Chris Gibson - The Northern Powerhouse of National Racing
By Chris Williams
Some of Chris Gibson’s performances in 2020 1st Sec K Fougeres, National
First race in the MNFC 4th NC Sec Prov 19th Open Chale.
First race in the Fed 1st Club, 1st Fed 5th Combine 4,400+birds Falaise. 1st 4 Bird club Falaise 28th Fed and 50th Fed
I first met Chris Gibson at the Blackpool show in 2020, I was immediately struck by his quiet yet determined nature, his passion for the sport and his desire to promote the “ordinary English back garden lofts, which deserve as much publicity as is given to the continental lofts on our sports ever increasing commercial scene .This was the genesis for Northern Power House Auctions “Where the basket is the pedigree! Meaning. that only fanciers with top level results and quality bloodlines are sort after by this reputable establishment! But my focus for this article is on the man and fancier behind that mission Chris himself who is an excellent fancier and is the very embodiment of the Northern Powerhouse ethos. Chris’s fascination with our feathered friends began in his formative years at junior school when he was 10 years of age racing in partnership with his brother Darrel or Daz as he is better known to his friends who was fourteen at the time. Like many a novice before them prizes for this young partnership were few and far between, however this changed once older brother Daz moved into his own home and erected a new loft and in Chris’s words they hit the ground running. He continued: in late 1998 we set about building a loft on his back garden along with an old garden shed that was to be converted into our small breeding loft. In the small breeding loft was placed 6 pairs of gift birds from our good old friend Pete and Len Smith who were at that time a top loft in Sheffield and within the then mighty Darnall HS a club which at the hight of its powers sent up to 1,000 birds a week. what an experience for any fancier let alone novices! Selection within the loft was tough and only the very best were kept , you see dear reader even all those years ago Chris was learning the valuable lesson of quality over quantity and the important role in pigeon racing that is played by the basket and result sheet . This lesson paid off in spades as the two enthusiastic fanciers won the young bird average the following season with a team of just 12 yearling cocks topping the fed several times despite being the furthest westerly loft and being right on top of the highest hill in Sheffield. From those 6 pairs they were gifted, 5 out of the 6 bred the brothers 1st Federation winner against 5,800 birds, along with multiple Federation winners . and many Grand Children also went on to be top pigeons. In fact there is a small amount of this blood still in Chris’s family today. Chris remembers sending just 6 cocks to one race, 4 of them were 1st Fed winners, one of the 2x1st Fed he says I think we took the first 3 in the club and had 4 in the top 12 on the Fed 2,300 birds (not a bad percentage in a very strong federation that sometimes sent 3,500 pigeons this is even more impressive when we take into consideration that their fellow competitors often sent teams of 50 or 60 experienced birds. Here is a snapshot of the lofts success at the time: 1st 2nd 3rd Fed 1st 4th 6th Fed 1st Fed 1Fed 1st Fed 2nd 9th Fed 2nd 9th 12th Fed 4, 6th 9th 12th Fed 9th 16th 20th
A few years later saw the formation of the Sheffield & District 5 Bird Championship Club and it was here racing for £1,000 on a weekly basis that Chris and Daz really made their mark , speaking of this fantastic period for the partnership Chris says “This was an opportunity for small team lofts to race on the most level playing field you can get in the sport. Everyone’s best 5 birds racing for good money and being transported and liberated by a Fed that was some, on average, 15 to 20 miles in front and equally as wide, the winners were true winners. Many big names in the area of Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley fell by the wayside and soon left the club, it really did sort the wheat from the chaff as they say.” While racing with the 5 bird club Chris and Daz took 1st 2nd 3rd on several occasions and when doing so won well over £400 in pools and prize money each time. Many other top positions in the top 10 also were won and as you can imagine people really began to take note as Chris went on to explain : Our results in that club really did turn heads in the local area as our small team, position and work commitments made it difficult to achieve consistency at Fed level, but every dog has its day as they say and we had many. But the 5 bird club was just made for us really, the results were outstanding. Unfortunately the club ended up folding as many of the big boys left with their tails between their legs as did many other fanciers, so from a 40 member strong, £1,000 a race club it was left with just a handful of elite lofts meaning the club had seen its best days and folded.
Chris moved from Sheffield to Rotherham and after a while the pull of the pigeon sport was just too strong to ignore and so the brothers decided to erect an 8x 6 loft with the sole purpose of competing in young bird racing with a team of 20 to 25 youngsters , this was no easy task whilst working in Sheffield on 10 hour shifts 2 days 2 afternoons, 2 nights then 4 off plus family commitments , but a determined fancier will always find a way and that’s certainly the case for our subject!
The youngsters were bred By Daz at his address this enabled Chris to focus on the racing side of things using widowhood/ sliding door system, Chris told me “the results were unbelievable and totally amazed me as the loft was so small with as many as 5 cats between my close neighbours in back yards similar to those you see in Coronation Street.” Study these results and I’m sure you’ll agree that Chris’s results are more "Rocky Balboa than “Ken Barlow”:
Results achieved in just 9 races in the Barnsley South Road Federation over two season
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Fed 1,600 birds, 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Fed 1,450 birds, 1st 14th 1,551b, 6th 7th Fed 980 birds, 4th 5th 7th 8th Fed 850 birds, 3rd 14th Fed 804 birds, 4th 14th Fed 938 birds, 7th 8th 18th 20th 24th 26th 29th 30th Fed 1,209b, 4th 5th 15th Fed 1,659 birds 6th 30th 31st Fed 1,334 birds. Winning all bar two prizes in the club over the 9 races in two years send an average of just 14 young birds a race.... Also winning 2x1st Breeder Buyers totalling £1,800.
2016 saw Chris move to his present location Barnsley close to the boarder with West Yorkshire. Here a new self-built loft was erected so no racing was done that year , 2017 came and Chris competed in just four races sprinting (inland) from 60 to 200 miles with young birds in the Big Barnsley Fed . His new location is literally about 20 yards out of the other Feds boundary. The first race saw Chris take 18th 19th 20th 21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th 26th 27th Fed 3,145 Birds (10 together from 27 sent) then 1st Fed 3,898 Birds and 7th Fed 3,115 Birds .
In 2018 due to a number of reasons including his work and family commitments Chris decided to stop club and fed racing focusing on National racing with one goal and one goal only, and that is to be consistently successful in Section K of the National Flying Club. As we discussed this he explained: for the two years between 2017 and 2020 I have not really raced competitively apart from a couple of races in local classic clubs and Combines with yearlings in preparation for the NFC and although I did achieve good results I feel these are nothing to write home about really 1st Fed 5th Combine Falaise 3,000+b, 2nd Sec 8th Open NMCC Messac and I think 6th Sec 11th Open Falaise Northern Classic. But such is my ambition now I am only a member of the NFC and MNFC with the MNFC only being used for the Vire race at the back end its the NFC that all my birds will go to. Yearlings out to 400 mile and the 2/3 years olds to Sigogne around 540 miles. Chris races a team of 20 hens and 35-40 youngsters , the objective for the hens is the middle to short, long distance (one day National events ). The young birds are left natural and trained and sent as trainers to just 1 or 2 races due to Chris’s work pattern. He told me “my shifts at work really make it almost impossible to race pigeons as I race solely on my own with no help whatsoever, which often gets overlooked by most fanciers when reading results” . In my opinion Chris is a classic example of a traditional back garden English fancier who have been the backbone of our sport for centuries and this work ethic is already paying off , here is Chris with the story: I had two races in the National Flying Club this year Fougeres winning 1st Sec 1,000+b and 108th Open over 9,500 birds my hen was the first pigeon on the result flying over 300 miles and she was flying 360 mile. I then send a few young birds over to Coutances which was an extremely tough race for us up north but still finished 11th Sec with only four lofts beating me and 219th Open. So I got off to a good start winning 1st Sec K in my very first race with the NFC, fingers crossed it will continue.
I was keen to know how Chris feeds and motivates his team with his focus now being National racing , Particularly as this is something I am aiming for in the future so here is the “Northern Powerhouse feeding system from the man himself: Feeding is always kept simple both when sprinting and now whilst aiming at middle to one day long distance, although obviously it is now a little different. For a good few years I have used mainly Vanrobaeys feed before my own mixes began being produced for me by BJF Feeds, Sheffield which are excellent and proven to be just as good as the mixes I have use before. Basically when I was sprinting with just young birds the main feed was a light mixture that also contained a little fat to keep them up and exercising well early in the week even after a tough race on the Saturday, similar to my NPH Light mix, which is used now. It was then built up together with NPH Sport towards the end of the week with Thursdays feed being NPH Sport with NPH Fat as much as they wanted, Friday morning was just NPH Fat nothing after 10am. They always flew excellently well around home and once they were parted onto widowhood/door they would only train once a week at 30/40 miles and exercise once a day for an hour hens in the morning and cocks at night or whenever my shifts allowed. And as stated they flew incredible really considering all the circumstances, I honestly think that with my family of pigeons that myself and Daz have produced I would be where I am today, as I tried new lines every year whilst sprinting and all bar a few could compete with mine, including G/Children of all the world famous big name pigeons.
Back to feeding and these days my 20 hens just receive the NPH Light for a good few weeks after the young birds have been weaned, or having just sat for 10 days as I did with the hens last year. This mix really gets them working the sky’s and soon they are ready for training. Then the NPH Sport in introduced, the same feeding is used as was with the young birds when I raced them but without the Fat. This is up until around 3 weeks before the NFC races start which are my only competitive races, fat is introduced along with NPH Breeding, yes breeding as you can see from the photo it’s also an excellent mix for middle to long distance races . I also use red skin peanuts, but only supermarket bought for human consumption.
I have always been mad about motivation particularly when racing widow cocks with our Daz and with my young birds and both my little loft and my current loft (which was originally designed for just racing YB’s) is full of motivational opportunities that were used to the maximum whilst racing young birds with super results, they were like sex mad teenagers that would fly through a brick wall to get home and back in the loft..... By the way I never, ever, kept my young birds starving hungry, that is NOT the way to keep young birds or pigeons at all for that matter.
I have never been afraid of the use of medication; however, this is only during the racing season with the off season being kept totally clean of medication and only natural products used to support them. Natural immunity is extremely important for the longevity of a top family of racing pigeons. Chris uses Some Schroeder Tollisan products along with some from Dr Van der Sluis, but says since changing to National racing my use of medication has reduced quite a lot as has the use of supplements. On this subject Chris said “ I still buy a few that I will always use. Sedochol but only the one from Schroeder Tollisan, Backs Protein Plus made from animal proteins, excellent on NPH Breeding and NPH Fat 50/50 after a hard races along with Beyers Energy Oil used for the Protein Plus to stick too, the birds lift back up very quickly. Beyers Herba Zyma is also used in the racing period. Oregano & Garlic Oil and ProGem Plus both from Gem are also great products I use, particularly the ProGem Plus with young birds.
Chris and Daz , who unfortunately works most of the week away from home so is not able to even keep pigeons any more let alone race, are always happy to help fellow fanciers. For the last 6 or 7 years both have been helping a young fancier by the name of Lee Oxley with pigeons and advice . Chris told me “ instantly our birds performed exceptionally well for him in the Barnsley South Road Fed with many results like 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Federation most of those Fed winners and double Fed winners are now in my breeding loft. In fact it was Lee who bred me my 1st Sec K winner with my “27 Hen” being in the pedigree no less than 3 times. The 27 Hen is a daughter of “Young Anton” she won 1st Fed, 6th Fed, 9th Fed as a baby as well as 1st NE Sec MNFC 31st Open Carentan (not mentioned above) and 1st Chesterfield B/B £800. And she is now Dam to many winners Including 2x1st Fed. It’s great to see fanciers willingly share their knowledge with others and to see that kindness paying dividends for all involved.
Prior to writing this article I read through the information Chris sent me and time and again the name “Young Anton” a truly super pigeon would appear and so I asked Chris to tell me more about him : Young Anton, has got to be one of if not the best producer of sprint pigeon in the UK AT THE LAST COUNT HE HAS Sired 15x1st Federation for Daz, myself, Lee and also Glyne Buckley for the NFC winning loft of G&G Buckley and also winners/prize winners for the legend Geoff Kirkland and others.
Not to mention G/Children and G/G Children he is just phenomenal. Particularly when you consider that a maximum of only 4 young birds per year are raced from him. His blood is in almost all of my family of pigeons.
I hope readers have enjoyed this insight into this National minded fancier whose story proves that with determination and the right pigeons anything is possible and I am sure it won’t be the last time we see the name Chris Gibson on the result sheet , yes my friends I am certain this is only the beginning !
ventilation throughout the loft
This marvellous pigeon is a son of Young Anton and is sire of
3x1st Fed winners including 1st Fed 5th Combine Falaise 325 miles proof that with this family of pigeons the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree !
The mother of young Anton
Now that is what you call a small setup 8x6ft loft that Chris built when he moved from
Sheffield to his first house at the back end of Rotherham
Chris with his brother Darrell (Daz), Chris says: we really hit the ground running when we started back in the sport in 1999 winning everything in front of us with just 12 widowhood cocks taking 1st 2nd 3rd Fed in our first race back with just 10 yearling widowhood cocks and the winning carried on from there. Both working full time and with families.
The Young Anton Dynasty
Chris Gibson’s present day loft
NPH Breeding mix NPH Light NPH Sport NPH Fat
An example of the young bird section
The hens at feed time
Like Pea’s in a pod - the stock birds