Race, U.k. news items

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Upcoming posts   Leave a comment

Hi everyone, I have talked to Mac Armstrong and he is very happy to have a series of articles written about himself and his pigeons. So that should be worth waiting for.

Also, sometime before Christmas I plan to start a series of articles on pigeon disease management with minimal medication. The bottom line I guess is, ‘are we attempting to manage our birds so that they live in harmony with natures biological threats on a microbiological level’ or are we going to stay on the worldwide band wagon of ‘breeding super bugs’. Super bugs that are becoming increasingly resistant to antimicrobial agents. I personally would rather breed more super birds which are more tolerant of biological attack by microrganisms and have been allowed to develop a solid immunity that can stand the test of time. There is way too much dosing of pigeons here and abroad and the answers lie ‘not in the medicine bottle’.

If you have any questions for Mac or comments for the pigeon disease management series please contact me through the comment option or email me at If you haven’t emailed me before please don’t send attachments, thanks.

To those of you who have subscribed by email sorry, if you got 2 notifications of this post but the system wouldn’t take it the first time so I’ve removed the google images of funny bacteria e.t.c. I guess they’re copyrighted)).

Posted November 10, 2011 by ferguselley in Upcoming Posts

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