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.

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

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One response to “Breeding to improve

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  1. Well written Fergus, you may well of missed your vocation. Suppose one should remember that the biggest percentage of inbreeding occurs at the first coupling and then in ever decreasing ratios from then on. As you say having a good number of like bred individuals and utilizing their genes into ones primary gene pool would seem to be a prudent course of action. Regards

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