Archive for April 2012

My life, my pigeons and my management philosophies.   2 comments

Today I have decided to blog about my health situation. One advantage of having a blog is that friends, family and people in pigeon racing around the world can receive up to date information about me without even contacting me.

Not knowing how ones health will be when one wakes in the morning can be a very frustrating thing and make planning of one’s days and weeks very difficult.

At least the sport of pigeon racing has given me something to get out of bed for all these years in the morning or occasionally the afternoon. Nevertheless, I have always visited the birds daily apart from 2 months when my wife looked after them when I was overseas.

So what is Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. It is an auto immune disease with similar symptoms to other auto immune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and Polymyalgia.

My symptoms are long periods of fatigue, body pain including migraines, unrefreshing sleep and intermittent left-sided severe chest pain. Also neuropathies manifesting as numbness in the middle and lower left thoracic region and numbness and burning in the chest, the gums and the jaw.

I have to spend a lot of time resting, either lying down reading, sleeping or watching the occasional tv programme, usually a nature one. On a good day I get down to the loft 3 or 4 times. On a bad day I get down there maybe once. I thought that moving to a lifestyle block in the country in late 2002 would improve my health but it hasn’t and I struggle to look after it and in fact require help to do so.

Currently for the last 2 months we have had a family friend staying who cleans the pigeon lofts out, 3 out of 4 days a week in return for a place to stay.

The pigeons are keeping healthier because of this and certainly helps since this is the first Young Bird season that I have not dosed my youngsters with antimicrobials.

Last year in Old Birds I did not have help and the lofts were probably only cleaned once a week. I would do up to an hour 3 days a week at the most in the race loft. However the bird’s health did not seem to suffer and they weren’t dosed with antimicrobials until after 8 weeks of Old Bird racing. In fact the birds flew their best without the dosing and later in the year when Old Bird racing  comes along again the birds will not be dosed apart from deworming unless a bird needs some form of individual treatment.

I know last year in Old Birds that the birds that I was mainly clocking were 2 year olds which hadn’t been dosed since the end of the 2010 Old Bird season and henceforth must have developed rock solid immunity. Many of these were rung with old 2008 rings (born early 2010) and had just been trained in 2010 to Bulls i.e. about 200 miles. The good hen ‘No toe’ (see other articles) was from this batch of birds. These birds had been given adequate time to grow and develop and were used to having a week of droppings in their sections with no ill effects, even when sometimes after rain the mould grew overnight and signalled a message to self to clean no matter how I was physically for the bird’s welfare sake.

The other reason I think these birds fired in Old Birds 2011 was because I went from a diet of up to 20% raw peanuts a lot of the time to feeding no peanuts at all until after the Timaru Federation race, which incidentally I won with a super performance by a 2 year old BBC in 14 hours and 6 minutes on a very challenging day (see South Island liberations l for a race report and photos). He was ex ‘The big blue cock’ and 219, the now matriarch of the loft.

The reason I had fed so heavy with peanuts for so many years prior to this was that due to the incapacities of health and its deterioration I considered it a waste of time to try to win the short distance races less than 250 miles, although I still certainly won my share! Sprint racing I thought required tossing during the season which I wasn’t able to do that much of myself because of my fragile neurological system which limited driving.

My philosophy had been with peanut feeding that the gradual build up during the Old Bird Season from progressive racing meant the birds reserves would be preserved better for when the racing got longer and harder from the lower North Island or from the South Island.

The reason that I had changed to no peanuts in Old Birds 2011 was that I decided to have a good go at the North Island races (up to 250 miles for me) and that it was cheaper to feed mixed canary seed as the main source of fat since it is half the price per kg and I fed this at 20% of the diet, changing to 30% leading up to the first South Island race, that being Ward, an approximate distance of 330 miles to me.

This Young Birds after a steady Mahoe race i.e. 3 hours 25 minutes to me and in the 1000 m/min I decided to add peanuts to the diet again as this year the birds had entered the body moult earlier (cooler Summer nights) and needed the extra protein and fat to handle both this stress and the stress of racing (see the previous article for results and pictures).

I think for Old Birds later in the year I will feed some peanuts at a low-level i.e. 3 to 5% of the mix. Peanuts are an appetite stimulant and the very good partnership of the late John McNeil and his son Dwayne used them at times as such. Remember their super widowhood cock 1090.

Some birds don’t go well on peanuts especially at 20% of the mix which is why ‘No toe’ was never first to the loft from training on the Auckland Federation big truck in 2010,  as she’s a big hen and puts on weight easily. However on no peanuts with the mixed canary seed instead and letting the hens out every second day for  6 to 8 hours meant that with racing every week she got super fit and often left the opposition in her dust.

It is a pity that I can’t race her any more but I want to think of the future of the loft as it is how one can gradually improve the birds and improve the number of good and very good and hopefully be blessed with an outstanding bird. I will note that often the best racers don’t breed a lot of good or better birds (fallow generation principle) but that their children do and that is why I haven’t let the pair of latebred squeakers that I bred off her (‘No toe’) out as I want to breed off most of her children. I and others have found that it is with the grand children where you often get the birds that are the very good or better performance racers.

By placing plenty of youngsters off these key birds (e.g. off ‘No toe’) into the stock loft and sacrificing their racing we can progeny test them as breeders and in a period of several years find some ‘super couplings’ hopefully. Then if the key birds are lost e.g. there was an unexpected death, then we would still have plenty of their blood to improve the lofts genetics.

I have basically done this ever since I got back into the sport in the 1989 breeding season and won both the 1990 Futurity West Section from Levin and the 1st three in the  Western Union Young Bird Classic from Otaki. Vandie BCH AAK 1989 number 64 won that Futurity race and turned out a goldmine breeder for me. I still have her blood as the basis of the Vandie blood and her full sister 319 is a grtgrt grand dam of Mac Armstrong’s Invercargill winner i.e. 780 miles through a Foxton breaking point taking a little under two full days last year in 2011.

Michael Smith raced this 319 in 1991 when I shifted to his mother’s place in Waterview and we both had our own lofts. It was his first bird virtually every week and when he left a year later he wanted it of course, however I kept it knowing how good the blood was and it turns out that I was right.

Those Vandies were under rated and although the imports had their impact in the early 1990’s when they came in particularly in the North Island races to Auckland the Vandies I would have to say are the best all round pigeons that I have ever had.

Now that I have blended them into what I have left of the bloodlines of imports from the 1990’s it is a bit like forging some strong aerospace alloy. What I desire to forge with my breeding are birds that are dual purpose birds of stamina, good at any distance, good on bright and overcast days, highly disease resistant with very strong yet very light bones and capable of excellence at fast, medium and slow velocities, birds that will break at the right time often and not scared to fly by themselves and leave the opposition behind. I don’t ask much, do I?))

To quote the internet site ‘Titanium Alloys are selected for applications requiring high strength‚ low weight‚ high operating temperature or high corrosion resistance’. So there are some similarities there with the breeding of better racing pigeons.

The future of pigeon racing is breeding and superior genetics. Sure in the shorter fast races especially in Young Birds the birds can overfly a lot especially for the Federation front markers and it is a lot harder still for Brian Batchelor over there in Elstead, England with liberations going up from all sorts of directions and not to forget the raptor problems causing havoc on any liberation whether training or racing.

Terry Williams has just emailed me again from England and I invite readers to check out his site at especially the home page, latest news and the videos viewed ‘at the movies’.

Posted April 24, 2012 by ferguselley in Breeding better pigeons, Ferg's birds

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Ferg’s Young Birds 2012 Update.   3 comments

Young Birds out flying with the Bombay hills to the north in the distance.

'Here they come!'

'Off they go again!'

'Just cruis'in!"

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I wrote this blog (starting next paragraph below) on the 7th of this month and due to poor health I only get to post it today. The photos were taken by Kim Anisi on the 10th and are used with her permission. Since then we have raced Bulls, a distance of around 200 miles to me and 6 arrived together from 19 sent and all returned, much to my delight. The birds scored 4th, 5th and 6th Combine Auckland from 418 birds sent and the 1st three in the Pukekohe club. You can only have 3 birds on the Combine so the other 3 birds missed out. Jim Cater of Henderson actually won that Combine almost 16 minutes ahead of my 6 and almost 3 minutes ahead of Eric Billington who lives within 5 miles of Jim. I allow Jim about 30 miles for most races as my loft is situated near the front of the Federation. We have just had a Raetihi race which is 150 miles to me and I sent 2 and was behind, the bird coming from the north which has been the story of the season for my loft but probably not with the leaders.

2 of the clock birds from Bulls including the Club winning BCC.

The same happy couple.

Second of the 6 to go in from Bulls, a nice blue chequer white flight hen.

Same hen, different pose!

Brother and nestmate of the Bulls winner and also one of the 6.

Same cock.

Didn't expect this cock to be one of the first to my loft from Bulls as he is very big.

This BCC also one of the 6 from Bulls.

Same cock.

Well the birds have had a few races now, four to be exact despite missing the first two. Initially I concentrated on getting my Futurities down the line a bit as I had 18 Futurity rung birds in the first team which are mid October hatch and only 5 club rung birds. The better ones of these later I had hoped to have as a small reserve for the Young Bird National on the 26th May 2012.

My second race was Mahoe and as a precaution I chose to send only 8 of the 23 birds in team 1. Looking at the forecast I had wondered if we would be in for one of those very gloomy central North Island weather situations perhaps with that murky very low cloud that you get near the 3 central North Island Mountains of New Zealand.

However, although the ARPF liberation was slightly delayed i.e. from 8.30am until 9am it was light enough by then to release the Auckland birds. 3 of my 8 birds did it very well into the nor-east headwinds. 2 sisters (grand daughters of 577) taking 1st and 2nd Club Pukekohe and 1st and 2nd Combine from 763 birds. It was the first whole of Auckland Combine release and my other 5 birds took considerably longer and no doubt learnt considerably from the experience. The extra hours on the wing adding to their developing levels of fitness.

BCH The Combine winner from Mahoe.

Same hen.

BBH 2nd Combine Mahoe and sister of winner (before she pranged up).

Same hen the day after pranging up and certainly out of racing for a while.

Ouch!! Wondered if her mate who was starting to drive her had caused her to go between the wires above the loft that keep the birds from landing on the loft roof.

Same hen reunited with her mate after 5 days care in a nest box.

Young love, same pair.

Same pair again.

The cock that I clocked the week before in my first race this season was the second to last bird and the following week he was also well behind too. I did not send him the next race as there’s something going on there and I’ve decided to freshen him up, so he’ll miss the Bulls on the 14th April and I’ll race him the following week but at this stage it’s unlikely that I’ll send him to the Futurity. He is a very nice cock and there’s always the National to try to get him right for and he’ll have completed his wing moult by then.

Our first Raetihi race following the Mahoe also had a Te Kuiti leg on it. I put 18 into the Raetihi and 5 to Te kuiti. My birds were fed at 1pm my normal mix and again an hour prior to basketing near days end with just some mixed canary seed to make sure that they had drunk and didn’t dehydrate on the truck or once they were liberated. The truck always provides fresh water for an hour prior to the liberation, however they are still babies and I expect most of mine wouldn’t poke their heads out and drink. So it pays to look after them.

The race conditions were moderate easterlies (a side wind) and once again my first bird came from the north. Unfortunately it followed the drop bird to the point of entry then decided to turn around and trot to the outside edge of the long landing board. So a bit too much time was lost however this son of 577 still managed 1st Club and 2nd Combine from 447 birds. Al’s loft won.

The Te Kuiti leg my 5 birds were well off the pace and I’d expect would have flown quicker if they’d had less food. But I’m not prepared to starve young birds. They are still developing and although all races are there to win, some are worth winning more than others!!

BCC 2nd Combine Raetihi.

Same cock.

The birds are through the body moult now and rapidly finishing their wing moult while the tail moult is progressing well. There are no big gaps in the middle of the tail or birds with only 4 or 5 tail feathers which I wouldn’t send to a race anyway as it’s not fair on the bird.

The heavy feeding has paid benefits so far as the birds are keeping very well and racing through the moult; even though they are the equivalent of second rounders (second half of October hatches). I did lose 3 birds on the 1st Raetihi and 3 came early the next morning of the 18 sent but probably that is par for the course and the birds had every chance to get home and unfortunately some either get to the general area of home and don’t break (I am one of the ARPF front markers), or they don’t orientate between the race point and the loft or something else like an accident with power lines.

Kim’s bird ‘seagull’ is missing from that race. He was near the end of his 8th primary flights in both wings and may’ve dropped them en route. Kim was very disappointed he didn’t find home, but who knows, he may be doing o.k. somewhere and if he ever ‘rocks up’ I’ll keep him and fly him later in the year.

Kim jokes that he may have joined a flock of seagulls as he looks like one!! The other 2 birds I dropped although in pristine condition had looked like their constitution wasn’t as ‘solid’ as the bulk of the rest of the team. Hopefully they’re doing o.k. somewhere and have an enjoyable life if they don’t return here.

Seagull! Shot taken a few weeks before he went MIA. He went to the Raetihi in pristine condition and through the body moult.

The 3 that came the next morning early from the 1st Raetihi I didn’t race the 2nd Raetihi the following week as they needed time to recover. I sent just 13 of the 20 remaining team 1 birds. I only send them to these short races if they are in absolutely ‘premo’ condition. I do tend to be very careful with the cocks given normally on average they are bigger and I find that my hens often mature quicker.

However I kept at home also 2 club only rung hens that only did the Te Kuiti the week before. One is a bird that normally I would have culled by now as it often doesn’t look good and always after feeding it is hunched up. It usually is skinny despite plenty of tucker. It had naval canker as a youngster and I treated it a number of times and removed a small mass when it was being reared. Well bred of course, but they are not all good and it would suffer a lot if it got lost. It is in the ‘b’ team. I’ll keep it a bit longer and just give it the Raetihi races and ‘tell it to fly fast!!’ (Update-this bird came home fine from the 200 miler Bulls last week! I sent it because the weather was going to be perfect for at least 3 days.)

This bird number 1122 always looks tired after feeding. It had naval canker in the nest and perhaps there are some unseen abnormalities, nevertheless it handled the 200 miles from Bulls no sweat because the weather was so good and they were loft flying extremely well.

The no dosing policy still seems to be working. After being 22 minutes behind the Combine winner the first race I started getting the birds out every day. I believe the fresh air and sunshine to be excellent tonics and much better than anything in a packet or container! Most days they are getting plenty of baths.

I have a 2nd team also. These are December hatch latebreds which have had 9 tosses to date. They will start on the Federation transporter on the 21st of April from Te Kuiti and go somewhere on it every week until the 2012 Young Bird National from Raumati on the 26th of May. I have 12 birds entered for that race. I don’t usually race December hatch youngsters in young birds.

Update now Sunday 22nd April. The Auckland Young Bird Futurity is scheduled for next Saturday. A full race report will be posted some time after the race.

Brian’s Brit Blog April 2012   Leave a comment

Here we are it is Easter already it only seems the other day when it was Christmas. This weekend heralds the first race of our Old Bird racing season and right on cue the north-east winds have arrived. It was interesting to read Leo Turley’s comments on the NE wind in the last issue and he is quite correct in that it all depends on your location and the direction the pigeons have to fly. For us it means our pigeons fly up from the SW so the NE wind is a head wind, right on the nose and this time of year it is born in Siberia and cold. As I start to write this article much of the British Isles are covered in ice and snow brought in by this NE arctic wind and last night April 5th we had a 7.5 degree frost. In these NE conditions the experienced fanciers do not risk too much, yearlings are especially vulnerable and easily lost. However March was generally warmer than normal so I have been able to train a few spare (unmated) birds mainly yearlings and some late breds. The late breds are always fickle, I train them separately as I would do with young birds. I started with eleven and lost two on the first toss, the remaining nine carried on well until the 5th toss when they ran into trouble, only one homed on the day, three more the next day and one a week later with four lost. A week later the five survivors had another bad one, again only one homed on the day, the same pigeon as the first toss (a promising pigeon for the future), eventually all five returned, one minus half the feathers on one wing as shown in the below photo, a typical Peregrine strike. Late breds simply do not have the experience to cope with raptor attacks, however the survivors will have learned a valuable lesson for the future.

Hawked Late Bred

Hawked Late Bred

Our breeding season is now in full swing, the fanciers who breed early will already be finished and by now will have youngsters starting to take to the wing. My first round from the four stock pairs were scheduled to go the Somerset One Loft Race but I only managed five as the eggs from my good cock VINO got chilled in the cold snap in February when night temperatures dropped to minus 15 degrees celsius. The bad luck with VINO continued when his second pair of eggs were due to hatch I found his nest bowl overturned on the floor and both eggs smashed, hopefully it will be third time lucky. The 6th squeaker had been pecked on the back of the neck when it left the nest so could not be sent away. Luckily I had a further eight pairs down in the race loft from which I can make up the other three for the Somerset one loft entry.

I see in the last APJ that Geoff and Catherine Cooper paid a visit to Australia, they and their pigeons are at the pinnacle of pigeon racing both in England and indeed internationally, there are no better fanciers nor few equal. They are among the elite along with Mark Gilbert, Brian Shephard and now Wicky Bullen who have beaten the best in Europe by winning an international race against the top lofts in Europe and many thousands of birds.

As I mentioned above, March was warm and dry and indeed our winter has been one of the driest on record to the point that water restriction regulations were introduced across the S E of England on April the 6th. That seemed to send a signal to the heavens so that the traditional April showers arrived on April the 7th and were very much-needed in the gardens and on the farm land but not too conducive for pigeon racing. Nevertheless our first race kicked off from Blandford Forum April the 8th 65 miles to me, I don’t normally start my birds until the 2nd week of May but this year I threw caution to the wind and sent 3 spare yearling cocks and one 2010 rung cock that was a late bred last year. The weather was not the best with a cold NNE wind and occasional showers. The 2010 cock came first but he is a very nervous type so after a couple of circles landed on my house roof, then after a few minutes he went over to a neighbours roof then back to ours before being satisfied there were no cats or hawks lurking in the vicinity of the loft before coming down to be clocked,  losing the best part of 10 minutes. Needless to say he was well down the result list at 19th but not last. Two of the yearlings arrived soon after but the 3rd yearling never turned up until the next day, all members had some pigeons out that night. The race was won well by Wally Cable who had a widowhood cock well out in front, the best yearling was at 14th showing how difficult it is this time of year for yearlings and most fanciers won’t race them until later in the year. Wally told me last year he started 18 yearlings in the first race and by the 5th race 16 were lost so this season he is only racing the early events with two year or older pigeons.

On a final note it was sad to read last week that the surviving Janssen brother Louis was in hospital at age 99 and the remaining 30 pigeons from 6 Schoolstraat, Arendonk had been placed in hiding pending sale on the PIPA auction site. Certainly the end of an era and an important chapter in pigeon racing worldwide as their pigeons have had an impact wherever pigeons are raced. Yet in spite of the constant demand from the world to purchase this remarkable strain of pigeons they always retained the breeding core of the family and resisted the temptation to sell all. We salute them for their dedication to their pigeons that have benefitted so many others.  


Brian Batchelor

Posted April 11, 2012 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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