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Life in The North East of England 34


Life in the North East of England (34)

Rod Adams

When I was new to racing pigeons the old timers used to say to me “son, you make your own channel pigeons.” I hadn’t a clue what they meant. If I could beg, borrow or “steal” sprint pigeons, surely I could get hold of channel birds in the same way? I soon learned differently and in time came to know what my seniors, and most definitely betters, were talking about. It was the fine balance between ensuring that you have equipped your future distance birds with enough experience, early enough in their lives, to enable them to cope with the real challenges yet to face and the risks of throwing them needlessly away before their time has come by getting into “the numbers game.” That of sending a lot of birds hoping to get one or two through. This is how you make or break channel birds and the old timers knew it.  Breeding, feeding, size and shape all come into the equation as does training and preparation, but, and it is a big but, these factors are secondary to providing your birds with a real chance of handling big distances and difficult days by making sure they know what they are doing. And where they are going when the big test comes.

A man that I respect very much once said to me, “half the birds liberated at Bourges must get up in the air and think where the hell are we?” It’s the ones who know where they are and know what they are about which are the ones that win. And those are the ones we all want! It was a lesson I learnt very early in my racing life. One which I seem to have forgotten in recent years, but which has come home to haunt me this past season. With some force. Of course there is a price to pay. There is a price to pay for everything. And if the price of gaining experience seems too high in terms of yearling losses, you have to ask yourself some serious questions. Like can I afford these losses? And is it worth it?  Your chickens should always come home to roost. When they don’t there will be reasons why. And you should know what these are. Or stop keeping chickens!

This morning brought a bitterly cold gale force North West wind and rain with skies that showed there was plenty more to come so I didn’t even think of letting the birds out. I nevertheless had a quiet bet with myself as I walked down the garden that the boys on the nearby allotments would have their’s out. Sure enough, one look confirmed my predictions. Despite the weather I could see four large batches of youngsters being blown wildly about the sky. Merging, disengaging, and swirling all over the place. It was madness and asking for trouble. If tonight doesn’t bring a damaged bird or two to me to be fixed then my name is not Rod Adams!

Why this obsession with having them out come hell or high water? Surely if it’s too uncomfortable for me to stand outside and watch them flying, then it’s too uncomfortable for the birds to be out.” One batch on it’s own being blown about the sky is bad enough but imagine several batches, and I’m talking about hundreds of pigeons here not just few dozen, all going different ways in the same air-space at the same time and some degree of clashing is inevitable. Regardless of the time of day or the weather there will be birds out on that site. Snow, rain or fog makes absolutely no difference. Does it make them better pigeons? I think not. So, today is a rest day. For the birds in my loft and for me.

This morning I handled some “muscle-bound” pigeons. The fancier concerned had been training his youngsters and they had been all day in coming home, with quite a few still missing. The two he brought to me had swollen breast muscles which were hard as a rock. Not warm, soft and pinkish such as you would get in a pigeon buoyant with health. The skin colour was quite blue with the muscles solid and unyielding. He told me that they wouldn’t fly and had been dropping all over the place. This is typical of the condition, which I have seen many times before. A direct result of too much continuous flying them, thinking you are doing them a favour, keeping them in. Instead of giving them limited, gentle exercise afterwards.

Wim Peters in his book “Fit To Win” recommends a light purge of a mixture of Sodium Bicarbonate and Magnesium Sulphate followed by multivitamins, light feeding and rest for a few days. With no exercise. And thinks it may be a metabolic condition. He also states there are no after effects. I can’t help but wonder how many fanciers have lost such pigeons by mistaking their apparent bulk for that of a well muscled-up bird. Fit and ready to do the business? Once you have handled a bird in this condition you won’t mistake it next time you see it. For sure.

My friend’s fall left him with a horrible looking, but not dangerous, Haematoma on his forearm. He now has a problem with Vertigo and has been teetotal, of necessity not by choice, for nearly two weeks. As a result I have had nobody to argue about pigeons with during that time, which has been a bit boring! He now has to ask himself a simple question. Did the Vertigo cause the original fall or did the fall bring on the Vertigo? It’s always a case of “which came first the chicken or the egg?” The type of question where there is more than one factor involved. When things do go wrong, health-wise, there is usually not a single, simple answer, but a combination of factors. When dealing with disease, ailments, accidents etc. in our birds it pays to keep an open mind and not to concentrate upon the one thing you think is the cause. Nine times out of ten there are other things going wrong at the same time. Life can be awfully complicated. My friend is lucky really. He can tell his doctor what ails him. Pigeons that can speak are rather thin on the ground!

The old timing clock was a work of art. The casing was made out of thick brass sheet. It was cylindrical, very heavy for its size, and in full working order. I think the owner said it was an “Abel” but what a piece of craftsmanship for it’s time. The shuttle hole was at the rear and you twisted the whole back to clock in and move to the next hole. As far as I could see, there was no key. It was wound up with a screwdriver! I would love to know a bit about it’s history. Who had owned it and the stories of the birds it had clocked. All I do is that it was used in a club in the Tyne Valley. It would have had a long and interesting history. One which I would have loved to know about. History has always interested me which brings me naturally to Archaeology. The best definition of which must be that of “a man who sees his life in ruins!”