MY BREEDING METHODS
By Jack Barkel
I stated in my previous article that I believe that when embarking on writing an article on breeding, the place to start must be on the preparation or feeding of your stock pairs. If one really thinks about it, this should be ones place to start when contemplating breeding, racing, moulting or showing. I have no doubt in my mind, that the preparation for a breeding pair is just as important as the preparation of a racing bird for a National Race.
Having made the reader aware of my inner thoughts on this matter I will start at what I deem to be the beginning. If you have read the previous articles you will know about the purifying mixture of wheat, barley, lemon juice and now the new Energy Power Supplement. Four weeks before the breeding season is early enough to separate your sexes and put them on a diet of this mix. This will reduce the fat build up and purify the birds system, I then put them on a high protein mix on pairing up, these days it includes my supplement named Energy Power Supplement. This Soya based product when spread on their food increases their protein, calcium, vitamins and other minerals. The Isovlavones in this product are lacking in most feeds today and will give a marked improvement on Breeding or Racing birds. Besides this I also keep two types of grit in front of them which is the shell grit and the granite type grit.
Individual breeding pens are essential to lower the possibility of the cock depriving the hen of these necessary nutrients during the time before laying. If this is not possible all these nutrients must be in easy reach of the hens nest, to ensure that she is not subjected to this deprivation. The pairs should have been treated for Coccidiosis, Canker, and Mycoplasmosis for five days, one month before mating with a three day course afterwards with a flora treatment. These treatments have been explained in previous articles.
All lofts and compartments are sprayed with Virkon S and all birds dusted with Carbo Dust, all plastic bowls will need disinfecting daily against E-Coli, the way to go into the future is glass or ceramic drinkers etc. There are to my mind, too many cures, and not enough prevention of illnesses in our pigeon sport. The medicine cupboards of the pigeon fancier would be laughable if it was not so serious. I believe that my breeding birds carry a little of the common diseases known to pigeons and in there breeding cycle introduce it to their babies via the crop milk, creating a natural type of immunity. I do know that my birds suffer less illness than those of the prevalent paranoiacs or hypochondriacs amongst pigeon lovers. This is their choice however, but I will continue to try and get my point across against over medication, unfortunately it some times lands me in the hot seat in the process.
Selection for Breeding.
First I prefer and select birds that have their humorous bone close to the body, no more than a six millimetre ( ¼inch) gap is tolerated here. This allows for prolonged flight without fatigue as the fulcrum point of the lift of the body by the wing is in the correct position for maximum performance.
Then I select the best contour of the wing, which is the secondary flights being level with the number one primary flight. I do not tolerate a step in the wing at this particular position. The step creates a faster speed because it forces a faster wing beat, which is all well and good for short fast races, but certainly not for prolonged flight. The two following photo's show the wing I prefer and the one I reject.
Preferred No 1
Rejected No 2
Wing Curvature No 3
Wing No 4
Wing No 3 &4 is the wing of "Sun City Boy" he took 19th place in 1998in a hard Million Dollar Race. Notice no step in the wing, good curvature. He has also just dropped his third primary flight with the 2nd 75% grown. Notice how level the 1st primary and the secondaries are. The wing of a potential champion. His winnings amounted to R30,000-00 or $5000-00 US.
The third photo shows the curvature in the wing which I also favour as a characteristic in my birds. The other characteristics such as space between the end flights I have found to have too many variables both in appearance and performance, that I reject it in its entirety.
I also select the long deep keeled pigeon and not the short apple bodied bird. It has been my experience that the short keeled pigeon puts on weight too easily , whilst the long deep keeled pigeon can maintain its natural body weight without extra exercise. So it reaches and retains its fitness level much more adequately than its counterpart.
The curtain at the back of the throat must be straight and close perfectly in a horizontal line in the middle. I have found that the good curtain is always present where a good eye sign plus these other characteristics I have just mentioned prevail.
I reject the story of the weak back, it is just a scarcity of feather in the vicinity of the over active oil gland, there are double and triple fed winners with this characteristic and I know of many pigeons that I feel would have gone on to glorious things if these dogmatic fanciers had not sent them to glory before their time because they had the false impression that this pigeon with all the other great characteristics had a weak back. Old Hand the great Guru and my Mentor exposed this fact whilst I was still a boy and yet this strange band of people still write about it as if it is a proven fact. If a person wishes to reject or show preference to any characteristic that is their right, but then give convincing proofs for it like I try to do. It is wrong just to tell a novice this or that is wrong, if one cannot explain the reason why. This is the reason I will respect Old Hand until my dying day for there was one of the very few writers on pigeons that backed up his statements with experimental and conceivable explanations. If a person fails to do this I throw his book or article in the trash can where I believe it belongs. I have digressed a little, but let us get back to the selection of our breeders.
I know of many great racers that never bred a winner, but their progeny did. I know of many poor racers that were prolific breeders of winners. I know of many pigeons IN STOCK LOFTS that could not and have not been a good racer or ever likely to breed one. I have a very good friend who makes the statement quite regular at pigeon meetings that he has three brothers and not one of them are as good as he is. He says it as a joke but it is a fact, when you look at the eyes of these brothers there is a great difference between the eyes of him and his family. His progress in life and the progress of his children are vastly different. He has the silk in the eye that his brothers do not possess and he has handed it down to the next generation. When I speak to a person I look at them in the region of the mouth and nose, but try never to look in the eye. The reason for this is that with many people I can look into the depth of their soul and well being and many other characteristics. I realised many years ago that this was an invasion of their privacy although they were unaware of my analysis. You see the eye of a human, being much larger than that of the pigeon can be viewed very accurately without any magnification that you would need to rate a pigeon. We all possess different characteristics which can point us in the right direction to go in life and these are mirrored in the eyes of all gods creatures I have looked at. I was even put to the test in front of an audience with six fighting cocks, there was one champion, a top imported fighter and breeder. I had never handled a fighting cock in my life that I could remember, but I picked him out correctly on what I saw and knew I must look for in the eye.
So having said this my final and most important and overwhelming characteristic of any pigeon for the stock loft is the eye. No basket or race performance, feel or general appearance of the bird will tell you what the eye will tell you. This is my opinion which I have demonstrated, and proved and has served me without fail for nearly half a century.
Therefore my last selection will be the eye we call a brilliant, all these characteristics must go together for me to choose a bird for stock. This is not the only way but it certainly will ensure that a brilliant potential stock bird will not be barbequed or whatever because his tail sticks up!!!!! There is to be a chapter on the selection of the eye, as the subject is very involved and there are many colour pictures with the explanations. Therefore suffice it to say there is more, much more to come on this subject.
My endeavour in the stock loft is to reproduce my top stock cocks, this is something that I have perceived to be lacking wherever I visit. Most fanciers are under the impression that if they have a son off a particular stock cock they have reproduced him. This could not be further from the truth, for it needs some constructive line breeding to reproduce a pigeon like a cloned replica of his projenitor. First we must understand and I have been heavily and in one case insultingly criticised by members of a pigeon list for stating that a hen can not pass on her sex genes to her daughters. A daughter inherits only from her father and these are the genes we wish to pass down to reproduce the top stock cocks. In other word they will inherit the colours, stamina, intelligence and vitality which we are looking for. I select three stud sires in each strain but from different families and I line breed to these, father to daughter down the line. Therefore once again, it does not matter how many females you introduce to the original cocks they cannot take over the female progeny, they can never dominate their daughters progeny. I still say and no one will prove otherwise that if you say you are breeding to the hen you are breeding to a cock who is an outcross to that hen, and your line of decent is continuously changing. One self professed geneticist unqualified I presume like myself, said even a child knows that what I am teaching is wrong. Well if you don't believe my above statement you better seek help for you will stay as far as you are from the light until you accept these well known facts. To keep this true line of descent, you must never and I mean never introduce other male matings.
Right, having got that away I will carry on with my instruction on these father to daughter matings. If the Stud Sire has a yellow based eye or correlation, we will select a Dam with a pale pink base colour, which is perceived to be a white correlation. Both stock pigeons in my loft will have all the characteristics we mentioned above. All the cocks from this progeny will be raced out, none must be entered to stock or you create another family. The hens with all these characteristics with the pearl or pink eye of the mother will be paired back to their father the Stud Sire. Each generation you produce down the line in this way you will reduce the amount of pearl eyes of the female line as the Stud Sire is beginning to take over total influence, and this is what you are trying to achieve. You must constantly be on the look out for these line bred matings to produce a Male and Female that are identical in every respect to the original Stud Sire. When you have these two pigeons, then and only then should you put two eyes the same colour together and then and only then put brother to sister. From this brother to sister mating you will start to produce a family of birds that look like perfect clones or replicas of the original Stud Sire.
You may well ask this is fine for breeding and reproducing you stock pigeons, but what about the racing pigeons. Well many of this line bred and finally inbred family will race well but the slight downside can be a reduction in vitality or vigour. I suggested to you just a few paragraphs ago that you breed about three different lines of a strain this way to three stud sires not closely related at all but of the same strain and characteristics. You take the progeny of these three line bred/inbred families and cross them over. This first family outcross will give you the increased vitality or hybrid vigour that some fanciers bandy about as if it is common practice in an intelligently controlled breeding loft. A word of warning here, never introduce one of these hybrids, which is a misnomer and I prefer to call outcross to your stock loft if it is a male, no matter how he has performed. If you do you will start an entirely new family, the hens you can introduce , but never the cock. He will make a perfect Stud Sire for someone else so sell him and make some pocket money.
In my final summing up let me say it has been common practice since I was quite young to leave stock pigeons paired together during the off season. I have found my birds lay less eggs and stay fertile longer, they live a happier life and all one needs to do is deprive them of grains that create the excitement of the reproductive organs during this rest period. I have tried to keep this as interesting as possible for the lay person, no fancy genetic terms to influence people, but down to earth facts that can be relied upon. It is I say once again not my complete work on the subject, but part of a chapter of the unfinished book " The Hidden Mysteries Of Nature And Science" as applied to racing pigeons.