Archive for the ‘Breeding better pigeons’ Category

Waikato 4 races in 2 days and ARPF Old Bird National Christchurch and Timaru.   4 comments

It is always a pleasure to announce good race results from the South Island. Last Friday and weekend the Waikato Federation flew four races from the South Island. The Timaru and Mosgiel were released early Friday morning, the Invercargill pigeons at midday Friday and Stewart Island early morning Saturday. The Auckland Federation flew two races from the South Island on the Saturday, Christchurch and Timaru.

I have the results from the Waikato Federation and to me they are very good, I’m sure that you will agree. Perhaps some of you reading will be able to add more info about the fliers and their top position scoring pigeons in the comments section.
Unfortunately the returns for the Christchurch to Auckland race were extremely poor and are a big concern for the fancy here in Auckland. The West Section did a bit better than the East Section with returns. The Timaru race although going up at the same time had a better percentage return.
Weather conditions for the ARPF Christchurch National and Timaru races were headwinds in the South Island and over the Cook Strait and the lower North Island. In fact the early morning forecast for the afternoon in the Cook Strait was a gale warning of nor-westerlies rising to 35 knots i.e. around 65 kmph and likely gusting double that at times. The conditions for the Ferry returning to Wellington from Picton were pretty rough with many people vomiting.
The unfortunate thing was that the nor-west winds of some significance were forecast for the Cook Strait until some time during Sunday afternoon so that any pigeons which hadn’t crossed on the day had a pretty big ask ahead of them.
However, further up the North Island from Waitomo it was mainly south-westerly on Saturday and Sunday with a fairly steady westerly wind pattern below this to the lower North Island’s moderate to strong nor-westerly.
One of my Christchurch pigeons was reported on the ARPF website, see email below.
Hi Emma

Many thanks for reporting this pigeon – we really appreciate your having done so. The pigeon belongs to Mr Fergus Elley, who is also receiving a copy of this email, and who will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Kind regards
Jim Cater
Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation
—–Original Message—–
From: Emma [mailto]-email addy removed
Sent: Tuesday, 9 December 2014 8:44 p.m.
To: Jim Cater
Subject: Found Pigeon

Message body:

We have found what appears to be a racing pigeon on our farm. It has two tags, one reading ‘TAURIS 2000’ and one that reads ‘NZ PUKE 2012 0339’.
We have caught it and are giving it seed and water, but we would like it to get back to it’s owner as soon as we can. Any help you can give us would be great. We are located in Tiraumea in Northern Wairarapa. You can reach us through email or on -ph num removed.
Regards, Emma.
This pigeon of mine was dropped off in Palmerston North the next Friday at a friend Earl Hautapu’s place who is a fancier down there having not been back in the sport that long. This pigeon is a bit of a pet of mine; otherwise I would give it to him as he likes it! Thanks both Emma and Earl. Now I have to find out a way of getting it back here that is not too expensive. The pigeon should have been on the west coast of the North Island but has likely been blown off course, although it is great it got over the Cook Strait and hopefully many pigeons in this race did and they will work their way home in the next few weeks or so.

You’ll find the East Section and West Section results below and normally I publish the first 20 in the East and first 10 in the West, but since the returns are so sparse I have included the whole result.
The Timaru returns are a bit better even though it is almost another 140km. This could be because it is said to be an easier race point to orientate out of and also because fanciers are more likely to send out and out long distance pigeons which are in general more experienced.

East Section Old Bird National Christchurch 6th December 2014 6.30am liberation. 26 lofts. 294 pigeons.

Plc Loft No Distance Day Clock Var Flying Pigeon Metres/Min KM/Hour Needed
1 K Frazer 33 722880.0 1 19:40:49 2 13:10:51 ARPF-11-1119 BC H 914.0545 54.8433 0:00:00
2 Craig Gray 23 714048.1 1 20:21:23 – 13:51:23 MKU-12-2722 BC H 858.8675 51.5320 0:50:12
3 Craig Gray 23 714048.1 1 20:37:57 – 14:07:57 MKU-12-2755 BC H 842.0875 50.5253 1:06:46
4 B Roud 4 740196.8 2 7:10:02 1 16:14:03 MKU-11-1470 BC H 759.9166 45.5950 2:44:15
5 Tui Lofts 18 739349.2 2 7:35:40 – 16:39:40 EU-13-0330 BB C 739.5957 44.3757 3:10:48
6 Tui Lofts 18 739349.2 2 7:39:04 – 16:43:04 SARPC-11-2300 BB C 737.0888 44.2253 3:14:12
7 J and G Lofts 8 727962.7 2 7:36:09 1 16:40:10 SARPC-13-3132 BC H 727.8414 43.6705 3:23:45
8 David Moors 15 742623.0 2 7:59:05 1 17:03:06 ARPF-12-2457 GRIZ C 725.8557 43.5513 3:30:39
9 R & P Gramov 11 760466.2 2 8:26:58 -4 17:30:54 HARB-13-3356 BC C 723.6333 43.4180 3:38:56
10 R & P Gramov 11 760466.2 2 8:39:37 -4 17:43:33 HARB-13-3374 BCWF C 715.0263 42.9016 3:51:35
11 Tui Lofts 18 739349.2 2 8:24:24 – 17:28:24 SARPC-13-3422 BB C 705.2167 42.3130 3:59:32
12 Mac Armstrong 8 752294.6 2 8:49:49 1 17:53:50 MKU-13-3325 BC H 700.5692 42.0342 4:10:48
13 Camray Lofts 8 770156.0 2 9:19:55 2 18:23:57 HARB-13-3429 BB C 697.6367 41.8582 4:21:23
14 J and G Lofts 8 727962.7 2 8:44:40 1 17:48:41 SARPC-13-3105 BBP H 681.1772 40.8706 4:32:16
15 Race Duranski 11 760528.7 2 9:57:02 1 19:01:03 HARB-13-3381 BC H 666.5165 39.9910 5:09:01
16 K Frazer 33 722880.0 2 9:01:17 2 18:05:19 ARPF-13-3457 BC H 666.0545 39.9633 4:54:28
17 K Frazer 33 722880.0 2 9:01:39 2 18:05:41 PUKE-13-3182 BB H 665.8295 39.9498 4:54:50
18 K Frazer 33 722880.0 2 9:12:37 2 18:16:39 PUK-11-1239 BB H 659.1711 39.5503 5:05:48
19 S and M Archer 6 753277.5 2 10:21:43 1 19:25:44 PHAK-13-0012 BB C 646.1834 38.7710 5:41:38
20 Tui Lofts 18 739349.2 2 10:04:40 – 19:08:40 SARPC-13-3275 SLT H 643.6586 38.6195 5:39:48
21 Craig Gray 23 714048.1 2 9:36:45 – 18:40:45 MKU-11-1494 BC C 637.1163 38.2270 5:39:34
22 K Frazer 33 722880.0 2 10:11:30 2 19:15:32 PUKE-13-3341 BBP H 625.5813 37.5349 6:04:41
23 Craig Gray 23 714048.1 2 10:00:47 – 19:04:47 MKU-11-1294 BC C 623.7408 37.4244 6:03:36
24 Paul Millar 10 741214.5 2 10:55:18 1 19:59:19 SARPC-11-2053 RC C 618.0307 37.0818 6:28:24
25 Paul Millar 10 741214.5 2 12:10:20 1 21:14:21 SARPC-12-2009 BCWF H 581.6412 34.8985 7:43:26
26 Sterling Lofts 13 739740.4 2 12:07:52 1 21:11:53 SARPC-13-3161 DC H 581.6103 34.8966 7:42:35
27 K Frazer 33 722880.0 2 11:47:52 2 20:51:54 ARPF-13-3436 BCP H 577.4263 34.6456 7:41:03
28 Dave Brough 6 749830.9 2 12:42:13 -3 21:46:10 PHAK-12-2152 BB H 574.0698 34.4442 8:05:50
29 Craig Gray 23 714048.1 2 14:09:18 – 23:13:18 MKU-12-2767 BC H 512.4870 30.7492 10:12:07
30 S and M Archer 6 753277.5 2 15:34:49 1 24:38:50 ARPF-12-2461 SLT H 509.3728 30.5624 10:54:44
31 T Thum 10 754726.7 2 16:15:49 -1 25:19:48 PHAK-12-2042 SLT H 496.5961 29.7958 11:34:07
32 J and G Lofts 8 727962.7 2 16:47:58 1 25:51:59 SARPC-12-2425 BC C 469.0532 28.1432 12:35:34
33 S and M Archer 6 753277.5 3 9:35:19 1 34:14:20 PHAK-12-2194 BC H 366.6773 22.0006 20:30:14
34 Dave Brough 6 749830.9 3 13:16:28 -4 37:55:24 PHAK-13-0120 BC C 329.5381 19.7723 24:15:04

So what do we learn about pigeon liberations from last weekend’s racing in the ARPF? Firstly, we need to breed more pigeons off the lines of pigeons which returned from these races in race time and their parents and close relatives. The hen I got around 8.40am Sunday from Timaru scored 3rd Federation Timaru and had she not flown into the Rimu tree next to the loft, sitting there for a good three minutes, then she would have been second. However, the winning pigeon from Tui Lofts was on the day, good pigeon, good fly, well done pigeon and owner Alan Smith. My hen 301 will be paired to the cock which won the hard Timaru on the day in 2011 in 14 hours and six minutes. 301 was off a love mating; only two bred off them in the race loft and she flew Christchurch fairly well last year as a yearling.

Also congratulations to Kerry Frazer for his win in the National 1st OPEN and he also won the ARPF Invercargill. The West Section National being won by John Stavert i.e. Airforce One, he also was second Invercargill.

ARPF OPEN Race from Timaru on 6th December 2014. 6.30am liberation. 20 lofts. 89 pigeons.

Plc Loft No Distance Day Clock Var Flying Pigeon Metres/Min KM/Hour Needed
1 Tui Lofts 3 877978.1 1 20:04:55 – 13:34:55 SARPC-12-2323 GP C 1077.3839 64.6430 0:00:00
2 Craig Gray 15 854147.8 2 8:46:23 – 17:50:23 MKU-13-3150 BC H 797.9831 47.8790 4:37:35
3 Elley Family 3 848887.8 2 8:43:50 1 17:47:51 PUKE-12-0301 BB H 794.9504 47.6970 4:39:56
4 Craig Gray 15 854147.8 2 8:56:57 – 18:00:57 MKU-10-0227 BBP C 790.1825 47.4110 4:48:09
5 Tui Lofts 3 877978.1 2 9:46:04 – 18:50:04 SARPC-11-2317 BC C 776.9259 46.6156 5:15:09
6 Jim Cater 3 885600.2 2 10:46:14 – 19:50:14 HENAK-12-0115 BC C 744.0560 44.6434 6:08:15
7 K Frazer 4 862072.5 2 10:18:08 3 19:22:11 PUKE-13-3317 BCP C 741.7698 44.5062 6:02:02
8 T&M van Lier 2 887785.6 2 10:54:29 4 19:58:33 HENAK-12-0155 RC H 740.7164 44.4430 6:14:32
9 Colin Chang 5 895963.4 2 11:10:11 – 20:14:11 HENA-12-0227 BB H 737.9144 44.2749 6:22:34
10 Camray Lofts 8 906314.5 2 11:34:07 2 20:38:09 HARB-13-3408 BC C 731.9909 43.9195 6:36:56
11 B&F van Lier 8 885321.4 2 11:14:48 -7 20:18:41 PHAK-13-0265 BB H 726.4573 43.5874 6:36:57
12 B&F van Lier 8 885321.4 2 12:06:10 -7 21:10:03 WUAK-12-0284 BB H 697.0760 41.8246 7:28:19
13 Craig Gray 15 854147.8 2 11:22:46 – 20:26:46 MKU-11-1300 BC C 696.2594 41.7756 7:13:58
14 Camray Lofts 8 906314.5 2 14:40:01 2 23:44:03 HARB-13-3413 SLTW C 636.4345 38.1861 9:42:50
15 R & P Gramov 4 897283.9 2 17:19:03 -4 26:22:59 HARB-11-0787 BB C 566.8309 34.0099 12:30:09
16 Forest Hill Lofts 2 881936.0 2 17:55:28 3 26:59:31 WUAK-12-0211 DRC H 544.5674 32.6740 13:20:56
17 Craig Gray 15 854147.8 3 17:30:02 – 42:09:02 MKU-10-0226 BB H 337.7369 20.2642 28:56:14

West Section Results National. 10 lofts. 146 pigeons.

Plc Loft No Distance Day Clock Var Flying Pigeon Metres/Min KM/Hour Needed
1 Air Force One 20 744416.7 2 6:59:52 -2 16:03:50 ARPF-13-3438 SLT C 772.3500 46.3410 0:00:00
2 BMW Lofts 22 747606.3 2 7:40:33 -2 16:44:31 WUAK-13-3590 RC C 744.2448 44.6547 0:36:33
3 Jim Cater 20 749712.1 2 8:01:18 – 17:05:18 WUAK-11-0518 BMLY H 731.2124 43.8727 0:54:37
4 T&M van Lier 11 752312.9 2 9:24:21 4 18:28:25 WUAK-13-3557 BB H 678.7275 40.7237 2:14:22
5 B&F van Lier 20 750141.8 2 9:23:42 -7 18:27:35 WUAK-13-3586 BC H 677.2780 40.6367 2:16:20
6 Colin Chang 16 762196.8 2 10:18:21 – 19:22:21 HENA-13-3243 BB H 655.7378 39.3443 2:55:30
7 Colin Chang 16 762196.8 2 10:26:30 – 19:30:30 HENA-13-3002 GRZ H 651.1720 39.0703 3:03:39
8 Colin Chang 16 762196.8 2 10:26:44 – 19:30:44 AAK-13-3127 BBP C 651.0422 39.0625 3:03:53
9 T&M van Lier 11 752312.9 2 10:30:36 4 19:34:40 HENAK-13-3228 BB H 640.4480 38.4269 3:20:37
10 Air Force One 20 744416.7 2 10:46:10 -2 19:50:08 WUAK-10-0211 BBP H 625.4902 37.5294 3:46:18
11 D&T Campbell 9 760147.9 2 12:07:10 – 21:11:10 WUAK-11-0274 BC H 597.9923 35.8795 4:46:58
12 Air Force One 20 744416.7 2 12:46:25 -2 21:50:23 PHAK-13-0289 M H 568.0908 34.0854 5:46:33
13 Forest Hill Lofts 7 746221.7 2 13:21:58 3 22:26:01 PHAK-13-0255 BBWF C 554.3926 33.2636 6:19:51
14 Jim Cater 20 749712.1 2 13:36:13 – 22:40:13 PHAK-13-0172 BC H 551.1711 33.0703 6:29:32
15 Colin Chang 16 762196.8 2 14:15:31 – 23:19:31 HENA-13-3012 BLK C 544.6143 32.6769 6:52:40
16 Eric Billington 19 754870.5 2 15:05:19 – 24:09:19 HENAK-11-1062 DC H 520.8458 31.2507 7:51:57
17 Eric Billington 19 754870.5 2 15:11:23 – 24:15:23 WUAK-10-0379 LBC C 518.6747 31.1205 7:58:01
18 BMW Lofts 22 747606.3 2 14:58:29 -2 24:02:27 WUAK-13-3589 RSLT C 518.2892 31.0974 7:54:29
19 B&F van Lier 20 750141.8 2 15:11:11 -7 24:15:04 ARPF-13-3509 RC C 515.5378 30.9323 8:03:49
20 Air Force One 20 744416.7 2 15:44:04 -2 24:48:02 ARPF-12-2311 SLT H 500.2688 30.0161 8:44:12
21 BMW Lofts 22 747606.3 2 16:06:08 -2 25:10:06 WUAK-13-3596 BC C 495.0707 29.7042 9:02:08
22 Jim Cater 20 749712.1 2 18:21:48 – 27:25:48 WUAK-13-3488 BC H 455.5305 27.3318 11:15:07
23 B&F van Lier 20 750141.8 2 18:23:02 -7 27:26:55 WUAK-10-0467 BB H 455.4825 27.3290 11:15:40
24 Colin Chang 16 762196.8 3 7:12:45 – 31:51:45 HENA-13-3010 BB H 398.6906 23.9214 15:24:54
25 Eric Billington 19 754870.5 3 8:00:11 – 32:39:11 PHAK-13-0248 BC H 385.2986 23.1179 16:21:49
So genetics is the key because we never know when these races are going to come along, a bit like a thief in the night! You shouldn’t worry if you are in Auckland and you didn’t get a pigeon home in either or both races. Who knows, perhaps a pigeon of yours was doing well on the day and came to grief on a power line etc. There is always an element of luck in pigeon racing, with racing it can be the bad luck that we never know about and in breeding it can be the good luck at conception when the egg is fertilised that produces the fantastic racing pigeon.
Should the pigeons have gone up at Christchurch, that is the question some are asking and others are wondering i.e. exactly what has caused these very poor returns? It certainly seems to be that significant nor-east winds and easterly winds in Christchurch at liberation and to the north along the expected flight path of the flock can lead to poor race results/returns in the ARPF, but not always, hence the dilemma. Further, when a head wind race is anticipated, one of the liberation criteria is to get them released as early as possible or to hold them over. It is possible that the lower light intensity on overcast mornings can influence the pigeon’s navigation system and lead to a reduced confidence of the race convoy to clear the race point or head off in the right direction. A good start in a distance race or even short and middle distance race is essential, but as most of us fanciers know it does not guarantee a good race e.g. heavy widespread rain for many miles or even a ‘weather bomb’ can force pigeons down, thus delaying the return to their lofts.

The nor-east is the most common wind down there in Christchurch and then there’s all the Kaikoura ranges and foothills heading west towards the Southern Alps with blind ends and likely misty with possibly low cloud, these can be treacherous, just ask the pigeon fanciers in Nelson and Blenheim. Some years they abandon racing early due to difficult races through those areas from the south line resulting in the decimation of their race teams. Of course native falcons can upset a pigeon liberation too.
Sun spots are sometimes labelled as a factor also causing poor race returns and are said to affect racing pigeon orientation. However, the Waikato Federations three good races the day before (with the Invercargill not clocked till Sunday morning) may well rule this one out in this instance and their good Stewart Island race was liberated on Saturday too. In that race, as you can see by the results, six pigeons returned in race time from nine released! There were two pigeons on the second day and four on the third, truly tremendous results given the distance is almost 1200km!
The pigeons from the ARPF Christchurch liberation convoy, which made it to the top of the South Island and decided to cross the Cook Strait on the day, could very well have had their work cut out. I think even the earliest crossers had a fair bit of gusting nor-west wind to fly into and it would have been very hard to keep a straight course, as my reported pigeon found out.
These things aren’t planned for when you are responsible for a racing pigeon liberation. So I’m hoping there is a Special General Meeting to discuss this race in the future and perhaps a non Federation Executive working Committee elected to reduce the chances that it could ever happen again. Perhaps a couple of other Old Bird races can be discussed at the same time, such as the wet finish Ward and the very wet Mahunui, both involving weather bombs, a term that Jim Hickey our TV1 weather man likes to use.
I think that its great that we can share with ‘the world’ the proper functioning of a body of pigeon fanciers who are dedicated to their pigeons and at the same time have the privilege of being able to test the genetic potential of what they have bred each year through a fair racing programme with intelligently thought out racing protocols for very well looked after racing pigeons.
I’ll keep you posted with what happens. Thanks for reading. Like I said, if you have some knowledge of the Waikato pigeons and fanciers then please share with us on the site or if you are an Auckland fancier and would like to share something from last weekend, please feel free to do so. They say that ‘iron sharpens iron’ and this is what we do when we debate pigeon welfare concerns in any domain, be it a physical fanciers meeting, a small closed Facebook pigeon chat group or the internet. All are good forums, although I believe some beg to differ and of course that is their human right. However, seeing that the pigeons are not able to speak for themselves the likes of myself are given the onerous task of being their representative and of course I do that gladly and with much passion, after all, perhaps the ‘mighty pigeon’ has saved my life! Thanks to all that support me in this task including my dear wife Helen!

Next part coming soon…….

Please click on the 4 links below for the Waikato Federation great recent racing results from the South Island.

Timaru 5-12-2014

Mosgiel 5-12-2014

Invercargill 5-12-2014

Stewart Island 6-12-2014

Breeding good ones.   3 comments

Order of Importance of factors affecting racing outcomes of pairing two racing pigeons for the first time (middle and long distance).

1)  Two pigeons from good family backgrounds, close to the tree.

2)  The pigeon was reared right and loft conditions for racing were reasonable.

3)  The pigeon had inherited a good constitution.

4)  Luck-the genetics came together for that bird.

5)  Luck-the pigeon didn’t get predated by raptors from squeaker to season’s end.

6)  Luck-the pigeon got in the right group which cleared quickly in the big race.

7)  You went on a hunch with the pairing and it paid off.

8)  How much you paid.

9)  The pigeon handles perfectly.

10)  The system the pigeon was raced on viz celibacy, semi-widowhood, cocks or hens widowhood, natural eggs or babies.

11)  Other-what do you think? What order would you put these factors in?


2013 Christmas is one that everyone around the south of England will remember for the rest of their lives. On December the 23rd a severe storm rolled in from the Atlantic bringing gale force winds and torrential rain resulting in wide spread flooding, trees down, roofs blown off and power cuts to over 90,000 homes. One of the worst hit areas was our county of Surrey, our local market town of Godalming was flooded with many having to vacate their homes and two of the access roads into our village of Elstead were also flooded and the roads closed for a few days. At home we got off lightly with only a couple of fence panels blown out, but we did suffer the power cut for 61 hours and lost all our refrigerated stock in our shop and domestic freezer. Luckily we had recently decided to book a three day Christmas stay in a country hotel at the Goodwood estate near Chichester in West Sussex and fortunately, although they had no power either, they had hired a massive generator, so everything was running as normal. It was a bit tricky travelling down to Goodwood on Christmas eve since the main road had been closed due to flooding and we had to make a deviation in the dark which added an hour or so to the journey, so we were relieved when we eventually arrived safely at our destination.

How did my pigeons fare through all this, very well actually, the lofts were undamaged and as I have automatic drinkers it was only a matter of filling the feed troughs with enough corn for the three days we were away and leave them to it until we returned.


When I raced pigeons back in New Zealand I often bred a few late youngsters i.e. hatched after the summer solstice and generally found they could be raced very well in that years old bird season at eight to ten months of age. In fact they were no different to their earlier bred siblings that had raced as young birds, some were top pigeons and others not so good, as you would expect from the general population. The only problem I had, was in my earlier years pushing them too far too soon and I well remember losing a couple of very good ones that had won previously. However, that was my mistake and no fault of the pigeons. Here in the U.K. it is a totally different story and very few fanciers bother with them except to breed some to keep a blood line for breeding purposes and not racing them. My good friend Tony Dann calls them heartbreakers! As an example last year he kept one late bred and when it came time to train his new year’s young bird team he took his 30 something young birds and the one late bred for their first training toss of eight miles. The young birds all arrived home more or less together in a short time minus the late bred. The late bred was reported having strayed into a loft about 50 miles away in the opposite direction from home. It did not have a clue how to find its way home even from this very short distance, this is typical late bred behaviour and I have experienced the same phenomena myself many times.

Last year I only reared two late breds, nest mates, they weren’t trained identically, but both had a night out from their first eight mile toss, one is still with me having completed training and had one inland FED race. The other went west at its first club transporter toss from 25 miles.

For some reason their homing faculty does not develop as normal, I have an idea why this may be so which I will relate further on. Nevertheless, most years I have persevered and reared a small team of late ones and although the attrition rate is certainly high with many failing on the first training toss or first time on the FED transporter, the few that come though to their third season are as good as any other pigeons in the loft. Looking over my current old bird team around 15% started life as a late bred. Some flyers say they must be trained in the year of their birth to have any chance of surviving, however, I have tried this and it did not make one bit of difference. Getting back to the reasons for the high failure rate with late breds, while I don’t have any scientific answer, I considered that the main factor may be something to do with daylight and in particular sunlight. The young birds bred in the spring develop when the days are long and the sunlight strong, whereas the late bred birds develop when the days are short and the sunshine weak, with many days the sky being dull with heavy overcast conditions. Admittedly, many fanciers darken their early bred youngsters to stimulate their body moult while retarding the moulting of the wing flights without too many problems, but in the hours these birds are exposed to the daylight it is midsummer when the sun is at its strongest. It might be something as simple as a lack of vitamin D which is also a problem for the human population in British Isles and supplements are recommended especially for children during the winter or it might be an hormonal issue. As I said, I do not profess to have any substantive evidence to support this theory other than my own observations. This year I have again got a small team of late ones and I have been getting them out as much as possible, particularly on sunny days and I have also fed them a richer corn mix with a vitamin/mineral supplement being added once a week. I have noticed a few have continued to moult their flight feathers which is unusual, so I am hoping this lot will turn out O.k. with a higher percentage surviving, time will tell. One interesting point I have noticed is that two were hatched 16 days later than the others on the 7th of August (equivalent to about the 1st week of the southern hemisphere’s month of February). One of this nest pair disappeared the second time out, probably taken by a hawk. The other one is still here but its development has been retarded, so it is well behind the others hatched 16 days earlier. I nearly culled this one but it is now catching up and being a cock bird, in the last week or so he has started to show an interest in the hens and has been moved into the cocks section. Anyway, it seems there may be a certain cut off point when it is probably not productive to continue breeding latebreds, say late July in the northern hemisphere. It may be the end of February to early March in the southern hemisphere, depending on the latitude.


As some readers will know, my base family contain mainly Eric Cannon and Jim Biss bloodlines and recently I was reading an article on the late great Jim Biss penned by Cameron Stansfield wherein he made an interesting comment following his loft visit to Biss in the late 1990’s. To quote Cameron; “He (Jim) went to Scotland where he bought some Palamos pigeons all flying circa 1000 miles, one or two of these left a lasting impression. Now these Palamos pigeons took a good while to get home so I asked him what was it that made him value them and he said something I have never forgotten, that is they had the most elusive quality of all SURVIVABILITY.” These were Henry Mair’s “Lion Heart” family and I notice a daughter of Lion Heart appears back in my Biss pedigrees.

Now this got me thinking about my own pigeons and sure enough all the four pairs of stock in the base family, which are retired racers, have, with the exception of one bird, all displayed this characteristic by surviving a difficult or smash race in their career on the road, some of them more than once. An example being the BICC Saran smash a couple of years ago when from a convoy of around 3800 pigeons only about 300 were clocked in race time and very few returned in the days and weeks that followed. I sent six to this race and had five home within a couple of weeks and four are still with me today having gone on to succeed in that and later seasons. These survivors have on occasions returned home in a bedraggled and dirty condition and some carrying injuries that had partially healed and sporting frets on their flights and tail feathers. But they all had that elusive survivability factor that Jim talks about in that they never quit! In contrast when I started out in 2004 I also introduced a couple of Van Breemen hens from my friend Tony Dann which were crossed with the Biss and Cannon pigeons and these crosses flew very well for me gaining some of my best results but they were found out at the long distance on a hard day. They seemed to be a type of pigeon that give their all on the day of release and if they are not home by early the 2nd morning you never see them again, ideal middle distance pigeons and Tony has won some top National positions with them up to around 300 miles, but they do not have that survivability factor suitable for the long distance that I am after and now I only have a couple of these crosses left so they have phased themselves out and this line will eventually die out in my loft.

The Biss line that survived are from a cock line bred to Biss’s TURBAN 2nd Pau Grand National 645 miles and 5th National Perpignan 689 miles, TURBAN is also G.Sire of J.Halsteads “ASHLEY” 2nd Open Barcelona 696 miles. The dominant pigeons in the Cannon line were obtained from my good friend Keith Mott and are the CULMER SAM and CULMER BESS (Merit winner) lines.


A.Austin 1st Old Bird Hens.

A.Austin 1st Old Bird Hens.

One thing that I believe is lacking in the calendar in New Zealand, I don’t know if it is the same in Australia is the absence of activity in the off season after racing has ceased. In the U.K. we are blessed with the show season where there are numerous shows open during the winter and culminating in the BHW show of the year at Blackpool in January. This gives the fancy an opportunity to get together and keep everyone’s interest going through what otherwise would be a barren period. Our local club holds three shows each winter, this time there was an all age through the wires, followed by the old bird show and finally the young bird show. All three events were well attended although I missed the first through the wire show I did manage to enter the later two shows. The winners of these were as follows:-


1st OB cocks B.Batchelor.

1st OB hens  A.Austin (I was 2nd in this with the hen that won last year).

Brian Batchelor with 1st Old Bird Cocks.

Brian Batchelor with 1st Old Bird Cocks.


1st YB cocks D.Robinson.

2nd YB hens M.Tuck.

Brian's winning mealy cock again, this time in the loft.

Brian’s winning mealy cock again, this time in the loft.

BHW Show of the year at Blackpool, Tony Dann and myself are again heading up the motorway for the five hour journey up to Blackpool on Friday the 18th of January. We enjoy catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. As a scribe for the BHW we have an invitation to the BHW staff rooms where a welcome cup of tea is always waiting and the chance to sit down and have a chat with the other scribes and BHW staff. During the day we troll around the dozens of trade stands picking various items for the loft and birds and having a look at the pigeons in the show and those offered for sale by the well known stud lofts. There are also a few auctions staged in various hotels around the city and one in particular featuring pigeons from the top long distance lofts in the U.K. will attract my interest, but I suspect these will sell well above my price range, still it’s nice to be a looker! The evenings will be spent around the bars enjoying the banter and talking pigeons until late in the evening.

Good racing to all.

Brian Batchelor Elstead UK

Latebreds, are they worth breeding? part lll.   Leave a comment

Ask a group of pigeon fanciers the same question and you might get a different answer from each one of them. For example, on this blog there are many articles and photos featuring a well known Auckland fancier and also our ARPF patron, Mac Armstrong. Mac is our extreme distance master from Invercargill here in Auckland the last 6 years undoubtedly (around 730 miles airline to Mac). Perhaps he is also our best extreme distance fancier in New Zealand! Would any of you dispute this or agree with this?

So in Mac’s case, since I’ve analysed his methods in depth the last few years, if I asked him ‘are summer breds worth breeding?’, then straight away I know that he would say, ‘too damn right’ or ‘of course’ or something to that effect!

If you’ve read the articles on Mac’s methods (see the categories section on the lhs of this page below the archives and please select Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts) then you’ll remember that Mac in general doesn’t pair up until after the New Year sometime. The pigeons that he breeds off then are both stock birds, many of which have excelled from Invercargill in the past and also pigeons which have had a bit of r and r after flying Invercargill credibly the previous month i.e. December.

These latebreds nearly always get at least one Christchurch (around 450 miles airline) long distance race at nine or ten months of age and some of the later bred ones i.e. March/April are also sent too! So Mac selects his pigeons hard in the race basket. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he loses a lot in the first year, loses are more likely if a distance race is a harder one. In Auckland nowadays we don’t seem to have hard Christchurch races very often due to the sound liberation protocol and this favours Mac’s system as it could be that many of his latebred youngsters have two Christchurches in their first year. Hence they gain a lot of experience in that first formative year and these latebreds have been given a good chance to shine and earn their spot in Mac’s loft in anticipation of going to Invercargill as rising two year olds.

It is important to note that genetics plays a big part here; it is more than half the equation. In fact Mac enjoys the breeding side of the pigeon racing nowadays more than the actual racing side and I can relate to that also because that is my passion too. How about you?

The hard racing in their first year is a massive foundation for racing as two year olds. Five of the seven pigeons Mac clocked from Invercargill last year were two year olds. As part of their build up they’d had a Christchurch (around 450 miles airline) five weeks before, gone back to Raetihi the following week (180 miles) then on to Raumati the next week which was brought back to Bulls (230 miles) and liberated on the holdover day i.e. Sunday due to inclement weather. After this they had a short rest and then the Huntly 50 milers several times and then banged into a Taumarunui Federation toss (around 140 miles and six days prior to the Invercargill basketing) and then a Huntly three up the Sunday leading up to the basketing week with a Wednesday basketing for Invercargill.

So in a nutshell, Mac is honing his extreme distance racing pigeon genetics into lines of fast maturing, tough pigeons with excellent orientation abilities from all distances. This is one of the keys amongst others which propel him well ahead of the rest of us. Further keys are that Mac aims solely for the Invercargill every year and starts much later than most of us, his loft is also shaded, which suits hitting form the first week or two of December, i.e. the first month of our southern hemisphere summer when the Invercargill race is on.

Perhaps the difficulty for many fliers aiming to master the Invercargill race and I might add that there are at least three fanciers who compete for the Invercargill crown most years currently who have won it at least once before, is that unless the pigeons are prepared right then the losses can be high.

Mac has the luxury that after he breeds off both his Invercargill winners and place winners that these pigeons don’t necessarily go permanently into stock. It has to be a pretty special Invercargill winner for Mac not to send it back the next year if the bird is perfectly right which is another reason why his lofts fire power is much greater than his competitors from this race both in quality and quantity.

I don’t know how many of the Auckland fanciers aim primarily for the Invercargill race. I don’t, I aim for Timaru first, even if it is about 200 miles less in distance. In fact in 2012 the one entry I had for Invercargill flew Timaru 13 days before the Invercargill liberation and it was 6th in the final Invercargill result. I was endeavouring to prepare that hen (celibate like Mac’s pigeons) this year but she got rank for a long time and I decided not to send her. The day before the scheduled basketing I introduced her to a good cock and she laid two days later, I floated those out, both fertile but the first baby was dead in shell, but I have three squeakers off her so far which is great and hope to get three or four more by feeding out another round. Will one be a good one? Who knows! Perhaps if I am just a bit lucky!

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

This BCH is a 3 year old now and as a 2 year old she was 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 2012 750 miles (though Foxton breaking point), 8.57am the next morning, no day pigeons. I just entered the one bird. She was a summer bred and she only went as far as Ward in her first year i.e. around 300 miles, was late! Mac clocking to win Invercargill in 2012 at 7.22am the second day after a 7.10am lib.

I may send this hen again this year to Invercargill, we’ll see. She’s a real crossbred viz a mixture of Houben, Janssen and the old Dutch and Vandie pigeons. She was off a ‘love mating’ of race birds and I don’t have the parents. I had bred three youngsters off her early 2013 after she flew the Invercargill in 2012, summer breds, and I raced one last year but not from the distance. Overall, I seem to do things a bit slower than Mac. Obviously his method is the better method going on his results from Invercargill!

However, we have to work with what hand is dealt to us i.e. although Mac is a ‘young’ 83, he is much healthier than me, even if he told me last month that he doesn’t know if he can do another year of racing! I said to him the other day that he needed to keep racing, to keep showing people like me the way so that we can learn the craft!

As mentioned in articles on Mac previously, when I had a break from the sport for two years in 2007 and 2008 he had a handful of pigeons off me. One hen, number 243 bred him two Invercargill winners to different cocks from me. Unfortunately that hen had an accident in Mac’s loft and as a consequence died.

The 3 year old hen which got reported 6km from my loft last year from Invercargill on the third day is being paired up at the moment. She is also off a ‘love mating’, but her dam (Vandie to Janssen) has been in the stock loft the last three seasons. That hen flew Timaru two years in a row on the day when I only entered the one pigeon. It was after this that I got enthused with our longer races again i.e. Timaru and Invercargill.

2 year old BCH 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

This BCH is now a 3 year old and as a 2 year old she was 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. Sent to Invercargill 2013 she wasn’t far off making it home here on the third day. She too was a summer bred! She didn’t go to the long distance in her first year and this seems to work for me, although I’m a long way off mastering Invercargill!

She (my hen reported during last years Invercargill from just 6km away) had flown Timaru on the day as a two year old placing eighth in 2012. She just had the easy club Christchurch five weeks before last year’s Invercargill as a set up race and was on eggs with another hen. I probably won’t race her again. I’m pairing her to a summer bred cock which was 7th from Timaru (525 miles airline) last year, a stiff race. They are only remotely related (the progeny will be a little bit linebred to the ‘Ace Futurity Cock’ BBC WUAK 95′ 744, a Janssen which my friend Brian Batchelor bred for me as an OOA and 744 was off the Hardluck hen 7875 that we shared in the mid 90’s. In fact 744 was undoubtedly the very best straight Janssen performance pigeon that I’ve ever had and way back in 1996!

Remote line breeding (or crossing) is what I personally prefer for pairings to hopefully breed some extreme distance performance pigeons. That summer bred cock I’m mating to her I’d also clocked from Ward near the top of the South Island (around 300 miles airline) when I dropped six together last year in a pretty quick one when the loft wasn’t set up although the clock was on fortunately.

The other two hens I got back from Invercargill I’ll breed off too. One I’ve recently paired up, she’s off an inbred Vandie base hen to a Janssen cock and she flew Timaru as a yearling, Christchurch and Timaru as a two year old scoring 2nd Federation in the Timaru to Steve and Magda Archer having over flown a long way, just the nine day birds from 111 total birdage sent and 43 timed in by second days end. See below table.

Open Federation Race from Timaru on 23 Nov 2013 Lib: 6:50 (Fine&Hot LtVarBreeze)

Race Results – 21 Lofts – 111 Pigeons (Confirmed)














S and M Archer Pak/Howick







ARPF-11-1353 BBWF H




Elley Family Pukekohe







PUK-11-1120 BC H




John Muir Nth Harbour







HENAK-12-0361 LBC H




T and M van Lier Henderson







WUAK-11-0506 BBP H




B and F van Lier Henderson







HENA-12-0108 BC C




K Frazer Pukekohe







PUKE-12-0556 GRZ H




Elley Family Pukekohe







PUKE-12-0321 BC C



“Hours of Darkness” Pigeons, placings determined by ARPF Race Rule 2.20


Alois Verstraeten Nth Harbour






ARPF-12-2445 BB H


T and M van Lier Henderson






WUAK-10-0455 BB C

I felt a bit guilty sending her to Invercargill when nothing had shown up by lunch time on the second day. But she made it home, 22 days and in good nick too, I was pleasantly surprised. For me the Vandie base bloodline seems to result in hardier pigeons than the straight Janssen or Houben/Janssen hybrids, however Mac often clocks straight or almost straight Janssen’s. This hen is being paired to her uncle, an inbred Vandie base pigeon in an attempt to preserve the bloodlines, as the four Vandie base siblings I have are getting old and one of the cocks fired mainly blanks this breeding season gone. It is possible that the Vandie base bloodlines mixed into my Houben, Janssen or their hybrids means that there’s a better chance of my racers handling either jumps in race distance or still performing on mainly just loft flying and racing, whereas Mac and many others here in Auckland get a lot of training into their pigeons.

The third pigeon I got back from Invercargill of my eight entries sent was a Houben/Janssen import hybrid. She had flown Christchurch and Timaru as a two year old last year and was 19th from the Timaru around 8am the next morning. It is hard to know if these hens that had both the Christchurch and the Timaru last year were simply over done for the Invercargill or simply just not the right combination of genetics or maybe just unlucky. Nevertheless, they managed to find home and I’ll breed off that third hen too soon. She had dropped it more than the other one but picked up well in a couple of days.

I guess if you pair pigeons up wisely and breed enough off them then the chances are still there to produce extreme distance pigeons, after all, 243 which bred two Invercargill winners for Mac, including the hardest Invercargill in the last five years i.e. in 2011 (end of second day), never went past Christchurch and the cocks she was paired up to to produce two Invercargill winners, one I bought for stock and the other was a son of that cock and he never went out of the North Island! Food for thought!

Do any of you have questions for Mac Armstrong, please email me at and I’ll include them in an article on him.

Latebreds, are they worth breeding? part ll.   2 comments

A few weeks ago I wrote an article ‘Latebreds, are they worth breeding?’ Some of you may have read it. Peter Wilkinson, a senior flier from the Henderson club here in Auckland wrote a good comment on it, its worth having a read of. I also wrote an article, ‘Oh God, it’s Young Bird Season Again’ back in 2012, you can find it under the ‘Ferg’s birds’ category or at March 2012 in the archive index.

In many ways at the moment I am totally not motivated to fly young birds starting this March 2014. Many have trained plenty already, they’ve pulled flights, something I haven’t done for many, many years as I believe it’s just a tad cruel and you can still win without participating in this practice (not many darken over here). The weather is reasonably hot now, also it’s almost midsummer, not really the ideal time to train developing young pigeons and it’s humid too. In another month or two the youngsters will start the body moult, another stressful time. I am still of the mind that we should abandon young bird racing here in New Zealand and use that time to promote the sport. There simply are very, very few young people coming into the sport and there are many things we can do. Perhaps the subject of another blog!

Our young bird racing could easily be slotted into the old bird season programme like some countries do. There could still be ring races and other money races, even though the real skill in pigeon racing is from the long distance races and here in Auckland there is little financial return from the long distance races unless someone like Mac Armstrong, our extreme distance champ and amongst the best in the world at it I might add, sponsors the race, like he does with our Annual Invercargill to Auckland race.

If you are new to the site, please check the ‘Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Lofts’ category. The articles you will find there mainly feature Mac Armstrong and many of them are on the Elimar site.

Previously, I talked about my racing of summer bred latebreds last year in 2013 having not bred until December 2012. They certainly went a treat and were up there in all our key races bar the Invercargill (I don’t send yearlings that far anyway). By the way, I have three back from eight sent to last year’s Invercargill race where there were only eight birds from a total birdage of 164 in the four days race time. I will breed off them shortly and fly the offspring perhaps as far as Timaru, 525 miles (airline) this year in November.

You may have been thinking, what medications did I use with these summer breds. Well, I’d like to say none, but it was minimal. In 2012 old birds I used one canker treatment but last year the winter was relatively mild so after the eighth race i.e. Raumati (250 miles) I gave a canker treatment (to help the pigeons cope with any respiratory challenge which the canker organisms make the pigeons more vulnerable to). Two weeks later after the Ward (our first South Island race) I gave them a second canker treatment, that was it. The only other treatment was for intestinal parasites twice prior to the Fed Raumati race to give them a good clean out. I also used most of a bottle of Clements tonic (500 mls), but didn’t give any until the week of the first Federation race i.e. the eighth race, Raumati.

So absolutely no antibiotics used for two old bird seasons now. It shows that the results can be good without their use and I wish more people around the world would adopt the right attitude to their proper use including pigeon vets i.e. they’re designed for using to treat really sick pigeons and not for trying to induce form. Form will come, be patient, look after them well, feed them very well, don’t over stress them racing and training, don’t over crowd them, have excellent loft ventilation and plenty of time out flying or simply relaxing in the sun/bathing as a tonic.

If some pigeons do break down i.e. they have some significant nasal catarrh, spell them for a few weeks, longer if required. If markedly affected then put them in aviaries or get them out even more. In most cases once a pigeon is eight months of age or older its immune system, if the genetics are sound, will figure out what organisms are attacking it and produce antibodies i.e. ‘natures antibiotics’, much better than relying on something in a bottle to induce form, just be patient and keep selecting for tougher more disease resilient pigeons for the stock loft. That’s the right path, do you agree!

I would note that here in Auckland this is easier in our old bird season as the days are getting warmer and longer so our racing, particularly in the last month or so in Novemeber/December, kind of mimics what is happening in migratory or semi-migratory birds. In our young bird season, March to the end of May, we are racing in autumn, the days are shortening, and by April sometime, depending on each local loft environment and how insulated your loft is, then you might hit some problems. It is one thing having a small number of youngsters develop respiratory disease to the extent that they can’t be raced i.e. to race them again that season they’d likely need an antibiotic treatment and it’s another thing if many are infected/showing clinical signs of respiratory disease. Herein lies the dilemma for me, which I had two years ago (last time that I raced young birds) near the end of our young bird season in May, to treat or not to treat with antibiotics or to stop racing. In fact last year I decided not to race young birds so I bred late 2012 and that was one determining reason not to race.

The ceiling of my lofts are unlined, so overnight from late autumn till spring sometime there is often condensation appearing on the ceiling, not good for the pigeons. Really, the answer is of course to have the ceiling of the loft lined and also insulation material placed between the roof and the ceiling.

About four years ago in 2009 I had a tremendous young bird season. I had two blue barrs which were up there in three feature races e.g. first and second Open Young Bird Futurity Levin 230 miles, first and second Eastern Union Otaki and these two also came with three others in the Jack Longville Memorial race where I was 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th.

What I did that year was to individually dose the pigeons i.e. with antibiotics. But I only treated the pigeons that had significant signs of respiratory infection. What was interesting, and someone who flock doses with antibiotics should also observe this, half the pigeons didn’t need the antibiotics i.e. there were no visible signs of respiratory infection. So that was food for thought. Later in the season I still individually dosed those untreated pigeons, but I think the better way is just to dose the young birds that need it.

It will be very interesting to see what happens when I do line the ceiling of the loft, how will that lengthen loft form at the end of the young bird season when the days are fairly short, it’s windy up here in the hills of Onewhero and getting cold. Ultimately, while the young bird season racing remains where it is over here I aim to not use antibiotics. One of the problems here like many parts of the world is that we pre-pay for the young bird classic races, so in part unless one forfeits the entry money I might be obliged to resort to flock or individual birds antibiotic dosing near the young bird season’s end.

However, we must remember, amongst our team are some pigeons that won’t need dosing, they can handle a lot of racing and perhaps four of a middle distance length in young birds. It is a challenge to breed more of these pigeons, then it’s more likely that the loft will hold form with no antibiotic treatment, as there will be more pigeons capable of ‘sticking their hand up’ at the right time and perhaps fewer pigeons acting as carriers and reservoirs for the nasties!

Will I give some canker treatments this young birds? It is very likely that I will, just as my summer breds had two such flock treatments. The longer I can delay it the better as form is likely to lift as a whole after such dosing i.e. between the Bulls race and the young bird Futurity from Levin might be the right time and then once again, three to four weeks later after the Eastern Union Otaki race leading up to the prestigious biennial Young Bird National.

I wonder how many Auckland fliers were disappointed this 2013 Old Birds just gone because they continually pumped medicines into their young birds last year in young birds? Perhaps they had a few young birds shine for them, but how many went on to be good yearlings from either the middle or long distance? Pigeons last longer with less medicines, especially antibiotics.

One of my aims is to not have to use any medications other than for internal parasites i.e. worms and I am half way there. My breeders are in their third year of not having any medications, just treatment for worms. It has meant that some of them have had to toughen up in that time; it can expose a few weaknesses. None of my breeders had any health issues in the breeding season just gone, but you might be surprised what weaknesses show up when you first embark on the no dosing regimen.

For me it manifested in that certain bloodlines were more prone to dry canker in their squeakers and wet canker in adult breeders and some weaned squeakers. However, it’s been a bit like putting the blow torch on my racing pigeon genetics and it’s certainly the way to refine your pigeons. I cull one in ten youngsters in the nest, always canker, some I treat, although this eventually may turn out to be the wrong policy, we’ll see. Winners can still come in the form of squeakers that had significant throat canker in the nest and were treated for it. I don’t mind if a few get just a little canker in the nest as it shows they also have an overt immune response to it. I never touch it till ringing or later. Sometimes it can be gently massaged out, perhaps over a two day period. Sometimes I will treat it, sometimes I will pick it out after treatment i.e. the next day, sometimes it requires a second treatment and more picking out the next day.

I think the consensus in the pigeon community around the world is that there’s less chance of a Fed winner from a pigeon that had canker in the nest, but we’ve probably all had them. I’ve even heard of squeakers with naval canker being top racers, but I think here the chances are a lot less; the key here with naval canker is drainage and a treatment.

As I said above, it could be that further down the track I decide to cull every squeaker in the nest that can’t ‘cure itself’ from dry canker. Hopefully as time goes by I will see less and less of it due to the selection pressure on my genetics i.e. not breeding off pigeons that perform well that were treated for either canker in the nest or dry or wet canker after weaning.

After weaning I cull one in ten squeakers, generally for wet canker, viruses may also be involved in some of these sick squeakers e.g. circo virus and E.coli too. If I do treat any, then it is just a canker treatment, sometimes two. It could be in the future I don’t treat any youngsters with such maladies. My current policy is that if the squeaker has the will to fight it then I will give it a chance. If they reach the ‘point of no return’ they are culled before they suffer unduly and unfairly.

Some fanciers will say they never get canker, dry or wet and they never dose. Perhaps their eyesight is poor! Everyone gets canker while breeding if they don’t medicate, it’s just that some might not be aware of it unless they get a real obvious case as they aren’t looking down the throats of squabs in the nest regularly.

Do you breed some summer bred late breds?

What tips do you have for their management?

How far do you send the better ones in their first year?

You have often had success from 500 miles plus. Have you had better success with late bred pigeons that were not pushed too far in their year of birth e.g. only to 200 to 300 miles max and then they went on as two and three year olds to produce outstanding performances?

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Latebreds, are they worth breeding?   6 comments

This subject has been a hotly debated one at times and so I thought it was about time that I did a blog article on it. Last year in 2012, I deliberately bred the latest I have ever bred as I had decided not to fly Young Birds. I’d had a pretty stressful year, in fact the most stressful for 13 years. It was time to have a break from the sport for eight months, especially from the shit stirring and gee did I enjoy the needed break! I had got quite depressed over the winter, which is unusual for me as despite the chronic nature of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the restrictions it places on my body I am in general usually fairly buoyant in the emotional department.

Unfortunately some people use the system for political and personal means and it is my opinion, that particularly in the case of chronically ill people that these attacks should not be tolerated by pigeon racing administrations. However, it takes a strong, wise, resolute, forthright President to deflect them. I think that our current ARPF President, Mr Alan Flannigan is such a one and I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress he has made particularly in the areas of pigeon welfare and ARPF financial prudency and expertise. Nothing is ever perfect and I’d expect that Alan, like myself, would acknowledge as most of us would about ourselves, that he is ‘a work in progress.’ It is also very good to see him at basketing and strike offs whether he is racing or not, he is there!

Now let’s return to the interesting subject of breeding late breds. The advantages that I see in breeding youngsters from the first month of summer in the northern and southern hemispheres are firstly that the weather is settled and generally nice and warm. The days are also progressively getting longer until the Summer solstice, but even in the following two to three months the days are also of a good length and generally very pleasant. I will add that one should be careful the breeding loft doesn’t get too hot, is well ventilated and the cleaner the better in these warmer months to help keep the birds at minimum stress levels. Of course, you need to have room for these youngsters or you may end up with health problems in the race loft!

Youngsters bred at this time of year have the opportunity of having full crops for longer periods of time and thus grow at an optimum rate. The breeding pigeons are likely to be in tip top shape and although it is possible that some of the hens may’ve laid in a lesbian relationship with the separated stock hens prior to pairing, this won’t hurt them and even when new pairs are brought together they usually pair up and get to nest very quickly. The quality of the eggs may also be better. Incidentally, I would never pair a pair of pigeons if they were not in super health, making allowances of course for an older pigeon, say nine or older whose body condition and vigour may not be exactly the same as when they were more youthful.

Breeding ability can also depend on the strain/bloodlines of the pigeons e.g. some cocks are done and dusted for breeding by the age of 12, whereas others are still going strong as old as 17 to 20. I personally found that the pigeons imported into New Zealand in the 1990’s or their straight bred offspring when cocks were often not much good by 12 years of age. Not only would they go infertile or sub fertile but their joints would start going and they’d start hobbling around, whereas I’ve had hens from the old lines of Vandies which have still looked great and laid at fifteen and were still alive at 20!

One of the biggest advantages of breeding latebreds here in New Zealand is that by the time you race them in September they are eight months of age, haven’t had to be trained or raced during the body moult, are perfect in the feather, can be trained in cool conditions (unlike young birds) and on my system of just dosing for internal parasites they are in general fairly tough as far as the challenges of wet canker and respiratory diseases e.t.c. go. I had my summer breds out nearly every day as I live in the country, so they could be out all day until 3 or 4pm enjoying the fresh air and whatever nature served up to them as far as weather conditions went. They got very fit and developed very well in their musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems.

One does not get into problems with the primary wing flights i.e. the end ones being in the wrong positions, as these late bred pigeons do not finish the wing moult in their first year. Many years ago with Young Birds (which is a separate season here) I used to pull the tenth flight around Christmas. Some people pull both the ninth and the tenth. When you think about it, I guess there could be some pigeons that will be in an unfavourable flight position for a Classic race, but what are the odds of them being a winner even if the flights were pulled at Christmas? Is every pigeon a middle distance winner, obviously not!

In fact they say of random new pairings that only one in five bred are a good pigeon which perhaps might give you a good fly from a longer young bird race. However, unless that pigeon is in great form at the time it has favourable flight positions and luck is on its side too, it probably won’t do well. It might be instead that two or four weeks later that it is in better form, so there is some luck involved here. I guess if you’re going to pull the ninth and tenth flight then you might as well do the whole 30 or 40 which you may’ve bred which are old enough for young bird racing.

My philosophy is that rather than pull the flights, don’t send a pigeon if the flight position could affect its flying ability i.e. to a young bird middle distance race. Often you can tell by observing them flying around home i.e. is the pigeon flying freely. Of course, a pigeon can drop a flight once basketed for your classic race, but then again, they often hold them too, pretty hard to predict! I’m of the opinion that other pigeons can ‘put their hand up’ if one is kept back and the key here is to have quality breeders and if you haven’t got them, go and get some! Quality breeders will breed you more not only just good pigeons, but more very good pigeons and hopefully if you are lucky an extraordinary pigeon whose performances ‘paint the skies’ with brilliance!

I was pleased with the performances of my better summer breds in 2013 old birds. As a team they did very well, including that I sent four January hatch youngsters to our second longest racepoint Timaru, about 525 miles airline to me, not an easy race too (47 of 111 sent ARPF total birdage on the results sheet at 7pm the second day) and three homed in race time and the fourth after I had left for strike off. Only nine pigeons were home on the day for Auckland lofts including two in the hours of darkness. I clocked two pigeons on the day and the second was a Sumer bred cock which scored 7th Open Timaru ARPF. My 1st pigeon was a two year old hen which was 2nd despite having over flown a long way. The late bred cock had also shown up from Ward, our first South Island Federation race where I dropped six in the front bunch to score 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th, he was 3rd. I wasn’t set up for that race, I just had the clock on but no sections were open for birds to go in and I was lucky that I had just moments before walked down that way i.e. the pigeons did a super velocity.

Do you breed some summer bred late breds?

What tips do you have for their management?

How far do you send the better ones in their first year?

Testing, testing!   Leave a comment

I often watch the TV nature documentaries and it never ceases to amaze me with the toughness of species but also the inherent cruelty of nature.

We only need to look at the wildebeest. This is perhaps my favourite wild mammalian species and I have seen the footage of the annual migration of the wildebeest across the Mara River between Tanzania and Kenya many times. They are a very tough species. Calving is synchronized so that predators such as lions and hyenas are overwhelmed with the abundant glut of ‘pickings’ and many of the calves survive and just look at how quick they become mobile.

Surprisingly enough with the river crossing only 1% of wildebeest become casualties to the river and the crocs. The survival rate for a calf in a year is 1 out of 4 born.

I guess, with long distance pigeons particularly, by observing the natural survival system of the wildebeest we can conclude that the tougher our long distance pigeons are the better. It is also paramount to have quick maturing bloodlines of racing pigeons that can cope well with both the challenges of the loft environment i.e. pathogens and parasites and the rigours of loft flying, training and racing under different weather conditions and predation.

It all has to start with ‘the feather’ i.e. the quality and toughness of the stock pigeons. If we just deworm our pigeons periodically, then constitution wise they definitely need to be tough. Sure, the heritability of diseases such as dry canker isn’t 100% but it may possibly be 50% in some canker strains, which is quite high. Environment also plays its part in the transmission of canker and we have to do our bit in maintaining a reasonable water quality with preferably plenty of water changes daily and I feel the colder the water the better. I’ve even thought of placing big chunks of ice in the drinkers in the warmer weather during both breeding and racing to keep the little buggers (trichomona) more ‘pacified’ and I may do it yet.

Theoretically, it should be possible to produce racing pigeons that are highly resilient to any species of dry or wet canker organisms that challenge the pigeons. This task takes time, quite a few years, given that often the base pigeons that are sourced from foreign countries have not been selected much for disease resistance i.e. they’ve been dosed too much. The quality (innate racing abilities) may be there in a percentage of racing pigeons acquired, but the disease resistance and disease resilience genes may be somewhere between low and medium. So we need to breed up over a period of years and if not satisfied that we have all the building material to do the job, then acquire some new stock. I would advise fanciers not to buy off ‘dosers’ and once they have made some good progress the quality should still be there and perhaps has overall increased, with more multiple winners being discovered in the loft as the years go by for both the middle and long distance.

I recommend teaming up with some fellow ‘no dosing’ fanciers who select along the same paths and have good results who are willing to swap youngsters, latebreds often being the best option. Old bird brothers or sisters of their best racers being perhaps the next best option. Youngsters acquired with stock loft plans in mind are better off lightly trained as far as 100 miles. There will be a greater chance they could be a success in the breeding loft. Trying them at the distance you’ve acquired them to breed winners out of them is even better. But if you have plenty of room and you like the physical type and they appear smart and highly intelligent then you can start the testing of their breeding potential without any road testing. It really is the fancier’s choice.

Getting back to nature now: One thing with nature, naturalists and film crews is that the standard policy is usually never to interfere. The natural system is observed and beamed into millions of households across the world. This can on first observation often appear cruel, but this is the reality of nature. The crocs have been waiting a whole year for this glut of drowned carcasses to hoe into and hooves to lash out for.

I’m sure some viewers have envisaged building bridges or at the least cutting out decent earthen tracks with dozers for the wildebeest and zebra to have an easier traverse out of the river. But that would put a much lower selection pressure on the wildebeest and deprive those ugly crocs of their quota and thus disturb the food chain. Perhaps that would be the attitude of some in another natural food chain example i.e. of the rampant raptor problem in certain parts of the world decimating the local populations of song birds and ‘hounding’ the racing pigeons.

It certainly is a harsh selection for the pigeons in those areas affected around the world. I am told that with young birds the biggest problem is the terror and confusion of the flock and scattering to ‘all the ends of the earth’. Terrorised youngsters particularly can end up anywhere and might not have even been trained or ranged, making the job even more difficult finding their way back home. On that note I think this side of keeping pigeons is in the sports or fancy’s favour with the public, because in this case the racing pigeons are definitely not the victim of anything that fanciers have done, but of nature itself. That’s how I see it, but perhaps the likes of PETA would manage to put a distorted, farfetched spin on this subject, like they have done with racing pigeons in the last few years around the world!

There is a time when humans do intervene with nature and perhaps a good example is of the threatened native bird species breeding programmes here in New Zealand with the kakapo and the kiwi.

How does this relate to racing pigeons you might ponder? Well, I think we would all admit that with racing pigeons, although it might be a natural thing for our birds to do and enjoy, it is not the same set up as ‘the wild ecosystem’. Racing pigeons I think in most cases enjoy being raced. O.k., perhaps if someone has made a mistake in liberating pigeons from a middle or long distance event then the pigeons at some stage in negotiating their way back home could get a bit too stressed. Perhaps the liberator did their job magnificently but the weather forecaster let them down and too many pigeons didn’t make it home on the day from distances that given fair racing conditions to the pigeons, then most would have returned on the day, not that stressed and recover quickly after a drink and feed and not be exposed to the risks of predation or bad weather whilst spending a night out somewhere. Perhaps the fancier didn’t condition the bulk of their pigeons well enough for the task ahead. Perhaps they didn’t know to have them as big as ‘tanks’, as the forecast changed after the pigeons were basketed and then maybe they wouldn’t have sent, had they known that they would be released.

This broaches the subject of how strong or perhaps even severe can the test of the racing pigeons be? How do we determine this, as there are so many variables, but clearly the liberation criteria, say for a long distance event, shouldn’t be that ‘we sent the pigeons, so they have to go up either on the Saturday or the Sunday?’ If the weather forecast doesn’t look great for the Saturday but looks even worse for the Sunday then does that mean that’s a case to say ‘bugger it, we’ll let them up today as tomorrows gonna be far worse?’ I think not and of course, this is where the keeping of racing pigeons and their racing differs from birds and animals in the wild. On the contrary, if the weather is particularly suspect on the Saturday but forecast to be much better on the Sunday, then it isn’t rocket science and the pigeons should be held over till the Sunday.

There has to be a certain distance after which it is still thought fair to release the pigeons, if it is likely that there will be no pigeons on the day. This distance may differ from country to country around the world due to differences in topography such as high mountains to traverse and the hilliness of the country and we have this here in New Zealand. Significant water crossings can slow things down too, particularly if there is a strong head wind over the water. I think that this distance in my country is around 600 miles through a breaking point and 550 miles if the measurement is racepoint to loft i.e. airline. That being the front marker in the races distance.

So for distances less than this here in New Zealand there should be a significant amount of pigeons home on the day. Really, each racing pigeon organisation around the world should have target figures. Fanciers should be encouraged to clock all pigeons returning in race time i.e. leave their electronic clock connected to the power source or if rubber rings are used, clock all those pigeons returning in race time. If we do this, then the officials who tabulate the results can put all the returning pigeon’s velocities on the result. By and large then we have a complete record of all homing pigeons in race time which can be scrutinised by fanciers and any other group.

We must realise that the public image of the fancy is very important and we need to be transparent. If there is a bad race, then the organisers need to think what they can do to improve things. The reasons for these types of races are myriad and I’ve covered the bulk of them in other articles on this site. It is not only weather forecasters and liberators that need to get their job right but also there needs to be flier education. This is particularly needed with long distance racing, but new fliers need to be guided at any distance, some will take to the sport in a better way than others. Stock sense and pigeon conditioning through feeding and racing e.t.c. is something that is gradually learnt over the years that one flies.

I haven’t really answered, ‘how severe or hard can the test be?’ Do the pigeons have to go up almost regardless, like if the weather is only really considered if storm conditions are the conditions on the day? What do you think?

This is what I think. No, it is fool hardy if pigeons are released, especially from the long distance in storm conditions. Foolhardy and reckless. It contravenes the intent and spirit of every country that has an animal welfare act. Even if the wind is a strong tail wind, if there are storm conditions and there is widespread rain for most of the 400 or 500 miles or more, it is a no brainer. We need the ‘pigeon welfare thinking’ of the new millennium. We should be improving all the time. We need to move on from things that have been done wrongly in the past. It should never be akin to, ‘last pigeon standing’ or perhaps that should be ‘flying’!

Over the last two and a half decades I have done very well in hard or very hard distance races. Middle distance, too. So for me to declare these things is solely as a ‘pigeon welfare’ purist.

I believe that the ‘hard nuts’ days in the pigeon sport worldwide are numbered, well I hope for that, for the pigeon’s sake.

My thoughts are that we need to give each liberation of pigeons a fair chance of the bulk of them returning to the loft on the day for races up to 400 miles airline. Really the intent of the liberator should be that 100% return from the 400 miles airline race on the day. However, there are other factors out of the liberators control. The weather forecasters sometimes get it wrong. Some fliers send pigeons that aren’t conditioned well enough to home on the day. There may’ve been a massive clash of race flocks, perhaps this affects young birds the worst. There may’ve been raptor attacks enroute that kill and maim pigeons, scattering and scaring the flock all over the place.

As the distance increases past 400 miles airline in my view it is o.k. to aim for less pigeons home on the day. As mentioned before, I believe that we should always get some pigeons on the day to the front marker lofts up to 550 miles if the measurement is racepoint to loft i.e. airline. But just how you’d work out acceptable returns on the day for 400, 450, 500 and 550 miles is a difficult one and feel free to comment below. You’d probably have to have at least the proviso that the weather forecasters got it right! Also I would say, that the earlier the pigeons are released the better, given enough light e.t.c. The Auckland Federation has this one correct in my view.

So, you might be thinking, who’s going to pay for the increased holdovers? Not such a problem for 1 or 200 pigeons which were air freighted to their destination. But definitely something that is quite a bit more expensive if they are in a truck, as drivers are normally paid by the day and then there are the accommodation costs. Correct me if I’m wrong? What happens in your part of the world?

I’d envisage that each organisation just have a fund, perhaps a small percentage can be put aside from each distance race that isn’t held over. Or the money can just come from the organisations bank account. I don’t think that the fanciers should have to pay just because a liberator is doing their job right and looking after the pigeons the best they can. But a little bit put aside from each distance race that’s not heldover might be a good idea. However, the bottom line for those organising distance races is the public image and with PETA on the prowl, it’s better that the organisations do it right here. A few extra dollars spent by the racing organisation to look after the pigeons better is money very well spent in my opinion.

You see, by threatening to charge the fanciers for the holdover it gives the liberators an excuse for letting the pigeons up, perhaps in those storm conditions that often result in no or very few day birds even from only 400 miles airline. Surely the pigeon’s welfare is more important than the driver’s situation of having to stay another day or two or more. However, this is why when liberations are of only 1 or 200 pigeons it is much better flying the pigeons to the long distance race point. One healthy person can look after that amount of pigeons quite easily for 4 or 5 days and usually the weather will improve enough to get a good race that is fair to the pigeons in that time. Boxes can be monitored and cleaned if the liberator deems it necessary. Usually for the extreme distance e.g. Invercargill to Auckland there are very few pigeons in the boxes, they have square wire mesh floors and cleaning boxes is not necessary.

So now, as far as the severity of the test. This is my feeling. Don’t bash the pigeons in the build up events to the extreme distance races of 7 to 800 miles airline. Send as many as you can to the extreme distance but don’t send them if they aren’t perfectly right. A yearling may do it, but not many do it well, in my country anyway.

I honestly don’t think that the pigeons should be bashed from any distance, tested, yes, but not bashed! Organisations around the world that don’t have good release protocols in place with their liberations need to do so. I don’t think it’s worth risking the consequences of not having them or not implementing them.

The wise pigeon organisations have them, so when asked for them by the authorities they can produce a written copy of consistent release protocol and the full race results of that season(s).

So, it’s not a matter of waiting for storm conditions to consider not releasing. Yes, migratory birds such as the Bar tailed Godwit actually do this, however these birds have evolved over many, many thousands of years. Bar-headed Geese which traverse the passes of the Himalayas, perhaps as high as 6,500 metres, have evolved different adaptations, such as a much higher haemoglobin level in their blood than normal birds. Again, it has taken eons. The racing pigeons in general are still light years behind them from what I can ascertain.

If you do have pigeons that can fly on the day from distances of greater than 500 miles airline in the pouring rain then contact me! Perhaps if in my country then you could breed me some. Then I could compare. I bet they are just plodders and would get left for dead by pigeons of higher quality under conditions that don’t bash the pigeons.

The modern pigeons are much quicker than the old slogger lines. You only have to look at Mac Armstrong’s pigeons from Invercargill to Auckland, a distance of around 780 miles through a breaking point and traversing the Southern Alps which are as high as 3754 metres i.e. Mt Cook.

I predict that the extreme distance pigeons will become faster and faster in New Zealand and around the world as the years go on.

Part of that quickness will be the confidence and ability to break from the liberation point e.g. in the Barcelona International race when the drag is by miles in favour of the European pigeons i.e. in 2013 a contingency of 304 British pigeons competed against a total International liberation of 25,382 pigeons i.e. they had just over 1% of the entries. Mannor Lofts of Southampton was 57th in the International Open result. It is just a matter of the English fanciers being patient and to continue entering pigeons in the Barcelona International. You can be encouraged by this year’s International Pau win by Geoff and Catherine Cooper of Peasedown St John (a small village near Bath, England) scoring 1st and 8th International. British fliers winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 8th e.t.c. International! Conditions suited them and when they suit for Barcelona the British will win it for sure!

One thing that I would be pushing for with the Barcelona International race is for as early a liberation as possible. It’s fairer on the pigeons too, as stated previously.

Back to the New Zealand pigeon scene, there will always be some rain or showers to go through somewhere between Invercargill and Auckland Federation lofts. The returns are reasonable in race time when they get a bit of a south tail wind start. It is seldom south all the way i.e. seldom a blow home. A blow home isn’t really a blow home when it’s from that far, the pigeon has still flown it.

Well I’ll wrap this one up here and would love to hear from you from any part of the world either on this site or email


What do you think are the ‘race condition’ limits for the humble racing pigeon? Please note, I am not talking about what distance here, but rather what weather conditions are presenting the liberator for a liberation from say 400 to 800 miles airline?

What are acceptable percentage returns on the day for races of 400 miles airline (front markers) if the forecast was accurate?

What are acceptable percentage returns on the day for races of 450 miles airline (front markers) if the forecast was accurate?

What are acceptable percentage returns on the day for races of 500 miles airline (front markers) if the forecast was accurate?

What are acceptable percentage returns on the day for races of 550 miles airline (front markers) if the forecast was accurate?

Who pays for hold overs in your part of the world, the governing organisation or the fanciers?

You can post a comment below on the site or email me and I will give feedback confidentially in the next article covering this interesting subject of ‘testing’.

Posted July 19, 2013 by ferguselley in Breeding better pigeons, Food for thought

Tagged with

Summer Lovin’   1 comment

A 'pigeon pair' icon of the 70's.

A ‘pigeon pair’ icon of the 70’s. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Brian Batchelor of Elstead U.K. has emailed me recently telling me about what a wretched winter it has been over there in England. Oh well, the English cricket fans will be happy they drew the test series yesterday against our kiwi team here at Eden Park, Auckland. Brian tells me he won’t be racing until about mid May, a wise choice given the amount of snow they’ve had and difficulties getting the pigeons out enough, yet alone training them! Brian is an old fox at the pigeon game and knows that ‘thumping’ the pigeons at the start of the season doesn’t ‘bode well’ for a good season. He’s a very keen distance man and he’ll be patient.

While Brian’s lost several nests of eggs and little squabs to the cold, possibly due to foxes disturbing the sitting hens at night, it’s been a glorious breeding season for me over here. As mentioned in recent blogs I didn’t pair up until November, the last month of Spring here so that by Christmas I had only about 20 youngsters, all December hatch. We have had really dry conditions over here all of 2013 and it has been excellent for breeding, very nice warm weather.

I’m not racing any of the current Young Bird races here in Auckland. It’s nice to have a break. It makes me wonder why we don’t combine the Young and Old Bird seasons like Australia and have a later ring issue than the current 1st of August here in NZ. It’s often cold, rainy and windy here in July and August and I can remember many years ago when Young Bird racing meant much more to me pairing the pigeons up the last week of June! The first round hatching 7 to 10 days from the end of July never contained anywhere as many good pigeons as the next two rounds. Food for thought.

I’ll possibly race Young Birds again next year. My pick is that here in NZ there’ll be Young Bird racing from late February or early March for many more years to come unless the global warming situation continues to worsen at a quicker rate than expected. The causes of extremes of weather in Summer and Winter around the world is certainly something that we can all do a little something about but possibly the damage has already been done. Perhaps it will be all a little too late and is a bit like ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’.

Next month might be the start of the regular wet Autumn weather for pigeon racing. If the Young Bird Futurity at the end of April is a wet and pretty windy one like last year’s I’d expect a similar story for returns on the day. Last year we’d had no stormy races the whole season and about 2/3rds of the entries made a meal of things and didn’t return home until the next day. Fortunately losses were kept to a minimum to the best of my knowledge e.g. I dropped 1 of 9, a bird although well bred which I should have culled in the nest as the flights stayed in the quills a long time. Anyway it had been given a chance.

I think in general if you want to do well in Young Birds here in NZ that the more late July to September hatches that you have in the team the better. It just gives them a chance to develop more and basically learn their geography and hone their orientation skills. I would say that if you are able to train your pigeons, that wherever you are in the world the more small group tossing and single ups that you can do on the line of flight the better. Early on in my pigeon racing career I did a lot of these short tosses and three ups and single ups. I don’t have the health to do this now. However, you the reader may be able to drive whenever you like, so get into it, in both Old Birds and Young Birds. A 10 to 20 miler once a week during racing certainly isn’t going to take too much out of the pigeons.

With respect to training under different weather conditions the pigeons need to harden up by being exposed to the variations of weather conditions such as rain and wind. So long as they have two or three kilometres of clear conditions they should be alright. I remember many years ago, actually it was in my first year back in the sport when Keith Holder used to drive my car pigeon tossing. We drove to Pirongia, about a 90 mile toss to where I lived then in Te Atatu North. It had been showery all the way down with some pretty dark, squally, heavy ones. I think it was the first time the pigeons were let go there. They were Young Birds. I didn’t know much about pigeons then. It would have been clear at liberation, perhaps I wouldn’t have let them go if I’d gone by myself. Anyway it was a steady fly and naturally there were birds home when I got home.

The same deal applies to fog. Of course if the fog is thick and at ground level it is stupid to let pigeons go. But if the fog is breaking up with a little blue sky visible and the birds can see any wires within several hundred metres and you know that the fog isn’t too thick then the pigeons will just fly up through the layers of fog, orientate and head home above the fog.

We have had fog here this week. If it comes up the valley from the river to cover the paddocks I tell my helper to keep the youngsters in. Yes, they would learn something, but there’s no point in the pigeons crashing into things be it power lines or trees. I had a group of 5 go missing one year when I didn’t pick that the fog down towards the river would roll up to cover my place after I’d let the pigeons out not long after day break. I remember I lost a couple and one homed back 3 weeks later a BCH. As a two year old I sent her to Timaru i.e. 560 miles. Fog had been forecast for that race in the morning in Timaru but I’m told the liberation was o.k. I never saw her again but her brother won that Fed race in 14 hour 6 mins flying 560 miles and homing in the twilight. You can view that race report in South Island Liberations in the Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds Archive category.

I do like this Summer breeding, especially when you get conditions like we’ve had this year of real nice warm weather and only 4 days with significant rain so far 2013. You do have to watch out when the pigeons have 1/2 to 2 week old babies in the nest and the crop milk production is high. The trichomoniasis count elevates in some pigeons more than others during this time. The pigeons drink more water, they may get lazy and pump youngsters with a lot of water, as a consequence they lose more salts such as potassium and sodium chloride and that is why if you’re not supplying salt containing mineral blocks or piminix or something similar that you have to add a hunk of rock salt or table salt to the grit. They can get a bit woozy on it otherwise.

Of course not dosing with anti canker drugs might be seen as risky by some but if your genetic base is strong enough and you’re feeding a high protein and fat dietary mix then if it’s like my stock loft situation everything should be fine. At least you know which stock pigeons can hack the pace without a medication programme. In addition, just change the water as many times as possible, clean the drinker well often or have a dry, clean one ready and supply a source of salt throughout breeding. Perhaps the trich don’t like the salt.

I don’t bother about cider vinegar and crushed fresh garlic in the water but many others do, including Ad Schaerlaekens, the famous dutch pigeon writer, so who knows! I would tend to use a medicine in my racers or breeders if I really thought I had to. I would use an anticanker medicine in favour over the cider vinegar or fresh crushed garlic in the water. Either way, you are removing selection pressure, even if the cider vinegar and fresh crushed garlic are natural products. My desire is tougher, naturally disease resistant and disease tolerant pigeons at the end of the day, without losing the quality of the pigeons.

My personal belief is that if I continue my selective breeding programme that both the quality of the racers and the naturally disease resistant and disease tolerant attributes will both improve. I have a lot of pigeons to choose from when pairing and I only pair now if I think there is a good chance of producing good pigeons. The breeders are untreated apart from for worms and they have to appear to be in super health at pairing. Anything less is simply not paired and further down the track I hope I can let my breeders out prior to breeding to push the super health to even higher levels. I am lucky I have a great deal of space for my breeders i.e. a converted four sectioned concrete floor cow shed from yesteryear. The concrete floor is another reason I deworm the stock birds three or four times a year, as concrete is very absorbent and aids the risk of internal parasites and coccidiosis. However the old birds in general appear to have developed a resistance to coccidiosis which is to be expected.

The squeakers weaned off so far have in general been of a very high standard physically so hopefully there will be a few good ones amongst them for Old Birds and if I have a good run of health myself after the moult is finished the December and January hatch ones can have some training along with about 30 untrained yearlings. If it does happen they will just get 10 tosses to 30 miles, my wife will likely take them. Perhaps the weather will stay dry for most of April as it did last year until they hit a windy westerly, showery Young Bird Futurity race.

The good thing about not racing Young Birds is I didn’t have to breed really during racing. So there wasn’t the overlap of Old Bird racing and finding room for the first and second and maybe even third rounds of squeakers which most early breeders have to cope with. I haven’t pulled flights for years, but there’s definitely none of that. A few over here try the darkening method which many do around the world. I can understand why, those last three primary flights certainly can stuff things up around the time of the longer Young Birds Classics.

The other advantage is not having to medicate the squeakers apart from giving an internal parasite treatment i.e. deworming every now and then, as despite the drought, I don’t want roundworm or hairworms interfering with the growth of the squeakers. So this means any wet canker challenge or respiratory complex challenge of Chlamydia/Mycoplama e.t.c. can just be ignored. Yesterday I noticed a January hatch squeaker with a weepy eye, but I won’t treat it, it will return to normal in a week or so. I’ve never had one not. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that years ago. It’s good to let these loft endemic pathogens go through the squeakers; it helps harden them up in preparation for the immune challenges while racing as an Old Bird. So from last night the squeakers have Matrix hi mineral in the water until later on today.

The danger of course with flock dosing is that some pigeons don’t drink. I’ve given them a dose at the higher end of the spectrum but it should be fine. None of them have vomited, the levamisole in the anthelmintic can cause this and even if they did it would be o.k., but I might just leave it in the water 12 hours c.f. 24 hours if that happened. By the way, I’ve never seen any frets in the flights from using this drench which contains levamisole, oxfendazole i.e. a white drench and an avermectin i.e. abamectin. So it’s a triple action drench with the advantage of selenium and cobalt added. Both very important minerals and NZ soils tend to be deficient in both of them. So if a pigeon has this stock drench about 4 times a year then they’re getting some essential minerals too plus being free from worms most of the time. Over a whole year our climate in general here in NZ is usually a reasonably wet, humid one, especially here in the Auckland Federation and northwards. My pigeons peck around under the loft amongst pigeon droppings which fall through the grill floor of the loft and my stocking rate isn’t low. Usually when I deworm young birds I see some roundworms. I didn’t in December and I might not now because it’s been so dry all year. Of course because I’m not analysing the droppings there might be hairworms which are invisible to the naked eye.

So my conclusion. Roll on Summer breeding and the song Summer Lovin’ comes to mind. Maybe that’s what the pigeons have been having!

My Timaru birds and Invercargill hen.   Leave a comment

Thought it might be good to share some shots of my pigeons again. They were taken at basketing at my loft prior to leaving for the Timaru Federation basketing on the evening of the 22nd of November 2012. In all I sent ten birds to Timaru (560 miles to my loft). Elley Family Loft had three on the day and five the next day by around lunchtime. I hadn’t flown the first Christchurch 500 mile race three weeks before, so this was a good opportunity to see if some of the pigeons would respond to a bit more distance. In the end, I just sent the one pigeon to Invercargill two weeks later and got her. In 2009 and 2010 I sent just the one pigeon to the Timaru, a BCH 563 and got her on the day both times. She was 6th the first year and 9th the next. She’s now in stock as she was born 2005.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon FederationTimaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd ARPF (Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation) Timaru 560 miles 2012.

I mentioned in a recent blog that there will be a blog on Theo van Lier whose two year old hen beat the opposition from Timaru to Auckland Federation lofts in 2012 by 63 minutes. Her flying time was 11 hours 21 minutes with a velocity of 1395m/min, distance 950km (590 miles). My first two birds which arrived together are pictured here in this blog. It was an incredible fly by Theo’s bird! Theo has been working on a very long list of questions which I sent him. No doubt we will have all the answers for you on this blog and the excellent site which I supply articles for about New Zealand fanciers. I also plan a visit of Theo and Monique’s loft after the pigeons have finished their moult. So you should look forwards to plenty of photos of the van Lier family’s lovely loft and birds. We thank him for taking the time from his busy rose growing e.t.c. business schedule in West Auckland. Any questions for Theo, Mac or even myself please email me at or post in the comments section, thank you.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

If you studied this blog site in full, then perhaps you’d recognise this hen pictured five times here, from a blog in April 2012 Young birds. You’ll find it in the index under Ferg’s birds category titled, Ferg’s Young Birds 2012 Update.

She pranged up just before the Bulls race last year in Young birds, scraping her back and rump quite badly, probably trying to get out of the way of the cock driving her and as a consequence hit the wires on the loft roof. Below next is a shot of the injury she sustained and of course she was rested till Old birds. She flew well last year in Old birds including this Timaru fly and was jumped from Ward near the top of the South Island which is around 330 miles. Placing second Timaru 560 miles is a very good effort for a yearling! In Young birds she had been 2nd Combine when her sister won the Combine from Mahoe, just a short race of 110 miles. They were both doing 1021 m/min and I thought at the time that it was a good indication of their value for the distance, as it was a steady overcast day with headwinds.

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.

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.

It just shows you that if you look after them well after injury and don’t rush them back into racing, that you can be rewarded further down the track, as this hen did. One thing that almost put me off sending her to Timaru were very dry feathers. I put that down to the stress of coming back from injury, as her feathers were silky in Young birds. I’m glad I took the punt and sent her, as I couldn’t fault her otherwise. The birds had just the one canker treatment two weeks before the Timaru race. That was it for the season and no antibiotics.

I was tempted to send her to the 750 mile Invercargill race two weeks later, as although initially for the first two days she was flown out, by the following Friday she and two other yearlings were looking a box of birds and she had her usual grumpy, fiery character back. In the end, none of the yearlings came up to scratch for the Invercargill. She in fact had a slightly mucousy nostril and the muscle tone was too hard i.e there was no spring in it. I’m glad that I didn’t send her, as there was a good chance that I’d have lost her or wrecked her for future racing.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

She’s currently mated to the three year old BBC featured below. The first round has just weaned itself off and she will lay again soon. I plan to farm out the eggs or the squabs some time after hatching. For those interested in her breeding, she is off a cracker son of 577 when mated to 572. 577 was a son of Greg Clarke’s best racer Houbie when Houbie was mated to his great grand-daughter 219, a half Houben, half Janssen hen. 219 won the West Section Yearling Champs and Flock Johnsonville in 2002 for me (a steady one), which was the last year that I raced in West Auckland. 577 was a super young bird cock in 2006. 572 is a straight Janssen hen off my best lines. She was my best yearling hen in 2006 and excelled herself racing, including 2nd Futurity Yearling Ward 330 miles and 2nd East Section Old Bird National Christchurch 450 miles, having come with 1st and 3rd to my loft. The dam of this hen featured here in photos five times (including pranged up shot) is a linebred vandie base hen and she is a grand-daughter of BB Vandie cock 423, the Open Old Bird National Christchurch winner in 1994 for me living at Waterview, before I married Helen.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Please note that this cock 423 is the great-grandfather of Mac Armstrong’s 2009 and 2011 Invercargill winners, since they were both off BBH 243. 243 was a granddaughter of Vandie cock 423 and Mac obtained her from me and unfortunately she was accidentally killed in the loft when Mac opened a door a bit hard by mistake. The sire of Macs 2009 winner was a Janssen cock from me of vos lines and a son of this vos cock (also from me) bred his 2011 winner i.e. both winners off BBH 243. The Invercargill 2011 race event was the hardest in the last four years, as the bird arrived around 6pm on the second day after an early morning liberation the previous day. There was no wind assistance. So a real gutsy pigeon! Mac had another two pigeons one hour 36 minutes later to take the first three and Colin Webster had one not far behind for 4th. Just the six pigeons back in the results after four days from the entries of all fanciers, which was 61 birds.  You can view that winner by selecting the Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts category in the index. He’s in a couple of those blogs, so go have a read or pop it open in another window on your PC!

3 year old BBC 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

3 year old BBC, 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

This guy above is the mate of the hen featured above and they make a great pair, so I can only hope the offspring will deliver the goods next year, as they are fairly late bred and the second round will be even later! However since the hen is eggy, they are definitely worth taking and she will stay in the race loft this year where she is breeding currently. In my mind, they are a typical matched pair. She has the hardluck hen 7875 from Des Sippets Australian Riverview stud as great great grand dam cock side and another step back hen side giving linebreeding to 9% 7875. She is a real smorgasbord of bloodlines viz, Houben, different Janssen lines and of course my base vandie birds and a touch of Jim Howarth birds. The hardluck hen is in most of my pigeons and she was a grand-daughter of the gun U.K. race cock Hardluck. 7875 was half planet brothers with the Bange of 77 and the Raket hen featured on the dam side. So top stuff and her descendents have done really well for me throughout the years, now up to as far as 750 miles Invercargill.

3 year old BBC 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

3 year old BBC, 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

This same 3 year old cock whose mate I’ve just outlined the pedigree of is a Houben/Janssen hybrid mix i.e. 1/2 Houben 1/2 Janssen cock mated to a 1/2 Houben 1/2 Janssen hen. I didn’t really test him until 2012. He is a full brother of my Timaru winner from 2011 who was one of two day birds in the ARPF flying 14 hours and 6 minutes, arriving on dusk and winning by 13 minutes. A pretty hard race. There’s a blog in the index category Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds the South Island liberations one posted on the 13th December 2011. I have had a lot of success with other brothers and sisters including the gun Blue hen in 2009 Young Birds which won 1st Open Futurity Levin around 230 miles, 1st Eastern Union Otaki around 240 miles and 4th Jack Longville Race Raumati around 250 miles. This three year old cock is a quiet cock like his brother which won Timaru in 2011 and also came with 1st and 3rd to score second the year before in a fast Open Old Bird National from Christchurch, 450 miles to me. I hadn’t done much with him until he was three, just kept him in the North Island races. He was a latebred, so was only lightly raced in 2010. He is a cock who is a bit prone to a runny nose. It’s probably a susceptibility to Chlamydia/Mycoplasma and perhaps dust or mould spores. I hadn’t sent him to the South Island as a two year old for this reason, even though the loft had dosing a number of times after the 8th race. As I said earlier, I gave a canker treatment 2 weeks out from the Timaru 2012. I also gave him Clements tonic, the green one i.e. a couple of times individually and it helped to dry the nasal catarrh up. Like his current mate above he had flown the Ward (330 miles) five weeks before. He was on eggs for the Timaru to a different hen which was one more closely related. I got two nice squeakers off that pair so it’ll be interesting to see how they go as it was an uncle niece mating and he’s already 68% linebred to key Janssens and Houbens.

I also considered him for the Invercargill race. By that stage he had two five day old squabs. Of course he was very keen. On handling him five minutes after arriving home from the Timaru he was even bigger and heavier than at basketing, not that he wasn’t in premo condition then! I felt at the time that the guys to the south of the Auckland Federation who took them on the journey south from Hamilton after Don Campbell had delivered them must have done a terrific job caring for them and on behalf of the fliers I thank them for that. I’m pretty sure that if I’d sent him to Invercargill that I would not have clocked him ahead of the single entry of the BCH I sent and clocked. In fact I think that I’d have dorked him. He had catarrh again and that was one of the factors that ruled him out. I’ve learnt over the years for 750 miles when not to send them. There’s always next year if he has the right form and health, perhaps first nest of the year. Having four squeakers off him already and his second hen about to lay again means that I’ll have a bit of his progeny to try out in the future.

2 year old BCH 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

2 year old BCH, 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

This little, slender BCH is off the hen I mentioned earlier 563 which I sent to Timaru in 2009 and 2010 viz just the one entry and got her. 563 was off a vandie cock and a straight Janssen hen. The hen above and below’s sire is a race cock of mainly Janssen bloodlines with a touch of vandie. They were a love pair in 2010. This hen had never been to the South Island before and was on eggs to another hen. Lightly raced as a latebred. She looked good and had been coming well prior to the Timaru. I considered her for the Invercargill, but again like the yearling BBH above, she had a slightly mucousy nostril and the muscle tone was too hard i.e there was no spring. I’m also glad that I didn’t send her, as there was a good chance that I’d have lost her or wrecked her for future racing. Perhaps if it had been a harder race she would have beaten the first two home. She might have done better in a headwind. However, the pigeons did well from Timaru as they had no tossing the whole season until the Monday the week of the Invercargill, our last race. Also they were prepared from a Ward race of 330 miles five weeks before and it wasn’t a hard race and about 7.5 hours for most of my Timaru entries. However, this hen didn’t have that race, so she really had seven weeks off from a steady workout race i.e. Plimmerton 260 miles.

2 year old BCH 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

2 year old BCH, 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

The last pigeon photographed here (last four shots seen below) is a two year old BCH which also was only raced lightly as a latebred in 2011 like the hen above. She flew both Timaru and Invercargill last year. So a really good effort. In the Timaru she homed early on the second day at 6.53am and I could see her coming back a long way from town i.e. she’d overflown with another fancier’s second day pigeon I’d expect. However, she looked really fresh and she never shows any sign of respiratory problems even in the slightest. She was the one when you think about it, that I might get from 750 miles. Might, of course, you always have to say!

She is a very quiet hen. In the race loft she was one of those hens which were mated up to me. She was quite rank after the Timau race and quite keen to get into the cocks (I mainly race sexes separated). It was a big ask to turn her around to the Invers and I gave all my candidates peanuts in preparation for it as the main thing was to get one in race time. I hadn’t fed peanuts for the Timaru. I started the peanuts about 10 days before the Invercargill basketing. I also mixed sunflower oil into the grain mix from about that time. That’s why it was so easy to get a heavy, big body on this hen. Given that management, she probably needed a 50 miler on the Monday prior to the Wednesday basketing. However, I didn’t want to ‘cook her’ i.e. overdo her, given her 560 mile race just recently. The main goal was getting her back.

Mac Armstrong actually gave his pigeons 50 mile single ups on the Monday and the Tuesday the week of Invercargill basketing 2012. They’d had a 480 mile Christchurch five weeks before the Invercargill and a stiff Raumati (280 miles) two weeks before the race. In 2010 Mac’s pigeons had two 480 mile races leading up to the main event of Invercargill. One of these 480 mile races was a tough one, the first one.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

I sent her away to Invercargill with plenty of condition on her and moderate weight, but not leady. She is a decent sized hen and a bit wedgy. She was absolutely shining and there was no point sending any of the others, they just weren’t right! It’s always a risk just sending one pigeon to such an extreme event but the reward is certainly there if it features well in the prize money ahead of some of the big teams. Perhaps if I’d given her more work than the one short toss then she may have gotten a few places higher than 6th.

She has a real smorgasbord of bloodlines in her, Janssen, Houben, the old dutch lines and the old vandie lines. A true crossbred one might say with some linebreeding to the vandies a little bit, just in the breeding of the dam. Some real cracker vandies in the dams breeding i.e. performance pigeons from Christchurch and Timaru. Pity I lost the dam in 2011 from Invercargill and this illustrates what a graveyard this Invercargill racepoint can be. It also highlights to me the importance of preparing your pigeons right with a 500 or 600 mile race within five weeks of the ultra marathon event. If you don’t do the minimum of that then its unlikely that you’ll succeed. Read all the blogs on this site under the index category of ‘Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts’. It’s all there. Please feel free to comment or email me at ferguselley if you have any questions for Mac as I’m in the process of doing another Elimar article i.e. an excellent site which I highly recommend.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

It will be interesting to see how she races next year. If we can get Stewart Island on the ARPF race programme perhaps I will send her there, as I have by no means burnt her out. She is on her second round down in the stock loft. She only laid one egg the first round which was probably because she was still getting over her marathon race, even though you wouldn’t think so handling her and looking at her back around Christmas last year. It’s a very nice squeaker. I will either only let her rear one more youngster and for just 2 weeks until feathered up and then let the cock finish it off. If both eggs hatch I will farm one of them out. The stock birds are starting the body moult as the days get shorter and the nights longer. We are in a real drought here, however, the days have been a bit cooler than January and February when the hot sun-baked the ground.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

Well, what else can I add in this marathon blog. Invercargill and hopefully Stewart Island are the main two races for me to aim for from now on. That’s my commitment. I’m learning under the ‘master’ i.e. Mac himself. Writing these articles really presses home how he actually does it and although I am limited in capabilities to give the pigeons road work due to my poor health, I will have to sort out that area and have others, like my good wife Helen toss the candidates for me later in the year. I won’t have a hope of beating Mac otherwise! Lucky I’ve got a loft cleaner, Kim.

Finally I ‘d like to add that although I call our Invercargill race the ‘New Zealand Barcelona’ there are a couple of differences that come to mind. Firstly, we use a breaking point which adds about 5% extra miles than airline to the distance. We do this for all our South Island races. It is from Foxton, which is about 50 miles up the coast from the bottom of the North Island, and we probably have it mainly because of the prevailing westerly winds. Secondly, we don’t have the huge numbers of the Barcelona International. Last year there were 130 birds which was our best muster in recent years. Manaia birds from up near Whangarei go up with the Auckland Federation liberation. Thirdly, we usually have a liberation between 6 and 7am or the pigeons are held over. This is essential and gives the pigeons the maximum chance of returning home either on the day or during the next morning. The latter is great for the public image of pigeon racing and will become more and more important in the future as the tide of animal welfare activism slowly rises.

If we can all obtain good enough stock to have a chance of getting the returns which Mac Armstrong normally gets and adopt his methods which he is sharing with all in sundry, then that will be great for the public image, too.

There is an article directly below this one, featuring an Invercargill to Auckland race report which gives more details. Please take the time to rate these articles (press the star to the right of the five stars if you think its awesome!) as when people do rate them it gives me great pleasure. All these articles take a fair bit of effort so any comments and emails are well received.  After all, as the saying goes ‘iron sharpens iron’ and I still consider myself a novice at these ultra long distance events in which when you prepare a bird right and perhaps have just an ‘ounce’ of luck can be immensely rewarding. The main reward being the ‘trophy’ of the pigeon returning in race time and then you can admire it and breed some latebreds off it. I’m sure plenty of you would like a squeaker off this hen who’s mated to an East Section Old Bird National Christchurch winner 2009 (450 miles) velocity 1182 m/min and is a real tough cock.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

Do you think latebreds are worth breeding and what education in the training and racing department would you give them their first year? Please share your ideas with all of us in the comments section below. I will just check your comment and then enable it for the site.

Breeding to improve II   Leave a comment

Yesterday I touched on discovering the weaknesses in lines of your birds when the supports of routine medication of the birds are thrown away. By this I mean particularly no antibiotics and no canker treatments. O.k., an individual pigeon might be treated occasionally but that’s about it.

So to reiterate, what is to be gained here. Well, starting with young birds, if the weak are suppressed in the nest and I’m only talking about a small percentage here in my loft, then immediately you’ve saved yourself time, money and space for a better equipped and reared pigeon constitution wise. Alright, there might have been one that went on to be a good bird, but what goals are we aiming for here? Do we desire and yearn for pigeons that need a lot of propping up in their breeding and racing careers, or alternatively a loft of pigeons that can stand on their own against most pathogenic challenges. Obviously I am not talking about very high mortality diseases such as Paramyxovirus. Theoretically it would be marvelous to have excellent racing pigeons that do not die and remain relatively healthy when exposed to the usual serotypes of this virus in pigeons. Perhaps some fanciers overseas have tried it, however, it would be an expensive exercise as far as deaths are concerned. It is a virus that in general has no mercy on its victims. Vaccination to protect all the pigeons is the only fair regime here, that is, if it is present in your country and your countries animal health regulators have certified an effective vaccine. The other concern around the world in racing pigeons are very pathogenic serotypes of Salmonella bacteria. Some fanciers around the world vaccinate their pigeons against Salmonella, too. These two organisms are real nasties. If there were problems here I would not be against vaccinating all my pigeons. This is totally different than blanket treatment with medications. For example in humans, vaccination against smallpox led to its eradication in 1979. It was a very nasty disease of high mortality particularly in children at over 80%.

But the mundane cankers in their wet and dry forms, Chlamydia and Mycoplasmosis, these are the endemic diseases I wish my flock of pigeons to be able to stand alone against. Are you willing and adventurous enough to give it a go? It isn’t for the faint hearted if you do embrace it and your medication programme in the past has been a strict one. The first year you try it you definitely won’t wean as many. Some of your breeders may break down, maybe even only on the first round and it is usually when they are feeding a lot of crop milk to the squabs. If for you it’s like my loft when I started in the 2011 breeding season and gave it a go, then most pairs will do fine, but overall they may take some extra care. You need to have the feeding sufficient. I give plenty of peas during breeding and a good level of mixed canary seed for the oils.

Well, let’s get back to those young birds and we’re up to their management after weaning. Nowadays I don’t show youngsters the water. In most cases the water system is the same as the stock sections. I usually note any that are slow starters with the tucker over the first three days, these may be the dummies. I definitely don’t mollycoddle youngsters nowadays, but I do like to feed them a lot of peas. It’s good for them to get used to all the grains that you feed. I would say that I am a heavy feeder volume wise. They have a lot of growing to do and at Summers end the body moult to tackle. The flight moult starts well before this even if they are reared in the first month of Summer. So good tucker, fresh oyster shell grit, sometimes table salt added. So that’s sodium, chloride and iodine from the salt and oyster shell grit which should contain calcium carbonate, the building block of egg shells at around 90%. I do not give the youngsters any pickstones or mineral blocks or powders. I do not think it is necessary. I feed about 5% chicken layers pellets in any food mixed up. There is one here that contains blood and bone and is supposed to get the hens laying better due to the higher protein. Quite a few minerals are in the pellets and of course all these brands of pellets contain a vitamin/mineral premix. Most commercial pellets, which anyone can also buy don’t contain blood and bone due to health regulations over ‘mad cow disease’.

So youngsters aren’t propped up, they are very well fed, no vitamins are given other than in the pellets and of course the grain’s natural ones. Youngsters are let out every day by my helper within an hour of sunrise and always just explode out of the loft. This is always a good sign and when the team of any age stop doing it things might not be as good with them as is desirable. Early on in the piece the youngsters are locked out of the loft until about 3pm. I live in the country, I don’t have any raptor problems, it is good for the youngsters to have these long periods outside in the fresh air every day and I don’t mind if they go up in the three Rimu native trees next to the loft or under it or pecking around in the paddocks. Once they enter the body moult phase they are got in about 1.30pm, any earlier they wouldn’t all come in due to the heavy feeding.

I will admit that a small percentage of youngsters do get sick but one must ask the same question as one asks if a few don’t grow in the nest, “why are all the other healthy, robust youngsters doing fine?” I think in general terms the answer simply is inferior genetics of those individuals in the nest or post weaning squeakers. The other factor is luck or chance, but these are factors that we can’t control and are part of pigeon racing and keeping per se. From my December breds, which were 20 in number, three got sick. One of these was off a love pairing of race birds. I killed it as it had dropped a lot of condition and didn’t look happy for a few days, it had internal canker. The other two I killed, one was off a breeding pair that breeds some of poor constitution, it had a moist nose after weaning and it didn’t look happy soon after weaning and I killed it about a week after weaning. The other was a very tough bird, it tried hard to beat its disease challenge, it had breathing problems, breathing was laboured and he struggled in the heat outside. When it went off its food I culled it and on pm the lung was infected (had the appearance of canker). It was probably a Chlamydia/Mycoplasmosis infection, they look visibly similar to dry canker. It was a nice strapping young cock. The parents had bred a nice hen in the first round in 2011 which I killed as she went down hill, on pm it was an internal canker.

I do not like seeing any bird suffer, however my policy now with young birds is no dosing apart from worms which I have done recently. It might sound cruel to some but the youngsters have to ‘sink or swim’. The end result in five years will be even tougher racing pigeons than I currently have which don’t require dosing apart from for worms. Three culled from 20 is 15% and I don’t think that is excessive given reports I have heard locally over the years and internationally i.e. young bird sickness.

Of course, knowing what illness a bird had through the pm exam is an advantage that many fliers don’t have and should learn. In fact it is quite easy to the layman given all the information and pictures available in books and on the net. Does it sometimes make me think I should medicate individual young birds? No, because I know that I must stick to the plan to achieve my goals. There can be no compromise, not with the endemic pathogens such as Chlamydia and Mycoplamosis and Trichomoniasis (canker). I am becoming better at not delaying the elimination of the sick bird which will only keep suffering to increasing degrees. Of course, some sick youngsters can pull through an illness challenge. I think ethically speaking it is a fine line between allowing a bird to face all the lofts immune challenges by itself and letting it suffer unduly. I guess this is why many people still medicate their pigeons a lot and I fully understand that position. They may think “we have the tools i.e. medicines, so why not use them”. They might approach the control of diseases in the loft from the philosophy “there mustn’t be any pathogens in the loft” or “they must be kept at low levels”.

The latter I’d agree with, but you’d be surprised how tough racing pigeons are in most lofts. They have to be considering the rigours of racing, especially if sent to the long distance, particularly 7 to 800 miles. The latter is also more ‘in vogue,’ as it supports the theory of allowing a gradual immune exposure over a period of time to build up a strong and experienced immune system. However the advantage of the no dosing system is that the immune exposure is likely to be greater i.e. the squeakers are tested more. I have plenty of breeding pairs the progeny of which never get sick. Obviously I’m onto something with my no dosing programme.

So what led me to this more radical approach to keeping pigeons. This approach is really akin to how things were years ago when I was a boy and most people only wormed their birds. Actually it was because I ran low on medication! I also noted whilst dosing pigeons individually, that half my pigeons didn’t develop clinical signs of e.g. a respiratory problem prior to dosing. These birds were cohabiting with birds that had moist nostrils, there might have even been a case of one eye cold. So I decided to experiment. I knew others were doing this too i.e. not dosing, perhaps giving some treatment once in a season prior to the big race they were really aiming for. They were also giving natural products, cider vinegar in the food or water, garlic products were the main ones. I haven’t found that these products make much of an impact on pigeon health, so although I’ve tried them as well as kelp, wheat germ oil, brewers yeasts, probiotics and other fancy, expensive products, I choose not to use these things. I’d rather spend the money on feeding the birds very well and rearing a few more youngsters with the hope there is a cracker amongst them. A cracker racer and or a cracker breeding pigeon that will help me reach my goals.

Incidentally the water the birds get is roof water. I add nothing to it. I drink it unboiled at times but our household drinking water is boiled. I think the birds get plenty of extra bacteria through their water intake to replenish the flora in the gut if an imbalance occurred. I’ve used probiotics in the past. I’m not convinced about them yet. The odd loose dropping is not a concern to me plus I’m not wiping out the good bowel bacterial flora with antibiotics.

Remember that everything you prop the birds up with hinders your selection pressure of finding the birds that are the best immune system wise. Probiotics often contain acid nowadays. Don’t you think that it is more logical to find the pigeons that have naturally higher alimentary tract acid than average and hence can ward off rising levels of pathogenic strains of E.coli or Salmonella much better? I guess it would be even hard for me to test for this, but if we look at wild birds that have evolved pretty tough digestive systems over the eons of evolution then wouldn’t it be better to attempt to change the makeup of our pigeons in this department.

Vultures come to mind with their very acid stomachs and tough gut linings, which seabirds must have too i.e. particularly very tough gullets, required for swallowing fish. Shouldn’t we be attempting to design a better racing pigeon through our breeding and selection programmes? I think it is much harder to improve one’s genetics by propping the birds up. You are operating at a much lower selection pressure. You are masking the birds inherent ability or lack of it to withstand disease pathogens and remain healthy. You can’t see for sure which are the tougher pigeons amongst your best racers on an intricate medication programme and everything used to prop the birds up reduces the selection pressure.

I guess the same could be said in the illustration of weather conditions for liberations and the ensuing race. If the birds never go up ‘when there is a cloud in the sky’ (this is a joke of some in my area) then it’s not the same test as if it’s a mixed bag of liberations including some crap or dodgy ones. However, as we all know, it is the public image of the sport and welfare of the birds that is paramount in our liberations. We are better off without the crap and dodgy liberations. If we want a strong test of the birds then how about trying 7 to 800 miles or more? Even on the rare blowhome you get, when the best pigeons make it on the day, they are certainly not blowhome pigeons, not from that distance.

Perhaps that is a good place to close. We have opened up plenty of ideas and thoughts which can be revisited in future blogs. Thanks for taking the time to read. Any questions or comments please use the comments option below and feel free to email me at I don’t for one moment consider I have all the right answers, it is just my story and experience with my pigeons the last two and a half decades or so. It’s a ‘work in progress’. Get stuck into my ideas if you like. I’ll probably enjoy that!

Finally I welcome any articles any of you may wish to contribute on these or any other topics.

Posted February 27, 2013 by ferguselley in Breeding better pigeons, Ferg's birds

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