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Sand P Kulpa L Oft Report 05-01-18

S and P Kulpa - never standing still.

A few years ago I did an article for the various year books about the partnership of Steve and Paul Kulpa from Reading. This came about following a visit to the partnership to pick up the young bird i had purchased that they had donated to the NFC Young Bird sale. I was quite simply blown away by the quality of the birds housed and more importantly at how simple and basic looking their celibate hens system was. I recently caught up with Paul again following their continuing successes over the intervening 3 years and was interested to hear that they were now flying a few celibate cocks alongside their celibate hens and widowhood cocks. This caught my interest and I decided to delve a little deeper.

 Prior to 2000, the family were at their previous address in Woodley where Steve was sprinting reliable teams of cocks inland in partnership with his wife as Mr and Mrs Kulpa. In 1993 a 13 year old   Paul was showing a tentative interest in the pigeons, but Steve insisted that he did an apprenticeship as his loft helper for 12 months and then if/when Paul was still interested then he would look at bringing him in to the team. And so it was that 12 months later the racing partnership of Steve and Paul Kulpa was created.

Paul and Steve Kupla -  continuing success at all levels.

 In 1998 they had 6 spare young hens left after racing out the young bird programme, so they decided to overwinter them in the young bird loft and that is where they remained as yearlings. The partnership raced these hens each week inland without any special treatment or feeding they were treated like the young birds they shared a loft with. These yearling hens held their own against the crack team of spring cocks, and one of the little ladies '84' won the combine out of Bergerac that year. As is often the case with top pigeon men the boys thought there might be something to the gained from racing hens properly and that is where their system developed from. In 2000 they moved to their present address and as the area for the lofts was a blank canvas they sat down and devised a set of lofts to allow them to race hens to their full potential, and not being a people to do things by half they designed and built a loft that would allow them to race a maximum of 80 hens.

The one striking thing about this system of racing hens is that they are raced entirely celibate. At the end of young bird racing the hens are put in to a couple of very deep and roomy sections that have a large aviary attached and this is where they will race to for the duration of their careers. These hens are never paired up which was a surprise to me as I thought that they would be raced back to cock birds who were never raced themselves, but this is not the case. The hens never see a cock bird during the entire time they are in the race team, so what about motivation then? The hens have nice deep box perches and on a Friday there are a few nest bowls scattered about for hens to find and sit in calling to other hens. Incredibly, whilst they don’t encourage the hens to pair up to each other they take no action to prevent or discourage it. This goes back to what I said earlier about rewriting the rule book, if hens get rank they use it to their advantage to squeeze out a few extra yards on a Saturday. This is a refreshing change from the majority of us who have all tried a long list of strategies to prevent our hens from pairing The Kulpa boys use these natural urges and channel them positively rather than getting stressed about it all. I think if the truth be told, after having watched both Paul and Steve around the birds, the majority of these hens race home to get a bit of attention and fussing from them, they are in effect paired to the boys.

There are obviously benefits to racing a team of hens celibate including not needing to carry as many birds as they do not need cocks to race back to. This must cut down on the workload and has allowed them to develop an effective management system which we will look at presently. Paul touched on a very important benefit of racing the hens on pure celibacy they can be asked to undertake a heavier workload and will actually relish it. At these lofts the hens are raced as a team right through the programme from the first federation race in April right through until the Classic races run in tandem with the young birds in September. This includes the national and Classic middle  distance channel races. The hens continue to compete with distinction right through this lengthy programme without becoming stale or losing the urge to race. The partnership have observed that the hens thrive on this race programme and they have also noted that after a particularly hard or trying race the hens just seem to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and get on with the job in hand, whereas the cocks are prone to sulk and feel sorry for themselves for a day or two.

One of the top national performers in the Kulpa loft.

At the end of a long season the hens are slowly wound down with loft exercise reduced to one daily for two weeks and then they are confined to barracks all winter until the following March. During this time they have access to plenty of baths and large aviaries where they can enjoy the fresh air and recuperate quietly whilst they moult. It is at this stage that they are treated for paratyphus and salmonella in readiness for the following year. The following Spring the ladies are slowly brought back in to fighting form with a slow build up of fitness around home before any road training is undertaken. Only when the hens are exercising with vigour will they see a basket, and even then it is carefully managed and it is now when the observations of two pairs of eyes are used to determine what amount of basket training will be given, this is never the same two consecutive years. As Paul says, they will only go training when they are ready to go. When the ladies are settled in to a training routine they will get as many chucks through to 30 miles as the team can fit in between work commitments, but there is no hard and fast rule and no magic number of how many they need to have before racing gets underway. Before training gets underway the race team are vaccinated and have a 4 in 1 treatment for the usual ailments to help get a racing edge on them.

The results that these ladies rack up show that the system works with deadly efficiency and they have a family of birds that are bred to thrive on the system.  With this in mind it is perhaps unsurprising that the small, select team of cocks raced celibate is also thriving on the system. The decision to race a few cocks in this way mirrors the decision process put in place 20 years ago when the partnership started to race celibate hens. At the end of the 2015 young bird programme they were left with 55 young birds that had completed the Federation young bird programme 20 young hens and 35 young cocks. After moving across young cocks to fill the vacant nest boxes in the widowhood cocks loft there were still 12 young cocks remaining. It was decided to keep them in one of the young bird sections and race them from here the following season and let them hold their own against the established widowhood cocks.

The game plan that the partnership opted to follow was exactly the same as the ultra successful hens system that they had developed over the previous 20 years. Whilst the widowhood cocks were busy with family duties in mid February the Celibate boys were starting to have their liberty for short periods of time on a daily basis to build up their fitness levels. When the partners felt they were ready, a few short, sharp 5 milers were given, then moving on to 15 miles and if time and weather allowed they had a couple of 25 milers to leave them ready for the first race of the Federation programme. Then they were treated like the rest of the old bird team in terms of feeding and exercise and as with the others they were expected to compete from the first race to the last in the Federation programme right through to Saintes just short of 400 miles to the Kulpa loft.

In the first year 10 of the original 12 remained after completing a full race programme, and these were supplemented with another couple at the end of each of the two subsequent young bird seasons. You could be forgiven for thinking that Steve and Paul have just chucked a few spare cocks in a section with box perches and let them get on with it. However, this is a system that in underpinned by 2 very experienced fanciers who have developed a family that thrives on a system that they have allowed to evolve over a period of 20 years, and we can’t lose sight of that. In the short time that they have been flying cocks on this system this small team has managed to bag 3x1st Clubs, 2x1st Federations and for the limited national and classic races they will have experienced they have managed a respectable 3rd, 22nd, 35h and 38th Section E and 19th open, all at NFC Level. Not bad for a few spare cocks that Steve reckons they are only ‘messing about with’!

I think it is well known that the Kulpa partnership have done very well with pigeons from Ponderosa. This came about after Steve and his wife went on a day trip down to Weymouth in the early 90’s  and called round at Ponderosa to look over the birds that were here. Steve liked what he saw and came away with a pair from their well established Janssen family. The young birds of these began to get on the result sheet regularly so they went back for a few more. Around this time Orbital Lofts in Reading  - which was the partnership of Terry Hudson and Roger Lowe was ripping up trees and setting all kinds of records with a family of Van Loon birds. They loaned the young Paul two birds to breed from for a season and they were very pleased with what they produced. At the end of the season Orbital lofts were having an auction and the lads travelled up north to the sale and bought the two birds they had been loaned and a De Klak hen, one of these  they paired to the original Ponderosa cock and they clicked, producing children and grandchildren to chalk up scores of prizes.

The visit to Ponderosa in Weymouth became an annual event as they like the quality of birds and as Steve said the Stud bought and bred from birds that they could not afford themselves. During these visits they would have a thorough look at what was on offer and come away with whatever took their fancy, this could be 1 or 5 and as the family developed and built on their success they partnership found that on occasions they came away with nothing if there was nothing better than what they already had at home. The family became based around the lines of The General and Porsche Bond, the classic vintage Janssen lines, these lines thrived under the expert management of Steve and Paul.

Strength in depth a few of the many top performers in the Kulpa team.


Around this time Paul had been doing some research on the internet and unearthed a racing machine that was owned by Ponderosa in Holland by the Eijerkamp family themselves a bird called Bartoli. They contacted Eijerkamp family directly to enquire about buying directly from Bartoli but would have to wait until the following year as there were none available direct from him that year. The following Autumn they were invited over to Holland and of the 4 direct children available they bought 3 and these were brought back to Reading. This proved to be an astute purchase as with a very short time they became the grand parents of a 1st and 2nd national. The partnership were massively impressed at the speed with which these Bartoli birds settle in and began impacting on the lofts results. Within a short period of time, and based solely on results, the Bartoli line quickly became the dominant line in the loft, but being underpinned by the best of the old General and Porsche Bond lines.  This approach provided a steady stream of top class racers for Steve and Paul and they continued to put together an enviable set of results.

However, as is the case with quality pigeon men, the Kulpas were aware that they needed to bring in some new blood to boost the existing birds and in 2009 got back in contact with Ponderosa in Holland to see what was winning well. The family that was recommended was the Herman Ceusters which the Eijerkamp family had invested heavily in and which were racing well for them. The end result was that 4 of these were brought in to the loft at Reading to try. Paul was very pleased with these from the start and they are of a similar type to the established Janssen based birds they have. They are finding these new introductions very fast birds, especially when crossed so the future looks bright for them in the deadly hands of Steve and Paul. Never ones to stand still, on the recommendation again of the Ponderosa Holland staff they have also brought in a few Stefaan Lambrecht birds, and although few in number they are earning name for themselves when pulled across the existing family. For the few that they have tried the partnership are more than happy with what they are seeing with the new cross in to the existing winning family.

It is obvious that this is a partnership in the truest sense of the word, with both parties sharing the work load but more importantly they both share a desire to win and a vision of what is needed to move the loft forward. As Steve is directly involved with the building trade he often has to leave home early to be on a building site somewhere so would not always be available each morning for the same amount of time. As a result of this it is Paul who does the chores in the morning as his place of work is permanent. Each morning sees all the race team exercised for an hour that’s widowhood cocks, celibate hens and young birds. They are cleaned through and fed in and then Paul is off to work, leaving the birds to rest in the lofts. Steve then steps up to the mark for the evening shift when he comes in from work and starts the process all over again, and is joined by Paul to help finish of the tasks and have 2 pairs of eyes looking over the team. In its simplest form the routine during the season is out in fed out in fed. Now this makes it sound simple and straight forward, and I suppose it is really, but the simple bits are the result of 17 years of trial and error and they have had to stand by their mistakes on a race day when they have tinkered too far. The feeding used is Versela Laga PLX widowhood and Diat 200, and the hens get this at a rate of 1ounce per day, with it split evenly over the 2 feeds they receive after loft exercise. The approach to feeding is instinctive, and is determined by the type of race the birds had on the Saturday, if it was a tight race where they had to put in a shift then they will be reintroduced to the full corn mix by Monday, otherwise they have a few more feeds of Diat 200 before being moved back on to the stronger PLX mix. The team are also big fans of the Aviform 11 in 1 system, and it is an integral part of their loft management 365 days a year, but again trial and error had led them to tweak this slightly to meet the needs of their birds.

Given the run of success that this partnership have had, it would naturally be difficult to pinpoint any memorable experience. However, they recall vividly winning The Berkshire Hospital Cup when it was still a hotly contested Sprint Open race in the area. They also remember having the pleasure of breeding and racing ‘50’ an absolute racing machine who clocked up 13x1st clubs and 3x1st Federations as well as The Hospital Cup. When asked what was left on their list of ambitions Paul mentioned that they want to win a national, not something that is beyond their reach as they have been 2nd national twice. I think they have the birds and the ability to achieve this one.

So there you have it, the winning system for racing celibate hens and celibate cocks employed with devastating effect by these two gentlemen. Of course it helps that they can fly a pigeon and have the best of sprint and middle distance blood in their stock loft, with a large chunk of these being retired racers who have earned a bit of an easy life. As I said earlier they also race a mean sprint cock and they knit in alongside the celibate teams very well. Together it all works as a whole the men and the birds.

One of the ladies that The Kupla boys race with devastating results.


To demonstrate just how this works Steve and Paul have won every Caversham inland race in the 2015 season in the strong BB&O Federation during the old bird season that’s 11 races in all, and they have won the BB&O Federation 6 times during the 2015 season, and this is a federation that averages 2500 and has a large radius running east to west. This level of success continued in to 2016 where the loft won 15x1st Clubs, 4x1st feds and to show they can go toe to toe with eh big boys they clocked up 4x1st Section E in the NFC and came oh so close on 2 occasions with 2nd Open NFC Fougeres and 2nd open NFC Saintes. In 2017 the partnership clocked up 14x 1st clubs, 4x 1st Feds and an eye watering 142 fed positions. In case you think that it is the system alone that is responsible for the success just consider that a local partnership of Eddy and Joyce Kulpa ( also known as Gramps and Nanna) fly exclusively the bloodlines from Steve and Paul and have notched up 157x 1st Club and 31x1st Feds as well as winning the NFC Young Bird national. So, these birds win elsewhere.

Personally, I think it is refreshing to find a partnership that has achieved this level of success over 20 + years including runner up at NFC level on several occasions ( on one of these occasions they were responsible for the breeding of the bird that beat them!!) who have remained unfazed and unaffected. All too often we see fanciers who taste success turning in to self-promoting machines to generate and inflate the sale of pigeons. There is a very true saying that ‘self praise is no praise’, but that was never going to be an issue with Steve and Paul Kulpa, and I have no hesitation in revisiting this top partnership and shoving them in to the limelight for a bit of well earned glory. Take a bow gentlemen, you have earned it.