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by Keith Mott

The 2011 season saw Mike Riddy win the London & South East Classic Club's best single bird average from Tours and Tarbes, and what a fantastic performance that was, when the pigeon has to fly over 800 miles in three weeks and be well up in the Classic result in the two races from France. Mike won the average with his good Stichelbaut dark pied cock ‘50446’ who, raced on the natural system, flew in the L&SECC three times in the 2011 season, winning 152nd open Alencon (197 miles), 206th open Tours (274 miles) and 14th open Tarbes (555 miles). This game cock races well on eggs or youngsters and has bred some good Tarbes racers.

Mike has a wonderful big garden set in the Surrey countryside at Normandy and is not only an outstanding pigeon racer, but is also a keeper of several types of ‘old breeds’ of chickens. He has two incubators and rears his own chicks. He races the pigeons on the natural system and pairs the racers up in March with racing from France in mind. The very smart loft houses 35 pairs of old birds, including stock birds and the breeders are mated up in February. The natural racers are trained on their second round of eggs and basically go in two directions to Winchester, 40 miles west and Petersfield, 40 miles south. Mike uses the Federation inland races for training and in June when the main long distance events are upon us, he likes to train along the south coast. He breeds 35 young birds to race each season and these are kept ‘natural’, and are never put on the ‘darkness’ system, or paired up. The babies are trained hard to all four directions of the compass, but Mike says his birds, old and young, fly around the loft a lot, as they all get an open loft for most of the week. The youngsters race the programme, but are not set over the English Channel in their first season.

When I asked Mike what his best performances were he said that a few years ago when he flew north road with the Farnham club (Portsmouth NR Federation) he owned a brilliant little hen that was sent to Thurso (550 miles) and after seven days in the basket she recorded 1st club, 2nd Federation. He had a very good blue chequer Janssen cock that won eleven Federation positions, including 1st Federation on the north road. Mike has won many premier prize racing north and south through the years, including three 1st Federations on the north road.

Mike has a problem in his hands and because of the lack of feeling in his fingers, can’t time in properly. He tells me the ETS is a great invention and has recently had the system wired up in his loft, which has helped him speed up his clocking. The loft is a very nice 60ft structure with seven sections, including an aviary and corn store. Mike tells me he has been in poultry all his life and doesn’t like deep litter on the floors, but is a great believer in floor grills, and cleans out regularly. The birds are fed on all ‘GEM’ corns, with the mixtures being varied throughout the year, but basically the old bird get ‘Irish’ mixture and the youngster ‘Cowood’ mixture. Mike says ‘GEM’ corn mixtures and products are the best in the sport!

He had a few Fancy Pigeons when he was very young, but Mike’s pigeon racing career started in 1986, when the family were on holiday and his son picked up an injured racing pigeon. The young lad took the pigeon back home and nursed it back to health, and after that it spent most of its life sitting on his shoulder. The lad told Mike he wanted to start keeping pigeons, so off they went to visit the local fancier, John James, and he presented them with their first birds to start them off. The father and son partnership didn’t race the first year, but joined the Farnham club and won their first race from Blandford two years later. Their first winner flew the 68 miles in 68 minuets and when the black hen was taken down the club for marking, the marker didn’t believe she was a hen and put her in the cocks' basket!

Mike was in the construction business before he retired and the first loft at his present address was a converted building site hut. He only had a small team of John James pigeons and won the Three Borders Federation averages in about 1990, his first season at the Normandy loft. Mike has a good friend in John Musslewhite of the BB&O Federation and told me they have been friends for many years and have exchanged some good winners. Mike says his wife, Dawn, has no interest in pigeons, but will aways help out when needed, including taking phone calls and humping bags of pigeon corn. Well done to Dawn!

TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)