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Jim Talks to Nigel Laycock


Nigel Laycock talking to Jim Emerton


1.As a famous pigeon fancier, how are you doing with the birds:

1. I've had pigeons along time and to be honest I will always be pigeon mad. The sport needs a kick up the arse or should I say the fanciers do. Due to a health problem and not being able to get into a local Federation over the last few years I just haven't had my head in gear, so I have not been seen in the pigeon books as much. I can change that if and when I want to, that's not a problem.                


Nigel Laycock holding"Lakeys Bridesmaid" 1st Yearling 2nd Open MNFC Ancensis 435mls 5,510 birds.


2. Are you still concentrating on racing up to 500 miles on the day, or perhaps further?

2. I love racing from all distances and have the birds if done right to be a serious contender from the first to the last race. As I have said the local Feds boundaries finish North and South of me, so I am racing in a good organisation but for sprint racing totally out on a limb. There are many gods in the sprint world, 95 percent although a lot will tell you they are not, are in the right location for that organisation, the other 5 percent are flying against inferior opposition. The organisation I race in now let a fancier in that has a far better loft location than anyone, when it's his day he cleans up, now they want him out. They let him in thinking he was a novice and the man’s got his act together, worked hard and got his just rewards. Sorry but you'll all have to try harder and get ready to take it on the chin on a regular basis because he will only get better. In sprint racing if a fancier has a good drop, he will take some beating, in sprint racing if a top fancier has a good drop he looks like a God and is unbeatable.                              


3. Are there some changes to your system, now that you have done so well for us all to see?

3. You have to adapt systems for the different distances and the time of year they take place. In the wild a bird comes into condition with the extending daylight hours, it then breeds to coincide with the time when the food supply to feed its young is most abundant. Our birds with the use of lights and the grains we feed can be brought in and out of form if and when we want to. I do however think that for the time we have once a condition is reached its a case of maintaining this condition with the goal being to reach maximum condition for a chosen race, the birds will be winning but by applying a system over a length of time the birds digestive system, body clock and metabolism are working in sync with each other, this is why it is important to stick to a system and if a change is needed do it gradually or you might spoil your whole season which many do Year in year out.                                             


Nigel Laycock at Janssen Bros Lofts


4. Do you have your own family now mate?

4. Yes, I would call them my own families, although I do bring the latest winners in when they catch my eye, this is throughout my sprint / Middle- and long-distance teams. Once I find a special pigeon that has everything I'm looking for, my aim is to replicate him, and this is where a lot go wrong with breeding and genetics. I see many times fanciers talking about creating this winning gene pool by purchasing winners pairing them all together and bingo lets have it. Genetics don't work like that and to go too deep into it would confuse and become a boring read for many. The best and easiest way to explain this is the Nigel Laycock Ribena test, many will know this because we have had a lot of educational fun explaining this simple test. Get out thirteen glasses and place them on a board set out like a pedigree, our Champion is called "Ribena" so put quarter of an inch Ribena in a glass, in another glass put the same amount only this time orange, mix the two together and taste, can you taste "Ribena" answer is yes there's definitely Ribena present. Now in another two glasses put dandelion and burdock Cock in one Coca Cola Hen in the other mix them together then mix this with the Orange Hen and "Champion Ribena" now taste this, is our Champion present or have we weakened his presence, yes definitely weakened. Now mix Champion Ribena with Coca Cola Hen, Champion Ribena with Orange Hen then mix the two together now taste it, yes there’s definitely a Ribena taste. Now what is your next step to strengthen and breed to your Champion, Champion Ribena mated back to the best performance birds from Ribena/Orange when paired to Ribena/ Coca Cola or Ribena/ lemonade or Ribena/ cherryade. We put quality to our Champion to start with, from this we select the best off-spring that not only perform well, they come to hand and have the qualities of our Champion that we are breeding for-and are trying to recreate. This my friends is how you develop a family that look, handle and have the brains and athleticism of our Champion. Again, this is where fanciers go wrong, they pay say £5,000 for a direct child when they could pay £500 for a double grandson and have just as good depending on the owner of the Champion and the quality hens he has to pair to it. What can we learn from this, don't go too far away from the best birds in your racers and if you want to breed to a certain top pigeon make sure he is coming down every line of the pedigree? One thing I missed, if for some reason you have a bad gene in one of the hens and for some reason bad genes like bad bacteria take some eliminating. In this glass mixed with Ribena put Vinegar. Let me tell you, a lot of mixing has to be done to rid of this bad taste, in pigeon terms a lot of time and breeding to get rid of say a deep keel or inconsistent performers, just eliminate everyone from the breeding programme even if Ribena is the Sire.


5. What is your take on system and feeding?

5. It is important that you put together a system that suits your daily routine, one that you can stick to religiously 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I always think of some lads I knew from my teens that were rough and ready, they joined the army on leaving school and we didn't see them again for a few years. When we did, they were hardly recognisable, the difference through living a life of discipline and routine where they ate and trained at the same time every day had turned them from scruffy youths into men to be proud of. Our pigeons are no different, if you feed and exercise at different times and you race against a good fancier that sticks to a routine, he will beat you every time. Long distance birds can have more laid-back approach, but sprint racing a routine is the difference between finishing first or nowhere. Feeding is also part of that routine, by learning what the different grains do for your birds is essential, knowing when to feed the three principal feeds, fats, carbohydrates and proteins at the right time is again the difference between your birds being ready on the day of the race winning prizes, or ready 2/3 days before or after the race day and been also rans.


6. Is speed of the essence in your racing or speed/endurance?

6. In today's racing I believe we have three types of racing pigeon, sprint / middle and long distance. The sprint pigeons of today are a specialised breed bred solely for the short distance events. By racing from a short distance generation after generation, these birds through selection and evolution have a powerful muscled body and a much more boisterous mentality than that of a long-distance bird. The middle-distance bird is very capable of winning from the sprints, his shape is virtually the same, he can fly as fast, although his mental state is and needs to be that bit more relaxed. When he goes in the basket, he needs to settle down quickly, when food is put into the basket he needs to eat immediately not squabble and miss out on important fuel. We need our pigeons to be liberated in the condition we basketed them in, rest, drink and nourishment is essential. The middle distance pigeon is no different to a middle distance runner, he needs to be able to get a move on but at a pace he can keep up for the journey ahead, this is achieved by the way he is trained and exercised at home. The long-distance bird is a much different type altogether, in most cases maturing later than the other shorter distance birds. Many fanciers have outed long distance birds before they have even got to maturity due to their backward nature in the training and racing pannier. They can test the most patient of fanciers, in their early education not all but many will take longer than normal to return home. Like the wave of a wand these birds change normally as 2-year olds from boys in to men. It is now when your patience and efforts if you have done your job right will be rewarded. Hens develop that bit earlier and it is not unusual for magnificent performances from a yearling hen at the extreme distance, there are always contradictions to any rule, but it is normally the hen that achieves these feats. On inspection, the long-distance bird is of a much lighter bone structure, there wings are noticeably of a different shape with a wider back wing and longer primary flights. He again through evolution has developed these traits, over the years the heavy low stamina type will have gone by the wayside while the possibly not as good looking, smaller street type bird is sat in the shed, not all look like this but many do.


7. Do you have dreams and ambitions in the sport?

7. We all need to have possibly not dreams but definitely ambition. If only we could pick our lofts up and take them and put them at the side of the many different so-called Champions throughout Europe so we could actually see who the best is. Location is so important for any fancier, in sprint racing if you are located to the east side you are in a prime location. In the Nationals if you race 100 / 150 miles shorter than the back markers you are at a huge advantage. I look at a result and it's not just the winners I look at, it's the outstanding performers on the day that get my attention. My ambitions have been dashed through not being able to race against lofts in my area through the Federations both North and South of boundaries falling short of me. All I will say to the big boys in these Feds, your record books would read differently if you were sporting and man enough to do the right thing, I'll leave it there. I do however have my sights set on the NFC's longest race; any will do as 1st NFC is the only race I have to win to have won almost everything there is in pigeon racing.


8. Who do you admire in the total sphere of pigeon racing?

8. There are many people that I admire in our sport and many have become my close friends, to name them all would take forever. If I was to ask myself who played the most important part of my progression from a boy into a serious contender at the highest level, the answer is easy, my good mate and in my eyes the best fancier I have ever met, Trevor Hardaker from Ackworth. He was years ahead of his time and I learned so much from him, he is what is termed a master stockman, I will be forever a pupil to this great fancier. My parents, Wife and Uncle Walt would be the other people I owe so much to as they in different ways gave me the interest, motivation, enthusiasm and belief to be the best that I could be. The only contradiction where I differed from my parents, they always used to say to me "it's the taking part, not the winning" sorry but in all the sports I played I was never just taking part, I played to win and if you don't do this then get ready for defeat.

Nigel Laycock and John Redfern


9. Are you a fan of inbreeding?

9. Inbreeding is the way of the stockman that wants to breed a family of birds with equal talent and looks. A champion is either retired, purchased or youngsters from him are acquired and the process begins. The main aim of inbreeding is to reproduce and if possible, better the Foundation birds that we are breeding to. This done right is not only interesting but very rewarding when your work finally comes together. You must be ruthless because in the early days of close breeding not only do we double, treble the good genes, we also do the same with the bad so it is a process of elimination where the eye, the hand and the basket all work in unison.


10. Are continentals any better than the Brits?

10. There are good and bad fanciers throughout Europe and the World for that matter, the only difference is some are heard of more depending where they come from. When you take the Belgium’s the Dutch and the Germans pigeon racing is big business, yes in the U.K. too but not like the other three, the UK market is normally from selling birds from Belgium, Holland and Germany. It's like they have us under a spell, going back a few years if a pigeon had a Belgium ring on you put another naught on its price tag, it's very similar now only changed to the man’s name who is the market leader at the time, he can ask what he wants once he has the attention of the pigeon buyers fraternity whose attention has been captured by the commercial pigeon pushers. I've seen a fancier in Belgium’s pigeons thirty Euros one year, Five hundred the next year and more off the top stock birds, whose kidding who. Yes their sprinters through the way certain areas race from short distance only they have created a fast bird, if however you put one of these over the mile against an unknown Barnsley lads miler they would be left for dead, the type of racing a fancier and his birds participates in over a length of time creates a type, however it shouldn't have a ridiculous price tag on it when in most clubs and Feds your racing for penny's. To answer this question, I have sat and talked to many top fanciers from Europe, would I be afraid to fly against them, no, and I could name many more that would give the same answer.                                                                 


11. Will you go International racing?

11. There is talk of a BICC basketing station up our way and yes, I would be interested in joining, however, to be a major competitor wouldn't be for a few years. To get a team for these distances will take time and cause a lot of heartache, the losses are far greater. It must be exciting though to take part in International competition although I do feel it will be a hard task to win it in the North of England, nothing's impossible and the old saying " If you’re not in it you can't win it", is a fact so time will tell.


12. How can we improve the sport?

12. There are a number of things that we can do to improve the sport, but I do think that we need television coverage. If you look at the many different sporting activities that for years were never thought of and now through television are seen by millions of viewers on a regular basis it's common sense , snooker has gone through the roof, fishing, sheepdog trials, farming programmes showing the many different farm animals being prepared for the agricultural shows. If made interesting people watch and have a better understanding of what is involved and from this want to have go themselves. In our case the public need to see what pigeon racing is about, the fun of breeding your Babies and taking them forward into racing, giving them names and on race days let people see that it is a family affair where everyone in the household get together with excitement to await the arrival of their birds. If you could see how many new recruits the other televised programs have got, I'm sure you would be surprised, you only need a very small percentage of our large population for it to be a success. This I think is the most important item to care of, there are many rules within the RPRA that need looking at but if new members aren't attracted into our sport and fast it will die a death and much of it from our own mistakes.


13. What is a good bird to you Sir.?

13. There are many different types of birds that can be classed as good, race winners, regular scorers and breeders of winners. My thoughts of a good pigeon and the kind that I want to keep are the ones that race and perform at the highest level consistently. They then when bred from reproduce they’re like that have the same qualities to race and reproduce winners at the highest level. A lot of this however is governed by the man in charge and how he manages his racing and breeding regime


14. Is the BICC rapidly arriving as the premier club?

14. The BICC is a good club, to call it the premier club I suppose depends where in the country you live. Many fanciers claim 1st National from a BICC win which I think is false as the Nation doesn't have BICC marking and clock stations available to them. I feel that such claims take away the prestige from the achievement of winning the one true National, the NFC. There are too many claims of breeding National winners that are never questioned, how many National races are there in one season, you can only have one 1st National from each race, noms don't count, gold rings don't neither, 1st National means 1st Open, the fastest bird on the day from the convoy, that's knocked a few firsts off the adverts, I rest my case.


"Goldspot" my foundation Soontjen Stock cock.

15. Any political views Nigel?

15. I try to stay away from the political side of the sport it bores me to tears, however every organisation must have rules but only as a guideline. In my opinion let common sense prevail and if there is a problem of any kind that cannot be sorted at club or Fed level for instance a fancier not being allowed in a club or Fed due to him been a good fancier or not in the boundary, this fancier should be allowed to take his problem to the governing body and state his case, if from this the governing body goes in favour of the man’s application, the organisations in question must accept that fanciers application for membership. Every part of our country should be covered with club and Federation boundaries, no gaps like there is at present where if you live there sorry you've nowhere to fly, boundaries being moved and drawn around good racers lofts so they can't race, spineless and embarrassing in my opinion.


16. How do we motivate both man and bird?

16. Motivation for man and bird is the most important factor in pigeon racing. For the man from a personal point of view, mine is competing against the best. Keeping motivated these days I find hard, I raced and won out of turn when pigeon racing was in its heyday. I remember turning up at Open races at the beginning of the season, you could see snow on the hills in the distance and there was a queue a mile long of competitors, the next day there would be another open locally with the same size queue, fantastic times. When you look at racing today although enjoyable it's only a shadow of the racing of yesteryear, sad but true. The pigeon’s motivation varies from the sprinters to the long-distance birds. My sprint birds are far more aggressive in their make-up, if basketed in a communal basket on race night they would try and kill each other, this has and does for fanciers everywhere ruin many birds, all the work and education that you have put into these individuals can be lost and forgotten down to the simple mistake of putting a potential world beater into a basket to be bullied into submission. By simply using single bird baskets not only does this eliminate the fighting, the birds settle into a state of calm with nothing else on their mind other than his hen which is all you want, this calmness can be seen when they enter the racing crates, rather than fight they look for a space and just stand their ground. Another bonus from this is the single bird basket becomes part of the system, the cock gets to know that when he goes in it, he is going to get his hen. When my cocks go in these single birds’ baskets they call like when in the bowl because they know what's coming. The long distance birds are raced in the early part of the season unpaired, as the weeks go by they find their mates and gradually this creates motivation and form, doing it this way you can enter the channel races either on Widowhood or first pair of eggs that season which again gives a fresh new motivation for the bird which is most important as you only have so many goes with a certain motivation before it goes stale, if you let them pair and sit on and off throughout the season the motivation of coming home to the eggs gets weaker, so fresh motivations are enormous for success.


17 Which is your greatest racing champion and why??

17. I have had many good birds more than most, but when you look deep into them only a few worthy of being called a Champion, I do think that there are many get this title and are not worthy of it. There are thousands of good pigeons but only a handful of Champions in my opinion. A Champion can be a bird that has performed not only on the road but in the stock loft with his or her breeding prowess. This is such a hard question for me because it's like asking me which of my four kids do, I love the most, they are all equal and same with my top performers. To name a few back to 1980 "The Racing Cock" scored in every inland race but one and scored from three different loft locations. "J&A 88" responsible for over 100 x 1st prize-winners for me from 1990 to 96. "Champion Schallie" I lost count how many he won, he topped South Yorkshire Federation and won the prestigious Whitley Bridge 2 bird Championship club which at the time was the best club in the country. Sadly when he was at the top of his game, he came and won the club by 9 minutes on the Saturday, Sunday morning he couldn't get up to his box he'd gone poorly overnight and it was the week before the inland MNFC race when Galileo won for Micky Betts, he was virtually dead, I had had already entered him and pooled him to the £50 Section & Open I fancied him so much. I nursed him back to health and started to exercise him on his own as he couldn't keep up with the batch, gradually he got himself back together. The first time I tried him out with the others, and he stuck with them I put him into the following weeks drop back and the two others that were left, he won all three. He then went on and bred "Gold Charm" who bred Paul Stobbs Champion bird of Consett Fed, plus the father of my 1st & 2nd Open MNFC winners, a true Champion he was. "Steady Eddie" what a pigeon, a Champion of the highest calibre, performed at the highest level in both the basket and breeding loft. 1st Sec K 29th Open NFC flying 548 MLS into a red hot North Easterly wind, there was nothing in front of him that day. He then came from Tours 444mls and flew round for a minute and a half finished 3rd Open and beaten for 1st on decimals. 35th Open MNFC Picauville with over 9,000 birds. 5th South York’s Amal Le Ferrell Bernard 400mls just short, his great grandson "Northern Bound" Champion Ace pigeon Middle Distance MNFC 2013 & 2014. Possibly he was as good as they come, he came to win sprint races but wouldn't go in, but over the pond he was some pigeon, makes the hairs on the back of neck stand up thinking about him. "Shizere" was a long-distance Champion in every sense of the word. My big regret was not sending her to Tarbes with the NFC. She used to come from 606 miles and be in the same condition as when she went on arrival home. She went to 606 miles 4 times being 3rd Sec 46th Open, 2nd Sec 37th Open, 1st Sec 10th Open. She then finished off with 1st Sec 4th Open at 505 miles. For her efforts she won the MNFC Diploma of Distinction for 4 times in the top 50 of the Open, also the RPRA North Region Exceptional Performance Award 2013 -2017.  Lastly "Goldspot" my foundation Soontjens stock cock purchased in a batch of twenty from the late Tony Mardon in 1993, as a stock bird he was a super Champion and is responsible for over One thousand Federation toppers, many Champion racers and household name fanciers owe their success to this fella, he will always hold a special place in my heart


18 How do you wish to be remembered in history?

18. How do I want be remembered, I just want people to remember me for been honest, a loving Dad and friend that would do anything to help anyone no matter what walk of life they come from, I treat everyone the same, how I expect to be treated myself. On saying that let someone hurt a friend or family and I turn into a different animal. From a pigeon racing perspective, I want to be remembered as someone who wanted to just race his birds and achieved his dreams but could have done so much more had circumstances been different. Never once shirked from competition, just wanted to take on the best and on most occasions beat them


19 Do you read books and articles?

19. I think it's in the best interests of all fanciers wanting to get to the top and more so stay there to read and keep up with the times. I do however think that the top fancier changes the times himself through continually trying to better not only his birds but the many systems he adapts in racing them. I see and hear fanciers at moots asking questions I asked 40 years ago. I have so many new methods that I want to try but can't get to try them out properly due to reasons out of my control. When I read an article or watch a video, it may not be the method or something that the fancier says that I put into practice, but it just may trigger another idea that fits into my regime, sometimes it works, sometimes not, but by putting it into practice and learning from it first-hand you will as long as you learn from your mistakes become a better and more complete fancier, your always better judging anything from personal experiences and practice than from the words of someone else.                                                                  


20 Any more comments Sir-ans/pics to me Jim Emerton please???

20. To finish off I would like to thank Jim for asking me to answer a few questions, hope I didn't go on too long but more so hope you enjoyed and hopefully picked something up from reading my views. In your racing always strive to be the best you can be in a fair and sporting manner. Win or lose keep your head up and always assess your achievements week by week, if you’re on top it only takes one little bit of lack of attention to go to the bottom, on the other hand it may only be a small change in something to take you to the top. Enjoy your pigeons and always remember the one person you cannot kid is him in the mirror, always be true to yourself.