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Keith Mott’s “The Champions of Yester Year” (Part 93) 



The month of December saw me make the 90-mile drive down to Kent, the Garden of England, to visit the brilliant widowhood lofts of Colin Taylor of Whitstable. The weather was cold and wet, but when we started to look at Colin's wonderful team of widowhood cocks we soon forgot about the adverse conditions.

Colin had been in pigeons all his life and had raced since 1968, with outstanding success. Years ago he was only interested in Channel racing, winning many times at all stages through France, including lst Open Libourne. He had won the longest old bird race countless times and had lifted many top prizes in National and Classic clubs. In recent years his interest had turned to widowhood sprint racing and he had won over 470 cards since 1994. Colin had recorded the first 10 positions in the very strong local club many times, winning the Federation and open sprint races. The widowhood sections were full of Federation winners and cocks that had won six and 8 x lsts in races up to 300 miles. He started widowhood when he lived in London in 1984 and only races cocks on the system. He paired up on January 12th and the hens were taken away on their first round of youngsters at 14 days of age. The cocks were left with one youngster to bond him to his nest box and then the female rears the other young one in her new section. The cocks were not trained during the racing season, only flying out for one hour, twice a day, around the loft. In 1999, the cocks had four short training tosses before racing started and won 1st Federation in the first race.

The widowhood loft was never entered during the day, as the cocks must rest and must never be wound up. The racers were broken down from Saturday to Monday and were fed on a first-class widowhood mixture. Colin said the only real difference between widowhood racing on short and long distance is the feeding with the long-distance birds getting a much heavier mixture. The birds were not paired for the odd long-distance race that he might send to. The hens were shown to the cocks on marking night, although he said the cocks were all different and some don't need to see their mates. The racers got their hens on their arrival from the race and Colin maintained this varies in time on how difficult the race was, having no hard and fast rules on his system. He hadn't got a family of pigeons and said his race team were, `Dolly Mixtures', but were all his type of pigeon. He was not interested in strains and maintained that he had been in pigeons all his life and had no idea what a sprint or long-distance type should look like. The main widowhood loft was built 4ft off the ground and was 30ft long, with three sections. The very smart building had a tiled roof for good ventilation and the 12 nest boxes in each section were painted light blue, which was very peaceful for the inmates. The cocks trapped through open windows off landing boards and straw litter was used on the loft floor during the winter months. Colin had three other very small lofts at the other end of the garden and these housed young birds, widowhood hens and his small team of stock birds. The 10ft stock loft had two wire flights in fronts, so the inmates can get out in the weather and enjoy a bath.

The first pigeon we looked at on my loft visit was a handsome blue chequer cock, winner of lst Federation three times, as a yearling on the widowhood system. This ace was a son of the Libourne Combine winner and had won 7 x lsts up to five years of age. A premier stock cock we handled was a handsome blue, obtained direct from Hartog, which had bred countless winners for the Taylor loft, including 6 x lst prizewinners in the 1995 season. Colin was very interested in eyesign and said that this champion stock cock had the gold sign. We handled a son of the Hartog blue cock which had won 8 x 1sts and 1st Federation in 1999 on the widowhood.

Colin kept five pairs of stock birds, which were paired up at the same time as the racers, so that the stock birds' eggs could be underlaid. They were hopper fed on a good breeder's mixture. He was against antibiotics for racing pigeons, as he thought fanciers who use them are asking for trouble and maintained that you can't put anything in the water to make average birds good. The birds were given an open loft from morning to night during the breeding season and living in the Kent countryside means a bit of a hawk problem. Colin bred about 35 young ones each season which were only lightly raced but got regular training from 30 miles. The young birds were raced to the perch and were well fed on young bird mixture. Colin was not a great fan of the darkness system, but had tried it and was not happy with babies at the end of the season, although the young bird results were good. His pigeons and lofts were a credit to him!



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