Archive for the ‘Ferg’s birds’ Category

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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Blog and Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation (ARPF) update.   1 comment

Its been a while since I blogged. There are a couple of blogs which I’ve put on the site a while ago, this is a site I write for when I am able to and is an excellent site. I will place them on this site in the next few days depending on how my health goes. These include another article on Mac Armstrong and a race report on the 2012 annual Invercargill to Auckland pigeon race. Upcoming Elimar articles by myself are one on a top Auckland flier Theo van Lier and another has questions for Mac Armstrong from nz and U.k. fanciers. If the forementioned blogs don’t appear soon then just check out the Elimar site and search Fergus Elley or Mac Armstrong if you like the extreme distance racing!!

If you happen to have any questions for either flier just mentioned don’t hesitate to ask one in the comments section below or email them to me at

Fliers in Auckland are gearing up to fly the 2013 young bird season. I didn’t have anything hatch until December, but have some lovely youngsters. I might have my wife train up a couple of dozen of them with untrained yearlings of about the same number. I will wait until the birds are through the body moult which has just started.

I have only treated these youngsters with hi mineral matrix to eliminate internal parasites, none were seen. This doesn’t mean there were no hairworm. I have culled a few youngsters which weren’t up to it constitutionally. It certainly is the time of year to breed i.e. December hatched and onwards through our warm dry Summer and I expect some ‘crackers’ amongst the birds I’ve bred. But I will be patient with them.

I’m really only interested in the long distance now, particularly 560 miles (Timaru) and 750 miles (Invercargill). I had a pretty good old bird season, winning 3 of the 7 Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation trophy races. Considering that I didn’t give a canker treatment until a fortnight before our last 3 races I feel that I achieved something. Mac doesn’t dose apart from for worms. Long distance pigeons need to be really tough and he hasn’t antibiotic or canker treated for well over a decade now apart to some bought in birds which got canker.

I feel that it is an achievement that I didn’t use antibiotics last year in old birds. I’m quite pleased with that. It does give an idea which lines of birds are the toughest immune system wise from a genetic perspective. Doesn’t seem to matter if the birds are closely linebred or crossed, some birds just never show signs of breaking down and remember I’m a Veterinarian by training and I see things that many don’t, even without using a microscope, although I do have one.

I have also not treated my breeders with canker drugs or antibiotics the last 2 breeding seasons. I did treat the breeders against internal parasites recently and gave them some old baycox. There were some loose droppings and some birds were looking for salt which I’ve since been giving, just iodised table salt added to the fine oyster shell grit that I give them. I also have used Clements tonic at times during breeding in the water. I used this during racing in old birds too and even gave the odd bird some individually at times via a crop cannula and syringe. It can be effective in drying up runny noses. I use the green one with selenium, ginseng and ginkgo. This one probably supports immune system health better than the red one which contains iron.

I hope eventually to just have pigeons that need water, good feed, worm treatments occasionally and no other flock treatments. If you want to shift to the no dosing regime then if your loft has been treated for many years I suggest that the first year at least that you perhaps treat some birds individually with medicine as required. I haven’t done this with my racers last old birds but last year in young birds I decided to treat them leading up to our young bird National, the last race. I had prepaid as you have to, otherwise I would have stopped racing and let the birds clear themselves of any respiratory illness or wet canker. From April my loft environment changes from one giving superform very easily, to one which is a struggle to achieve form with unless there is dosing. It gets cold and windy here in the Onewhero hills and the roofing iron needs some internal insulation to eliminate condensation under the roofing. The lofts are also shaded by trees, which is good in the Summer. The roofing is alternating sheets of zincalume and polycarbonate. In Spring I get super form with the current situation. From October when the temperature and humidity increases the current loft situation isn’t perfect. Over this last Summer I have placed extra sheets of roofing iron on top of the polycarbonate to shade and cool the loft down and the loft doors are opened from mid afternoon to keep the temperature cool i.e. warm but not hot. Thus the humidity percentage is lower and this helps keep respiratory disease at bay by and large.

One thing that I will mention is that the birds had no training the whole season until the week of the Invercargill race in early December. This was just a 15km Glen Murray single up of the 6 birds that I was considering. Given that 750 miles to me shouldn’t be taken lightly, I in the end just sent the one bird, as did David Moors, his finishing 3rd and mine bird 6th. This 2 year old BCH of mine had flown Timaru-560 miles 2 weeks before. I have a youngster off her and 2 fresh eggs which I plan to feed out and let her moult out. I put her to a pretty good long distance cock. I am tossing up whether I will permanently stock her. I also bred off 6 other yearling race hens, mainly mated to stock cocks. Just a round each.

In reflection on the season last old birds I’d have to be happy with the results given the next to no dosing. It probably will take another 5 years (if I am spared) to hone onto the genetics within my own loft which lean towards stronger immune systems and gears the loft up to a high percentage of individuals which don’t need the standard treatments which most people give, some in abundance I might add! I already have alot of individuals that don’t show signs of breaking down the whole season and I’m aware of a couple of Janssen lines which are weaker in this department and can’t be raced as hard on just a deworming treatment regime. In 2013 old birds I plan to have some tossing for the long distance races. I was thrilled with the 2nd and 3rd from Timaru and 6th from Invercargill, but I would conclude that to perform well at the distance and I mean super well, as Mac does and Theo did from Timaru, that you just have to do it even if it is only 10 to 30 milers. If the weekends races or training flights on the Federation truck while away racing are on the nose enough at times, then you might get away with just plenty of loft flying and perhaps very short tosses. It is hard racing pigeons with this severe chronic illness. I don’t drive much so rely on my wife to train up young birds e.t.c. I’ve also, since January 1st this year, given up the anti inflammatory pain killers which I’ve been on for over a couple of decades and coffee too. I am choosing to grunt it out in painful times and its giving my liver a rest and there’s less rebound migraines.

In pigeons also we must always remember that nearly all medicines put pressure on the pigeons liver i.e. the organ of metabolism. The folk that dose alot need to take a step back and consider this and amongst other things, the future of their loft genetics. You won’t find the weaker lines of birds (immune systems wise) during breeding or racing, unless you allow a greater selection pressure of only deworming the birds. Remember, you can always find a compromising system by marrying the system that I am using with the use of a personal microscope or sending samples to a lab for analysis. This is to be favoured over ‘blind treatments,’ which I did for many years. Notwithstanding the terrific results my loft achieved at times in 4 different Auckland locations as an adult.

I will say though, that individual dosing would be my choice if I ever went down the dosing path again. This also allows you to select over a period of years for those individuals that don’t need the dosing (every loft has some of them). This way, you can still retain the lofts speed and endurance, as you have the choice to not breed off individuals that are less hardy immune system wise. Or if you choose to breed off such birds because they are superior for other reasons, then select from the offspring, those with a hardy immune system and tested by basket performance. This also enables the balancing of immune system defects when planning a mating by using a mate which has a hardy immune system. Of course there are environmental factors which help an immune system strengthen and gain antigenic/pathogenic experience. However my belief is that inherent starting material at the pigeons conception are highly heritable, even if it is a hard graft in the breeding loft achieving a high level of immune system hardiness throughout the whole loft.

I believe that it is a fallacy that all birds won’t achieve their potential without dosing. If you are serious about your lofts future, then perhaps you should look into it and consider my words and those of chaps like Ad.S on the matter seriously!

If you’d like to comment on any of the above it would be appreciated, just use the comments feature below or email me at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ferg’s Young Birds 2012 Update.   3 comments

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

'Here they come!'

'Off they go again!'

'Just cruis'in!"

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

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

The same happy couple.

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

Same hen, different pose!

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

Same cock.

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

This BCC also one of the 6 from Bulls.

Same cock.

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

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

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

BCH The Combine winner from Mahoe.

Same hen.

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

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

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

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

Young love, same pair.

Same pair again.

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

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

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

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

BCC 2nd Combine Raetihi.

Same cock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh God, it’s Young Bird Season Again!!   Leave a comment

Blue Chequer Young Bird Cock ex Janssen Cock to Houben Janssen hybrid Hen. He looks very much like his cousin 'No toe' from Old Birds 2011. In fact they are cousins, their mothers are sisters and both off the good hen 219. Photo courtesy of Kim Anisi 6th March 2012.

A somewhat negative title some might think. Well it’s the truth for me, at least in part. The wrong time of year to race pigeons in the opinion of some and I can understand their argument completely. Their main reason being the moult, both the body moult and the moulting of primary and secondary wing flights and the tail feathers.

Unless one uses the darkening system to delay the moult then there can be some flight position problems at key times later in the season. To me, the darkening system is unnatural and I think young birds do much better healthwise with normal day length and plenty of sunshine. I did use this system once but not intentionally in 2008 as I had an overcrowded loft and it was the middle of old birds and it was the time to wean the first round of squeakers so I put them in an old builders shed which I had used for birds in the past. This shed had only 2 small windows and was shaded by big trees so the young birds did moult their primary wing flights slower than usual as it was dim inside most of the day.

Later on when racing finished they were shifted into the main loft which has polycarbonate sheets every second roofing sheet so in general it has a warm atmosphere with good sunlight on good days. They also decided while rehoming themselves the short distance that they’d camp out in a huge pine tree 100 metres away on a hill and they continued this habit throughout young birds. Seeing that I live in the country, the young birds could be out all day until feeding time in mid afternoon and thus they received plenty of sunlight and fresh air. They would charge off at great speed every so often from the great height of this old pine tree and I would hear them from my bed where I would be most of the time due to poor health. I named this lot “the tree sitters”, but the results were tremendous that young bird season in 2009 and I wish other mobs of young birds would do the same instead of hiding under the loft and mainly only taking off when I let the old dog ‘Sally’ out to bark at them!

Same Young Bird Cock as above during same photo shoot.

During the moult the birds are under alot of stress and it is unwise to have the birds on a ration. Mine are fed 3 times a day and I use a high protein mix with plenty of peas and some fat in there also via plenty of mixed canary seed. It is important to give the birds plenty of baths during the moult too. I don’t give the birds any expensive additives, tonics or pickstones. They simply get fine crushed oyster shell grit which is cheap, sometimes good clay which is free and things like pebbles, clay, plant seeds and vegetation when they are out wandering around in the paddock.

Leading up to the 2 day baskets which are races around 300km and upwards to my loft, some multivitamin may be used such as Clements tonic the day prior to basketing only. I feel the genetics of the pigeons and a nutritious balanced grain diet and plenty of exercise are of much greater value than expensive things used to prop them up. I don’t even use cider vinegar, garlic, yoghurt or probiotics and the water is untreated roof water. I simply haven’t experienced better results using these extra things. So my selection process is without such ‘add ons’ although feel free to use whatever takes your fancy within your Federations racing regulations. Perhaps if I wasn’t a poor man I might use such things again, but then perhaps not!! I reiterate, superior genetics are the key, not potions!!

Nestmate of previous Young Bird Cock at same photo shoot.

Getting back to the moult, some fliers pull either the 9th or the 10th or both prior to racing. Is it only me or could it appear a bit desperate to win if we have to resort to such means?? Better to just not send the bird if the 9th or 10th flight are in an unsuitable position and there is pain and reluctance to fly freely or if the 9th is quite short and the 10th is dangling (particularly in a big, heavy pigeon). There’s always a later race or another season for that bird and so what if it has a $10 ring on, surely you know when it can’t be the champion in that particular race, so why not back yourself and look after the bird! Therefore don’t send the bird if not in ‘tip top condition’ and remember “if in doubt, keep it out!”

Birds with only 3 or 4 tail feathers out of the 12 are best not sent racing either and this just reinforces the argument of some that we would be better off racing all ages of pigeons from spring onwards and forgo racing in the first half of the year. Perhaps we could promote the sport a bit more during that long break, visiting schools and so forth, food for thought indeed, after all the sports seriously retracting worldwide.

The alternative would be to shorten the race season here in NZ for young birds by starting after the body moult is done and dusted. Maybe late March/early April, depending on that years weather.

Another good-looking Young Bird Cock ex a Houben/Janssen Cock hybrid to a Janssen Hen. Photo taken at same photo shoot by Kim Anisi 6th March 2012.

Well, we have to work with what we’ve got, so here’s where I’m up to with my youngsters. Most fliers in our neck of the woods have late July or early August hatches seeing that the life rings come out on the 1st of August. My oldest are mid October hatch and the better ones are ready for racing now having had 11 tosses of which my wife has done the last 5 due to my poor health. I’ve lost one from 26 and culled one for health reasons, plus one which probably broke its radius and ulna i.e. forearm equivalent, which will probably not be a great bird, nevertheless ‘soft fergie’ kept it. Also I am still not dosing apart from for internal parasites.

The birds are a picture of health. I am aware from tossing and observation that there are perhaps one or two with inferior constitution i.e. their constitution doesn’t appear rock solid. I will assume that either this small number will either “fly to freedom” or if not up to scratch for the rigours of racing, that after plenty of chances I may have to cull them out if they are still present in the team.

I am being honest here and the old adage of “throwing a handful of seeds into the ground” is that you come up with a “mixed crop”. Everyone breeds some inferior specimens and it is the fanciers duty to whittle the birds down fairly from the start in the nest. As a consequence there will be less strays dispersed around the countryside assuming good pigeons are only bred off and the management including training methods are reasonable, without being risky or inhumane i.e. a good fancier needs to be careful with the weather.

This fellas a henny looking Cock who's ex Janssen BCC 186 the Sire of BBH 1167 which was 1st Open Old Bird National Christchurch to Auckland 2005 in 11 hour 15 minutes and in the early 1100 m/min. She won by a 7 minute equivalent. A full brother of 1167 won a very hard Laurie Lane Old Bird Classic Christchurch for Ron Nee Nee in 2007. His bird was around 9am the second day and 5 hours ahead of the only other bird in race time! Dam of this BCC above is a Vandie base hen. Photo taken at same shoot.

On that subject this year’s breeding I have weaned at 70% whereas formerly it was around 90%. The difference being due to 2 things. Firstly, I am eliminating more of the weaker ones in the nest and secondly I haven’t flock treated my breeders at any stage during and before breeding. In fact my breeders have had no flock treatments apart from for internal parasites for around 18 months now and the birds are better for it. I have culled a low percentage of breeders, some of these quite old. The odd bird I give an individual canker treatment to during breeding which includes some youngsters though not that many as I’d rather that they show an immune response and beat it themselves. However some need help but are culled if they relapse with dry canker.

This policy has meant that because the solid immunity has been given the chance of developing in each individual bird that in the first few weeks after weaning I have only culled about 1 in 20 youngsters for health reasons. Most have stayed healthy and I put this down to no blind treatments and although some pairs couldn’t rear as many squeakers as others without dosing I believe I am on the right track for improving my lines of pigeons. We need to move away from the blind treatment philosophy of the past. Things need to be more scientific and better genetics searched for from the disease resistance angle and solid immunity built up from the nest.

So to reiterate, I am against the philosophy of treating the young bird team if 5 or 10% of the birds seem to have a problem. It is better to only treat individually and change management and genetics. If one does flock treat then correct laboratory diagnosis needs to be under taken and we shouldn’t hesitate to cull the odd bird. Every bird I cull I have a good look at the thoracic and abdominal cavity organs. The 3 sets of air sacs are also checked. When you know what is normal then alot can be ascertained quite quickly by post-mortem examination and fanciers should learn to do it.

If Paramyxovirus did come over here then naturally I would vaccinate all the birds. Other than that, only the odd bird is individually treated, but I don’t use antibiotics. I’m just talking about some canker treatment here. Eventually I hope to do away with all treatments apart from for internal parasites whilst keeping the welfare aspects at a high level. However, don’t think I am against proper diagnosis of pigeon ailments by sending samples away or consulting a Veterinarian for comprehensive laboratory tests and the resulting definitive diagnosis.

My feeling is that the pigeons are going to do better for me without the treatments in the mid to long-term. This was proved for me in old birds last year and my findings are the scope of another future article as the subject is quite vast. I will add though that you the fancier need to do what you are comfortable with in your local situation in your own country. Further, if you are a new flier I’d encourage you to read widely and discuss your options with experienced fanciers and seek Veterinary advice or assistance if necessary.

In my local situation we have 2 main races to aim for in Young Bird racing in the East Section, Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation. The first is the Young Bird Futurity and is currently a $10 ($NZ) ring race and the second is the Young Bird National which in Auckland is flown every second year and alternative years it is Christchurch’s race. This year the National is $50 per team of 3 with unlimited entries and deadline of 17th March 2012.

A lovely looking BBC ex a Janssen Cock and a Janssen/Houben hybrid hen. He's a cousin of the good BCH 'No toe' from Old Birds 2011. In fact their mothers are sisters and both off the good hen 219. Not a big cock bird and very similar to his sire who breeds excellent racers. Photo taken 6th March 2012 courtesy of Kim Anisi.

Posted March 16, 2012 by ferguselley in Ferg's birds

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Breeding to improve   1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Loft doings since Ward race   Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brother of the previous cock and he’s massive!

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

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

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

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

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

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