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Ken Sluman Stevenstone Stud, North Devon





by Mark Sherborne

For many years the Stevenstone Stud of Ken Sluman was famous for the breeding and racing of the Dordin family of pigeons. It was in 1970 that Ken decided that he wanted pigeons that could win in the show pen and on the road, and he came to the conclusion that the birds of Pierre Dordin in France were the birds for both jobs. At that time Jim Biss owned the best of the Dordin family in the UK with birds such as "Scout", "Spahi", "Sombrero", "Turbulant", "Talisman" etc. So a visit was made to Norfolk and six young birds were purchased. Later in 1980 Ken made the trip to France to attend Pierre Dordin's bereavement sale and purchased 12 birds for future stock. These were brought home to Devon and were the foundation of the Stevenstone Stud, after which Ken successfully sold and raced the Dordin family for many years.

Ken with one of his new family of Jan Aardens.

However, like for so many fanciers in this country birds of prey started to become a real problem, both sparrowhawks and peregrines, which took up residence on a nearby bridge. In fact the problem became so bad that most of Ken's Dordin family were sold to the Murray Brothers of Cork, N.Ireland and Ken just kept a few for fun with the intention of eventually finishing with pigeons altogether. But thankfully the peregrines moved on and the sparrowhawk attacks, although not stopping, lessened to a manageable level.

Buoyed by a new enthusiasm for pigeons, Ken began to build up his stock loft again with Dordins from the lofts of Richard Boffey, Derek Lawton and good friends Brian and Geoffrey Jones, all of Cheshire. Added to these Ken was gifted 6 Janssen De Klaks from Tom Sherwood, which were blended into his own examples of Janssen De Klaks. Vanbruaenes from W. A. Gough & Son of Cheshire were added and, now keen to experiment, Ken also brought in some Massarella Jan Aardens of "Invincible Spirit" lines, and it is the blending of all these families which has renewed his passion for pigeon racing. In fact Ken told me that if he was starting from scratch today it would be the Jan Aardens he would choose as they posses the silky feather and strong backs Ken looks for, whilst also producing top racing results at the same time.

These new crosses and breeding challenges have begun to transfer to success on the results sheet with the 2010 and 2011 seasons seeing Ken highest prize winner, in terms of positions won, in both the Bideford and District Homing Society and the North Devon and East Cornwall Championship Club.

Ken has two fabulous lofts overlooking a lovely well maintained garden. He flies mainly widowhood but does have a few odd pairs on natural. Situated above and alongside the main loft is a 16ft x 6ft widowhood hen loft. The widowhood cocks are mated on or close to Valentine's day and sit out their first round of eggs. They are then allowed to sit their second round for eight days whereupon the hens are removed to the widowhood hens loft where they are housed on "V" perches. Ken's main loft is 58ft x 8ft in which the widowhood cocks' section is 16ft x 5ft with a 3ft corridor along the front of this 24 box section.

Ken's widowhood hens' loft with main loft below.

The cocks are exercised one hour morning and evening and are fed a breakdown mix up until Tuesday evening, and then a full widowhood mix from Wednesday. The cocks get an additional 4 peanuts each on Thursday am and pm also Friday mornings, and for the first few races their bowls are simply turned over for a quarter of an hour on basketing night. The hens are locked in the cocks' boxes awaiting their return and will stay with the cocks for about an hour on a quick race or longer depending on the race.

The main loft.

The birds will probably have about five training tosses before the first race then a couple between races up to 100 miles after which training is stopped. Ken's yearling cocks are expected to race most inland races whilst those cocks two years old and above will have a few inland races and then be selected for particular channel races with the NFC. This year Ken has bred about 40 young birds and of these the cocks will fly 100 miles whilst the young hens are expected to fly the programme.

Some of Ken's widowhood cocks. Note the colour of the name cards matches year/colour of ring. 

Interestingly in Ken's 8ft x 6ft corn store a radio is kept and switched on and off by means of a timer; the pigeons have expressed no particular preference in their musical taste. There are also three sections of 8ft x 5ft each with their own 8ft x 5ft aviary. These housed Ken's stock birds when Stevenstone Stud was selling commercially. Nowadays one of these sections houses Ken's ten pairs of natural birds, whilst the other two sections house 20 pairs of stock birds from the various families kept. Although he does not have as many pairs of stock as he used to, he would like to reduce further.

Ken uses ETS to clock his birds and although he is a fan of the system, he is the first to admit that you don't get the same "buzz" as if they trapped through open door.

Ken inside the widowhood cocks' section

Perhaps Ken's most famous pigeon was "Jamboree", an original Dordin that won 12 club 1st along with 4 combine 1st. He also claimed 3rd section D 57th Open Nantes National winning £630 in prize money at the same time. In fact one of Ken's most pleasant memories in pigeon racing was to get a 1, 2, 3 from a 200 mile race with "Jamboree" 1st, his son 2nd and grandson 3rd, all arriving together. "Jamboree" eventually went to stock but sadly went blind with cataracts at the age of twelve.

Although for Ken it is the experimentation with the breeding side of pigeon racing which is providing the interest for him, he still gets requests to sell some of his Dordins, and they are still very popular with those looking for a "pure" pedigree. For Ken it is now more about creating his own family and these days performance outweighs pedigree every time. 

Any news, views or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tel 01271 324069.




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