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Online Quiz20-04-200

 

Les J Parkinson talking to a group of fanciers for a Paper Panel. Part 1.

 

With there being no racing, I am looking to give fanciers something to read, what I am doing is listing questions of which the group all answer, as with a Quiz Night. I have sent out over 100 such questionnaire’s and looking for more to add a few more of these Paper Panels. In this series of Paper Panels, I shall look at two from past fanciers reports of fanciers, a case of the old and the new.

 Q. When you bring in that new family do you think that they need time to acclimatise, if so how long. 

G W & P Macaloney  

I think no matter what you bring in you have to give them time to make a fair judgment. A true test of a strain or family is when your racing youngsters, yearlings and two-year olds, against your original lines. The first test and race, is in your own back garden, take note of what’s winning to the loft first. We have had strains come in and you think you have hit gold, but turns out they were just good as youngsters, others have been average or below average As, youngsters, but then come alive on widowhood. If given enough time you will always find a line to work with, then the true judgment is down to % , how many did we bring in? What’s produced ? What hasn’t? I’m a stickler for stats, especially when I bring in a new strain, it cuts through all the theories and pedigrees, when it’s in black and white it they and you can’t hide from it. 

 Chris Knowles.

I think that there are numerous parts to answering this question in full but in general terms it has been my experience that new breeding stock produces more consistent offspring in their second season breeding. For this reason, I pair new introductions to a pigeon already established at the loft and preferably one that has race performances here. This way I know that I have a positive environmental influence from at least one of the couple. 

Ray Lunt

I have always worked on the basis that they have to perform from when they are first brought in, the first year shows if they are good enough to make the grade. When you have a good pair of breeders that produce winners, you need to keep them together to make sure the first year wasn’t a one off. You should not change the pairings until this has happened and only then if they are as good quality.

Geoff Bebbington.

No, I think it’s you that needs to learn about the family of pigeons ,that's why people buy off successfully fanciers and win nothing because they don't know how to fly that family of pigeons I like pigeons that can make their own way back no matter what. I have sent birds first time in a basket to 120 miles and got them, this was testing the family of long-distance birds that I have. These were late bred pigeons and they were flying out of their skin, it had given a good forecast for the following day, the birds were fit and I got them. They had a few more races that season then the first race with the NFC last year they were wiped out, yet most of my experienced birds made it through eventually you cannot beat experience in anything the more you do something the better you get. Going back to birds making their own way back, if I have to send for  a bird it has a black mark against it. Any birds I get in get fed and watered until fit then tossed out very rarely do they come back if they do then I report them. I have had birds reported after a bad race when I have asked, “Do you think it could make its own way back” they have said no I have sent for it. Nothing wrong with the bird gone to a channel race that weekend and back in good time.  

Nigel Shaw

When I bring in a new family results have got to be there from the beginning especially the sprint families. The distance families have got to be performing as two-year-old or there out no matter what there of as time is precious. 

Stephen Beardmore

For sprint pigeons no acclimatising is required. There are many examples of individuals for example who buy from a stud and immediately winning with sprinters. Distance pigeons very rarely does one buy distance pigeons and win from day one with them at the distance. Cannot think of anyone who has purchased distance pigeons from out of their area and won immediately.

Brian Dearn

I think you have to be patience when bringing in a new bird or birds especially if it is an older pigeon that will need more time to adapt to your loft management. I remember one pigeon I bought that took several days before she would come down from her perch and eat with the rest of the pigeons which I hand feed. Once acclimatises she turned out to be one of the tamest of pigeons eating out of my hand just like the rest of the stock team. I presume the question is more directed at how long you should give a pigeon to produce winners before making the decision as to keep it or remove it. My system of breeding is quite simple I breed as many pigeons from a stock pair as possible to race in the season having paired them to different mates in that breeding year. This very quickly tells me if I have a breeder or not.

Paul Kitching

Personally, I do think they need time to acclimatise, they may not be in the same condition as your own stock and may need treating for internal/ external parasites and this assessment you do on arrival. They may have to be isolated unless you know the origin to be a first class set up managed by a true stockman i.e. a long-standing fancier who you know. Once mixed in with your own birds id watch their character taking shape and its best to see them enjoying their new environment for sure. With old birds I prefer to bring them in during the early winter months so they can feel at home and be in my own loft condition in readiness for pairing by this time I would say they have acclimatised within my own colony. The youngsters from these from the 1st nest I would expect to pass my standards however with all my stock pairs on the 1st round definitely they have individual drinking pots in each nest box. If the new introductions have a poor resistance to tricomonosis then the communal drinker is not infected. If all goes fine, I expect quality young birds from them and if sprint birds good performances are expected as young birds and the minimal of losses. Good resistance to the various young bird maladies is a must as the family introduced has to be sound. No use introducing stock that has to be propped up with treatments on a regular basis. The young birds from them have to pass one  major test first and foremost, they have to be sheer quality that you as a loft manager/stockman are proud of when you hand them over to the basketing team on race night. Sprint birds managed correctly i.e. on the darkness system as youngsters should give you a return in the 1st year, middle distance strains most certainly some promise especially in the longer YB races and these to give more as yearlings as they mature on. Distance strains it really is a patient game as they need educating for the future and it is as from 2 year olds the fruit can be harvested. In a nutshell sprint, middle distance I’d expect a return in the first 2 seasons for sure with distance the stock pairs would be well true to say matured on when their children are at their best. One important point is that sprinters will breed winners from the off and on consecutive years. Distance birds breed super winners in a golden year and that year brings the champion that makes the pair, how many distance champions have a super brother or sister?

 Michael Binns (From the past)

With all the commercial hype about pigeons in the modern day it is very difficult and I'm sure a lot of fanciers have ended up worse off. I look at fanciers who don't race huge numbers and are not commercially minded. I also have to like the type of pigeon that really should go without saying and also the area that they race into is very important. I do think fanciers change for the sake of it, it's an old saying "Never change a winning system" but that does not appear to apply in pigeon racing. I try to keep to the same system, but I am always looking for ways to improve.

 

More-Ogden-Godwin (from the past)

When we look for new birds, we look at the fancier's results, we like a family of birds that win in style i.e. not just 1st prize more like 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th etc. That show's a family of birds where it is not just one good bird but a team performance and that is why we chose the birds of Wall, Lunt & Green of Irlam and now our birds drop in batches. Also, when we are looking for new pigeons we try and get birds that win at club/fed/combine and Classic level. We also like a family that have good team performances. We believe that a lot of fanciers do purchase good birds with good winning blood but they will not change their methods. We also believe that if you get your winning blood and put them on a strict routine i.e. same time every day am or pm, flying them out then feed them, then leave them to rest you will don’t go far wrong, always remember that the birds love a good routine that is stuck too.

 

Q. Which of the two sexes do you consider is the most important when it comes to breeding?  

G W & P Macaloney  

Takes two to tango, so I put the same emphasis on both. I like to try them with as many partners as possible in the first three years, you find the best ones breed Winners with multi Partners.

 Chris Knowles.

Genetically both parents are essential but in DNA terms the offspring only receive mitochondrial DNA from their Dam whereas the nuclear DNA comes from Sire & Dam.

 

Ray Lunt

There is no preference of cocks or hens, when they go into the basket, they prove themselves. What I do like are good quality feeding hens and when I find them, I like to keep them. When the pairs are established you can then look at other options. 

Geoff Bebbington

Both you cannot have one without the other, I like to take a cock off a winning hen and a hen from a winning cock.   

Nigel Shaw

I think both sexes are as important as one another but I do like to breed of young stock especially first nest out of yearlings seems to throw decent pigeons. 

Stephen Beardmore

Both are very important, but if you had the choice of a good breeding cock or hen, you would choose the cock as you can breed many more young birds.

Brian Dearn 

Good question, obviously it takes one of each sex in order to breed. A cock bird can be used with several hens in one breeding season so his potential as a stud cock can be determined more quickly that a hen. But my personal preference is for a hen and the reason for this is when introducing a cock, you need a nest box for him which adds to the number of birds you keep unless you remove one from the loft. Once again, a hen can be paired to two or even three mates in one breeding season which is something I have done for many years, that I describe as putting two years breeding into one, which I will go into more detail later. 

Paul Kitching

When putting a stock pair together i regard this in my terms like a jigsaw puzzle, the two pieces were made for each other. The cock and the hen must complement each other, with size, feather quality, eyesign, balance, performance history themselves or their parents, brothers and sisters at the chosen distances i wish to breed winners in the future. Which is the most important? Both are, tho to find a sheer quality  cock bird is far easier than to find a sheer quality hen, these are like gold dust to any top fancier who will openly admit that the amount of super quality stock hens he has had are very few. When we read of the super breeding pairs in the pigeon sport we more than not hear lots about the cock of the pair, one outstanding pair being the golden pair of Karel Meulemans, the cock being a dark bronze of Jos van den Boshhe of Belaar while the hen a blue was of unknown Janssen origin of Adrian Wouters. This pair bred countless super pigeons with many lofts set up from descendants of this mating. If i was given the opportunity to go into a top fanciers loft to select any bird of my choice id be a very lucky man to be allowed in the stock hens section or indeed any hen section in a winning loft. If you don’t have or don’t continue to breed quality hens in your loft and spot them early and place them  in the prime of their life in the stock loft or breed children from them in the race loft as yearling maiden hens then decline in your loft is round the corner. Cherish a super hen, both sexes are important in a stock pair except one is far harder to find. Many lofts throughout the pigeon sport will say they have a “Stamvader” or father of the loft. This pigeon a cock bird having been a successful racer or breeder for them and from this bird they have it as a cornerstone in their loft future. However, without the 2nd piece of the jigsaw, a super hen, the next generation will not be an improvement.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

They alwayssay that it takes two to tango, my own preference has always been the hens. Obviously, you can get more youngsters from the cocks with the various systems but I would still go for the hens.

 

Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

Well this is a tricky one as one without the other is no good but we believe it is quite easy to get hold of quality cocks but not quality hens. Therefore, we believe good hens to be more important that cocks.

 

 

Q. When it comes to breeding do you line-breed or use a first cross or just pair winners to winners. What method do you use to select your breeders? Did you find your best breeding pigeon by luck or judgment? When do you pair your pigeons and why then?

G W & P Macaloney  

For racing we like best to best, you will never go far wrong if you pair winners to winners. Most families are created  This way and one they are successful they are branded as XYZ, then when you look through them you find they are just a mix of quality pigeons. The only time we will line breed is for stock purposes, retaining a bloodline. Everyone has a shape they like, or a certain trait, but to be honest  Two of the best breeders we have had were ugly pigeons, so again the basket and the results are what counts. Luck? I think we all need a bit of it when it comes to breeding or purchasing pigeons.

 

Chris Knowles.

I tend to concentrate on specific genetic traits more than strain names. By this I mean that when I am looking for a mate for a specific pigeon, I try to find a mate that has a positive and visible form of the factor that needs to improve in the other bird. At times you cannot do this within a family and you need to introduce a bird from a family that is strong in that factor. My breeders ideally have to be performance pigeons or direct children of performance pigeons. Then they have to breed consistent performers to be considered a stock bird. I found my best breeder by racing the offspring and then focusing on consistency of those offspring. I do not pair on the same date each season. My pairing date is dictated by what my objectives are for the coming season. I know from experience that if YB racing is my goal and I wish to race YB channel races, my best results will come from eggs laid before 14th Feb. These YB adapt best to the darkness system I deploy. Over the years the best performances have come from eggs laid around 7th to 10th Jan.  

Ray Lunt

In most lofts there are not enough winners to pair winners to winners to breed a big enough team for the young bird loft, we have been fortunate over the years to have a good team of winners do that but most lofts don’t. Personally, I don’t think winners to winners is always the solution because there are pairings that have not been raced and bred many winners. It is best to pair quality bred pigeons together; I have found this to work’s year after year. I have to be honest; I found the best breeding pigeons by pure luck, we can never see what’s inside a pigeon and why they greed winners. Over 5yrs you find your best breeding policy, it does not happen overnight, but I have bred many winners off pigeons in their first year at stock, but they still stay in the race team for 3yrs. 

Geoff Bebbington

I like to cross pigeons or even if I keep a line pure I try to get the same line from two or three different sources then you get the best of the same line from different lofts so they should not be too closely bred. I am not a fan of inbreeding it goes against nature to many defects. Most of the time it's just luck you find your best pair, sometimes you can have a pair and get nothing from them swap the pairing and get winners straight away.  

Nigel Shaw 

I have one family of pigeons that I line breed and in breed then put across in to them in time. For racing I like first cross seems to bring the vigour out, if I was to rear of the racers it would be winner to winner they would be the only ones I would breed of only as I don’t need them I think the quality is there to do so if necessary. To select my breeders balance, silky feathered, shape, and the performance of the parents. I like to buy as close as possible to the performance pigeon. My stock birds are paired in December only as I want to build a large team so plenty of young are reared  

Stephen Beardmore

I apply all breeding methods because the breeding of a champion is so very rare - breeding winners is relatively easy but not champions. The best breeders are found by luck as they do not display many physical characters that suggest they will be a good breeder. Then only one or two young birds are good of the thousands of pairs studs, they would be hard pressed to show you a golden pair that produces champions. In every nest maybe a winner, they are easy, however champions are rare and that’s what we all aspire to own. I pair my pigeons depending on what my goals are for the forthcoming season.

 Brian Dearn

I line-breed and in-breed to retain my winning line and then out cross with pigeons from the same family but from a different line which in not the same as crossing with a different family. My method of selecting my breeders was very simple. When racing I only raced widowhood cocks, so all the youngsters raced weekly and were graded on their performance on a points system, with 6 points for first to the loft 5 for the second home, down to 1 point for sixth home. Should I have multiple pigeons arrive together all home at the same time would receive the same points. The pigeons with the most points were kept and the one with the least points disposed of. With this system in some years the best young bird with the most points might be a hen, who in turn had won several first prizes but as a racing pigeon the following year she was no use to me as I only raced cocks. She would be left until February the following year and the paired to a top producing cock and breed two rounds of youngsters. If she bred winners, she became a stock hen going forward into the next season, if not she would go. Should she be successful as a breeder I was introducing performance into the stock section. Stock cocks came from another source, this being at the end of a successful racing season having a top performance widow cock with multiple first prizes that year won at club, fed but combine level. I would pair the widower cocks up following racing, but with the top performance cock instead of pairing him to his hen I would pair him to a proven breeding stock hen and take two round of eggs from them, the cock birds from these would be left to mature and later paired to prove if they were producers or not, and as with the hens if they produced winners they stayed if not they went. The reason for breeding these latebreds was twofold one was to retain the winning gene pool should the top stock hen was lost or the same with the cock. Secondly by using these young cock bird as stock pigeons once again I was introducing winning genes back into the stock section. In answer to the next part of the question was it luck or judgment you could say it was a bit of both. Finally, when do I pair my pigeons, my 8 stock cocks would be paired between 6th 10th December depending on the weather. Not so much cold, frost or snow but on a sunny bright day. The loft would have been lightened for the past two weeks both for the cocks and the hens with the cock having a good mixture fed twice per day. The hens on  the other hand would still be fed lightly only once per day and still with mostly barley in the mix. Once the day was set to pair up the hens would get a good feed for two days prior to pairing and this would trigger them in to breeding, as it is only light and protein that brings then into breeding form. I must point out at this point all these pairs had be made ready for pairing from late October having been introduced to each other and all-knowing both their mate and nestbox. Once paired all would lay in 10 days and rear their first round of youngsters, once I rung the youngsters a second nest pan was placed in the nestbox a little higher than the first so that when the hen laid the youngsters could not get into the second nest pan. At this point the first section of 9 widow cocks were paired that had also got use to their nestboxes and their mates the same as the stock birds. Once the widow hens laid the second round of eggs from the stock pigeons were transferred under them, with no youngsters coming from the race team. At this point I could do one of two thing an older stock hen might be given a break and placed back into the hen section and replaced with one of the young hens mentioned earlier or the hens would be left to go to nest again and lay for the third time. The stock pigeons would rear the third lot of eggs themselves but this was only their second round of youngsters they reared as the second had been moved. This same procedure was followed when the third round of eggs had hatched and were ready for ringing a second nest pan was placed in the nest box higher than the one with the youngsters in as before. It was now time to pair the second section of widow cocks and once the hens had laid the fourth round of eggs from the stock pigeons were transferred for them to rear. Should I wish to use one of the young hens retained or bring back a stock hen into the stock section and re-pair her to a new mate this was another opportunity to do this. The stock pigeons would go down on eggs again and rear these themselves. As can be seen this gave me several opportunities to rear 10 youngsters from one cock and if so desired paired to two or three different hens in one year. This was my way of trying to put two breeding seasons into one and meant I could very quickly assess the potential of a breeding cock.

 Paul Kitching

When it comes to breeding all 3 mentioned are tried although line breeding tends to be done in advancing years when we realise what quality we have but sadly in many lofts we realise what we have had after we have lost special pigeons, how many fanciers reading this will agree and be saying to themselves,,,, “i wish i still had them pigeons in my loft” My best performance pigeons have actually come from first crosses where to me the pairings were “just simply made for each other” offspring from these pigeons as they were “raced” and performed well their breeding potential would never be tried as i would race dry widowhood with no YB’s reared from them. A big mistake as a well-bred pigeon raced, with a proven race record has shown its ability in orientation to get home faster than its competitors deserves to be bred from. By all means start with pigeons with “pedigree” but any pigeon with pedigree and prize cards has more “brownie points” than a paper pedigree where previous generations were paper pedigree. Most disappointments nowadays I feel are from generations of untried stock with bloodlines only in pen and paper, Selecting stock i go for quality with any pigeon introduced being well bred, a specimen of its strain, as near as possible to winners with one main “motto” in my head, that being if my loft was on fire would i run in and save it. If every fancier only kept and bred round quality, I’m sure racing would become as competitive as we had in times gone by. I’ve been fortunate over the years to have had some very good stock birds. One pair i must give credit to was obtained from  the late John Palmer of Leeholme who really was a first-class pigeon man.  From john I purchased a dark cock of Henson and son of deal, Kent, of  Busschaert  origin. This cock and his nestmate a light cheq had loads of turns for john and he gifted me a hen to go with him, a pencil blue that he had purchased as an egg from Ray “Banty” Emmerson of Crook, Co Durham again Busschaert  origin. This time of newton and son of Shildon, original Busschaerts. She had positions racing and a combine turn from Abbeville. I’ve stated their origin as the mating was a 1st cross of two different Busschaert origins. They bred outstanding pigeons for me and others including a 2nd combine winner for me. The original Henson pair of Johns’ went  to Graham Calvert of Bedlington and bred some outstanding pigeons for graham too. You never forget pigeons like these as the pair were matched by john palmer as he felt they would make a good pairing. In later years I paired the best racing son back to the hen, i.e.  mother/son mating and bred a super pencil blue hen which I gifted to Michael Young of Leeholme, he was just starting up and john asked me if I had a good hen for him. Years later I asked Michael had she bred anything he smiled and said, “the old hen” I wish I had another one as good. Id concentrated the bloodlines of the hen in that young bird so the next generation on a first cross there was an advantage in the mating. As for pairing up I’ve paired up early in the year, early January or after the Blackpool show but I feel it has been something that we in the British fancy have “set in stone”. Nowadays I don’t race YB’s and pairing the birds up late Feb early march and rearing the YB’s in spring weather, longer hours of daylight is more beneficial to the pigeons and the owner, mother nature tells the wild birds when to pair up and rear their young, its only common sense. The weather is far warmer and I must have been mad going to the loft at 5am to see to stock pairs with lighting supplied  from a car battery on cold January/February mornings.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

I have tried all ways with success but like everyone else more failures than successes. I have had the Krauth pigeons for 30yrs and I have put some good crosses into them. I have had the Wildersmeerch pigeons almost 20yrs and I have also put some of the Fountainhead Kellens into them in 1996 and that was an immediate success. I find all my pigeons’ race well inland (to 256mls) but the Krauth based pigeons are better at the distance, I topped the fed last year at 88mls with a YB oozing with 500ml winners. I have also tried the Janssen/Van Loons for inland races that have been successful. I have one pair that have bred 4 x 1sts plus 1st Fed in just two seasons and they would be better still if raced on the widowhood. I am always on the lookout for good pigeons to introduce but I would never bring in a kit of young birds to try out in the hope that I would get a couple of good ones, I would hope to do that myself. Recently "Bolster Moor" (see photo) was bred by my particularly good friends John & Christopher Haigh. I let them have a sister to "Yorkies Brother" to pair with one of their top cocks and we both had good winners out of them. Ken Hanby bred me a youngster the same way bred as "Sapphire" who had won 1st section K 14th Open Saintes 540mls and the year after was 2nd section K 52nd Open National FC Pau app 720mls. He has bred winners with most hens including another 1st section K National Fc for Ken when paired to "Bolster Moor". In 1995 Arthur Beardsmore sent me a young bird direct from his famous "Joan's Boy". He was my best young bird that year and could have won three on the trot but was beaten by a loft mate one week, he broke both his legs and is now breeding winners. At the moment he is paired to one off Brian Denny's celebrated "Bordeaux Cock". I purchased this hen at the Blackpool Charity sale, and they had a winner in their first nest. In 1995 Tom Marshall loaned me 2 hens, I think Tom has some of the best hens that I have ever seen, they too have left their mark. Others have been tried from other sources and eliminated; nobody likes to throw a spanner in the works.

 

Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

The method we use to select your breeders, first of all when you are trying new stock birds it has got to be full of winning bloodlines, without those winning lines you will never be at the top. Then you have got to select what type of birds you prefer our preference is small to medium and full of winning blood. We do a lot of in-breeding as well as line breeding but we also use a first cross, if successful the first cross goes back into them. We never put winner to winner unless they are bred right.

 

 Q. How many stock birds do you keep and do you breed off your race team also how many pigeons do you think that you need to breed off any individual stock pair each year to see if they are quality producers. 

G W & P Macaloney     

We have 30 main breeding pairs, with Some feeders also. I like to try get 3 a season in my team, doesn’t always work out like that, some have 2 some will have 4. By the time you really find a breeder out he or she is usually 4 years old, so say an average of 10/12 youngsters if they haven’t done it by then, they would be there to be 5 years old.   

Chris Knowles.

I keep 10 pairs of what I consider distance pigeons and 10 pairs of what I consider faster more versatile pigeons. I only breed 2 Ybs from each pair for racing and an odd extra for stock purposes off stock that have performed well as racers. I do not rear from my racers. Some seasons they are not paired before they race. Some seasons I pair them and float an odd pair of eggs off best racers under stock birds. 

Ray Lunt

At the moment with bringing new stock I have 30prs at stock but they will be reduced because they are too much work. The only pigeons bred off in the race team are those that are consistent week after week. They don’t have to have won the race its consistency that I am looking for. If they breed in the race team and they are winners over three years, I race them then they go into the stock loft. I do like a good team of yearlings that were well educated as young birds because they are the future, without them there is only one way you are going.

Geoff Bebbington

At the moment I have eight stock pairs, and four stock cocks that are flying out with my race team. My aim is to do away with any prisoner stock and eventually just breed from my race team. When you buy a stock bird you buy from the best racer at whatever distance you like to race so just breed from your best racers that are winning for you. My most successful stock pair were off a chance mating and they bred winners, probably 8 out of every 10 rounds and they cost me £37.50 for the pair. I think a lot of fanciers biggest mistake is having to many stock birds then you don't take enough young off that pair to see if they are any good at stock. I bet there is a lot of pigeon men/women out there that have bought pigeons that they have not bred off yet.   

Nigel Shaw

At the moment I have a far too many stock birds but I’m trying to reduce them to 3 sections of 9 boxes trying for quality over quantity. I think you need to be trying 6 young birds off a pair of stock per year to find out if there breeding anything any good. I only breed of my race team if they have performed really well. 

Stephen Beardmore

Four pairs of stock, I breed of the race team from 2-year olds and older very rarely yearlings. You need 6 young birds and if no results from them, move on.

 Brian Dearn

I have answered this in the above I only breed from the stock pigeons who must breed winners or they go. I never breed from the race team as they are for winning the races and only rear youngsters from the stock pigeon. A stock pair will breed 10 youngsters in one season and you must have a good percentage of winners from them or they are nor stock pigeons. If you are only breeding good pigeons from the stock team and not winners you might as well get rid of them and just breed from your race team.  

Paul Kitching

My stock loft is 4 metres long by 2 meters wide and contains 9 nest boxes set on the end wall so the birds have ample space to stretch their wings. Only 8 boxes are used as to maintain an empty box is to maintain stock selection. At this moment as in the past I’ve only been rearing from the stock loft but I do intend as the  distance race team develops to most certainly to retain eggs/young birds from the race birds. From the stock birds I rear two rounds to race, I will rear from the major pairings a 3rd round of single reared YB’s. These will be so select that they can go into the race team should i have been unlucky settling the 1st 2 rounds i.e. a hawk attack in early spring heaven forbid. I feel you need to take 2 or 3 rounds from your top mattings each year as if you only take one round they may be a disappointing round quality wise for some reason where as if you bred 2 or 3 rounds you get a better picture of their breeding capabilities. My young birds are trained only in the 1st year and should any young hen be of a quality that blows me away she is cherry picked to go into the stock loft but she is trained as a YB. She has to show she can orientate, has common sense virtually she has to have the sheer quality that i always set my sights on. As the team now are distance pigeons with the mindset I have in my stock loft i am breeding children and g/children of my main pairings to test in the future. The aim in any stock loft is to maintain and possibly improve the quality of the stock you race and breed.

Michael Binns (From the past)

I like to have 12prs and at the present moment most have bred winners, some have bred many winners but at the moment I do not have what we call a "Golden Pair" like you hear about in many lofts, I am still hoping. It isn't often that I bother with late breds but if I do you have to remember that they are late breds and therefore you have to treat them right and they can do you some good. I would much rather have a round of early youngsters than a round of late breds. You can obviously breed some late breds for stock if you wish and I have found some of these to be very successful. A lot of late breds are just thrown away because they are never given a proper chance.

 

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

We have 24prs at stock and we also breed off our best racers. Normally we breed 2 or 3 rounds off the stock and they usually breed a winner in every nest, these youngsters will win between 12 & 15 first prizes in the two clubs that we race them in during any one season. we very often get between 15 & 25 young birds dropping together so when we win this shows the quality of the birds that we keep in our stock team.  

 

Q. Please explain the method used from pairing up until the first race. What is the farthest distance that you would train your old birds or young birds? Do you breed off the top widowhood cocks after the racing has finished, do you breed late bred youngsters and what do you think of those later bred youngsters. 

G. W & P Macaloney  

We race total widowhood cocks and hens. We pair the race team up at Christmas, they rear around of youngsters then they are then split. Most will go out for racing with us retaining ones from best racers. They are then just ticked over till 5 weeks before the first race, when they are re-mated and allowed to sit 8 days on eggs, then split, they are now on widowhood. Cocks will get 3/4 tosses, if doing young bird time, the baskets are away for the season. Hens are never tossed. During this time exercise will build to cocks 45 mins morning and night. Hens 1-hour morning and night, increasing to 1 hour 30 mins later in season. They are allowed to rear youngsters at the end of the season and then split for the moult. 

 

Chris Knowles.

Over many years in the sport I have tried many methods. For long distance racing, I prefer not to pair before the first race. The cocks are got fit around home and then have 4 or 5 tosses at 40 miles before a race in May. To support the club racing I pair the race cocks and widow them at 9 to 10 days sitting and train them half a dozen times to 20 miles before the first race. With my YB’s I like to train them to 30 miles before I race them and will race them to 300 miles. My view on late bred YB’s is that they are a lot of work for little reward.  

Ray Lunt

They were paired on the 18th January to rear a round of young birds moving the hens when the young are about 14 days old and then let the cocks finish them off. They are re-paired a month before the first race which this year was the 18th March, but we don’t know what is happening at the moment. They had all laid by the 28th March, the eggs would be removed on the 6th April, however this year because of the way things have gone they are being left to single rear a youngster to give them something to do. When they have finished racing, they’re allowed to rear a nest of young birds. What happens is the best race cocks will be paired to the stock hens. I have had some good pigeons out of the late breds and put them to stock but they are rarely raced

Geoff Bebbington

I am always one for trying to improve no matter what it is. This year I paired up really early with the aim to fly as many of the BICC races as possible. With their first channel race being the start of May I can honestly say my birds were ready for the channel mid- March I had bred all my young birds by mid-February. Then the old birds in mid-March were flying for 3 ½ hours with the young doing 1 ½ hours this is the best I have ever had my birds flying around home. We are on lock down so no racing for the foreseeable future. As for late breds they are just darkness young birds if you breed in September by May they are 9-month-old this year. I bred in December so by September when the young birds are on the channel, they will be 9-month-old what's the difference.  

Mr & Mrs Nigel Shaw

I would pair the racers up at the end of January normally some will rear some won’t I like it that way as there’s always something different going on in the loft, it’s not often I let them sit a second round at all. Training for young birds is 11-mile to the pigeon, mostly east to west as it’s easier for me plus the birds more often than not have a head wind with the prevailing west wind. The old bird sprinters will go to the same training spot but the distance ones will go on the trailer or anywhere I am going direction does not bother me. I don’t rear of the racers when racing has finished as I don’t like latebreds it seems too much work for the rewards. 

Stephen Beardmore

From pairing up to the first race simple exercise as often as possible, weather permitting, fitness being the objective - the fitter you can get them, the less risk you need to take training. YB birds are trained to circa 35 miles then after the 1st race no further training due to the ever-present predator issues, after 4 races generally stopped. I breed occasional late bred off my best performance pigeon of that year for potential stock to help maintain a winning line but it would have to be a high-performance pigeon before taking a late bred.

 Brian Dearn

The first part of the question I have answered, but the reason for having two teams of widow cocks in not only to help rear youngsters that helps bond them to the nestbox something I feel is very important more so for yearlings as the aggression in them changes once they have reared babies. The first section was used for the first couple of races in early April when the wind in most years would come from the east, training in these conditions will knock the pigeons off form as we all know. The first section was used to win the first couple of races with the heaters on and might be left until the turn-back races from 130 miles or so in-between the channel races to win them once the weather had warmed up in late June and July. The second team was used from about the third race and expected to win more than their share of these races. As far their training these were from no more than 12 miles by road for the first team, mostly down to the cold east wind at this time of the year. The second team again from 12 miles and then onto 20 miles but no more than that. Young birds were different having a large team of 80 youngsters that were kept in two separate sections because of their age difference and flown out separately. The first of these were ready for training at 12 weeks old which was in May and one of the comebacks of breeding early youngsters. But if you leave them for the rest to catch up you have problems with the first team wanting to pair and not exercise around the loft. I would start them off a short distance of a few yards making sure they trapped into the loft with no flying round and in for a feed. Once this has been achieved, I would move on to the 12-mile mark with the birds returning to a light feed of barley before I arrived home to feed them a mixture. The reason for this is there was food for them on return and I wanted them to understand it was me who provided the food. Once the YB were coming well from the 12-mile mark I would move them on to 20 miles, In the early days of training I would fly them out twice around the loft to once in the basket for training. The YB would go out twice per day morning and night so one training toss would be in the morning and the next one in the evening. Once the younger team catched up both would go together and in the early stages would be liberated individually. Before racing started for the youngsters, I would like to train them from 40 miles a couple of times but this was for my peace of mind more that their education. Old bird training would stop once the pigeons had a race and the baskets put away until the week or so before the turn-back races. At this stage the youngsters were at the 12-mile mark and I would basket the OBs and take them with the youngsters. My intention was to help the youngsters, this never worked as the old birds were home and in long before the young birds arrived. On a number of occasions an odd young bird would keep up with the older ones but this was more the exception than the rule. I would take the old birds training for these turn-back races on both Tuesday and Thursday nights, Tuesday they would fly back for their evening feed but on a Thursday, they came home to their hen. This rejuvenated  them, breaking their routine and giving them a new lease of life for the latter part of the season. This worked as the records show over several season, I won all the prizes in all the turn-back races. And I remember very well one such race having entered just five widow cocks had all five drop together taking all the prizes pools and nomination.

 Paul Kitching

When I raced sprint pigeons the race birds would be paired up 5/6 weeks before the 1st race. They would not rear YB’s and within the 1st week of pairing the cocks would go out for exercise with the hens locked in the boxes. This became a regime in days the cocks working the sky with the reward of getting back to the hen after their exercise period. After sitting 7 to 10 days the hen would be taken away and within 24 to 48 hours the nest bowl cleared away and turned over with the cock outside the box. The cocks will roar for a day or two but with a routine exercise period and a pinch of small seeds you now become his manager  who he will respond too. Training would commence in the last two to three weeks prior to the 1st race 5 to 10 miles on good days. After a handful of training spins the cocks return only to an aniseed  trapping seed mix in his box, he is returning to his territory so you want him to stay in his box eat his seed and defend his box with his life. Now i do a motivational trick with him where as i go in and talk/motivate him to enter his now opened nest box with the nest bowl turned the right way up. Calling to the cocks, cooing, speaking to them the words “going to see the hens lads” becomes something they will learn and respond too and once allowed into the nest box, heads in the bowl and roaring away the hens are returned to the section and fly up to the nest box, the cocks become overjoyed. After a couple of minutes allow the hens in for 1 minute and remove the cock to the training basket and take them for a 5 to 10-mile trainer. Quite simply a widowhood cock must be trained into the system. I Aim to do this again the Saturday/Sunday before the 1st race so the widowhood cock knows, opened nestbox means upturned bowl means I see my hen. When they return from these training spins to the hen I allow the cocks in with the hens for no more than a few minutes then gently lift him to the outside of the box talking to him as he will still be bouncing and as he is  spinning lift up the hen in one hand nest bowl in the other and have the hen magically disappear under the bowl as the bowl goes upside down. She is secretly hidden behind your back and you put her in a basket outside most certainly out of his view. Strict exercise periods, good management and motivational instruction for the pigeons and they will respond to this. I’ve often read articles where the fancier states I show the hens to the cocks before and on return from the race. However, the young novice fancier on widowhood must understand motivating widowhood is something the masters do with their widowhood cocks, that is one of the reasons each and every one of their widowhood team is seen racing to their lofts. The whole team is motivated by the management. My aim is to fly widowhood now at national level at a distance of 400 to 600 miles, I’ve won up to 400 miles with this motivational method maybe I’ll have to be calmer with them,  at races of 400 to 600 miles. something I will take in my stride I reckon. My favourite training spot is only 10 or 12 miles from here in a southerly direction though since aiming for longer distance my birds are taken this distance south, east and west to give them something to think about and their orientation ability. As yearlings I will give them an occasional 40 miles south, it’s just to make them think for themselves. The feeding during the racing season would be a strengthened up “widowhood mix” with extra protein, vitamins if required it’s a case of feeding them to a proper racing condition of which you the manager sees too. Rearing YB’s after racing has been very beneficial as fanciers that have obtained them in the past from me have reported later they became excellent stock birds from which I learnt that selective late-breds are beneficial for stock, especially when the parents have shown good form in that  seasons racing.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

I have trained all distances up to 100mls, even further but I don't think this is always an advantage, they now get 50mlsand very rarely go further. You can easily take the edge off them with too many long tosses. When a pigeon is fit you will not get it any fitter by long training tosses, this can do the opposite. Young birds get their first toss at 15mls and then increase up to 50mls. I always train mornings with the first tosses always being around 6.30am. I think that short tosses are a waste of time and I never train in the evenings, this is a recipe for disaster. It isn't often that I bother with late breds but if I do you have to remember that they are late breds and therefore you have to treat them right and they can do you some good. I would much rather have a round of early youngsters than a round of late breds. You can obviously breed some late breds for stock if you wish and I have found some of these to be very successful. A lot of late breds are just thrown away because they are never given a proper chance.     

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

Both the stock birds and racers are paired on Boxing day, this is done because we are off work for two weeks and can spend some time with them which makes pairing them much easier. We don't move our hens with the young birds, what we do is to move the hens in their own loft when the young birds are about 14 to 16 days old or just before the hens lay their second round. Then the cocks bring the young up until they are moved into the young bird loft at about 21 to 24 days old. We are off work for two weeks at Christmas so we pair up on the 1st January. Egg's for the 10th to 12th that hatch about the 30th January. We will move the hens about the 14th or 15th February to their own section. We wean the young birds on or about the 20th February at 20 to 22 days old. After about five days we slowly start getting the cock to exercise starting at 10 to 15mins building them up until they are doing the hour. After that they go out twice each day for one hour both morning and evening. Then on about the 8th March we repair the widowhood cocks. This is when we start to road train them as many times as possible, normally about 20 x 18ml tosses. The hen's lay about the 18th March with the cocks still training until the 28th March. On the 29th March we separate the birds with the cocks being left to sit the eggs on their own for a couple of days, then all eggs are removed and the bowls turned over, the cocks are now on widowhood for the 31st March. By this time training is only around the loft for one hour twice each day, the first fed race is on the 7th April. We treat both old and young birds the same, the reason for this is our old birds are locked up most of the winter so each year we start our old birds off at 4mls then 7mls to 13mls and finally about 20mls, the same also applies for the young birds. Sometimes if we think they are not fit we will take them to Sandbach which is about 27mls and that is as far as they go but most of their training tosses are at Knutsford, which is about 18mls.

 

Q. Do you compete in the National events, if not why not? Or are you happy to race in the club. Do you race your pigeons every week or do you prefer to condition them for a specific race? In your view do you think that a loft needs different pigeons for different distances. Is there any specific condition that your pigeons perform best at, or any particular time of the year?

G W & P Macaloney  

We race total widowhood; loft can hold 36 cocks 36hens. We compete in every race in the LRPF Program 65- 450 miles inland and over channel. We will enter a select few National races depending on what and how the program is going. If we are in a race regardless of distance or organisation, we are there to try win, we don’t hide behind distances or organisations. Scottish National racing will  99% of the time be decided by location, last I checked the West Region had on won 6% of the past 100 plus national races, that tells its own story, but it can be done as ourselves and a select few have proved, right day with the right bird anything is possible. I think once you enter 2-day races it’s a different animal, horses for courses, I’m a fan of all racing, but My preference is one day racing. For us we can be winning at race one, but true form will only come on when the weather is warmer and they have had 3/4 races under their belt. 

 

Chris Knowles.

I currently have 20 widow cocks and don’t race my hens. The reason for this is simply the amount of time needed to do justice to both sexes. I exercise my cocks twice a day for up to 1 hour each time and when my Ybs are in full swing that can take an extra 1.5 hrs and then the time to go training. I race them weekly up to a point and then the cocks that are targeted for set races follow a plan set out for them. I have competed in National events and won my share. At this point in my life I prefer 2 bird type racing where the playing field is a bit more level and the only organisation which I fly a full channel programme is the Lancashire Social Circle. I think that in the main it is horses for courses and not only should the bird be bred for that type of race distance but should also be flown a suitable method. With regards to favourite condition for racing, I have won at every distance up to and including 2nd Section L National at 700 miles, topping the Section at both 535 miles and 598 miles. The same system has also produced first prizes at 100 miles. The key for me is as I said earlier the right pigeon prepared the right way.  

Ray Lunt

Never really bothered with the National FC races because I would like to have a better go at the Three Counties Combine where there are more pigeons coming up into the North West and they are more competitive. If they are right, I prefer to race them every week, there is no point having a team of racers and leaving them at home, there is no reason why they cannot race each week as long as they are healthy. I do think that pigeons if conditioned right they should be able to compete at different distances, a pigeon is a pigeon no matter what family/line it is, up to 500mls should be the norm. They perform to the standard I want from the first to the last race, not every year is the same so you have to adjust what you are doing but the same principle applies. 

Geoff Bebbington

I race on a mixture of roundabout and natural I pair up take a round or two split them on to roundabout. It used to be widowhood but I decided if there is a bird in my loft that can race it will. I like nothing better than to walk into my loft on a Saturday morning and it's completely empty. I only intended to race in open races, National, Classic this year plus the BICC but have to see how the restrictions go. As for different pigeons for different distances I have a range of different types of bird distances, middle distances and a few sprint, a various crosses. You never know how the year will pan out you may have a loft full of hard day pigeons and get a year of south wind’s or vice versa and think you had a bad year when really the racing just didn't suit your birds. So, if you have a mix hopefully something should make it through. I do like to race in the club but only for training and for the banter on a Friday night. Club racing just seems to have too many bitter jealous types, luckily, they never last too long in our club as we try not to let them get a foothold in the club. You can always see these guys moving from club to club trying their best to get a win with any excuse why they have moved clubs or feds.  

Nigel Shaw

I race my pigeons on the chaos system in forty years of racing I don’t think I have done a proper system I normally race 18-20 pigeons but since I have moved, I have 50 cocks and 40 hens to race. I do compete in national races as many as I can even if I only send one. Pigeons are raced every week until the national race I want them for approaches then they will have a week of to build their condition. Club racing, I never used to be bothered about it but for the last two years I have built a sprint team to play in the clubs  they have flown very well and I have enjoyed it so looking forward to racing a bigger sprint team. I think  you need sprint for sprint and distance for distance I’m suppose there are exceptions that will do both. 

Stephen Beardmore

My birds start the old bird season on roundabout but only to get fitness on the team, then they are paired in preparation for the distance races they are targeted for. I only compete in National and specialist events I send to my club and have my clock set but have no expectation of winning as the club races are sprint middle distance and my season and birds are set up for National and specialist club racing. The reason is that I believe there will be a sea change in the next few years as the club radius increase due to falling numbers of fanciers and it becomes difficult to have sprint middle distance racing that is a level playing field? Therefore, it is very likely fanciers will come to the conclusion to have competitive racing with significant birdage it will be provided by National or specialist clubs. With local clubs and federation being used for education and preparation for the national / specialist club. The distance races are more about the quality of the pigeon and not system/condition i.e. sitting rearing etc. Birds perform better in warmer weather as the loft is designed to be cooler in the early season so as not to bring condition on too early.  

Brian Dearn

My family of pigeons are a sprinting family of Lambrechets and as such it was mainly club racing on a weekly basis that I competed. Having said that I never entered all my race team preferring to keep a team at home in reserve, I don't know much about football but one thing I know the best football teams have the best reserve team. And should the worst thing happen you always have a team back in the loft for ext weeks race that will in most cases beat the ones that had a hammering the week before. The final part of the question do pigeons perform better at a particular time of the year. The answer to that is simple, keep written record of all your training and racing and the answer will be quiet clear. In the early races pigeons with more experience perform better in the cold conditions but as the weather warms up the yearlings come into their own and the older pigeons can't touch them. Youth plays a big part in all sports and pigeon racing is no different so you need 50% of you race team to be yearlings, and youth in the stock section doesn't go amiss.

Paul Kitching

My preferred method of racing old birds is most definitely widowhood cocks. The loft i race to was built for me over 40 years ago by my uncle ken at his joinery workshop in Earby, Lancashire. It was to my design with only 12 widowhood boxes and to be honest the number of boxes that suits me just fine. Having raced pigeons since 1975 and have had some great performances to look back on i have given myself a challenge to compete successfully in the NATIONAL FLYING CLUB with THE SPORTSMAN located at toft hill up here in the north east. My passion to have a go at this stem’s back to my early apprentice years with British rail. The railway plant where i worked here in Shildon among its 2000 employees had many pigeon fanciers and many days would be spent talking pigeons. One great lad who i worked there with was Billy Caine who along with his brother Alan are the well-known CAINE  BROTHERS partnership, one of the most successful West Durham Amal lofts in our area and that’s a fact, a life time of success with well over 50 years at the top. Billy and I would sit and talk pigeons and the likes of Ron Mitchison of Winchester, Stan Biss of Brundall were two of the many great fanciers who were the topic of conversation. In my opinion Ron Mitchison was the man. A small team fancier who I believe would sit on an upturned tin in his garden watching his birds, a tin that became “Shiney” from Ron’s dedication to spending time observing his birds. He is one of the NFC.s most famous fanciers.  When Owen Vaggers re-published an article on Ron Mitchison in the BHW it made my day. And it made me more determined to enjoy NFC racing. My aim quite simply is to top “SECTION N” and to put my hometown on the map on the leader board on the NFC result. As you know yourself les when you race at club level for 20 or more weekends, all the spring and summer months are tied up with pigeon weekends. Having set my sights on 2, 3 or4 NFC races I can send my birds for trips away with a local club just for education, they don’t go every week as the team may go once a fortnight or 3 weeks as going every week during May, June and July is not in my race planning. As during these months, they have a break between trips away they can develop a better immune system as birds raced weekly are more prone to pick up canker, cocci, bacterial problems in the race baskets. Seeing my team healthy gives me a better feeling these days. if you send every week the sprint man finds himself in a routine of treatments to keep his birds in good order. Distance birds have a better immune system and on tough race weekends they tend to enjoy the extra time on the wing, however i take on board one of Ron Mitchisons motto’s, “ never send a bird to a race under 200 miles unless you have it prepared to fly twice that distance.” Wise words indeed. I feel the major losses at distance races are that the birds are just not bred to do the job, some fanciers will send sprint middle distance birds and they will perform on their day for sure however when the chips are down its the long distance bloodlines which show their merit. Last year’s NFC TARBES race is a fine example, the winning loft of Darren Mcfadden had an excellent race and the legacy bloodline raced by mark bulled and others shone in the first 100 places. When sending birds to these distance events they must be prepared to be in their finest condition of the year, then you the fancier can sit back knowing you have a better chance of getting in on the result.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

I am happy racing in my local club but you can't beat the buzz of the big races and that's really what it's all about. I did cut back at one stage on some but, I didn’t stop competing altogether in the Classics and National races but I was always looking to have a go. Club racing is the grass roots and this should not be forgotten

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

Our birds are raced totally on the widowhood system, which suits the way we like to race the pigeons that has consisted of 24 cocks and 9 hens. But in 2004 we will increase that number to 36 cocks on the widowhood. As we have, we always try and send the birds that we think are on form to the specialist races. In the NWCC Poole race we sent 10 and had three in the first 6 of the open winning nearly £700. this is the same with most of the specialist races that we compete in. We are quite happy with the club and fed plus a few Classic races, we think we are on the wrong side of the country to have a fair crack of the whip at National level but at the first attempt at the MNFC Messac 400mls we were 26th open 6,000birds plus.

 

  Q. How do you feed the cocks and what do you feed them on, a branded mix or do you buy separate corns and mix your own.  Do you measure the amount that you give to each pigeon, or are they fed according to the individual pigeon? Do you attach any importance to grits and minerals or can the pigeons get what they want they are out of the loft. 

G W & P Macaloney  

We have always mixed our own feeding, usually using single grains and mixing different brands together. The past five years which have been arguably our most successful we have used 5 different feed mixes, there has been little difference in performances. Keep it simple, carbs to exercise, fats introduced later in week,  protein to recover. Every pigeon with exception of the YB’s get to eat as much as they want, they are all different. Fresh grit and minerals are given every day, very important. When it comes to feed, People tend to forget if you put super fuel in a slow car, it will still only work to that slow cars limitations, you need the fast car and that’s the pigeon. 

 

Chris Knowles.

The cocks eat to appetite twice per day when racing. I have used various mixtures but like the mixture to contain sufficient protein, not only focused on carbs and fats. My pigeons are not allowed on the garden or any other place than the loft. As for grits and minerals I give them a little of each daily.  

Ray Lunt

I buy separate mixes and then blend them together using Versele Laga depurative and super widowhood, I occasionally use a good conditioning seed. The old birds are all fed in the boxes, to create a bond between pigeon and fancier, this is something I have done for most of my time with pigeons. They are also fed a mixture of grits, minerals, clay blocks and pickstone that are all mixed together. 

Geoff Bebbington

I use Gerry plus as a base mix and add more fats and oil the further they go. I measure the corn on the day, I tip a jug of corn out if they eat it all and looking for more, they can have some. If they leave some that's there breakfast and when it comes to channel racing it’s how much you can get into them. 

Nigel Shaw

All my pigeons are fed to appetite always fed in a trough not in bowls. Last year my young birds were fed on Versale Laga but this time if we get any racing, they will be fed on Beyers. I think grit and minerals should be available all the time my pigeons are never short of anything.   

Stephen Beardmore

Old birds are fed in their boxes in pots, they are not measured, it is effectively a hopper system when the pot is emptied, I refill it. The feed is general branded as it is easier than mixing my own. I aim to have a protein content of circa 13 to 14% carbs 55% and increase fats as the race approach by using a fats mix as a treat. Grits and minerals are key very important

Brian Dearn

I have over the years tried all the systems of different mixtures breaking down building up etc most of these are produced by the providers of pigeon feeds and designed to get us to both buy more and charge more. I like most fanciers use Belgium branded mixtures as I learned over 30 years ago the mixtures provided by many of the UK producers varied from bag to bag over a period of time with the ingredients varying with what was available at the time of year. In all fairness to the manufactures some of the grain substituted have the same food values but that is not to say the pigeons like them the same. A good example of this is peas, many mixtures contain white peas, green peas yellow peas all for which have the same food values but give the pigeons a choice of these and maple peas and we all know which ones they will eat first. Once you find a continental mixture that suits your needs for racing or breeding stick to it. I tried feeding in the nestboxes in galley pots but soon reverted to a communal food trough giving the birds a handful of mixture at a time until they had had enough twice per day after exercise. The food given to your pigeons is so important as it is the fuel which they are required to work with and surely the better the fuel the better the performance. The weather is all important as to what you feed you race team alongside the distance of the race and the time on the wing. This is why it is very difficult  to give a precise feeding system when all these items have to be taken into consideration. But as a broad guide I would say for sprinting a light feed of as many grains as possible that are rich in carbohydrates with three types of maze making up around 50% of the mixture as the week goes on, with a feed of fats the last day if needed should the race day be a testing one. Every day of their lives my pigeons have a seed mixture given as a treat when I am playing with the youngsters, stock pigeons and the race team who have it in their nest box following their morning feed. They also were given it an hour or so before basketing in order that they have a drink before going to the club. Grit and minerals are of great importance, my pigeons have pick pots and minerals before them all day every day, but also receive a mixture of grit clay block minerals and small seed that I mix myself every day which they devour. But not on a basketing day as I think this will make them thirsty but watch them when they come home from a race, they go for the grit mix in preference to the food.

 Paul Kitching

Feeding my widowhood cocks, I prefer to feed them a stronger mix i.e. a protein mix with a widowhood mix. Widowhood mix on its own can be fine at short distance in fine weather however should they take a knock on a hard day the “feed” is not strong enough for the birds to recover. The protein mix would be breed and wean with a portion of beans added no more than say 15% and this mix when added to a good widowhood mix in say 50/50 proportions would be what I would feed on. I could go 60/40 it’s how I see the birds condition up and should i need to lighten for a while I would add barley the best I could find. I do prefer to see no green peas or white peas in the mix, I feel these grains if in abundance do not give good droppings with pigeons eating them last should you give them a full hopper. The birds are fed well an ounce plus at the evening meal however when the birds are right like an athlete they won’t over-eat. The 1st 3 letters of the word pigeon are “pig” and when they eat like pigs they are not right, are out of shape and its down to you the fancier to get them back in shape. Bamfords mixes certainly do catch my eye as one base mix with a quality mix from Bamfords, Vanrobaeys or matador would be my widowhood mix choice, I would view their quality as for the present time and purchase the one I feel is right for me. A trapping seed/condition mix would be used with added aniseed as the birds take well to the taste and if it makes them better tame, it helps the bond between the fancier and the bird. Mixed Grit and at times picking blocks when rearing are essential however the grit is given fresh and old grit that is discarded after 24 hours is removed. A grit pot becomes a dust pot in the corner if it’s not managed. Racing pigeons develop good condition in a good loft under good management and when out of the loft you will see condition by the way they enjoy their exercise period and their actions when they land. Contentment of letting the birds on the lawn is within reason as they might pick up anything in the grass i.e. a shiny bit of broken glass as grit so relax on the lawn yes, peck about no.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

All my race team are on the natural system and as a standard diet the get Bamfords Premier Gold with diet on basketing day and on the return from the races. I also use Hormoform as a supplement. My pigeons always have grit before them but over the years I have found that minerals just get wasted. When rearing Hormoform is always available and sometimes they get pick stones. I usually feed one and a quarter ounces per pigeon per day mixture, they get one third morning with the rest in the evening. This is in troughs on the floor, I go around each box in the evening with a small scoop of Hormoform during the racing season.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

Most weeks we only use two things in the water, twice a week Moor Gold and twice a week Garlic Plus from Stock Nutrition. Also, on rare occasions we use cider vinegar, as we know these products help them with their health and condition because the birds are always bright, alert and sparkling with good health. We feed the cocks in their nest boxes in a pot while the youngsters are fed in trays on the floor, both young and old birds are fed on Bamfords Premier Gold with Natural depurative added

 

 Q. Do the pigeons need any special treatment on their return from the race to help them relax? Is any such treatment needed for the short or long-distance races or the hard races compared to the easy races?

G W & P Macaloney  

My recovery is the same every week regardless of distance, I use the pigeon vitality recovery powder and electrolytes, if it’s been very hard race, they get tablet form of the recovery powder. That first drink and first hour is the most important, just like any athlete. Outside that the time they rest is the only thing that will change.

 

Chris Knowles.

I think pigeons need both physical and mental relaxation when they have given 100%. As well as appropriate feed they get a small amount of grit/mineral as body salt replacement is important just as protein is for the micro muscle repair( within ½ hr from return). Then for the widow cocks on long hard races, they stay with their hens until morning and don’t race again for 3 weeks. For shorter channel races I adjust this to what I think is best for that particular bird. Whether racing short distance or long the main thing is that the cock gets his REWARD. Ray LuntThey get no special treatment but I do hopper feed a mix when they return from a race, this is left in until the end of the day, old birds only. This treatment is always the same but if it is a late or hard race the hens are left with the cocks for the one night, this helps to settle them down. For normal races the hens are removed after they return from the races.  

Geoff Bebbington

It depends on the pigeon; everyone is different you need to watch the birds to see what they need. I had a cock bird that I raced until he was 13 years old he would fly all day, I sent him to Tours with the yearlings which is 430mls to me. He went as a preparation race it was a tough race the next day the yearlings were all sat in there boxes he was in and out of the loft all day nest building looking like he had never been anywhere.  

Nigel Shaw

My birds on return from a race have a Recup mix in the water, in the past I have even given them a warm water dip. Then they are fed a high protein mix Saturday pm and Sunday morning plus Sunday they have Gerdon 1 in the drinker up to lunch in case they pick anything up in the basket. 

Stephen Beardmore

Eat whatever they want from the pots, what they leave is given to the YB and the pots refilled and plenty of peace and rest.

Brian Dearn

I think it dose the widow cock good to have a warm bath once the hens have been removed, this is done by putting each pigeon in turn in a bucket of warm water.

Paul Kitching

When the pigeons return from the race, I always take note of their condition, are they tired, thirsty, de-hydrated? Have they enjoyed the race, could they have flown another hour? Have they followed each other in, and in good time? How do they feel, still in good shape? They return to clean fresh water and their condition tells me what they need in the next 24/48 hours. If dehydrated electrolytes and proteins are beneficial in the drinker for sure with the evening meal. Also. the addition of glucose obtained from a local chemist can be very beneficial. If the race was easy the birds should have taken the task in their stride but on a hard race either in heat or headwind’s they will definitely show a difference. Rest is of major importance with the birds being locked up for 24 hours at least after a hard race. A warm bath is most beneficial and my birds get water warm enough for me to bath in and it’s great to see them relax and dry out afterwards. Hopefully we can go to the loft Sunday morning and the birds show no effects of Saturdays race however if they are not in good order let them rest. sprint pigeons will enjoy the routine bath and rest on a Sunday. With a distance pigeon they will tell you when they are ready, some give all and need more time to recuperate as let’s face it 2 hours on the wing is less demanding than 12. As for the feeding after a hard race something easy to digest as their 1st meal strengthening up over the next 24/48 hours. The pigeons digestive system will struggle to cope with heavy grains after a hard fly but after 24 hours stronger corns can be added and the bird will be coming round.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

I read a very good article not long ago by Clive Yates who stated that your pigeons are only as healthy as the worst fancier in the club once they are in the baskets. That is very true, it doesn't matter how well your own birds are looked after, once they go into those baskets it all changes. Canker seems to be more of a problem than it used to be and it's amazing how many fanciers treat their pigeons on a regular basis during the racing season. Young bird sickness is a problem in many lofts, mine included, for the last couple of seasons I have used cider vinegar three times each week and added garlic. What I do is get a 500ml bottle and crush a garlic bulb into it, I then use this at a rate of 10ml per litre. This has been successful in my loft but as soon as the pigeons go on the transporter it is a different story. I don't believe that it is a virus because you get an immediate response from an antibiotic. When the problem starts, I have found that Mycrosan-T from Chevita to be a very good product with almost instant signs of recovery.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

Our birds are treated the same most weeks on their return from a race, they receive electrolytes in the water and they are only fed on natural depurative with a touch of red band. The only time that we do treat after a race is if there is a holdover, then we give them a four in one product for (cocci-canker-e.coli-salmonella) for one day unless we think that there may be a problem and all is not we, then we continue the treatment for three days.

 

Q. How many weeks do you think a pigeon can maintain its form on the widowhood system for both cocks and hens? Does this include channel races or are the specified number of weeks for sprint races and do you think that a pigeon can be prepared at fortnightly intervals for the channel races.  

G W & P Macaloney  

We are always trying to push the boundaries on our system, always trying to learn new things, we used to think 5/6 Weeks of true form with widowhood cocks, but in recent years some have went 10 weeks in a row scoring 9 times in the top 1%. So, the way I now look at it on basket night if they look right, they go. Most of our program is inland so I can’t comment on weekly channel races, but my opinion is it’s time on the wing that matters not what they are flying over.  

Chris Knowles.

I think the length of time that an individual pigeon can remain consistent for, depends on the pigeon. The versatility of that pigeon is the key to it being able to deal with variations in wind and time on the wing. If your system is to feed a minimal measured amount from 80 miles to 200 miles and start racing in early April, then consistency in the top 5 percentile of the result will be poor. If Channel; races are part of the weekly racing for a pigeon, then it’s recovery time is reduced and it will affect it’s consistency. I think racing fortnightly at the channel is doable when time on the wing is below around 8 hours but after that the pigeon needs sufficient rest and recovery time.Ray LuntThese pigeons go from the first to the last race for the sprint races up to the coast, but if I could get 300mls on land they would go to that distance. But we can only get 200mls to the coast so that is where they go. I would condition them for every other week if they were going across the channel. I expect them to maintain their form through to the coast if they don’t I want to know why. 

Geoff Bebbington

This is back to the individual; some pigeons can fly forever while some burn themselves out quickly it's down to you as a pigeon fancier to know your birds and how far you can push them. I have been back for 4years racing pigeons now, the first two years was just trying to get some birds around me and the second two years was to test the birds so mine went to a channel race every week and scored nearly every race. The main thing I do is just watch my birds I don't mean going into the loft, I mean just sit back and watch and you will learn a lot more just watching them.  

Nigel Shaw

I would expect widowhood cocks to hold form 5-6 weeks but I have had longer hens I think you can get longer out of them. A pigeon that’s racing the Chanel I think it needs a week of to build condition. Sprinters will be raced every week as nothing is taken out of them the recovery time is short for them.

Stephen Beardmore

Widowhood cocks' hens circa 6 weeks Sprint. Channel cocks 6 weeks (including fortnightly) hens tricky because the increase in rich food for the channel encourages them to pair either in the loft or in the baskets on the channel, just ask the conveyer how many eggs are collected from baskets after a hold over on the channel.

 Brian Dearn

If you manage you team right by not asking the same pigeons to do the winning from the first race to the last you can keep form for about 8 weeks. But it's the fancier or the loft that wins the races so a team managed properly can win from first to last race. Channel racing is a different thing altogether no two channel races are the same even in the same season and distance pigeons get far fewer chances to excel than sprint pigeons. The conditions that suit a pigeon i.e. wind direction, distance, humidity may only come into play on only one day in the life of that pigeon or maybe even never.  

Paul Kitching

I feel a pigeon can maintain its form over a 2/3-week period no problem at all if its racing at its preferred distances and weather conditions it enjoys especially in warm, sunny perfect racing days. This however is at sprint/middle distance racing. More than not a loft can be on form for weeks on end with different pigeons coming to the fore in various distances and weather conditions. Some birds start off well in the 1st 2 or 3 races then find their form again mid-season for a week or two then go quiet again till the end of the season. Channel pigeons have to be prepared and sent ideally after a two to three week build up conditioning them for a big race is important. Some fanciers strike while the iron is hot, i.e. the bird fly’s a good race the week before at say 200 miles so the pigeon goes to the next weeks channel race because the fancier feels the birds on form, I’ve known this be successful but it’s not my preference. Pigeons can be successfully prepared at fortnightly intervals for the channel but should the 1st one be a tough one a 3-week gap gives the fancier more time to get him ready. Our feathered friends are brave little characters but many good pigeons are lost each year because their owners have sent them back too soon and there is nothing worse than losing a good pigeon that has been successful in distance events. A pigeon sent in super condition for a channel race can return in super condition, with today’s modern feeding systems i.e. the additions of fats in the build up to the race the birds can return in super condition,, these conditions are noted on the winning pigeons and credit must go out to the talent of these fanciers and their pigeons which achieve these top results.

 

 Michael Binns (From the past)

To me the ideal distance for a distance race is 550mls and I have had quite a few pigeons that have put up excellent performances with flights of 14/15hrs and above. Not many will do it twice and those that do are like gold dust. I have nothing but admiration for those pigeons that keep performing year after year at the distance, pigeons like the INFC Hall of Fame and the British Barcelona Club Certificate of Merit. It is harder to establish a distance team because they are not going to be sent to these races every week. Good distance pigeons have become harder to find in recent years and just when you think that you have a good team some clown comes along and liberates them in very bad weather conditions and you are back to square one. This I find inexcusable and it happens to often and those responsible just get away with it. I have only raced natural and when the loft is on form anything can come, I reckon three weeks is about as long as an individual will keep its top form on my system but it's all about having the loft in form, on my system they will come into form more than once.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

Good pigeons with good management can and will win races without form but when form does come it can last up to 4/5 weeks and it may come back later on if the birds are kept in peak order. This was the case with our team in 2003. Yes this does include channel races, a pigeon will race the channel every fortnight but if they have a really tough race we think they will do better ¾ weeks later instead of fortnightly.

 

  Q. What happens when you are racing either widowhood or the roundabout when you have a bad race and lose a few from one sex, how do you continue with those pigeons who have lost their mate. If your race team went off form during the season what action would you take to restore their condition? 

G W & P Macaloney  

I race both cock and hens, so in an ideal world they get their mate,  but if he or she is at the race or lose their mate, then any will do. Some react better, some don’t, it’s the just one of the hazards we face in modern pigeon racing. If they go off the boil, it’s 9/10 a respiratory problem and a treatment will be administered. However, is key not to overreact, we all take bad races, sometimes that’s all it is. I’m a great believer that your absolute best birds need very little, they are always at it.   

Chris Knowles.

I believe that pigeons are racing to the security of home and their mate is reward and secondary to their survival instinct. Therefore, any bird of the opposite sex can be a reward for a fit pigeon raced on a widow system. Having raced hens on a celibate system from the channel and with success, I know that a mate is not everything. If my pigeons were not racing well and their health firstly was good, then I would give them a rest and break from routine. If I suspected a health problem, I would deal with that first, getting them tested if necessary.  

Ray Lunt

Doesn’t really matter because they are racing to the loft and to me it doesn’t make a difference it is a case of conditioning pigeons to do a job and having a bond with them. If they went off form they would be locked up and treated for canker and given a rest for about two weeks. 

Geoff Bebbington

Nobody likes to lose pigeons but it happens especially when it's one of your best but when it does happen sometimes the whole dynamics of your loft changes. You may have a new top cock or a hen may take up with a new cock but it's one of those things in pigeon racing, you have no control over you just try to manage it.  

Nigel Shaw

If I was to lose a hen for a widowhood cock, I would use that to my best ability and play on it some of the best results come that way. If the race team were to go off form, I would lock them up and break them down and clean them out and start to build them up slowly to try and regain form. 

Stephen Beardmore

I no longer compete with round about system, I only use the system for gaining fitness. In the past when racing widowhood cocks if they went off form, I would lock them up for several days and feed them lightly.

Brian Dearn

The first part of the question I have already answered I never put all my race team out together, and only race the cocks so this problem has never applied to me. If I can give you an example of how I would race my young bird team this might explain it better for you. For example, if you had a YB team of 60 youngsters you enter 40 in the first race and have 20 safe in the loft. Should the race be a good one and you have all home the first 20 home go back to the second race along with the 20 kept at home. Following this procedure with the first half going back to the next race alongside the ones kept at home you always have a strong team to race each week and a good back up team in the loft. With a quick look at you records of returns from the races will tell you that the ones that went every other week were always in the last half home and their space would be better given to more fresh air. Should you race team go off form was the final part of the question. I feel a good fancier who spends time with his/her birds can see a slight change in the loft and condition of their pigeons. I have always had my pigeons tested before pairing up, once racing was underway even if I was having a great season I would have the winner tested and the back markers to try and answer the question as to why two brothers in the same condition kept in the same loft one was first and one was last. The microscope in some cases would give you the answer. Young birds would be tested around four time throughout the season in an effort to keep on top of their health. So most of my problems I felt I was on top of, but should the birds go of form the best advice would be to lock them up and don't feed them for a full day, then keep them closed up for a few days and feeding them on barley. You should see after a few days the down feathers start to fall and the cocks are making a lot more noise, then let them out and watch them fly.  

Paul Kitching

As I have never raced roundabout, I can only give my thoughts as regards widowhood cocks. Obviously to lose a number of widowhood cocks from the section can be detrimental as if you only have say, 12, and loose for instance 5 the 7 remaining cocks may lose motivation because the characters in the widowhood section are missing. The loft is actually a colony and the cock bird in the box next door keeps that cock bird on his toes. Hopefully the remaining birds are still capable of winning prizes and to be truthful we can all start the season and hope we don’t lose our favourite, most successful birds. If I’d hit a bad race, I would let the team rest but I’d be observant that their hearts were not broken by this bad race or the seasons over for them. If all is well, I would rest them for a few days till they really want to exercise and bring them back into good order. One motivational trick would still be to take 1 or 2  spare hens into the widowhood section and these would be placed in their nestboxes on basketing night to help motivate the cock in the nest box next door as if you leave a box open the neighbour is in for sure. Most certainly this is not to be tried the next week give the latecomer time to return but weeks later I would do this to raise the atmosphere of the widowhood team. If the race team went off form in natural circumstances and not after a bad race id look at what I’ve been doing, I’m the manager what have i done wrong? Is the feeding wrong, overfed or underfed, is the drinker not clean, have the birds got good droppings, is there a bad bacterium in the loft, are they not enjoying exercise periods, is the loft too hot due to the weather warming up, if so is the ventilation right, is the trichomoniasis count too high, have I been over medicating, are the birds in the right shape to win? You will notice all the points I’ve noted all point to the owner of the pigeons who takes the full  responsibility as he is the manager. It becomes a case of tidy everything up, rest or at times work the birds back to life as pigeons treated like pigeons stay just that, manage them as “racing pigeons” and they will do what it says on the tin, “race”

 Michael Binns (From the past)

All I do is shut them up in the loft for 3 to 4 days and put them on a light feed, this can-do wonders for the pigeons. Too many fanciers give them extra work and they only make the situation worse. Rest can be marvellous for pigeons, a few years ago we had a commitment during May which meant we had to be away. I raced Saturday and went away Sunday am and filled the hoppers up, our next-door neighbour changed the water daily, the pigeons did not go out until Wednesday and I won the next three races.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

If we thought our race birds were going off form or stale, we would rest them for one week and only feed them natural depurative. Then we would start the following week as normal, this normally does the trick for us. We race widowhoods its simple, if we lost a cock, we just put the hen in with the spare hens and lock the cocks box up for the season.

 

Q. Do you treat pigeons differently with their preparation if they are to go to the bigger races whether National, Classic, Specialist club or open. Do you think a pigeon has the capabilities of racing both short and long-distance races? Also, what distance can a pigeon actually still “RACE” as opposed to homing from any race point? 

G W & P Macaloney

My pigeons are treated the same whether it’s 60-mile sprint or 500 mile national. I think your sprint/middle birds nowadays can do 450 /500 miles, but after that your into a stayer category, which just like horses is a different type. Same can be said if you send stout distance birds to 120 miles against top sprint teams, only one winner. The sprint / middle distance pigeons will 9/10 orientate quicker and be gone. If it turns into an endurance test the distance Bird will thrive. Your 2 days races are more homing than Out and out racing, but you have to respect both.  

Chris Knowles.

For races of special interest to me I follow a plan for individual pigeons. This will usually entail its planned race programme. Exercise is a team event and those pigeons that haven’t raced on a Saturday are important in lifting those that have during the week to follow. A pigeon would only be asked to do a full shift of exercise after enough rest/recovery. If not, it is easy to see that it is not ready. I have owned pigeons that could win at all distances to 500 miles but they are few and far between. As for distance can a pigeon still race from as opposed to homing, I think the answer is time on the wing not distance. The race must start and end on the same day, whether it is a 1-hour race or 16-hour race. Beyond that calculating a result using a velocity is far from realistic and accurate. Hours of darkness as they are so called, have produced numerous silly results.  

Ray Lunt

As I have already mentioned I don’t do the Nationals. A pigeon can race up to 400mls, after that they are homing. I am preparing then to be fast and able to race as soon as the leave the basket so 400mls is achievable racing on the day. 

Geoff Bebbington

I treat the whole loft the same, if there down on eggs I want them all down or young. I have four stock cocks in the race team then while the whole loft is at a race, I have some where I can float eggs or young if they need looking after.  

Nigel Shaw

When preparing a pigeon for a national race club racing would stop two weeks before. I would slowly build them up for that race and training would alter for national birds only. They would be given some 30-mile chucks before the coming race. Pigeons that race exceptionally on short and long races are few and far between, to me it’s one or the other. Pigeons are still racing now a days up to 600 miles. 

Stephen Beardmore

No as the races I want to compete in they are prepared the same. No pigeons are now like racehorses which are bred for particular races i.e. the derby or the grand national. It is not distance but hours on the wing a good pigeon will race for up to circa 14 hours one day racing.

 Brian Dearn

I feel sprint pigeons are for sprinting and distance pigeons are for the channel races. That is not to say a sprinter will not win from a channel race, this is not necessary the distance the pigeon has flown but the time on the wing. One thing for sure though once you send a sprinting pigeon to a distance race it will never be a good sprinter again, so why ask it to do both and turn a good sprinter into a homing pigeon.

 Paul Kitching

Pigeon racing at club level is totally different to national, and classic racing etc. In club racing the birds are more or less corridor flying that is flying into a small area where the lofts are generally north south to each other as they are here in County Durham. Most fanciers here train from the same area i.e. Barton, Scotch Corner, Catterick all points on the line of flight. This is great in sprint racing as they are taught the shortest route home in the last 10, 15 and 20 miles. However other parts of the country the birds race back to a far wider area especially in national racing so these birds need to be trained on a wider circle. The most successful national flyers up here in the north east send their birds with a club in Yorkshire 50 miles or so south of here as trainers. On a Saturday the birds have to return the last 50 miles on their own which give them extra education for National flying which many feel the efforts they have put in has most definitely been beneficial. Has a pigeon gotten the capabilities to race short and long distances? I think these days very few pigeons have this talent to “multitask”. The strains of yesterday the Vandevelde pigeons for instance which were raced here in the north east in the 70,s were special pigeons raced by working class fanciers who kept these multitask strains. Nowadays we have introduced the sprint families most certainly from the area of  Antwerp. Perhaps the most competitive area of sprint in Belgium, some have been seen to win also in distance events but it’s not reported in the fancy press how many “sprint family” pigeons fail to return over a certain distance. Pigeons will certainly race at over 400 miles and can be seen racing like winners as they finish the last few hundred yards, which is an amazing sight to see either to your own loft or neighbouring lofts here in the north east. However, add another 100 or so miles or so and attempt to race 500-550 miles which for fanciers here in the north east is Bourges. They quite simply become a breed of their own, Bourges winners in their ancestry while many birds entered at previous 400 miles races fail when asked these extra miles. Conditioning birds for longer distances consists of careful preparation down to the coast. With an early channel race to give time on the wing 3 or 4 weeks before the intended big race, come the big race day it’s a case of aim to get that pigeon in the finest condition of his life and send it with some faith. Having fed on quality corn, condition seeds. Fatty seeds the last few days and most of all the birds enjoying home life and fitness around the loft.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

I race on the natural system with 24prs and have around 45 YB's, most of which are early bred but not put on the darkness system. I would like to try some youngsters on the darkness but not at the moment, it is just another job for my wife when I am not here, besides it isn't as if we were flying for big stakes with young birds in this area. The reason that I fly on the natural system is because it suits me. Pigeon racing is all about having a system that suits both the pigeons and the fancier. I would love to have a crack at widowhood and I believe my performances would improve but at the moment I am happy with my system and I thoroughly enjoy it and that's what it should be all about. Pigeons are there to enjoy and I get a lot of pleasure just spending time with them and watching them. You can learn an awful lot just watching pigeons, having pigeons isn't just about Saturdays race. I breed early youngsters but they are not on the dark. I have nothing against darkness youngsters but it's all about time. I cannot expect other people to control the daylight when I'm not at home, you have to draw a line between being dedicated and being a slave.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

As we explained earlier all our birds get most inland races and if we decide to send to a channel race, we only send the birds that we think are right for the job. For instance, in 2003 we only had two water races, Falaise 335mls where we finished 1st club 1st fed 2nd Combine. Then Niort 505mls when we only sent two and finished 1st & 4th club with the only bird on the day in the club when a lot of lofts struggled to get a bird home, we had two out of two

.

Q. If you could pass on one piece of advice or tip, at this point to fanciers old and young, what would it be? 

G W & P Macaloney  

Without good pigeons you’re on an uphill battle, All the feeds and systems mean nothing if they are bad pigeons. try find the best available to suit your budget. Try get 2 from the main pair or the champion Pigeon , than 10 grandchildren. Keep an open mind, successful or not , there are many roads to Rome.    

Chris Knowles.

Don’t waste time trying to make mediocre pigeons into good ones. If the pigeons you keep don’t carry the genes needed to do the job you are asking, you will have much disappointment. You will learn a lot from good pigeons but the rest are far from educational.

Ray Lunt

On advice I would say that fanciers need to study their own pigeons more instead of looking at others. The more you study the pigeons in your loft the more likely you are you will be successful in the races you want to compete in.   

Geoff Bebbington

Send every race you can and every pigeon you can, it's no good holding back we haven't got long left, look at this year I have 35 pair ready to go but there’s no racing and a lot of friends of mine in the pigeon world who would love to be in the position of having 35 pairs but are sadly no longer with us. Don't listen to the fanciers that go around spreading doom and gloom there the ones usually that very rarely win a race or not at all but like to shout their mouth off and try to cause trouble amongst the membership weather its club, fed, region or National.  

Nigel Shaw

There are all sorts of problems for pigeons on race days, the problems seem to be getting worse. Preparing for a long-distance race possibly four in land races then two weeks off but trained to 30 miles a few times before and built up over that period of time. I enjoy all racing not just long distance.   

Stephen Beardmore

Enjoy all aspects of the sport, socialising, breeding and racing, winning is only a modest part of the overall enjoyment. If you keep too many pigeons it becomes a job and not a hobby and then winning takes over and you lose the very reason you started to keep pigeons (to have an all engaging hobby-sport)

 Brian Dearn

It's a hobby enjoy it as such, whatever part of the sport you enjoy make the most of it, as I said at the start, I don't race any more but still get great enjoyment from my pigeons. I am very privileged to be the Secretary of the Lancashire Social Circle that keeps me in touch with many fanciers all over the country. I also write reports on the winners of the West Pennine Amal for the BHW, but still go to my local club mid-week along with a group of fellow fanciers to clean the baskets for the weekend races. I have been honoured to have been invited to present the prizes at many times and judge shows so you can see the sport still has a lot to offer. MAKE THE MOST OF THE PIGEON SPORT.  

Paul Kitching

My advice to any new starter would be to visit a local successful fancier who wins more than his share with a sensible amount of pigeons flying in good competition, a man who is rated highly by his competitors. Show him your interest that you wish to start up racing pigeons and try to buy a group of 6 or 10 young birds off his best on say his 3rd round, by then the man has two rounds for himself and will readily sell you youngsters or even eggs as he has raised his own YB team. Ask his advice on feeding as he has mastered the art quite simply as his team of birds are the best in the area. Note the condition he keeps his birds in and aim to get your birds in that condition as far too many birds go away basket night not in the right shape to win. You will find the fancier you approach will more than happy to help you in the years ahead with advice on feeding and training as he will want you to succeed with his stock. Aim to start with sprint/middle distance birds as these will give you a chance to compete from the start.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

If you get into racing pigeons you will enjoy what you are doing. I have always taken an interest in the running of the sport and I have held just about every position in various clubs over the years. I am not an official at the present moment but I do like to help with marking on Friday nights and the results on Saturdays. I have always enjoyed taking part with all aspects of the sport, marking and clock setting keeps you in touch with the everyday goings on in the club. Having a pint with the lads after is always a good way to relax.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

No matter what distance you want to race from you have always got to get the best winning blood you can get your hands on if you are serious about winning.

 

Q. What problems do you think are most detrimental to race condition in modern day racing, both Old Bird and Young Bird? What races do you send your long distance candidates to before their chosen race. Can you tell the readers your routine for preparing pigeons for the longer races? Do you look forward to the channel racing? 

G W & P Macaloney  

Obviously, the raptor problem is the biggest problem in the sport, I’m convinced every convoy will get hit at least once racing into Scotland anyways, sad but true. Jealousy is the second biggest killer in the sport and it seems to be more of a UK problem as most of our continental counterparts from my experience get on well and respect and praise each other’s successes. Overcrowding in Young Bird racing has to be my pet hate, and to be honest an idiotic problem, give them the best opportunity possible. Distance racing isn’t really my ball game, but over the channel we have been really successfully, but nothing changes for me when I go over the channel, I don’t think they leave the basket And read postcode and say not for me, they just know how to go, after that have they the endurance to last that pace is the question. 

 

Chris Knowles.

I think for race birds the main problems relating to condition for racing are canker and respiratory. For Breeders I think Salmonella. For young birds E Coli is a problem in addition to the above. The place to start is with good health and good health requires a strong immune system. Even healthy immune systems are prone to virus attack, so it is prudent to strengthen the immune system of susceptible youngsters with appropriate vaccination to form the necessary antibodies. When preparing OBs for longer races my preferred programme would be 3 consecutive races at distances around 160 miles, 185 miles and then back to 160 miles. One full week’s rest and then basket the following week for their first channel race. This has worked well for me when their first channel race has been at 400 miles. My preferred races are those of 8 to 10 hours on the wing for the winning pigeons. 

Ray Lunt

The biggest problem are the birds of prey, they are taking far too many pigeons and in the next 5yrs they will increase considerably in numbers and lofts will be devastated. It’s hard when you work with your pigeons and birds of prey take them and you can bet that many of that they take are your best pigeons. I don’t race in many channel races so have not gone into too much preparation. 

Geoff Bebbington

Channel racing is all I look forward to, channel racing and only channel, anything else is a training toss and for the older pigeons some of the earlier channel races are training races. I think the most detrimental effect to racing for the channel racer is all the sprint racing. The fed I race in had five races under 100 miles to me and I am in the middle of the fed it must be poor racing for the shorter fed members. I was told by a member of the fed that I am trying to force longer races on other members and he and other members of the fed cannot understand why I want to send my bird further. Time on the wing must mean nothing to these flyers, I am not against the feds having shorter races as long as they progress. I think the way forward is get them going as fast as possible down to the coast so when the National, Open and Classic channel races start the birds are more prepared and there should be fewer loses which equals more birds back in the fed come back races.   

Nigel Shaw

There are all sorts of problems for pigeons on race days, the problems seem to be getting worse. Preparing for a long-distance race possibly four in land races then two weeks off but trained to 30 miles a few times before and built up over that period of time. I enjoy all racing not just long distance.

Stephen Beardmore

East winds prevailing for several weeks, this will disrupt the respiratory system and kill form. You may get away with it for 2 consecutive weeks, any longer you will lose good pigeons and ruin them for the later races that year. (Remember mother nature does not like east winds, you rarely see much moment of wildlife)

 

Brian Dearn

Birds of Prey have done more to damage the sport driving fanciers out of the game. But the item that will kill the sport quicker than another is the lack of members who are not prepared to put some effort into the administration side. Many clubs have fallen by the wayside for the lack of a secretary.

 Paul Kitching

The problems in modern day racing in my opinion is that far too many birds are over medicated for various ailments i.e. canker, respiratory and intestinal bacteria by fanciers who treat far too much and at the wrong time. If a pigeon has for instance canker/trichomoniasis by all means treat and in the following weeks it should improve in condition, if you treat for canker when the pigeon hasn’t got canker/trichomoniasis he dips in condition and will not improve in condition in the next few weeks. Also, if you overdose with medication, the safe working load on a tub of Triccoplus whose active ingredient is Ronidazole was stated at 5% now fanciers can get hold of 10, 15 and 20% Ronidazole. The stronger the dose the longer it takes the birds to get back in shape especially when treating at the wrong time. Along with this some fanciers feel its handy to have Baytril or similar medications and many think this and other antibiotics cure everything and quite simply they don’t. This occurs during old and young bird racing and if fanciers were to limit their trips to the medicine cabinets, they will find that their birds will be in better shape as their immune systems will become active again and the birds will regain their feather shine. The various viruses that can hit us during the race season can only be managed by correct management of  your own lofts and the race baskets, cleaned and sprayed each week with a Virussidual disinfectant i.e. VIRKON S and prior to young bird racing a SUPER CLEAN AND SPRAY WITH VIRKON S. the first night in the race baskets the young birds peck, peck ,peck at the hessian floor, during the previous old bird season droppings every colour of the rainbow have impregnated that hessian. And we wonder how the young birds are ill by the 2nd or 3rd race, perhaps if an organisation or club were to have a piece of basket hessian annalized when its heavily soiled I’m sure the bacterium found would be very enlightening and our answers to the various young bird maladies young bird sickness, e-coli, salmonella, herpes virus etc are in a big part answered for.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

My main complaint about our sport is that fanciers seem to have plenty of money to spend on lofts, pigeon's etc. But are happy to see them transported in vehicles that can only be described as pathetic and out of date. But try getting money to buy a new one. What we must remember is that our transporters are often our shop window for everyone to see and it is important to both a good image and the pigeons to have maximum comfort en route to the race point. I sometimes cringe what I see as I travel around the country. One thing that really upsets me is when you hear about non fanciers who go to a great deal of trouble to find the owner of a pigeon that they have found are told to either kill it or dispose of it. To me this is what other sports call bringing the game into disrepute and the offenders should be suspended, we don't need them.

 

 Q. Do you race your young birds, if so, how many races, if not why, do you think they are better off in the longer events if they are only raced lightly. 

G W & P Macaloney  

Yes, Young birds must be raced, I like them to get 3/4 races out to 120 miles . More so they must be well educated, that’s the fanciers job to enhance that homing ability. The more distance minded the longer and less often I would train, but they still require the basics of YB training, you don’t see a champion horse trainer taking a young horse out the yard, slapping a saddle and jockey on board and say 3.20 Kempton for you, they are schooled, broken and taught the basics. 

 

Chris Knowles.

I race my YB’s health permitting in the full Fed. Programme to the coast and when sending to the YB National, we have usually reached 175 miles. I will sometimes send these YB’s across again 2 weeks later and have even done so on consecutive weeks with some success. This is dependent on the difficulty of their first channel crossing. 

Ray Lunt

Young birds should be raced every week providing they are in the right condition, I would expect them to race up to 9 consecutive races without any problems. I did compete in a YB race from across the channel last year and was 1st & 6th Open so they can fly the channel as youngsters. The pigeons I now have are known as good allrounders so who knows what may happen in the future. 

Geoff Bebbington

I used to love young bird racing from 150 miles and above but in my view young bird racing is that poor now I decided last year this would be my last year racing young birds. There was only one fed race to me above 150 miles so I am not spending all my time and money for one race. I thought about it and bred 12 late breds bred in September from my stock and race team . I did this so that I could trial them at the fed channel program and if successful I would do the same with 50 young birds next year again. I am not opposed to the feds bringing the channel programme back as I think if you are into channel racing you aim for the bigger races and I would rather race my birds over the channel rather than from 100 miles or less from where I am where the wind and position count more than the birds.   

Nigel Shaw

Young birds have as many races as possible but I do have a long-distance team that has young birds half have three races and the other half have had none but all have been trained on a regular routine. All the distance young have not been on the dark so time will tell which are the better ones in the future. The young birds sprint team are raced every week all on the dark, the loft is set up for the door system but I have not used that system yet they seem to come well enough without.  

Stephen Beardmore

General 4 races, they are only young once and need to mature if you want to race them for 6 to 7 years. Very rarely do you find an excellent 6 or 7-year-old that was raced hard as a YB (obviously there is an exception to all rules).

 Brian Dearn

Yes, I think it is most important to race and educate young birds in the year of their birth. I would race most of my youngsters in most of the races down to the south coast which is around 200-miles to me and have found this has done them no harm when racing them as yearlings.  

Paul Kitching

I really used to enjoy young bird racing as when I was a young lad in my teens the older fanciers would say we all now are on a level footing, lofts with an established old bird team are yards ahead, with youngsters we are all on the same start line. Sadly, nowadays YB racing has become a nightmare so I made the decision some years ago never to race YB’s again. Seeing good well-bred young bird teams decimated at friends lofts after  the 1st few weeks of young bird racing is heartbreaking for any fancier. I would personally rather have toothache than see my youngsters have young bird sickness or a virus hit them, its soul destroying. As for young bird losses some say it’s down to clashing yet in the 1970’s we had thousands more birds in the sky and did they clash, very, very rarely. The problem is i feel partly answered in the previous question, also young birds leading up to young bird racing some fanciers will have been treating for canker, cocci, worms, respiratory, bacterial issues just to be on the safe side then in the 1st few weeks of racing the gears in the drinker again as the fancier starts to blind treat again because they don’t seem right, they have a problem in their eyes, the droppings are green slime and a few are bringing up corn, we have a pigeon in our hands weighing only a few ounces and they are subjected to enough medication that an African bull elephant could take on board. These young birds are in no fit state to go to a race, they have too many underlying issues going on health wise, and over medicating by the fancier. For me I start training at around the 3rd young bird race, the skies are empty and the young birds are a pleasure to observe and training becomes a joy. At the height of summer prior to the YB season starting my young bird loft is cleaned with bleach and hot water, sprayed with Virkon S and again at least twice in the month of august on fine days while the YB’s exercise. Its dry by the time they return in. If any problems are going about with YB’s august is the main month. I will also point out they are not on the dark just on the natural system having been weaned in April and May. Years ago, we would stop our favourite young cocks after 1 young bird race as they would be our intended widowhood cocks for the following year, and they came out and flew like winners and won. My young birds receive 12 training spins down to around 10 to 15 miles that’s it. I feel as yearlings they are better developed and as they are 12 months old when they go onto the transporter, they are a lot wiser than a 5 or 6 month old youngster and as yearlings they can cope a lot better, they seem to enjoy their education more than expected. These yearlings are all of long-distance stock and  because of this I ask myself are they more intelligent to cope, perhaps yes.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

I have only raced natural and when the loft is on form anything can come, I reckon three weeks is about as long as an individual will keep it's top form on my system but it's all about having the loft in form, on my system they will come into form more than once.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

We like to race our young birds every week providing that all is well, when the longer young bird races come along we send the birds that we consider are in the best form, we do not treat any of the young birds with kid gloves, they have to be raced to keep their place in the loft.  

 

Q. Do you use any preventative medication? If a pigeon goes ill do you try to put it right or does the bird have to go. If you could only give your pigeons one natural treatment, what would it be. Do you give any special treatments when the pigeons return from the race as a precaution against anything that they may have picked up in the basket? 

G W & P Macaloney  

We have used Gerdon Iodine based product now for over 30 years. Day after every race to stop cross infection. We have never missed an yb race in our history so it’s proof enough to me that what we are doing is correct. We all have a % youngsters go back the way each year, if anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying. I have an out of sight out of mind policy, I was taught to be ruthless from a young age, if anything I have become more ruthless and picky, it’s like any livestock you must weed out the weak ones for the better of the herd. 

 

Chris Knowles.

I believe very strongly in a prophylactic approach to medication. The best form of this available to us in pigeons is vaccination, (Prophylactic: A preventive measure. The word comes from the Greek for "an advance guard," an apt term for a measure taken to fend off a disease or another unwanted consequence.)

Ray LuntI do treat by vaccination where necessary but do not treat them through the water except for canker which they are treated for every two weeks on a Monday and Tuesday. If they fall ill and they are a good pigeon I will look after it but if it’s a young bird it has to go. When they come back from a race, they are not treated for anything they might pick up. 

Geoff Bebbington

I use herbs and spices cider vinegar and garlic and vaccinate for anything I can. I know vaccination is the key to good health, how many diseases have been wiped out or massively reduced by vaccination and just look at the big push to find a vaccine for corvid 19.   

Nigel Shaw

Medication is rarely used only if needed, before the season a preventative is used as in paratyphoid treatment an injection. The young birds the strongest survive I tend not to clean the young birds out leave them on deep litter to build their immunity. This year I am using pigeon vitality products all natural the young birds went bad on me so I put them on Adenos from vitality, within five days they were good again. On return from every race on a Sunday morning every pigeon gets Gerdon1 in the drinker just in case, and all drinkers are disinfected every day and each section has its own brush and disinfectant.  

Stephen Beardmore

I treat with one drop to prevent flees and worms. I might treat once but definitely not twice. Global salts. On the return from a race when the birds have been in the basket for 2 nights, I give a preventive against canker.

 Brian Dearn

I have my birds tested several times per year and treat if needed but never treat them blindly as I find it both cheaper and easier to have them tested. But when racing I would treat for canker every four weeks with old and young birds. Canker is an opportunist disease and if a pigeon is suffering from an underlining infection the canker count goes up, cure the canker and the pigeon will get over the it's underlining problem on its own. I am like most other fanciers I have tried many of the natural things like garlic, cider vinegar etc along with items advertised in the fancy press very few if any work in my opinion, keeping the birds health was a lot easier when I was racing with only young bird sickness to content with now health problems seem come up every season. The introduction of breeder buyers sales has not helped bringing in pigeons from different lofts.  I am quite hard with pigeons if they are not right, they must be wrong, and one that wrong they are better gone, I feel they are easily bred put two together and within a month or so you have four. When racing I would put Gerdon1 in the water for birds returning from the race as I felt if it did no good it would do no harm.  

Paul Kitching

During the winter months my main aim is that my birds do not receive any medication at all. Once the season is over the cocks and hens both old and young birds  race birds are left together in the young bird sections and when mixed they are treated for canker/cocci then left to enjoy the harmony of moulting in peace together. They become contented and for the next 3 or 4 months a colony takes shape with its own immune system taking shape. The stock birds however are separated with the cocks and hens in separate compartments and they are canker/cocci at the same time. Personally, if a bird has a good immune system it should not fall ill however modern-day racing and bringing in stock that unknown to you has been over treated can see birds fall ill. Should a bird fall ill then I would ask myself a question, is this a serious illness or just a minor complaint that can easily be rectified for instance a high canker count giving the bird wet droppings. Serious illnesses I would put down as a bird with salmonella and this would have to be removed from the loft and sadly suppressed. To try to bring the bird back to good health in serious cases  is risking the entire health of your loft which you may regret in the long run. If I was to give my birds only one natural treatment easily that would be “PIGEON TEA”. Having used pigeon tea for 40 years its properties in keeping the birds in good order especially during the moult and winter months are invaluable. I use Versele Laga or Jourier teas which I obtain from Paul Newbold at the major shows. To the tea i add garlic cloves to help purify the blood or add lemon juice which helps to acidify the system. I guarantee the droppings from the birds are like marbles when the birds are given tea and lemon juice in the drinker especially the day after the race. This was used years ago by the most famous Belgium fanciers and i took it on board and never regretted doing so. “TREATING THE BIRDS ON ARRIVAL HOME FROM THE RACE” When I concentrated on sprint racing I found myself treating the birds on a regular basis with a notable increase in the canker count with the result the birds getting treated with Ronidazole 5% in the region of once per month. Giving weekly treatments I don’t agree with as you want the birds to gain natural resistance however if you send the birds weekly the more the risk of trichomoniasis taking hold is far greater. With distance birds which are sent only every 2 or 3 weeks as preparation races the weeks in between see’s these birds build up their natural immunity as they have 14 or 21 days between races. If they are not in a section mixed with say for instance a sprint family that has a poor resistance to trichomoniasis i.e. “carriers of tricconomads” then they have a greater chance of developing a stronger immunity. My aim is to keep away from treatments unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary and be observant in my own loft keeping the birds in good shape.

 Michael Binns (From the past)

I was brought up to treat for worms, cocci and canker before I pair up. I still, more or less stick to that but I do treat for canker when they are sitting. I always give the youngsters half a spartrix tablet for canker when they are weaned, I think this is a must. More recently I have treated the OB's when they have been sitting around 7/8 days.

 Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

We do not get many birds ill and if we do, they go, we treat our birds for canker, cocci and respiratory when we think that they need it.   

 

Q. Are there any feeding methods for the young birds i.e. do you break them down, do you keep them hungry for control purposes, do you give them a trapping seed mix. Why is feeding the pigeon’s so complicated or is that the way we make it.                                                                                                     

G W & P Macaloney  

Keep it simple. A good steady mix, not to heavy and keep it the same to ensure the digestive system gets in a routine. I always keep them tight on food, as you can’t afford to lose control of the youngsters, they must work on one-word commands, if they don’t remove them from the team as they will distract others. In training they trap to a trapping seed mix. I think people over complicate pigeons in general, it’s 99% common sense, know why you are doing things, using things, the internet has opened up all secrets of old days, take the time to analyse a fanciers system and condense elements of it to suit your own. 

Chris Knowles.

I feed my YB’s what they need not what they want. At differing stages of growth, development and learning these needs differ. For example, a little hunger when required helps control and control leads to good habits. I use a little trapping mix as reward but any that don’t trap don’t get it. Feeding is not complicated. If you understand their needs, then feed what they need, and if you don’t understand what they need, don’t blame the birds!

                                                     

Ray Lunt

The young birds are fed twice a day morning one third and two thirds in the evening when they are exercised or trained. It is all about controlling young birds so you need to find out how much you need to give to them on each occasion so that they are under your control. Feeding pigeons is not complicated it is all about feeding them so that they respond to you.  

Geoff Bebbington

No same as old birds Gerry plus and the further they go the more fats and oils they get and they get as much as they want as long as they are flying well, if they sit about their food gets cut.  

Nigel ShawFeeding for young birds is a third depurative, third race mix and a third diet no pigeons are left hungry all are fed to appetite, no trapping mix is used all the same feed all the time I sometimes add a fat mix on a Thursday night.  

 

Stephen Beardmore

Keep it simple. Young birds are fed the same as old birds but are educated to respond to a trapping mix as a treat which is continued as old birds. Ask 10 fanciers what they feed and you get 10 different answers. 

Brian Dearn

My young birds are weaned onto maple peas which I feed them four or five time per day at the start and then down to three times a day and finally two feeds twice a day. The reason for feeding maples is if they eat the big grains, they will always eat the small ones when given. I have never had one go backward using this system Its peas or they can eat their toenails and I have never had one eat its toenails. After 10 days I start to introduce the racing mix slowly over about a two-week period until they are on 100% racing mix at this point, they are fluttering around the loft. All the time I use my seed mixture to keep them under control and I take great pleasure from my babies spending many hours with them every day. I love to watch the pigeons and the pecking order that goes on in the loft, I take great delight in their control having spent a lifetime in management, having people carry out tasks they would sooner not be doing seem ever so easy to make pigeons do as you want them to.  

Paul Kitching

Feeding young birds is an art, even so it’s just simple when you stand back at look at it. On weaning the birds need to be fed well i.e. on the breeding mix they were reared on with for instance “Hormoform” as a supplement to help with their development. Once perching the feed is controlled by you the manager, by all means feed them well but they must learn your hand feeds their mouth. If they don’t listen then they go hungry also at this time a good trapping mix will help them respond to hand. When young bird racing comes along your aim is to have a great team of healthy well managed youngsters, if the youngsters are racing it’s good to have their racing mix lightened for 24 hours on return to make it easier to digest with the aim to have them back on race mix as soon as you can. I feel youngsters having too many different feeding systems during the week can unsettle their digestive system so the ideas of your feeding plan need’s to be simple and not complicated, they are only young bird racers for 8 or 9 weeks.

 

Michael Binns

You feed to the races you send your pigeons to. I always believe in “feed them well and work them hard” you can't do one without the other, they get a light feed in the morning and the main feed in the evening. Morning feed consists of 80% depurative, 20% Hormoform (after six weeks). Evening meal is Bamfords breed and wean which is what they are reared on.  

Moore-Ogden-Godwin (From the past)

Our feeding system for young birds is the same as the old birds, we break them all down but we stress that we do not keep them hungry. Our system is they fly when we want them too and when we say in they go, if they continue to fly they soon come round to our way of thinking, they are never allowed to mess about around the loft, it's a matter of flying or in the loft and yes we do give a trapping mix. We do use the darkness system for the young birds, if you want to win in our area with young birds you have to race them on the dark. We put them on the dark in the middle of March until about the second week in June that is normally about 9 weeks. On the subject of the system affecting the birds in future years, no we don't think that it affects them in later life as all our birds are old bird fed winners that have been darkness youngsters, we must add that we only darken them from 4.30/5pm to 7am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris photos