Archive for the ‘Food for thought’ Category

Update 2018.   Leave a comment


Hey welcome back! Perhaps its been a while, perhaps you started again recently and caught my recent blogs. I love blogging, there are not enough hours in the day for it!

Competition here in Auckland, New Zealand is still fierce! We are a dwindling number, In the 40’s now, perhaps was 200 more than that 30 years ago. I run 7 Facebook pigeon groups to promote the sport and entertain mainly kiwi fanciers with a bit of b/s, banter and comradery. Many like it. Just opened a public one with the main aim to get more people interested in keeping any sorts of pigeons especially here in new Zealand, with the hope of some of those getting interested in racers and joining one of our Auckland Federations 6 clubs. We have a Fed that is about 120 km’s north to south and maybe 30 to 50km wide max, so we are not that spread out really. It’s really time for the whole lot of us to fly as one body rather than keeping the very small west section going.

That group is ‘pigeon racing is awesome nz’ easy to find by a Facebook search, all welcome!

Its interesting looking back at the stats of this small racing pigeon platform. Starting off being dominated by New Zealander’s from 2011 at its inception to being overtaken the last 3 years significantly by USA viewers. It’s partly because I haven’t blogged much since 2014 but its an interesting observation. The New Zealand viewing numbers has declined whilst the USA has remained about the same. As said it’s just a small platform and the most views was in 2014, just under 7000 with visitor numbers each year always up to half or less the number of total blog views. I guess I need to blog a bit more…..

I had intended to cut the length down to 500 words maximum for readability. I haven’t tended to structure my blogs really, just go with the flow and even the very long ones of 3000 words or so probably really only take an hour or two to knock out with unprofessional finger typing skills. But its the editing and so forth and the final polishing to my high standard which has meant it sometimes could have been closer to 8 hours incrementally. Which is a reason why I have tended to not blog!

I guess some more structure could well be an improvement. If you do wish to send anonymous feedback email me see below or if you happen to find this on social media, please comment freely…..we all have to remember that Trump is the new normal!…..whether we like it or not…..that could be a good topic to have a yarn about with the USA visitors…..

My email is and phone is New Zealand 0224038481 and I do check voice mails. I really do have a heart for promoting this great sport of ours. Feedback is appreciated!

Hey good news, this one is exactly 500 words, now you can go and watch your favourite tv show!

Posted June 21, 2018 by ferguselley in Food for thought

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Being in the zone…..   Leave a comment


Those of you who got through my last blog did very well! I want to reiterate I don’t know much about pigeons, my ideas change from season to season, from year to year from decade to decade and we relearn old lessons and reconfigure our thinking…..Perhaps you have been in a rut performance wise, I’ve been there, we all have if we are honest!…..keep trying, you will round the corner, keep smiling, the key is to enjoy the pigeon dust, kidding, enjoy the roses…..kidding, enjoy the beer if you drink, not kidding…..enjoy each other unless someone irritates you incessantly, then enjoy beating them as much as possible!!…..but really, take time in your busy schedule so the pigeons are still a buzz, not a chore, good company, like when you were a kid when you marvelled at them! never lose that simplicity as that is where the joy is found, it’s true!…..but they may also be your troops, your soldiers, your darts, your arrows, your spears, your weapons of mass destruction even! (if somebody(s) really pisses you off)…..don’t let your pigeon experience ever be a drag…..don’t let the competition make you feel pressured…..listen to your gut when you know you shouldn’t do that toss with greenies because of bad weather etc…..listen to your gut when you know that if you lose that pigeon you will regret it i.e. don’t send it, put it into stock maybe…..and this is a key…..compete only against yourself! What does that mean, exactly what it says! Don’t worry about both losing and what the opposition are up to and what way the wind will be blowing etc…..that way you are much less likely to make a wrong move, to put a foot out and your pigeons then won’t be bashed trying to scramble up that slippery slope to steal the flag from the top and win the trophy, win the glory and feed your ego…..rather let fate gift you the win instead…..not because you don’t try but because you become one with your pigeons….your friends….you would indeed die for them… would rescue them from a burning car before a fancier you don’t fancy so much…..get my drift…..when you stop worrying about the opposition and play your own game then with an ounce of luck you will win more often and at times also win when weather etc dictates that you should not but somehow your pigeons still do!…..but if you don’t win it has still been enjoyable as you have let go of the stress of having to win!… are relaxed, you are in the zone!…..better said you don’t give an f’n toss where you come as long as they all come home!!


It is hard to keep winning. Lucky streaks run out sooner or later, sometimes we are more focussed than others. Perhaps something has happened at the club which got you annoyed…..of course often little dramas are just misunderstandings…..if you want a friend you have to be a friend and none of us are perfect!…..we can have good intentions but really it is impossible to get on with every Tom, Dick and Harry…..but a little bit of aggravation doesn’t hurt to get you motivated, focussed….. it might not be more training, it might just be your mind stays alert for longer when you are planning your pigeon racing, you are more able to see the big picture, of what really is important for success, success when it counts!…..nothing is guaranteed in pigeon racing though, even the weather on the day of the race…..but if your mind is sharper than normal it will be much easier to beat those whose minds have gone a bit stale, who perhaps are going through the motions, doing it how they normally would or did that great season of yesteryear…..but that might not be what is required to win this season?….. but if you stay focussed and in the zone then you are more likely to make the right decisions about all aspects of your pigeon management… are playing your game!!


Your involvement in your Federation, your club, with fledgling fliers or running pigeon social media groups can help you stay focussed as you are serving others, looking outward, being more organised…..helping new fliers with potentially good babies for them to fly, sound advice for them (from your 0.5% that you have!), being a wise, carefully listening sounding board, letting them ask stupid questions as well as not so stupid ones so they can learn…..teaching others helps you understand what you believe about different management techniques… helps you focus… stay in the zone more often to attune to an intelligent ‘pigeon brain’ teamed up with at times the ‘gut feeling’ about what you should do now and perhaps more importantly, what not to do!…..


Can we hone in intuitively on a potential successful new pairing?…..that’s an interesting question…..the biggest obstacle here of course is that the super pigeons are few and far between for any distance including short distance…..what’s your gut feeling about the pigeon stock that you have?? Have you got the right ‘cloth’ for the coat?… the feather right or could the genetics be much better? Have you trusted someone too much when buying pigeons or has mediocrity become a close friend?…..have you bought on performance alone?…..have you bought the champion or at the least direct children of a champion or champions?? would you be prepared to pay for something if it would improve your loft significantly or are you happy continuing with what you have despite the many years of line breeding?…..are we settling for mediocrity? these are all good questions…..surely improved genetics is always the best way to improve!…..and remember, the inferior pigeons eat about the same amount of tucker as the good and extremely good ones so go figure, but when was the last time that you had an extremely good pigeon middle distance and further? maybe you haven’t ever, why??

At the first pigeon auction I attended I didn’t even look at the pigeons, this was 1989. The guys father had spent some decent money buying birds for his son and it was a clearance sale, a true one!…..I paid $17 for one pigeon and $18 for another and the 6 or 8 pigeons I bought all bred them for me but the $35 pair are the backbone of all my pigeons as for example they are in Mac Armstrong’s BBC 219….. I didn’t look at any of them I just bought on performance as that was my gut feeling of what to do…..perhaps I was in the zone! Everyone else were giving them a real good looking over, I laugh to myself when I see the guys getting those fancy double pigeon eye glasses out!!…..

What are you in the sport for, do you want to win? Do you want to kick arse? Do you have something to prove to yourself and others…..well that’s a good start… the best you can but pick on performance, babies if possible if not one and two year olds, if they have been bred off there’s still a chance they are not a dud…..there is a lot of luck in breeding, a lot of luck…..breeding alot of babies always is an advantage, don’t believe the perfectionists who just want to breed 15 to 20 babies, there are probably some in the world that only breed that many and fly fantastically but I’m of the feeling that they are few and far between! Whether you find someone like that or not buy off the best pigeons, but don’t pay ridiculous prices, most bred are not the great pigeons, but also some of the not great pigeons racing wise can be very good breeders, usually they haven’t been dummies and are often a good physical type, perhaps they are siblings of the crack pigeon, perhaps not, perhaps they are a child of the crack, I would favour that over a sibling…..maybe you find a lucky click pairing like my $35 dollar Vandie base pair above, they bred a very high percentage of good ones, close to 100%, but they were yearlings too…..of course I didn’t really realise what I had back then…..I didn’t know that really excellent racers that will win at any distance are hard to come by!…..but I was in the zone enough to put a lot of progeny into stock but some got lost from the extreme distance too when they were not as right as when they had won before…..I was not in the zone when I sent them…..stupid!…..if you know they aren’t right don’t send them and if you know that you will be really pissed off if you lose a pigeon that you wanted for stock then simply put it to stock… won’t regret it because stock birds rarely die except from old age in my experience…..


So breed lots of babies from the best that you can afford, breed off all your race birds that is so long as they are reasonable, honest, you can get some surprises that’s for sure e.g. 1818 this year my best young bird 3rd OPEN FUTURITY and 3rd OPEN NATIONAL, his parents weren’t spectacular, very well bred though, both times he came with the winner, perhaps a lucky pigeon in part but more than that I think, time will tell…..try many combinations…..I am even wondering about love mating most of my stock pigeons later in the year…..I’ll have cocks of completely or mainly one bloodline in each of my 2 breeding sections and just go through all the stock hens and fish out those that might cross with them so long as those hens are in perfect health and just chuck them in…..remember, I don’t treat my stock pigeons for canker, respiratory bugs, coccidiosis and so forth, it is sink or swim and they are pretty damn tough and I think that helps me with the high stocking rates I usually have for my race birds i.e. they are tough too…..

There is so much luck in mating pigeons and the last few years I haven’t been that motivated to think of new pairings. Last year I put mainly the previous years pairings back together…..I might keep 5 pairs together…..they do say though that its good to change your pairings often, for one it leads to more diversity in the race team which you pick most of your stock pigeons from. I tend to agree unless you have a pairing like the 35 buck pairing I had in the 90’s…..then you keep it together…’d be silly not to, at least until the hen is about 8 and then she starts to throw a lot less good racers after that…..we need to be in the zone with our breeding…..but crossing is more likely to breed us more tough pigeons with hopefully some outstanding racers from those matings….but whatever system you like to use be happy with it, if not maybe change it…..some lines of pigeons can take more line breeding but usually sooner or later you need to bring some new blood in and see what happens. I linebred for 17 years up to 90% with a crack still popping up at times so the best lines are more than suitable for an outcross for example Mac Armstrong’s pigeons or now John Laybourn’s!


There’s alot of luck in pigeon racing and pigeon breeding but good fanciers generally make their own luck as they are hungry to win and prepared to make sacrifices of their time and money! Keep looking at improving your pigeon racing and breeding methods but remember luck is certainly a big factor! Give back to the sport that you love in whatever way that you can, perhaps you will win more because of that, perhaps not, but you will have helped run the show, helped fellow fanciers especially fledgling ones and those struggling. Avoid squabbles and contentious arguments rather being proactive, a ‘first stepper’ rather than a stone waller or a crank when there are problems in pigeon racing…… However, if after all possible avenues have been exhausted and it is just impossible to have even a casual friendship with those people(s) then by all means let that animosity keep you in the zone so that they are not the slave master and you retain your dignity and you let your pigeons do the talking!…..enjoy thrashing them especially when it counts, as simply put, that is what they deserve…..!! But try and do it with humility and if you believe in a ‘higher power’ then make sure you are thankful and let people know that power has showered blessing down on your team…..


Posted June 5, 2018 by ferguselley in Food for thought

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It doesn’t really matter part 2…..   Leave a comment

Well I guess what I wrote in part 1 seems  to be reinforced by the results for this years young bird season just concluded as nobody here in Auckland has ever won the double i.e. First OPEN ARPF Young Bird Futurity and First OPEN ARPF Young Bird National and just for the record ‘thanks be to God’ whom I know beyond doubt guided me and it is all Him and much less myself and in the future I plan to write on that season and indeed the last 12 months as the loft seems to have been on a pretty damn good roll!!

The results for the last 12 months are listed at the end of this article and I don’t list them here to brag rather simply to share my joy…..However as a very keen non Church going born again Christian (its been about 10 years since I’ve set foot actually in a Church!) let me just remind each one of us…..we scrap it out for tin cups etc and a bit of cash and the sense of earthly fulfillment in what undoubtedly to us fanciers is by far the greatest sport here on earth but take a moment to think…..if Fergie is indeed right about the need to be born again and joyfully follow the things of heaven and store up riches there rather than here, then in the light of eternity, why would we ‘f’ around here on earth in continued unbelief and procrastination as to the things of the Kingdom of God? Indeed this life is very finite and I don’t know about you but I want after this earthly pilgrimage to be exploring the frontiers of the galaxies of this Universe or of another dimension where the big bangs energy quite clearly came from as no other explanation holds any water!! Even the mathematics of the formation of complex early proteins and the first cells in the ‘primordial soup’ are so against it without the input of a ‘supernatural power’ who dreamt up the whole Universe and spoke it into existence…..

The Apostle Paul who was formerly called Saul and went about having early Christians executed in their scores including Stephen who was stoned (literally for you dak smokers) wrote about ‘running a good race’. As I wrote above we scrap and arm wrestle with our feathered friends for trophies that do not last….. so much more we should wrestle and scrap for the trophy of eternal life in a glorified body with the risen Christ starting at the party that will never end…..

I have tried different sorts of substances mainly as a young fellow and I can assure you there is nothing better than the feeling of Gods spirit inside you (I had an evil spirit inside of me for about 30 seconds as a rebellious teenager and that is another story) and if you follow this blog or know me personally then as I tell you physically I suffer from a moderate and at times severe illness (CFS), many recover from this but following pretty bad glandular fever at 16  my health was never the same again…..

Well most of you haven’t come here to hear the above yet despite a nasty physical illness having the spirit of Jesus in me works for me and transcends any physical suffering, its my ‘thorn in the flesh’ and it keeps me humble especially given many in pigeons can’t fathom it, its why no matter what I’m always happy!!…..

I spent most of the young bird season in bed. I trained up my own pigeons, there were 110 to start with and the last toss was a five hour round trip and that burnt me out completely again hence most of the season was in bed and I’m still getting over it as the season just ended about 3 weeks ago.

I am forever thinking about what to write…..I will add though I really don’t know five eighths of you know what about racing pigeons, 0.5% perhaps at most…..we are all learning and we all get shown up….. for instance I was too busy looking at all the work etc some of the opposition had leading up to this years Young Bird Futurity to realise that indeed the loft was right…..okay, perhaps a little luck, pigeons from 4 or so boxes came out after half of the 300 or so pigeons had flown out and 20 something pigeons from those 4 or so boxes just kept flying without circling which the rest did for about 15 minutes and probably the winners were amongst that small bunch…..of course even on overcast days isn’t that what pigeons are supposed to do, i.e. not circle but sprint for home with confidence?…..

I could have had the first 6 places in that Classic but 1806, one of the first 5 went into the tree next to the loft and clocked in about 4 minutes later to score 8th and still got prize money. 1806 is undoubtedly the nicest hen I bred last breeding season and she just returned i.e. on the 17th day from a very tough final race, our National. She was in perfect condition on sending and returned with over half her body and I don’t think she’s been in another loft……her nestmate sister and the next two rounds (4 cocks) were all going to go to stock I had decided given she had been MIA, but brilliant, gutsy pigeon to work her way home from wherever and the thrill of finding her there on the 27th of May far greater than ANY pigeon race I have won, whoop, whoop, as I am attached to all my pigeons, they are my children and deserve my love…..I also had another back yesterday in great nick, the 20th day, one I fancied, 6 to come now from 36 and more will come!

For me the inferior pigeons get forever homes where possible and if one returns at the wrong time, who cares, it actually gives me more satisfaction than winning i.e. rehoming them and some even go to a University where they get their ‘higher education’ and live out their lives till they die. I think its marvellous, you can call me a pussy if you wish but it’s just so satisfying…..of course for stock purposes they have to be pretty good or off the best e.g. that hen above 1806 and her 5 siblings which are all going to stock soon as they are off BBC 219, Mac Armstrong’s best ever pigeon and my gun hen 26! 219 was bred off my 172 and 243, so when I paid 1800 bucks for him at Mac’s auction (God bless him) I was simply buying back my own blood but I knew how good he was as Mac had told me what he was off and 172 was one of those very rare pigeons who was so ‘super smart’ and there’s a story there that I will save for another time…..

Let me just say before I focus on a couple of key points from last time. My best two pigeons 1818 and 1807 from young birds just gone are both cocks. 1818 was 3rd Futurity and 3rd National i.e. front bunch both races, one of 5 in the Futurity and one of 3 in the National (4 minutes ahead of 4th i.e. my 4th pigeon too, 1807 and 8 minutes ahead of the next loft so too far ahead really despite the next placed loft was 42km further as the velocity was 952 m/min). 1807 ended up 5th Futurity as the hen 1806 was in the tree, 4 had timed in and he arrived to take 5th, he’s off No Toe the gun middle distance hen from 2011, she’s here on the blog. 1807 scored 4th National too but was 4 minutes behind and 2 other pigeons were about another 6 minutes behind him to take 9th and 10th placings just outside the prizes. I think those 6 were probably all together with a 100km to go and my first 3 burnt the other 3 off as I have never seen pigeons attack the loft with such gusto, never! Incidentally I had prayed while waiting for that to happen, as in the first 3 races that season I was clocking the 2nd and 3rd bunch pigeons as the first bunch pigeons (as many as nine) were landing in the trees next to the loft…..poor management…..

Okay some key points from last time. I haven’t bothered covering the south side of the lofts openings for years now so in strong, wet, south-west winds the floor gets a little bit wet, if your pigeons can’t hack that even if the loft isn’t cleaned for a week then your pigeons are crap….get better ones!!

I have put the removable window in only several times the last couple of months on the north side as those sections aren’t young bird and are half deep litter most of the time and I will draw the line at flooding, even I don’t want a cesspool! But the pigeons need to be very tough, short, middle or long distance it makes no difference…..I would be spick and span if health permitted I don’t work but I would rather have a bigger arsenal of pigeons and when the time is right in a season have a crack at demolishing the opposition! I did it last year in old birds without preseason and during season training, just loft flying and racing. The results below at the bottom don’t include all the week to week combines that the pigeons won or were close to winning either just the Federation races and a slow Eastern Union Blenheim race…..Too many fanciers also fire most of their powder early in the season, they are too impatient, a good chef has a plan for a delightful meal and as a fancier you must too!

Last Old Birds I got lazy as I normally separate the sexes after 2 or 3 races but left them together and they went to nest at the right time just by chance and they fired pretty well for the middle distance. But still some were slow to go in but an improvement and last young birds my pigeons learnt what food was again during the last 5 weeks of the season as I put them on once a day! Prior to that it was very heavy feeding including peanuts and lots of mixed canary seed 3 times a day hence the tree sitting but when it counted I could put my foot on the accelerator and the best 4 cocks did the last 4 races including the Levin Futurity 1032 m/mim and National 952 m/min….you can’t do that on a sport mix with lots of barley!!

A little bit on dosing. I keep them ‘wild’ in the off season e.g. young birds I’ll deworm them every 2 months or so in season, I use my sheep drench Matrix mineral in the water for 12 hours at the right dose but over Summer they were let out when I got up i.e. 8 to 10am it varies and if I tried to get them in before 7pm then only a few would come in! Where were they, in the f’n trees, my tree sitters!… night I must have had a bad migraine that day as I didn’t get them in until 8.30pm and with a head torch so they still got a half decent feed!! But its healthy over a very hot and humid Summer sitting in 60 feet high Rimu trees and clapping off every so often but I seldom watch them even during the season and I don’t chase them up I just have them out longer if need be and race the heavy ones every week of the season.

So in January I cleaned the pigeons out with firstly doxycycline 5 days and then dimetrasole 5 days at the right dose in their water. 2 weeks or so before the futurity I treated dimetrasole again 3 days and doxycycline a bit less than that and after the Futurity only one day of dimetrasole as they were simply too good and a couple of days of doxycycline as some had mucousy nostrils and the stocking rate is fairly high.


Indeed young pigeons do need to be exposed to all sorts of pigeon diseases especially prior to the racing season when they will come in contact with the diseases endemic to the lofts of the pigeons they compete against, especially with those of other club members. I left a good dozen or so old cock birds in with my babies, not actually solely for this reason but the exposure to the loft diseases endemic in my old cocks is a good thing for the babies developing immune systems. Some young hens were self paired to these old cocks but no eggs were laid. Mixed sexes is very good for their hormonal systems, both cocks and hens and the key is no hens laid and they were fed very heavy even when put on once a day. The pigeons were very happy and often there was a lot of loft noise, a very good sign, they loved their loft and were very keen to get home even if in the short races they loved those trees plenty…..bastards…..poor management…..but nothing races….


The fine dust in the loft is more the problem especially when semi deep litter or full deep litter systems are used, especially when the weather warms up. You can tell by the smell in the loft too i.e. whether it is pleasant or not being in there as to what environment the pigeons inside might have to cope with. On a still day is the best day to gauge this. I think if every day was windy then it would be easy to have an ideal loft environment all year round. We are on a hill here so it often is breezy which helps. To be honest if the pigeons could be trained to always come down for food and time in on race day then it would not matter if they were in the trees at night too…..look around at the wild birds, smell the freshness of the breezes outside, go and sit inside your loft for 2 hours on a still day…..go and lie under a tree and read a book or search the net for a couple of hours, which is healthier for you with no mask on…..get my drift…..that’s why pigeons in aviaries, even tiny ones have such white ceres and a gleam in their eyes, even the really old ones… it ain’t far off being in a tree and like a wild bird…..slat and grill floors are almost a must!!


Try being a bit less fussy but still set aside quality time for your pigeon hobby but don’t be anxious about anything, just enjoy it and go with the flow! Pigeons are indeed tough and if some aren’t then perhaps they shouldn’t be in your race team…..

And remember, family should always come first not the pigeons! If you are not winning or flying consistently well then are your pigeons getting too line bred? Are the good and very good pigeons coming only few and far between whereas when you started you had all those golden years with lots of crossing? Perhaps you need some new blood?

Breed lots of babies, try many pairing combinations and breed off all your race birds…..I really hoped and prayed that from the 45 babies off my race birds that I spent up to 2 weeks hand rearing i.e. that a good one would come and indeed that’s what 1818 (my best young bird!) is off and the parents although well bred did not race spectacularily. The nestmate of 1818, another cock number 1817 was one of the 5 in the Futurity scoring 4th, they must be perfect though, everything including primary flights or they stay at home to race another day, so he missed the National on health.

What did you learn of late about racing pigeons, please feel free to comment below and like this blog article? Do you have any questions for me, I’d love to hear from you?


1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Jack Longville Memorial Race Young Birds Raumati 2017.

1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th ARPF Yearling Champs Raumati Old Birds 2017. John Laybourn bred 1st.

1st Futurity Yearling Ward 2017.

1st Eastern Union Blenheim 2017.

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th OPEN ARPF Young Bird Futurity 2018. John Laybourn bred 1st and 2nd and won 1st Out of Area.

1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th OPEN ARPF Young Bird National 2018. John Laybourn bred 1st.

But the greatest trophy to win is eternal life!! But narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it!! Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it!!




Posted May 30, 2018 by ferguselley in Food for thought

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It doesn’t really matter…..   Leave a comment


Recently we had a bit of a storm with quite strong winds and light to moderate rain at times. Inevitably some rain got into my lofts in parts and I purposely didn’t cover a north facing window in the race loft housing since I figured a little bit of dampness would make cleaning easier after the front had gone through!

Just as in human health and hygiene we can be overzealous at being spick and span with kitchen surfaces etc being wiped down with antiseptic solutions to keep the germ exposure to us lower. I don’t know what you do but if you are a hygiene fanatic and you feel happier with your pigeon pals that you care for then keep doing that. I think a happy medium is the best way. But remember, young pigeons in particular, especially prior to the race season need to develop a robust immune system and too much mollycoddling will be detrimental!


Indeed young pigeons do need to be exposed to all sorts of pigeon diseases especially prior to the racing season when they will come in contact with the diseases endemic to the lofts of the pigeons they compete against, especially with those of other club members. I’ve left a good dozen or so old cock birds in with my babies, not actually solely for this reason but the exposure to the loft diseases endemic in my old cocks is a good thing for the babies developing immune systems. This immunity will be active immunity, whereas the immunity transferred in the crop milk from each babies parents is passive and with sheep for example might last only up to 3 months, that’s when the sheep Clostridial vaccines are more likely to take since the colostral antibody levels in the lambs have waned and then a booster shot 3 to 4 weeks later is likely to give them a good chance of solid immunity for a year plus against the likes of tetanus and the sudden death syndrome, pulpy kidney, which kills fat lambs on lush pasture suddenly.

I haven’t heard of any pigeon fanciers vaccinating their pigeons here. We don’t have paramyxovirus here thank God! It wouldn’t be legal to vaccinate pigeons against paramyxovirus here anyway. I haven’t heard of anyone vaccinating against Salmonella serovars that could affect racing pigeons here either. I don’t hear of many people having diagnostic work on their pigeons done apart from faecal egg counts, coccidiosis counts and maybe trichomoniasis crop counts. Of course some do their own at home.

I do have a microscope here but I don’t bother. The pigeons are generally treated for internal parasites 4 times a year. But I’m not into doing treatments every 3 to 4 weeks during the racing season as some bird Vets recommend. Its overkill. It is more likely to result in parasite resistance to anthelmintics. I tend to give a treatment every 6 weeks or so during both racing seasons. I haven’t cleaned under the loft for at least 2 years and so there’s pigeon, chicken and sheep droppings under the loft. Sometimes when there’s a major down pour the debris under the loft gets washed out along a trench at the back or a drainage trench flowing away from the front of the loft since the race loft has no gutter.

With all that shit under the loft, especially pigeon shit, then no doubt the youngsters develop immunity against coccidiosis quicker than most lofts. I also haven’t dosed with Baycox for about 5 years now even though I have about a half litre bottle of it. Having just had a brilliant Old Bird season up to and including the middle distance races then its likely not an issue and prior to our long distance racing I had only lost 3 pigeons from 80, which is pretty good!

I use Matrix mineral sheep drench on the race pigeons in the water. It’s not licensed for pigeons but I’ve had no problems and I haven’t seen any roundworms in the droppings during dosing for many years. That doesn’t mean there are no hair worms as one can’t see those with the naked eye without staining them.


It is surprising how much faecal material pigeons can put up with in a loft and still look great! The fine dust in the loft is more the problem especially when semi deep litter or full deep litter systems are used, especially when the weather warms up. You can tell by the smell in the loft too i.e. whether it is pleasant or not being in there without a mask as to what environment the pigeons inside might have to cope with. On a still day is the best day to gauge this. I think if every day was windy then it would be easy to have an ideal loft environmnet all year round. We are on a hill here so it often is breezy which helps. Dehumidifiers and fans are good too when nature isn’t ventilating the loft well for u. 100% grill or slat floors are a great option also.

Of course the best environment for all pigeons especially babies is outside. Mine go out between 8 and 9am most days and in Summer sometimes its not till 8.30pm that I get them in. Obviously they are just on once a day feeding but the protein and fat content is high so they grow well and enjoy flapping off periodically from the 3 big native rimu trees next to the loft or from under it or from the 30 foot long landing board.


Finally, a bit of dampness here and there for a day or two is really no problem at all, nothing to worry about! Well bred pigeons will handle that but when the mould starts growing after rainy days then it pays to get rid of that, one must draw the line somewhere!! As if anything it is just a bad look! So perhaps try being a bit less fussy but still set aside quality time for your pigeon hobby but don’t be anxious about anything, just enjoy it and go with the flow! Pigeons are indeed tough and if some aren’t then perhaps they shouldn’t be in your race team…..

Posted January 18, 2018 by ferguselley in Food for thought

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Fred van Lier RIP.   1 comment

It is with both sadness yet honour that I write this account of the life of our good friend Fred van Lier and his involvement in pigeon racing in Auckland, New Zealand.

I first met Fred in 1992 and my first short conversation with him was interesting. He may well have been long haired, with a beard and resembling a middle aged hillbilly dude, I can’t remember for sure! I’d been back in the sport two or three years and we were both flying the Henderson Classic race from Christchurch to Auckland, or should I say our pigeons were! It was the hardest Christchurch race I can remember in 25 years or more of pigeon racing.

My pigeon, a yearling homed sundown on the second day after enduring gale nor-east winds (a headwind and a dangerous wind from that racepoint to Auckland lofts) and rain for much of the weekend and Fred’s (which came second) around mid morning on the 3rd day. Fred’s comment to me at strike off was a blunt ‘prick’ and at the time I thought that he was serious having not got to know the man yet at that stage.

I guess that memory sums Fred up fairly well; he had a sharp albeit dry wit and was well liked around the New Zealand pigeon racing community. Many pigeon fanciers around the country were very gutted with his recent passing.

Fred loved to drive either of the Federation’s two trucks and after he and Bronie partnered up they would go down together to the South Island with Auckland and other Federations and clubs’ pigeons. Both he and Bronie enjoyed this activity immensely and Fred always looked forward to it.

Fred always kept many different sorts of animals and had an affinity with them, especially those that you could race, such as pigeons and grey hounds. He liked growing vegetables including giant pumpkins for showing and in recent years started bee keeping. His father Wouter started van Lier Nurseries which a younger brother Theo, (another pigeon man) has run for quite some years now. Fred learnt the nursery trade and later on had his own nursery in Hobsonville. There are accounts of Fred’s goats getting into glass houses both there and other places of abode, I guess not a good outcome for the flowers usually!

When Fred shifted to Hillsborough I got to know him quite well. Soon after in April 1998 my wife and I, almost having given up on buying our first home, managed to find one we could get finance on, a state house up for sale in Three Kings under the then National Government who were selling off a few. It had the potential for development and in late 2002 a doctor bought our house and plot of land and developed it thus allowing us to shift into our beautiful 3.5 Ha block and home here in the hills of Onewhero.

Fred built the bulk of my new loft in Three Kings which about four years later got shifted south to my current address in Onewhero. Like Fred, I did shift it with a few pigeons inside but unlike Fred, I paid professionals to shift it and didn’t have problems with the wind enroute and no pigeons escaped, unlike one of Fred’s loft moving experiences……

Fred liked me because I was a straight shooter; we had a lot in common and had some good conversations on many topics. We didn’t always agree on everything, including my philosophy on racing pigeon welfare here in New Zealand and how to go about changing the system within pigeon racing and yet he could see what I was trying to do. I guess that’s what friendships are all about, true friendships are democratic rather than autocratic in nature and free speech is to be encouraged within them.

Around that time I recall one pigeon tossing expedition which I went down with him in his flat deck pickup with our boxes of pigeons tied securely on the back. We got to Pirongia and it was overcast but still bright and we released Barry Wilson’s pigeons. We wanted to go further for ours, somewhere near the start of the Kawhia Road. It was very murky with light rain; we had young birds in our boxes so they needed at least some bright patches in the sky to help get a bearing. Fred said it might be better at Kawhia Harbour so to Kawhia we drove, but the weather was no better there, so we parked up by the Kawhia Maritime Museum and went in for a look-see. After some time and probably some food etc Fred said that we would head back home and see how the weather was enroute.

Back in the pickup we must have headed north up the coast to Raglan which is the harbour two up from Kawhia. We couldn’t let them go anywhere there and headed back east over the Four Brothers hills enroute to Whatawhata. There was a short passing lane in those hills but it was on a windy bit and Fred gunned it to get past a car that was holding us up and I heard a box or boxes fly off the back, across the road in the air and when we had stopped I was relieved that the two boxes in the ditch upside down were both Fred’s and not mine! Fred rushed across (no swearing if I remember rightly); a blood red cock got out as Fred righted the painted wooden boxes which Fred told me later had come home through all the murk. I guess it’s not usually ‘a given’ to share a joke about the departed but Fred and I had talked about that trip a few times and laughed, probably I more than him! After that he took his pigeons all the way home and mine went up at Whatawhata, as they’d been there before and there was one at home when I arrived, a vandie cross cock looking fresh as a daisy and others dribbled in the rest of the afternoon and some the next day.

Our conversations also included religion and for many years Fred wasn’t a believer in the Great I Am, but having terminal cancer can make a lot of people reassess their position on these matters and I believe ex Apostolic pastor Laurie Bull had an input there and I believe that he was also there at Fred’s home when Fred passed on.

Fred was cut down way too soon, only 63, while I being a little younger struggle with my own health issues Ad infunitum. He had a rock solid constitution and would be one of the few who would wear shorts all year around since I have known him the last 25 years or so. That type of resilient constitution is something to be envied by people like myself.

Fred was a bit of a jack of all trades and would give anything a go. He was likable, loved nature, animals, plants and people. He wasn’t a perfect man but that is one thing I liked about him, he didn’t live his life as a facade, was thick skinned in the pigeon racing scene here in Auckland, resilient, durable and very likable. He also worked tirelessly in many club, Western Union and Federation positions.

During his less than a year’s time of diagnosed terminal cancer he lived his life in many ways the same as before. Still helping his aged father Wouter in the veggie and flower garden, driving the Auckland truck down the South Island for our liberations with Bronie his partner whom he married two days prior to his passing and his pigeon racing career terminating with the winning of the last pigeon race he flew, the Old Bird National from Christchurch, a tough one.

Fred lived and died the same sort of person in many ways. I don’t know what his vision for the future was prior to his diagnosis but I do know that likely it would have included pigeons, poultry, plants, friends, family and others whose lives he touched and made a difference in.

Just like Mac Armstrong who passed on also with a terminal illness aged 85 prior to Christmas last year, Fred was a pigeon man who is well worth remembering. Those two were indeed generous with their love for their fellow human beings and I remember them both fondly and with a high degree of admiration. They both won their fair share of pigeon races and loved the long distance racing but really they must primarily be remembered for the quality of people they were and the lives they touched and that they loved people genuinely as the unique individuals they both were.

Some of the catch phrases of Fred.
‘The long and the short of it’.
‘At the end of the day’.
‘For all intensive purposes’.
A funny reply from Fred when we were discussing races where pigeons hadn’t trapped well.

‘If the dog hadn’t stopped for a crap it would have won the race’! He would say that with a big infectious laugh and a beaming smile and eyes asparkle like precious stones as if to say, “Stop making excuses Mr Elley!” He always, for some reason, called me Mr Elley, but whether that was out of respect or contained a glint of satire, one will never know! He loved reading about the likes of famous New Zealand icon Barry Crump and quite naturally they had a lot in common, perhaps I hear a few chuckles…..
Fred passed away at home on the 7th of March 2016, father of Walter and Marie and husband of Bronie, he will be greatly missed!

Now something that I’m sure Fred would laugh at, as he was always looking for the comedy in life. I got this from it’s credited with an ‘unknown’ as the author.

On the first day God created the dog. God said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life span of twenty years.” The dog said, “That’s too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten.”
So God agreed.

On the second day God created the monkey. God said, “Entertain people, do monkey tricks and make them laugh. I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.” The monkey said, “Monkey tricks for twenty years? I don’t think so. Dog gave you back ten, so that’s what I’ll do too, okay?”
And God agreed.

On the third day God created the cow. “You must go to the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of sixty years.”
The cow said, “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty and I’ll give back the other forty.”
And God agreed again.

On the fourth day God created man. God said, “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. I’ll give you twenty years.”
Man said, “What? Only twenty years? Tell you what, I’ll take my twenty, and the forty the cow gave back, and the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back, that makes eighty, okay?”

Okay,” said God, “You’ve got a deal.”

So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, and enjoy ourselves; the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family; the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren; and the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.
RIP Fred; see you at the great party at the end of time! Thank you for being part of my life and of others who read this. We salute you for the good example you gave for us to follow and emulate.

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.

Closed pigeon chat rooms in the modern era.   Leave a comment

Freedom of Speech.

Closed racing pigeon chat rooms are certainly a big asset to the sport. I actually run one, on Facebook, its ‘Pigeon racers Chat Room, Auckland, rest of NZ and further’. If you are a racing pigeon enthusiast please feel free to request membership. The more members the merrier and remember it is closed. If you have trouble finding it then message me on Facebook, Fergus James Elley.
So, what are the advantages of closed pigeon chat rooms for world pigeon bodies? Naturally, it is a great way of interacting with new people around the world with the possibility of forging new friendships, some of which may turn into life long ones.
Secondly, it provides a bulletin type service when fanciers are in need of assistance with obtaining clocks, new birds, race information and results etc.
Also, the sharing of pigeon articles by members is a great way of adding to your knowledge pool. Facebook’s design is set up so that it is very easy to share links to all sorts of things pertaining to pigeon racing on the internet.
Although I am unable to work and some might think this means I have all the time in the world to locate and digest copious quantities of pigeon information on the net, this in reality is not true. A healthy retiree would have ten times the amount of time to undertake such activities if they would choose to do so!
Another big advantage I see is that when there are contentious subjects to discuss, then such a closed group allows fanciers to do so in a safe and private way. For instance, if some in a said group think that some things could have been done better at times, then due to its closed nature this is an excellent forum for such discussions.
If you like, it is very similar to a closed meeting situation of which, when I was on meds to stabilise the pain and inflammation of my CFS, I would attend at times both at a club and Federation level. Of course the forum of meetings can be one of conjecture and even rowdiness; we only have to turn on the TV and watch our MPs to observe that this is a true statement!
So too, chat rooms may at times get heated. But let us remember that iron sharpens iron and conflict in discussions doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to be learnt or is not valuable to the improvement of the sport. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. In saying this, there is no place for rudeness.
Several years ago, when in better shape and on more meds, I was put in the chair to be acting president by the then Federation President Howard Luff when he resigned. Had I become President I would have welcomed groups like the one which I run on Facebook. However, I didn’t take on the position for health reasons and the greater legal obligations that come with running an Incorporated Society.
Indeed, closed chat rooms are an excellent forum for fanciers to give feedback to their governing body on the many aspects of running a pigeon organisation including races and their outcomes.
Free speech is certainly to be encouraged and within closed groups it can’t really go wrong as there are rules to follow; members can edit their comments, perhaps even apologise or even remove them if need be and so on. Complaints can be made directly to Facebook or the moderator can be written to with a clear intelligent argument from an individual or group of fanciers why they think something might need changing.
Certainly gagging efforts should be frowned upon as they simply curb free speech and may even give those instigating the gagging the appearance of being undemocratic.
Since the inception of the internet, the rate at which public opinions and political movements have formed, have increasingly accelerated and thus public consensus has been achieved and communicated at a much faster pace. Modern political parties have harnessed the political power of the internet for some time now and even pigeon bodies should use it for good and to their advantage without subjecting members to repressive actions.
Most people use the internet and anyone over 13 years of age can join Facebook. So for example, in the case of my closed Facebook pigeon chat room, it is open to every pigeon fancier to join and so have the right of reply and opportunity to participate. If they don’t have a pc or smart phone then they can always visit the library!
However, I would advise not to single out specific people in comments, especially those not in the chat room as it’s unfair and they might get upset. Remember, to only write that which you are happy to have others read and would not like to be said about you. After all, we are only human! Also technology does not absolve one of responsibility.
However, if we are to keep seeing positive changes in pigeon racing around the world then the important issues still need to be discussed. Some of us can’t attend meetings for different reasons and thus a closed group forum is an alternative avenue to discuss ‘the good oil’. Do you agree?
There really are no detrimental effects of discussing pigeon welfare in closed pigeon groups. To me it shows external agencies (we have the SPCA here in nz) that the sport around the world can still be internally regulated since freedom of speech and of expression in the forms of ‘fair comment’ is paramount for the sport’s survival. I personally saw the benefits of this in the Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation from the South Island old bird races in 2012 and 2013. Simply put, ‘they were two glorious, golden years” since rigorous discussion was permitted on this blog around three years ago and even more rigid release protocols instigated and we can really praise those involved in those series of distance races from the South Island in 2012 and 2013, well done!!
In addition, the danger to the sport of the banning or curbing of certain aspects of pigeon racing anywhere in the world are more likely to come from the circle of friends of fanciers who have been within the sport for a long time and know the sport backwards, upside down and inside out. Harassment of such fanciers, especially if they have major health issues may result in their friends deeming them disenfranchised and might just be the straw which broke the camel’s back for those fanciers’ friends who may then instigate whistle blowing to animal welfare agencies and even Human Rights agencies. I would imagine that most people running pigeon organisations around the world would not welcome such actions and really it should not be necessary in a democratic, civilised arena.
The South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race isn’t an event which pleases everyone, even within pigeon racing itself. But one thing I would commend them for is that they run an OPEN Facebook Page which any Facebook member can comment on and critical comments (which might be taken by some as derogatory) from my studying of the SAMDPR page, are left for public scrutiny and surveillance i.e. there is no gagging and free speech is not frowned upon!
One might surmise that South Africa has come a long way given the apartheid history and who knows, perhaps South Africa will lead the way in the future with pigeon rights. Indeed, with the opposition to the SAMDPR from groups like PETA, they may well have to. It is very interesting to see that both Vets and animal welfare groups are welcomed and included in the proper running of the SAMDPR series. It seems the SAMDPR is a long way ahead of many parts of the world in how they present themselves openly to the world, even if it can be a gruelling final race. In general, the checks and balances are there, and we in other parts of the world can certainly learn from them.
The ARPF has an OPEN facebook page titled ‘the Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation’. At the moment, I can’t see the type of open forum discussions, like some of those on the SAMDPR facebook page, happening on the Auckland page for many reasons. Nevertheless, in the mean time, a safer option is for discussions to be in the closed Facebook chat room arena such as the one run by me. Apart from that, there is the opportunity for discussions to be held at meetings. But wouldn’t this be time consuming and would all members be able to attend? Surely we should take advantage of the modern technology that is available and embrace the good things which it has to offer pigeon clubs, Federations and fanciers in general worldwide.
What’s your opinion?

Posted February 26, 2015 by ferguselley in Food for thought

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What really matters?   Leave a comment

Chronic fatigu July 2014

Well firstly all the best for 2015, albeit belatedly!

I emailed the following to a club mate recently who had asked after me by email which was nice, “the last 6 weeks has been a torrid time physically, its called a crucifixion experience and good for my faith walk”.

This is exactly how it is, not even the health to blog. Blogging for me is good for the space between the ears and it makes one feel good about ones self and it is one of the few ways that I can give back to the fancy with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

In reply to the not too long ago blog ‘the mighty pigeon’ a guy called Mike Link who follows my blog wrote the following and I really liked it!

“Fergus, happy Xmas and hope you have a great new year. Those that don’t like your writings don’t have to read them, don’t worry about those that don’t like them there are plenty that do.

Interesting thoughts. Well I agree that the pigeon is wonderful for many, it’s also not for some. I spoke with a bloke of about 30 years Old years ago and for him the pigeon was bad. For him it meant no family holidays growing up or football on a Saturday. After hearing his views, luckily my children were still young, I vowed not to put the pigeons first and since then I have managed to keep a good balance. On the flip side of what you are saying and yes I support what you are saying we must also be aware of the terrible side of pigeon racing, the jealously that some how drives some to burn down a competitors loft, poison thier birds or steal them. Pigeon racing has a dark side too. Pigeon racing also for some reason Seems to attract alot of con men. Leaving all that aside for us genuine fanciers it is truly wonderful. The really truly dear friends that I have collected through pigeons are just brilliant. More so than any other sport I am involved in. One of my best friends in pigeons always says to me that he and I would still keep pigeons if we could not race them. And that is true. There are some that see the pigeon as a tool and these are not the true fanciers, these are the ones that when they decide not to race anymore pack up, and normally have a sale. The true fanciers will never be without pigeons even if they cant race. I love my pigeons so much that I don’t want to race them but to not race them would be cruel. To deny them of thier purpose of what they exist to do would be a travesty and crime against the species. One thing that peta (the animal butchers) will never understand, take away an animals purpose and you make it extinct.

Write on my friend.

Mike Link”

I would agree and how many of us pigeon fanciers have put the pigeons before our families at times? Family and friends, they really do matter!

I do find the blogging and running of a Facebook closed pigeon chat group of equal if not more importance than racing and if any of you fanciers out there would like to join it please request membership at ”Pigeon racers Chat Room, Auckland, rest of NZ and further’ on Facebook. The more members the merrier and remember it is closed. If you have trouble finding it then message me on Facebook, Fergus James Elley.

For health reasons I can not be involved with club and Federation admin and even meetings. It is an effort to just get to Federation races which my wife drives me into. For plenty of the 60 or so fanciers in Auckland ‘the penny has not yet dropped on that one’, but the likes of Mac Armstrong, they are onto it, a very difficult illness for most people to understand my CFS!

Friends like Mac Armstrong, Fred and Bronnie van Lier and many others are what keeps the sport enjoyable, even when there are bad races. These are the sorts of people who are less likely to change their take on what constitutes a good liberation decision or not regardless of which people are involved with organising the race.

Yes madmikelink, that’s the wordpress name he goes under, the pigeon is bred to fly and be free, the dilemma that faces pigeon racing around the world is though, what constitutes a fair liberation, it often polarises pigeon bodies and those that organise races need to ‘harden up’ and be thicker skinned when a bit of fair criticism comes their way, after all, we are talking about the lives of pigeons here and they all have the right to a fair go! To me, the right of free speech in pigeon racing, really matters!

It was interesting to look on Facebook at the ‘South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race’ last month. Type in the above while on Facebook and you will get there. This is a controversial race indeed. Unfortunately the returns were sparse this year with just 16 day pigeons from around 2500 with about 200 more the next day. I thought about commenting but restrained myself however it would be very interesting to learn of an exact head count after say 2 weeks i.e. of those returning or being reported by the public. I guess that the SAMDPR don’t need a return like this given the recent threats of the banning of pigeon racing in South Africa. Although poor returns in pigeon racing are always going to be the subject of speculation until racing pigeons can individually be tracked during racing and located if lost or hitting a wire, predated etc there are two main factors given by Facebook members on the site, the heat and the insufficient distance of the build up hot spot races i.e. match fitness development for the over 300 mile event. They race this in Summer to suit the northern hemisphere entries I believe, but perhaps this needs to stop, I don’t know. The organisers of the SAMDPR also give the reason of rain showers affecting the main bunch on their Facebook site.

Check out their website at If any of you had the time to write some articles on the history of the race since its inception for this blog I’m sure readers would be interested please email me at

Come to think of it, if you are like me with the SAMDPR its not which pigeon won and what country and fancier its from but how many pigeons made it home? To me, that’s what really matters!

Well seeing that my pet subject of ‘what really matters’ is pigeon welfare, then have a read of the following, some will see it as waffle, others with a real heart for the pigeons as ‘really choice’.

Thanks too for the freedoms and liberties our ancestors have fought for, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and so on. From William Wilberforce who succeeded in abolishing slavery to Martin Luther King who was martyred for the Black American cause, Emmeline Pankhurst who fought for British woman’s right to vote and now in more recent times the civil rights movements for LGBT peoples that has swept most of the modern world like a giant Tsunami.

In a recent article ‘the mighty pigeon’ quite obviously I touched on animal rights and in this case pigeon’s rights and where would we be as a ‘fancy’ without the pigeon. I believe that the animal rights movement is the next big movement of the world, of course it is already here and happening! We need to be prepared for it and not be lackadaisical about standards for the transportation and liberation of our pigeons. Otherwise it will come back to bite us in our ‘merry behinds’!

Of course there is always opposition to change and I like the following wise quotes.

“Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”
― Albert Einstein
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

[Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950]”
― Harry S. Truman
“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.”
― Shannon L. Alder
“You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”
― Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People
“A kite flies against the wind, not with it.”
― Winston S. Churchill
“There is an easy way to silence your critics; just try to do what they say you can’t do. If they are still not content, do more of it! Keep doing it until you become a master. Then look around, and you will see fewer critics and many compliments!”
― Israelmore Ayivor
“I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Jesus himself spoke about the material one builds a house (their life) with, remember, the man who used a foundation of sand to build his house on, that house was simply swept away, whereas the man who built his house on the rock (read Jesus or God Almighty), his house stood through the storm.
In the same way we as pigeon organisations must build our organisations on solid rock (ground) because the storms of animal activism will come and lay waste and cause havoc amongst those organisations which do not. Simple stuff and really simple to design transportation and liberation strategies that will withstand the storms and floods that are indeed coming, even as I type right now!

Hopefully the likes of madmikelink and others will be thinking, ‘write on friend’. Viva the pigeon revolution!

Posted February 17, 2015 by ferguselley in Food for thought

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The mighty pigeon!   2 comments

Dad. Very clever extremely articulate, very funny man, four degrees, not a dummy. Would tell me about all the different situations he had to sort out in Presbyterian Churches around the countryside in nz.  A good man but a sinner like we all are in need of saving and the precious, abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Rest in peace until the last trumpet sounds!

Dad, very clever, extremely articulate, funny man, four degrees, not a dummy.
Would tell me about all the different situations he had to sort out in Presbyterian Churches around the countryside in nz. A good man but a sinner like we all are in need of saving and the precious, abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Rest in peace until the last trumpet sounds!

I am from time to time made aware that not all members of the pigeon fraternity enjoy my blogs, especially those blogs and posts that stand up for and command respect for ‘our mighty pigeons’. One of the things that is indeed beautiful and liberating is the freedom from having to be right or control; I am of the opinion that these are very dangerous components of human beings. When they are used in ways which are not warranted and violate the human right of ‘freedom of expression’ and seek to put a ‘lid’ on items of ‘public interest’ then we can find in ourselves some of our ‘inner demons’.
But back to the pigeon, why are our racing pigeons ‘mighty’. It is not because they have all won big races because even in the current champs loft the best performers are few and far between, especially when we hit the middle distance and longer. However, I was wondering tonight, how many marriages has the hobby of keeping pigeons saved, how many little children have retained both parents because Daddy has stuck it out for his children with the help of the pigeons as a relaxing and supportive hobby.
My argument is always ‘without the pigeon, you do not have pigeon racing!’ When races go wrong and leadership feels under the gun and react in a feelings first manner with their decision making then there may be reason for concern. Like any situation, should we only keep as a friend someone who pushes the right buttons and says the right things always, certainly not, that would be controlling to the nth degree!
Henk, a nice Dutchman used to often talk about ‘ego’ when discussing pigeons with me in the Manukau Club many moons ago. In hindsight those were very wise words, for if there is a problem with a race or race(s) and many pigeons are missing, then what should be more important, the ego of the pigeon fancier or the missing pigeons themselves, I hear you all saying, “the later’ and of course, you are very right indeed!
If someone is very passionate about the welfare of the pigeons is that a bad thing? Certainly not and it is here that I disagree with some writers who indicate that ‘you can love pigeons too much’. I actually think that the reverse applies myself i.e. you cannot love these defenceless creatures enough and if the heart is missing for the pigeon, if politics and so on mean more than the pigeons, then a fancier is indeed in trouble I think, don’t you?
What would you think the general public thinks of these ideas; would it be any different from caring for your pet dog or cat, maybe not? It intrigues me when there is some sort of commotion in the ‘pigeon world’ e.g. the banning of racing for now in Johannesburg. Of course this simply turned out to be a false alarm, it is really only about the governments there’s concerns of the feral pigeons (and lost or still coming home racers) being a reservoir for both human and avian diseases and I believe it will fizzle out.
This got many people in a flap though and given how some have felt and reacted to that news to me it begs the question, if ten years went by and pigeon racing is banned in many parts of the world due to animal activists campaigning to curb the sport in all sorts of ways, then if we arrived at that situation e.g. in nz or Australia, what key things should we have done to prevent this happening?
I will point out that nz is very isolated from the rest of the world and a pigeon or pigeon eggs would either have to be smuggled in somehow in order for there to be a disease risk, as simply put, no pigeon alive is capable of flying across the huge expanse of the Tasman Sea from Australia. A pigeon would have to hitch a ride on a boat as importations of pigeons have been banned for decades.
That just leaves the situation with the animal activists. Some might think that I am one and I do not choose that label because if I really was against pigeon racing in nz then there are a lot more things that I could do than merely writing on my blog mainly in the off season and running a small closed Facebook chat group, both of which have varied topics.
My mindset is that if we are open and transparent we have a better chance of not being a target for groups like PETA, the logic being that despite their perhaps fundamental goal of ‘liberating all the birds and animals’, that in general they are very content on working to see improvements in the lot of animals e.g. free range broiler chicken and egg farming as opposed to the stereotyped ‘factory farming’ which I will admit that as I have aged I have realised the radical differences in the two practices.
Should pigeon racing be banned in any country? Are liberations out to sea and even as a typhoon approaches good for the sports image? They are probably not. Of course it is not for me to say, but I think within my own country there are many people working to make the racing pigeons lot in general a very good one and I like that!
If I write on this blog or in the chat group in favour of pigeon welfare then I am really only doing the sport and the ‘pigeon’ (which the sport simply cannot do without) a favour, at least that is what I think. Besides which, the blog is just a little ‘stage’ and of course the chat group on Facebook is closed, so what’s the problem? Am I to be gagged for sticking up for the pigeons? My opinion in this regard is that it could be dangerous for circles of people if they attempt to do that, as how does that make them look with respect to pigeon welfare here in nz?
Fanciers also worry about people who might cause the sport, even here in nz trouble, but I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, maybe I am biased, you can tell me, and I am open to being wrong!
I do know that we need to put a mammoth effort into preserving the sport from the grass roots up. Welfare standards at the home lofts must be excellent and the race liberations under taken in a very careful and considerate way, especially from the long distance, which many people love. If in doubt, hold them over has to be strictly adhered to.
Therefore by attempting to curb intelligent criticism of a pigeon body of any form, whether it be in casual conversations, private emails, meetings, closed chat groups or even on blogs such as mine, is in my mind extremely controlling and just a tad naive, however, I also accept that that is some fanciers views and you are entitled to think that way just as I and many others are entitled to think in a more futuristic, broader way that gives the ordinary racing pigeon much more respect than some give. So I am still convinced that if we are totally honest and transparent with the public and totally open to learn as pigeon bodies how to manage our racing programmes better, then instead of reaping ‘problems’ in the long term with the public, then we will reap a harvest of ‘great things’ with the public and the more that we can get on the radio, tv and in the newspapers for the right reasons the better.
It was a huge shock to the fanciers in the U.K. to be attacked so sensationally by PETA last year and of course I have written three articles on PETA and if I think it would help I will write more, however given that they seem to have settled down I think that it is better to keep any ideas for future articles and videos on the back boiler. I think that they would go after the Australians before nz but I also think that they will have bigger fish to fry, just like they took on Elizabeth the Queen of England and the fancy in the Diamond Jubilee Year, although in essence they want to control and curb the sport, they are very much into sensationalism and of course it is ‘free’ advertising for them when the media do run with it.
Leaving that subject and getting back to the grass roots of the sport in every country, we need to push the exposure of the younger generation to racing pigeons. Every now and then I see something or get sent something on the net about racing pigeons in schools and that is a great thing. In form two at Henderson Intermediate the teacher of the time Ollie Green got me to bring a pair of pigeons to stay at the school in the class in a metre long coop high up below the ceiling and they bred there and we would have them out in the class and there would be the occasional ‘deposit’ on the desks or floor. It was a good, fun thing.
It is easy to get side tracked from the real important jobs that ought to be done as pigeon bodies. Arguing and bickering never achieves anything except for a dry throat and perhaps a headache! Circles of people that run pigeon organisations need to focus on what is important to a pigeon body as a whole and not get lost in the relentless pursuit of ‘ego’ and ‘vanities’. The rights of the little men viz the infirm, the aged, the beginners, those simply just struggling in general and the ‘unconverted’ non fancier public member, these are more important than ‘feelings’ that can run high when people find themselves in difficult situations and revenge would be a lovely past time.
My Father was a preacher to the lost, the unsaved and at times that is my role too. However, in addition I find myself as an ambassador for the ‘mighty’ pigeon and ‘woe betide anyone’ who thinks that racing pigeons at the least are not worth as much and have as many rights as the drug peddlers, pedo’s and other filth in our societies! Do not these scum bags have rights, you bet that they do and so should our pigeons and don’t worry, I’ll keep fighting for them!

Keith Mott from the U.K.   Leave a comment

Enjoyed it.


KEITH MOTT (CONVOYING). Special thanks to Keith Mott and our U.K. expatriot NZ friend Brian Batchelor for forwarding this.

At the end of the 2008 season Keith retired after eight good years as chief convoyer of the London & South East Classic Club, which took him to all the major race points in France, including twice Tarbes (560 miles) and six times to Pau (550 miles). He says he loved convoying and could write a book about his experiences while driving the pigeon transporter on the continent, but maintains he would never go to Guernsey for a holiday as he took the Classic young birds there 15 times and has had enough of the place. He has been writing in the fancy press since 1972 and enjoys doing his regular pages every week in the pigeon fancy press. Keith has appeared eight times on the television with the pigeons, the…

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