Archive for the ‘Ferg’s birds’ Category

ARPF Ward Race 18th October 2014.   2 comments

Steve Archer with his hard ARPF Ward winner 18th October 2014, a 3 year old BBH 639 .

Steve Archer with the Archer’s hard ARPF Ward winner 18th October 2014, a 3 year old BBH 639.

The Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation (ARPF) held its first Federation race of the South Island series on the 18th of October 2014. At basketing some fanciers were already picking that the weather would be pretty bad for Saturday if the pigeons were let up. However this wasn’t the forecast for perhaps the first 25 to 30% of the race depending on whether one was a back marker or a front marker.
The problem that some people could see was that a ‘weather bomb’ might hit the race birds in the later part of the race. For back markers that could be about 220km i.e. 35% of the race and for front markers considerably less, about 100km i.e. 20% of the race.

Of course weather forecasts do change and this was Thursday night. Weather forecast viewed just prior to liberation can also be wrong in some instances.

The night before the anticipated Saturday liberation I viewed the metservice rural and 3 day rain forecast to see how things were looking. It actually appeared like there might be a narrow window of opportunity for a race that produced a fair percentage of pigeons home on the day i.e. 50% on average to ARPF lofts. Call me ‘optimistic ferg’, but I think many of us are naturally of this ‘ilk’.

The next morning I rose early and assessed the weather online and thought, there is a possibility that the pigeons would be let up, however, for the mid and back markers pigeon’s sake, it could be seen as a bit risky. Of course the first 25 to 30% of the race was highly likely to be good weather (including the treacherous Cook Strait) and a later video of the Ward liberation shows that the pigeons went up in sunny conditions with plenty of blue sky in a light nor-west wind. So one could surmise that the most important box i.e. reasonable conditions over the Cook Strait was indeed definitely ticked.

When later a post was made on the Federation site my eyes and mind misread it, it said AUCKLAND – HAMILTON AND MANAIA LIBERATED AT 7.15AM, but I had to do a double take as I did not see the word Auckland the first time. I had been convinced that the Auckland pigeons probably would not go up. However, at the same time I could see that there was still a possibility of a fair race to the liberated pigeons. Perhaps those involved with letting the pigeons go had seen something others including myself hadn’t.

So, I hoped that it still would be a good race and that there wouldn’t be too many empty perches that night for everyone. On the closed Facebook pigeon chat site I wrote “Good luck everybody! 7.15am lib. 8 hours to my place maybe i.e. 3.15pm, earliest 3pm but very unlikely, more likely 3.45 to 4.15pm i.e. 8.5 to 9 hours. Keep watching the rain radar but they would have had a good start for several hours or so. Get your gumboots out!”

The Archer Loft. Steve and Magda have shifted since the 2014 Ward race.

The Archer Loft. Steve and Magda have shifted since the 2014 Ward race.

Well this is what transpired at my place that Saturday afternoon. By 2pm it was raining at my place, but just light. From 3pm it was on the light side of moderate. Also by 3pm my back was wet through (even though I was wearing a thick coat) as I was looking to the south and the wind was from the north. At 4pm the skies turned dark grey/black to the north about 8km away and the wind picked up to moderate to strong northerlies. At this stage I thought that we are now in for a shit dunger and that only a few pigeons would make it home on the day, even to my loft and I was the front marker in this race! It would depend how far down this ‘weather bomb’ was tracking and when family came down the farm I asked my wife to look at the rain radar. When she returned with a hand drawn diagram I could see it was down as far south as Pio Pio and even parts of Aria i.e. about 140km from my place in Onewhero.

After a while I started looking north, sitting down all the time since by this stage it had worn me out. Sure enough a few minutes before 6pm a pigeon could be seen a long way in the distance coming back from the due north and obviously it had gone through with other pigeons and likely once it had got to the other side of the Waikato River somewhere it then realised that it needed to turn around. That was a 2 year old BCC 314; he finished 5th Flock East Section. Another two pigeons came about a minute apart about 10 minutes after 314, they were both hens. Both pooled, the first hen 1118 had scraped her wing, so she had done really well.

So for me, just the three home on the day from 50 sent and it was an early rise the next morning to greet each pigeon that came home. In the end I lost 12 of the 50 sent. Usually I don’t lose any from this racepoint. Apart from the weather conditions enroute my losses can be explained also by a number of features.

Firstly the Federation programme had cut out the usual first Bulls two day basket race. We had had a not so good for quite a few pigeons Bulls race the previous Old Bird season and this had put some people off having Bulls on the programme. Secondly, (and I agreed with the principle of this decision), the first scheduled two day basket i.e. the 7th race on the Old Bird programme was cancelled due to a bad storm forecast for that weekend, so in my case the pigeons got nothing that weekend and I am not able to train them. However, full credit to the ARPF team they arranged a Bulls race the following weekend in addition to the scheduled shorter Raetihi race. Some Federation members took advantage of this and raced the Bulls. I didn’t as the first Federation race from Raumati was the following weekend and I didn’t want to flatten them. As it turned out we had a good Federation race from Raumati and that got a lot of pigeons off to a good start.

Here’s some food for thought, an alternative way to proceed with racing after a key race weekend is cancelled would be to race that racepoint the following week and thus return to the scheduled programme. This would lengthen the season by a week, however, I think it is something worth discussing in meetings by those with the health to attend them (until the ARPF provide video conferencing for the infirm like myself). Race fitness is attained by the steady, gradual build up of the distance. To me that would be a better method than putting a two day basket on the week before the first Federation race.

Jim Cater, a West Section flier had the best returns in the results after the two days allowed for this Ward race. The West had raced from Raumati the weekend of the storm when Auckland racing was cancelled. They hitched a ride with the South Waikato pigeons. They had a good race, as the weather, although showery, allowed a liberation on the Sunday. This obviously helped the West pigeons reach a better level of match fitness for a hard race like this Ward race was.

Full credit to Steve and Magda Archer’s pigeon which won this Ward race by a long, long way (almost an hour). The East Section Futurity Yearling was won by Peter Longville senior and Jim Cater did the double in the West Section which meant he had won 6 West trophies by this stage (and he wasn’t finished yet!). In fact, if there was an overall result, Jim Caters pigeons would have taken the next three places after Archer and with further distance to fly than many, an excellent effort!

Please have a look at the results for the East and West Sections of the ARPF Ward by scrolling down to the Ward result blog on the 28th December last year.

As far as the East result goes, of the 328 pigeons sent, there were just 13 pigeons home on the official result sheet on the day i.e. 3.9%. In the West Section, 5 pigeons from 198 i.e. 2.5%, of course in general their distances are greater, although not the greatest.

I think that everyone participating in the race would agree that this is not brilliant; however, it is likely that not everyone would have been in agreement as to whether the pigeons should have instead been held over. There is no way of knowing for sure that day returns would be so bleak for a race ranging from 505 to 626km’s i.e. it was not really a long distance race at least in my mind, even for the back markers, so perhaps the risk of a ‘weather bomb’ was under estimated. All the same, run the race another day with exactly the same forecasting and on that particular day returns could well be much better, so it’s a very difficult one.

Steve Archer outside the Archer's new loft at their new residence (looks impressive!) holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner and trophy it won.

Steve Archer outside the Archer’s new loft at their new residence (looks impressive!) holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner and trophy it won.

I think that there are two key factors why the race did not pan out as expected. Firstly, the misty, showery murk, probably from Whanganui northwards blanketing east to west across the island, with likely mainly less than moderate northerly headwinds and secondly the weather bomb, which perhaps exploded a bit earlier than expected into the final section of the race and travelled further south than expected, acting for many pigeons like a ‘gate’ between Kawhia Harbour and the west side of Hamilton City i.e. Mount Pirongia etc was completely hemmed in and to the south as far as Aria by around 4pm.

However, the bulk of the North Island looked reasonably good on the rain radar prior to liberation. With a front approaching from the north you are always going to get murky, showery conditions extending a lot further down the country. The weather was quite clear from Ward to somewhere perhaps almost as far north as Whanganui, so the pigeons had a good start and it was up to them whether they crossed the Strait with enthusiasm while enjoying the pleasant ferry crossing conditions in only light north winds. They also encountered these over land in the North Island for some time, perhaps to the northern border of the King Country i.e. just south of Aria. However as I mentioned before, there was this likely blanket of murk, mist and showers making it slow going through the many hills and valleys enroute.

I wouldn’t say that the liberation for this race was a poor one, it just wasn’t in my mind a really good one (due to the weather bomb risk factor) and it’s likely that every man and his dog in the ARPF both before and after this race would have an opinion on this one!

It could be that Steve and Magda Archer’s 3 year BBH 639 got around this ‘gate’ by taking a route through Hamilton with perhaps some Hamilton pigeons which were liberated with the ARPF’s, or it could simply be that it happened much earlier in the race somehow. All I know is that it was a terrific, gutsy effort by 639 and that all the other pigeons were ‘also-rans’ in this particular race. To win the East section against another 327 pigeons by 55 minutes is no mean feat and we must take our hat off to both the pigeon and the fanciers. Steve is blessed with a wife who enjoys the pigeons and they enjoy the many facets of the hobby together. Good luck to them at their new position over towards the firth of Thames! Also good luck fishing, Steve’s other hobby!

Steve and Magda Archer at the ARPF Young Bird Futurity prize presentation back in 2012. This was Steve's first year back in racing and view the article Stevo's back on this blog for further details. The Archers also won our second longest distance race in 2013 i.e. the ARPF Timaru. So 3 OPEN Fed wins in 3 years, no mean feat!

Steve and Magda Archer at the ARPF Young Bird Futurity prize presentation back in 2012. This was Steve’s first year back in racing and view the article Stevo’s back on this blog for further details. The Archers also won our second longest distance race in 2013 i.e. the ARPF Timaru. So 3 OPEN Fed wins in 3 years, no mean feat!

I’d like to thank all those involved in the running of this race. It wasn’t what most of us were banking on but it was another one under their belts for the rest of the South Island programme that lay ahead. I think it also shows that if say for instance when the little truck is down at Christchurch for a club race or the Old Bird National, then Ward is a relatively safe option for a plan b or c when we are presented with unfavourable weather conditions for our Christchurch races over any given weekend e.g. moderate or stronger east or nor-east winds in the South Island, Christchurch and north of, plus or minus one other factor e.g. gale headwinds over the Cook Strait any time during daylight on the anticipated day of release or drizzle and murk/mist along much of the South Island flight path corridors north of Christchurch.

This race showed that if the Cook Strait is good, then many of the pigeons return to their lofts within a few days of liberation, even if a worse case scenario weather forecast pans out as it did in the case of this Ward race. Assuming the overall losses from this race were 20 to 25%, then compared to the likely losses from last year’s Christchurch Old Bird National of perhaps around 75% given just 11.5% (34 pigeons) were clocked in three days from 294 pigeons released in the East Section race, then I think my argument of ‘if in doubt’, after trying for a liberation from Christchurch for two days then the little truck should drive to a shorter release point, somewhere along the Kaikoura Coast or even as far north as Ward for a possible mid morning release after watering the birds.

Incidentally we are looking at an extra 45 minutes or so in day length in late November early December than mid October and although an e.g. Ward race doesn’t guarantee freedom from heavy losses, if the Cook Strait is reasonable, then well over half the pigeons are likely to make it home in a few days. In the Ward race of the 18th October 2014 the figure was 57% to East lofts and that doesn’t take into account the situation where fanciers disconnect their clock well before leaving for strike off and any fliers that for whatever reason, don’t present a clock, even though some pigeons are home.

Your thoughts and wise comments are welcome below in the comments or on any of the Facebook forums this article is published in. Alternatively email me at or message me on Facebook Fergus James Elley.

Any of you (including overseas readers) who would like to ask Kerry Frazer some questions about pigeon racing, especially the long distance please email them to me or pop them in the comments section below please. There are some blogs in the pipe line on our last year’s Invercargill race which Kerry won along with the Old Bird National from Christchurch.

Steve Archer outside the Archer's new loft from an another angle again holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner. Steve likes flying the long distance. Steve and Magda will fly the 2015 Old Bird season in the Pukekohe Pigeon club, the same club as the writer.

Steve Archer outside the Archer’s new loft from an another angle again holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner. Steve likes flying the long distance. Steve and Magda will fly the 2015 Old Bird season in the Pukekohe Pigeon club, the same club as the writer.

My journey in pigeons.   8 comments



Dad in holiday mode!

Dad in holiday mode!

Everyone has a journey in pigeons and this is the start of mine and I welcome you to read it. I had my first five years in Tawa, Wellington, New Zealand. As a little boy I loved chickens, we raised and cared for them, even using an old concrete water tank to do so at one stage. Dad, a Presbyterian Church Minister and a country boy from Hunua, Auckland, worked at the Porirua Mental Hospital down there, that’s what they called them in those days. He also did work for the Arohata Women’s Borstal down there around that time.

Like most little boys it was always a thrill when Dad arrived home from work and he’d attend to his chickens and garden and we’d help him. Dad’s pancreas had a bad viral infection not that long after I was born and he became an insulin dependent diabetic making his life a challenge for him and especially for our Mum! But he still ‘flew his kyte high’, naturally with a good woman behind him!

Not long after I’d started school at Tawa Primary, Dad got the invitation to be the Presbyterian Minister at the Khandallah Presbyterian Church up in the hills below Mt Kaukau overlooking Wellington harbour. It was one of the posher areas of Wellington. Dad had pastored in a previous parish in Wanganui before I was born and had done very well there.

Khandallah Presbyterian Church, I'd like sneaking up and ringing the bells for a laugh!

Khandallah Presbyterian Church, I’d like sneaking up and ringing the bells for a laugh!

My mother Val was trained as a ‘deaconess,’ the female equivalent of a woman minister back in those days. They had met while training at Knox College down in Dunedin i.e. a ministers training place. Mum was from a prim and proper churchie home background (lawyers) and Dad from a more dysfunctional background, his father Jim having lost his health sometime during or after the First World War whilst serving as a naval officer. It’s possible he had an over active immune system like me and burnt himself out (I have debilitating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Either way, the old codger lived to 94 and he had settled onto 20 acres in Hunua, Auckland which the government had given him after the War with his wife Georgina, the mainstay of the family and they raised four children, Dad being the eldest.

Dad's parents grave. I led the old codger, grandpa Jim Elley to the Lord three months before he died at 94. I look forwards to seeing him in heaven further down the track!

Dad’s parents grave. I led the old codger, grandpa Jim Elley to the Lord three months before he died at 94. I look forwards to seeing him in heaven further down the track!

At Khandallah I had my own bantams in their own shed and Dad had layers in battery cages which would get out for a scratch around in the garden on his day off, Mondays. It took quite a while to convince my parents that I could have pigeons.

Back in those days there were no laws to stop kids travelling around by themselves and we wouldn’t even know what a child molester was and from a very young age I’d travel into Wellington by myself or with a friend by train. Most of the time we’d sneak on for free.

I remember trying to catch pigeons as a little boy down at Wellington railway station with a cardboard box and a bit of string and grain, but naturally they were too quick for me. I also remember family visits to Pigeon Park in Wellington from a very young age. Obviously something fascinated me about them. Another time I found out some old ladies near Khandallah shops had a problem with pigeons sitting and crapping on their roof. I tried several times to catch them on the roof at night having climbed up a big ladder. Again to no avail, I just scared them off.

Pigeon Park Wellington 1930, a bit before my time. One of my childhood loves.

Pigeon Park Wellington 1930, a bit before my time. One of my childhood loves.

After that I think my Mother convinced Dad to build me a little pigeon loft. It was on stilts on the concrete play area that the manse had (Presbyterian minister’s free accommodation). It was only about a metre wide and the rest of it even smaller. We got some pigeons off a guy in Miramar near the Airport, a bit of a drive from where we lived. He was an Asian guy. He said “don’t let them out”. Probably the first big storm that came along the little loft got blown over and wrecked and of course we didn’t see those pigeons again!

The next loft I had was a small shed; Dad probably had chickens in it beforehand. One of the places I got pigeons from was up behind Onslow College somewhere. Some boys were going out of pigeons, racers and of course this was very exciting for me. I remember bringing them back by train with my mate Timothy Prescott including a big squab in an open cardboard box much to the awe of a few of the passengers. Those were pigeons I really liked the look of and the bug had really bitten!

I had plenty of success breeding babies off these pigeons and sold a whole lot when we moved up to Auckland where Dad had changed jobs to be a Bible College lecturer in Auckland at Henderson. Naturally having a father as a minister was embarrassing at times and Dad had already embarrassed me in Wellington by turning up with another church man from another brand at Raroa Intermediate School Assembly wearing the full ‘preacher gear’ including the white ‘dog collar’. My teacher, a lovely Mr Langridge at the time said to me from the side aisle, ‘Fergus aren’t you going to stand up for your father?’ Which of course made it worse for me!

Dad obviously enjoyed being in the ministers suit with the dog collar on his wedding day!

Dad obviously enjoyed being in the ministers suit with the dog collar on his wedding day!

I only took two pairs to Auckland, a pair of racers and a pair of whites. I was 12 by that stage. I attended Henderson Intermediate and when the teacher Ollie Green found out that I had pigeons he suggested we build a cage and keep them in the class high up near the ceiling. We thought it was quite cool as we could let them out in the class. There’d be the odd crap during that time and we also bred them there, that was 1974.

We bought our first house later that year in Te Atatu North and I started out at Rutherford High School in 75. I was a pretty bright boy and the school ran an advanced class which meant that you skipped the fifth form. I joined the Henderson pigeon club and Graham Abercrombie often used to take me there. The following year I got my driver’s licence. Les Gale a friend of Dad’s from the Church circles provided birds and I also got a good hen off my Uncle Jim, Vaughan Jones bloodlines and I had success pairing it to a Mealy Cock from Les.

So there’s the start of my humble pigeon life. I hope to add more episodes of my racing pigeon experiences in the near future.

Dad passed away about 18 months ago at the ripe old age of 87. Many people have commented either to my face or behind my back that I was the way I am because I am a ministers son. What a load of garbage. I was a rebel in my teenage years and kicked over the traces big time. I even vowed to never become a born again Christian and yet that is what I have been for almost three and a half decades and loved every minute of it despite poor health for the bulk of that time.

Dad didn’t deserve the abuse he got, as he met hardly anyone in pigeon racing here in Auckland and I just put it down to people’s ignorance, narrow mindedness and rejection of God’s free gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. I’m a fool for Jesus, who’s fool are you??

Here’s some shots of Dad the funny man. The sweetest man I’ve ever known with a great sense of humour and a very funny speaker (people told me so).

Always up for a laugh!

Always up for a laugh!

Good one Dad!

Good one Dad!

A distant relative?!

A distant relative?!

Rest in peace Dad, till the last trumpet sounds and the graves are opened!

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?

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.