There was a comment on social media about how many a loft had bred from one pigeon; the impression was that this could not happen but as any modern-day pigeon fancier knows you can breed a lot of pigeons off a single pigeon, hens not so many but cocks the number is endless. I remember going to Bifs where Ferdi Vandersanden was breeding off two National winners for the late Brian Long. The two cocks were Vale Cahors and Red Barcelona, and they were to be bred off by using artificial insemination and using top class hens from the Bifs stud, these hens were nearly always direct daughters of 1st National or International winners. I cannot remember the total of young birds bred off these two cocks, but it was in the region of 70 off each of the cocks and this was all in 3 months.
There is also the Bull system where if done right can soon see 20 young birds out of one round so 4 rounds will see a good cock have 70 plus yb’s in any one year. The best way is obviously through the AI system because you are not taking as much out of the cock. The best one I saw using the bull system was Ralph Taylor back in the early 70's when he had a chequer Dordin cock and his first round saw 15 young birds out of 16 eggs and they handled and looked the same, you could see they were from the same cock. With them all being blue or chequer hens and a chequer bull cock, all being Dordins, they were always going to be much of the same.
At that time Ralph was ahead of most fanciers but liked a drink or two and was known to be in bed when the pigeons arrived on race days. He was also very keen on the eye sign theory and he studied it with every pigeon he looked at along with his fellow builder Mick O'Grady who was also well into the eye sign theory. Is eye sign in racing pigeon’s fact or theory, just depends on who you are talking to because there are fanciers out there who turn the subject into fact. However, the majority of fanciers do not take the time to study the subject so are never going to get the best out of their pigeons through eye sign.
Going back to breeding a lot off one cock, we were at the lofts of Luc Sioen of Moorslade in Belgium and he had just bought a cock, I think was called something like Kirkduife and he had a section of his own. Luc would put a hen in with him and when she had laid her eggs they would be taken away and a new hen put to the cock. As I recall there were 17 already off this cock at the time of our visit, so how many he took off him that year is another matter. There are different ways of using good well-bred cocks for breeding purposes, the one thing you need more than anything else is patience and that is what the system is all about, that is unless you are Ferdi Vandersanden and using the AI system. The problem is using any of these systems with a top-class cock means many are sold and not too many raced.
Therefore, I have to say I have no idea if there is a good percentage of pigeons bred this way winning.
Bringing them in.
We all have our own ideas about racing pigeons and what we need to bring in for improvements, or we hope they are improvements. Some fanciers like to buy an old bird or two with the view that they have not been kept all these years for nothing and that is often the case. Over the years with the website, I have seen many older pigeons sold and fanciers have bred winners from them. I have seen them being sold anything up to 13yrs of age and fanciers have bred winners from them, not all but some have. I always think that pigeons who breed into old age, 10yrs plus for pigeons, are generally good sound pigeons with no weakness in them.
We all have our views and here is one from Frank. “Hi Les. One thing I have noticed on the Elimar 'for sale' aspect of your website, are the number of quality older pigeons that become available for sale. Now, on one hand, you could argue that the owners have taken what youngsters they desire from these quality birds and are keen to spread their genes. The reality, sadly, seems to be they have finished with that line of pigeons and, in their latter breeding years, decide they cannot offer the poor bird a perch and sell it on! In these days of 'awareness', it will soon become unacceptable to offload spent stock which said fanciers decide they can no longer afford a perch/food! or for that matter, fanciers choose to race birds in extreme conditions anyway! The world has changed, even if the RPRA have not. It may also become unacceptable, the losses that fanciers are currently experiencing, to an outsider of our sport, the fact that pigeons are virtually 'left to themselves ' or become part of the predatory food chain in the midst of a race would be abhorrent!
I personally find that disgusting to be honest, we live in an age of enlightenment, our sport will be judged under present criteria, not that of the 40's and 1950's. I am trying to view our sport with a modern 'eye ' Regards Keith, Cheshire”.
An addition to the above I have just finished the next part of this article, a letter from Fergus Wilson and he has mentioned age. He had several pairs of the Joe Shore pigeons at 10yrs old, as anyone who knew Joe would tell you he had a good strong team of pigeons that few the Pau National with ease.
They say once you are gone you are forgotten about but that is not always the case as we often see in the writings of fanciers old and new. A few weeks back I mentioned the late Joe Shore from Comberbach and had a response. Joe was one of the great distance racers in the UK and for that reason someone, somewhere is always going to say something that others will pick up on. There was interest from the first time I mentioned Joe and a response from Fergus Wilson has created a further email from Fergus.
“I have been asked of the Joe Shore birds I had in 1990 and 1991. Joe Shore unfortunately passed away six month ago in August 2020. I purchased in all 94 youngsters from him as I wanted to fly them out. After the Hurricane in October 1987, I had to rebuild the lofts, I then started afresh with the Joe Shore pigeons. Mr Shore was an outstanding stockman with successes with horses, Jack Russell dogs and pigeons. He had a considerable number of pigeons which had scored from Pay with the NFC. The pigeons I had were all colours but no grizzles and no silvers. I bred a few whites out of solid-coloured birds and I gave some whites to Dave Pratt of Fulham and Alan Cecil of Maidstone. I last sold pigeons in 1985 and in the early 1990s my wife’s Property Investment Business took up very much of my time so pigeons took a back seat. I kept the birds close to nature. To drink they had to visit the horse water trough then back into the loft for the night. I had no time to race but would jump the pigeons to Weymouth during October such that all youngsters had to fly about 120 miles. I bred just a couple with feathers coming out of the head over about ten years. I bred some youngsters with five toes on each foot. None of the originals had that! These were all powder blues looking distinctly showy! It got to the stage of if they had five toes, they were always powder blues. When it came to sending them 120 miles, they were no better than the other birds, nor were they any worse! In around 1995 Joe Shore decided to concentrate on short distance racing and floated eggs under his old family. Overnight he changed from Long Distance to Short Distance. About that time, I obtained planning permission to knock down the pigeon lofts and erect two detached houses. I had over 400 Joe Shore pigeons and fanciers would write to me, but I did not have time to involve myself in selling pigeons. In the year 2000 all the pigeons were disposed of. I still had several nest pairs from 1990 aged ten years old. Fergus Wilson. February 2021”
Looks like we are going to get at least a bit of summer with more socialising and hopefully this will lead to a good racing season, might not start as early as some would like but I do not think that will do pigeon racing any harm.
The Blackpool Show has been missed by the more socially minded fanciers who like to meet their distance friends at such events. The only thing that was on my mind for the sport was would we get the distance races that many like to compete in. If you remember the last time, the French took a dislike to us, they only allowed pigeons to go as far as Saintes with the National so that the pigeons had a chance of reaching the UK on the day. After Brexit, the children who lead the EU are always going to put obstacles in our way, for some reason it comes over that they have never liked the UK. Still according to the financial pages, I have been reading the UK will be one of the first to bounce back, we look in anticipation.
The end section that was once for stock birds has now got 4 nest boxes provided by Ray Lunt, and Ebony assures me that she will help look after “Periwinkle” and friends. How much attention she intends to give is another matter, but it is my excuse to have a few down the side but not in the back garden. When I originally put the stock loft down the side of the house the door was on the other end going out into the back garden. We then had an extension added to the back of the house, so the door on the stock loft was moved to the front end of the house. There were three sections down there, two for stock birds and one perched out for winter separation.
The latest additions now have the far end section where there were originally 8prs housed but we will not be having that many this time round, or that is what is happening at the moment, you know the old saying “Best laid plans”.
We have now moved on to 4prs of selected pigeons, only keeping a few so they have to be good quality and if I see a flaw in them, they will not last very long, no matter what they cost.
With needing a few items and corn we went over to Roger Sutton’s Astbury Pigeon Supplies, I knew I could get everything I needed from there. A bag a corn for 4prs will last a while and I needed all the usual, vits, minerals, nest bowls, drinkers Etc. I was incredibly surprised at the amount of stock that they have, they must now be one of the biggest suppliers for pigeon fanciers in the country. Roger can also fly a good pigeon, probably being one of the best in Cheshire, but not easy to get information out of him. Over the years I have written about him and when I have been talking to him, I have always got the impression that he would rather stay out of the limelight. With such a good racing record over the years he should be more forthcoming because there are lots of fanciers out there who win nothing like Roger does but their names are always in the limelight.
And there’s more.
When we are young, we all have dreams of what we want to do or be in life in the years ahead of us, is it always a pipe dream? I think not in all cases. There are many people who have set their sights high and achieved their goals through hard work. This story started when this young girl was about 7 years old and she decided that she was going to have pigeons of her own after watching the family race pigeons but due to circumstances that did not happen when she first thought of such a challenge, and racing pigeons is a challenge, which is why fanciers keep going. Fast forward another 9 years, to this year and while the children were off school due to Covid, she saw her chance. She had obviously has been thinking about things and then by chance she mentioned her ideas not only to me but had the opportunity to discuss her views to a wider audience and bring those original dreams up to date. What brought this up again was when her teacher asked the class to email him anonymously and tell him something about yourself, that he would not know about you. Whether you’ve taken up a new sport or hobby in lockdown or just an interesting tit-bit and not to tell anyone what they had written. The teacher was taken back when he opened the email with the following statement from one of his pupils; This is what it said.
“Throughout the holidays, I have done some baking and continued with the step challenge, going on many walks. But I have also taken up a new sport. This sport has been in my family for generations but usually it has always been done by the males of the family, so I decided to change this. I am now a pigeon fancier (aka pigeon racer) and I have already got my first team of pigeons which I will be breeding off to sell the youngsters as well as race them. My aim is to become the top pigeon flyer in Cheshire”.
The young lady in question is Ebony Crowley and she is correct, her family have had pigeons for generations, I think there are 5 generations that we know of. How will Ebony go on, that we shall have to wait and see but what I can say is that she has her first 5 stock pairs and the 20 rings have arrived. Thanks to Ray Lunt for making the nest boxes and we are looking at getting a small loft and it will only be small so everything will be under control. This is one of those cases of where do we go from here? Ebony has her own ideas of what she wants to achieve so watch this space. As you can see from the photo Ebony’s in getting me in line with the white coat as well. The two pigeons we are holding are from the Kevin Murphy sale and what crackers they are.
South West Cheshire
Race Programme 2021 South West Cheshire/Wrekin Old Birds pick up date17th April Cheltenham, 24th April Mangotsfield, 1st May Frome, 8th May Yeovil, 15th May West Bay, 22nd May Frome + Carentan. 29th May Frome, 5th June Mangotsfield + Fougeres 12th June Mangotsfield. 19th June Mangotsfield + Messac. 26th June Mangotsfield, 3rd July Cheltenham, 10th July Cheltenham + Saintes. 2 weeks break then young birds. 24th July Cheltenham, 31st July Cheltenham, 7th Aug Mangotsfield, 14th Aug Mangotsfield, 21st Aug Frome 28th Aug Yeovil, 4th Sept West Bay Combined lib at Frome Yeovil.