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Bryan Williams & Son of Ystradgynlais






Gareth Watkins chats to Anthony Williams

The following article came about as a result of Bryan and Anthony Williams’ winning of the 2011 Falaise 1 race organised by the BICC. It has been a long time in gestation as I initially asked Anthony to write down his thoughts and methods some eight months ago. He eventually relented when cornered at the recent BICC presentation evening! Nevertheless, better late than never and I’m sure fanciers everywhere will find this ultra keen young fancier’s ideas on the sport interesting.

Bryan and son Anthony.

When did you start in the sport?

My father Bryan Williams Senior started racing pigeons while in secondary school in 1962. I came along 10 years later and have been brought up with the pigeons ever since. We raced the north route for many years before finally turning south, with constant falcon attacks being the main reason for this change of route.

Who was your first major influence?

My father Bryan used to help the late Tommy Davies, who lived next door to him in the small village of Ynyswen situated high in the Swansea valley. There were 8 fanciers flying in the village in the late 50s and early 60s.

Please give brief details of your first loft, birds, management etc.

We started with a 10ft self-built loft which contained 2 x 5ft sections but soon added another 2 to make it 3 lofts, 2 for racing and 1 for stock. The stock loft had an aviary and the racing lofts had box traps on the front to get extra air into them. They were very basic with perches and a few boxes inside.

How long have you raced to your present location?

Since 2000 and before that in a small village of Ynyswen 5 miles further up the valley.

The widowhood loft.

Can you give details of your present loft set up i.e. overall dimensions, orientation, number of sections etc.

We have 4 racing lofts and 3 small stock lofts. There is a 24 ft young bird loft, 12ft widowhood loft and 2 x 10ft natural lofts. The racing lofts face different directions due to the garden layout. The widowhood loft faces east, the natural lofts face north and east and the young bird loft faces north. The young bird loft is the only bought loft, all the others were hand made by us and are set on block pillars to ensure a flow of air below the loft. The natural and young bird lofts have box traps to the front so the birds have an option to get out into the open air whenever they want to. The widowhood loft has a double sliding door front; one door can be opened on warm days to allow more air in with a wire interior door inside to allow this. All the lofts have a sloping roof from front to back.

Do you use deep litter, grids or clean daily/regularly?

The widowhood and young birds have clean floors in the loft but the naturals have a deep litter put down every 2 years. The deep litter varies from granules to easy bed. This depends on what is available at the time. The deep litter is used to promote natural immunity and is not touched once down for the 2 years it is down. It is very important that it is always kept dry. We would not use deep litter if there was a problem with dampness. The birds in the natural lofts can nest in the nest boxes provided or as some do, on the loft floor in the deep litter. The young birds bred in the natural loft are always very strong and healthy. These are only trained as young birds, as we feel the distance lines need time to mature. We race them inland as yearlings and over seas at 2 year olds.

Bryan Williams at the BICC Presentation February 2012.

How many birds do you keep?

We keep around 25 pairs of stock birds and 50 to 70 racers – made up of 21 widowhood cocks, 12 widowhood hens and the rest are natural distance birds. Around 100 young birds are reared each year and we generally keep 30 or 40 of these after the season and sell or donate the others to good causes or friends. The widowers are geared for inland racing and races up to 400 miles. The naturals are used for 400 miles and further. The natural lofts were established 3 years ago with a plan to get birds ready for Tarbes in 2012.

What system do you use to race the birds?

We fly widowhood 21 cocks and 12 widowhood hens, with both sexes returning to non racing stock birds. We also have 45 natural distance birds. These fly natural and we try to have them at different stages: eggs, young, driving cocks. Most of our best wins have been up to 350 miles achieved with our widowhood cocks. The natural birds we hope will come good in 2012 from the longer races.

Our intention is that in 2012 we will race our widowhood cocks inland with some selected for BICC or NFC races up to 350 miles. The widowhood hens will be targeted for the short channel races with the BICC, NFC and WSRNFC. They will be nursed inland for around 4 races then jumped into the channel races. They will then race every other week in classic races. The naturals will get 3 or 4 inland races to get them fit and they will then get two short channel races before being held back for specific races. We hope to have 3 at Tarbes and 10 at Bergerac in 2012.

When do you mate your stock birds and racers?

Stock birds are mated mid January and racers between mid January and early February.

Do you mate the birds you intend for the longer races at a different time to the other racers?

The widowhood birds are paired for the first race and we try to keep them going inland and 2 or 3 early channel races. The naturals are not paired at any date and are always left together as we do not separate these birds. We have found that they start to pair when the weather gets warmer and this year they have started to go together in late January but some have still not paired and it is now mid February. These will be fine for the June and July races.

Young Whiskey - 1st BICC Falaise

What is the preparation of the racers prior to the first old bird race?

The first old bird race is mid April and all the widowhood cocks will be ready for this. They will be exercised around the loft and then trained to 10 miles only before the first race. They will normally only get around 5 x 10 mile training tosses before the first race and they are not trained after the first race, just exercised twice a day around the loft. The naturals will be trained to 30 miles and raced inland to get them ready for the channel. We are pestered by falcons here so training is kept to a minimum but they usually have one training toss at 30 miles between races.

Do you force fly your birds during exercise or are they left to do as they please?

The widowhood cocks have to be forced to fly as they have a strong bond to their nest box and always want to come back to the loft. To encourage them to fly at home we use a long pole with a Welsh flag at the top. This forced exercise takes place twice a day. The naturals on the other hand, are left to do as they please once their lofts are opened up.

How often do you exercise the race birds?

As mentioned above, the widowers get worked twice a day and the naturals are given an open loft all day and trained to 30 miles once a week.

How often do you train the race birds before and during racing?

Training is only done for natural birds. They will get 1 training toss per week after the first race, and before the first race they will get as many as we can if they are left alone by the falcon. If they get hit often we will then stop the training.

How far do you usually train?

The widowers will only go to 10 miles, the naturals 30 miles.

Is there any specific preparation for the birds before National races?

Feeding: The birds get a good quality widowhood mixture and this is made up from 3 different mixes which we then mix to our own requirements. We also add grains with fats for the longer distance races. We will try a new feeding method for the distance birds in 2012 with loading certain foods before the big races.

Bryan and grandson Morgan.

How do you feed the racers, stock birds, young birds – hopper/by hand. How do you gauge how much they need at each feed?

No food is measured in our lofts; the widowers have access to food for a certain length of time, so they are self regulating. We find the harder they work the more they eat and the less work done the less they eat in the specific time allowed. The naturals get food in front of them all the time. This feed will differ depending on the races being flown and the time of year.

What mixtures do you feed?

We use Beyers and Marimans feeds. We mix them together and this is then the base of the feeding for most of the birds. We add extra grains before the big races. The naturals will get Gem mixtures throughout the year.

Do you feed any differently in the build up to National races?

We will treat our 2012 natural distance birds differently with specific grains being loaded in to the birds in the days prior to basketing.

What are the main bloodlines that you house now and which lines have proved the most successful?

We have many strains here but the main one is the Van Reet. Over the past twelve years we have brought in many Van Reets and with a severe selection policy we have now developed a very strong Van Reet stock loft. These birds do very well from 60 to 350 miles. They try every week. The 3 main sources of this family have come from Mr & Mrs Stanway from Manchester (2000); Ritchie Ryder (2003); Langstaff (2006). These 3 lines have been mixed and blended together to form our own family of Van Reets. We also have a number of other strains e.g. Maris (Mick Lennon); Janssen (A Maull, F. Dixon); Hereman Ceusters (Premier Lofts); Herman (J. Brocklehurst). We have also brought in distance lines:- Jan Aarden, Van Bruaene, Van Geel, Jos Thone and Distance Blacks. These have been blended to make our own Distance family.

Red Cock - 9 x 1sts.

Do you line breed, in breed outcross when breeding. Which method has been most successful for you?

We have line bred in the past but find for racing a cross is always best. There are birds at stock bred from close pairings but racing these inbred birds has not proven to be successful for us.

Is there any fancier who has helped you more than any other?

There have been many fanciers who have helped throughout the years with great friendships made. It would be wrong of me to name one or two of the many that have been friends for so long.

Can you give an outline of your many top class performances and those that have given you most pleasure?

We have won many races in the 40 years the name has been flying, but here are a couple of lasting memories:- 1st Federation Thurso 1999 winning the very last Scottish race flown on the north route. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Federation young birds from Epsom with over 1,500 birds competing. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th Fed young birds 2011 with 820 birds sent in the Federation. However, the best so far that will live with us for a long time is 1st BICC Falaise 2011 beating 1,800 birds entered from all over England and Wales, some from lofts over 100 miles shorter than us. The winner, “Young Whiskey”, will be remembered for a long time.

Can you give details of some of the top pigeons that you have raced?

We have had many top birds over the years. Young Whiskey - 1st BICC; Red cock “74” - 9 x 1sts; “The Big Boy” - 8 x 1sts; The Denduiver - 6 x 1sts; “The Wildy Hen” - 6 x 1sts. The main winning bloodlines now are Van Reets as we have specialised at short to middle racing in the past. In the past five seasons we have won the following:- 2007 17x 1sts; 2008 13 x 1sts; 2009 19 x 1sts; 2010 19 x 1sts; 2011 24 x 1sts including 1st, 4th & 7th Open BICC plus 14 x 1st section in the Federation.

No 1 Van Reet stock bird. Sire of 3 x 1st Fed & grandsire of 5 x 1st Fed winners.


Do you have any views on how the sport can be improved and how we can attract new members into the sport?

The sport will only be saved by the young coming in. More clubs must start to help young fanciers with free flying and free birds. They should be encouraged and given awards for their achievements.

Do you have a specific programme of medication?

The stock are treated before pairing every year and then cankered when on eggs, but no other treatments are used. The racers are also treated before pairing and then cankered when on eggs. We watch the birds every week and test if they go off form or are not looking quite as they should do. Appropriate treatment is then given.

Do you use any supplements such as vitamins etc?

We use cider vinegar regularly in the water and also garlic every Sunday. Vitamins are also added and I use a range of grits and minerals.

Foundation Van Reet stock hen, mother of the loft being dam & g.dam of 8 x 1st Fed winners.

Do you feed any supplements in the build up to long distance National races?

We will be trying a few new ones out in 2012, but will not mention them here just in case they are of no use [or are successful!!].

How does your ideal pigeon look/handle?

Winners come in all shapes and sizes. The bigger birds are for the shorter races but we will send any bird to any race if bred for the job. Personally we like a medium build bird with a very bright clear eye. Eye colour is not important. We like calm birds here but our Van Reets are renowned for being a little wild when pure bred.

If you could only use one product/supplement what would it be?


Finally, I would like to mention our young bird “test loft”. Each year we introduce around 50 young birds, from breeders from all over the UK and Ireland. We then race these birds and if any win we give the breeders the credit. Many of the breeders do not have the opportunity to fly in classic races so by sending their birds to us they can be part of something special. Every “test loft” bird is sent to every race if fit as a young bird and then raced on as yearlings and older birds. Updates are given every week to the breeders. We get great pleasure from fanciers who live in an awful position whose bird wins a very high Federation position at our test loft. The banter and feedback is first class.

The young bird loft.

Our natural distance plan started in 2009. Every year we breed distance lines and these are not raced in their year of birth, they are only trained to 30 miles. Training takes place in the winter months. They then get up to 10 inland races as yearlings from 96 to 150 miles. We then test them as 2 year olds. We will have 25 2 year olds ready for the channel in 2012.

The long distance loft.

There you have it then, the thoughts of a young fancier of the highest calibre who has learned his trade from his father Bryan and from meeting and listening to some of the top fanciers in the UK. This resulted in the partners’ great win in the first race of the BICC’s old bird programme in 2011 from Falaise, a distance of more than 250 miles to the Williams loft, situated at the top end of the Swansea Valley in West Wales.