Utah State Roller Club

Subtitle

Creating the perfect kit

Creating the perfect kit.

           GD in hat By Graham Dexter
My definition of a perfect team is one that performs to an excellent standard on a regular basis.  It has to be reliable in its everyday performance and regularly perform safely to a consistently high standard and exceed expectations from time to time.  This does not mean that it is a team comprising of all star performers, indeed sometimes it is the individual star performer that betrays the overall performance of the team.  The team that performs in competent unison, seemingly effortlessly, safely and stylishly, without significant errors is the perfect team for me. However that is simply my perfect team, each fanciers must set his or her personal objective from their own standard and vision of what they consider perfect. It  maybe that other fanciers have other objectives. For some it is simply to beat the competition; to produce a reliable workmanlike performance,  to produce a graphic advert in order to sell more stock, or even to set a standard for others to pursue.  Any of these objectives can be achieved in time when a thorough path towards this goal is followed. My advise is thus to follow the following pathway.

Research, information and knowledge:

Any fancier embarking on this team building will need to ‘know his knitting’ a well known maxim for people in business.  A team can only be built if the fancier has a good overall knowledge of what he is trying to achieve, a sound knowledge of management methods, a good grasp of training, feeding and keeping the team healthy.  Usually this knowledge and skill is built up during an initial ‘apprenticeship’.  This apprenticeship may have had with it many failures and disappointments.  It will have had some sporadic success and these are from which we all learn.  For the apprenticeship to be meaningful we must have learned hard lessons which gives us our motivation to succeed.

Vision and Recognition

The kit master is you.  You will have learned what an excellent team is through seeing one in action or having exceptional vision of exactly what you want to achieve as an end result.  It is well known that a writer who starts a story without knowing the end page will nearly always fail to achieve a good result. It is only when you are able to recognise what you want, or visualise the finished product that you will be able to move forward towards your personal end result.

Observation

The fancier who has the ability to see what is going on in the team, to be able to recognise the signs of excellence and also  the individuals who are disturbing the team is the one most likely to succeed.  The fancier, of whom I know too many, that watches the team for only a few moments then turn their attention to the tea break is sadly not going to make it.  This type of fancier, when they are in another fanciers back garden,  tends to study the construction of the loft, the breeding boxes, the kit boxes, the feed bin – while the birds are in the air. These fanciers will never learn what they need to learn about a team of birds from these efforts.  Although all of the aforementioned curiosities are valuable – but should be attended to after the kit has landed or at least flown some time.  The fanciers that don’t pay attention to the team in the air are seldom likely to become the astute observers that they need to be for success.

So what’s to look for!

  • Flight pattern: are the birds flying in a figure of eight, what speed do they fly at, are their tails tight or spread? This helps us know if the birds are in the right condition – thus are we watching a team ready to perform, or birds that aren’t really going to show us what they are made of yet!
  • Individuals: Which birds start the break?  Are there any birds pulling the kit in different directions? Which birds are rolling too much – distracting from the bigger breaks? Which birds constantly roll from the back of the team and cause the kit to lose altitude? Which birds constantly fly above the kit causing the kit to lift too much? Which birds roll too deep and distract the team? Are there birds in the team that roll when about to land thus causing the rest of the team to be unsettled and more dangerous when approaching to land?
  • Markers: Are there birds in your team that act as markers for the team – i.e. are there some birds that when rolling deeper are showing you that the rest of the team are low in body weight? Are there birds that stop rolling first when you have been over flying the team? Are there birds that only land early when they unfit, too heavy or undernourished? Are these birds showing you that the team needs more feed, less, different?  Do you have a bird in your team that only flies too long, too high, or doesn’t kit when you are doing something wrong in your management? Markers are valuable birds the less observant of us never identify them!
  • Quality: How consistent is the individual in the team, does it perform to a high standard in 100, 90, 80 50% of the breaks?  In the break how many birds close their wings and glide down in the confusion of the activity without performing properly?  How many birds commence the roll with a clap first, or end the roll facing away from the kit, or do a loose somersault to end the roll? How many birds perform to low standard but always roll on the break? What is the ratio of reasonable standard rollers to excellent standard rollers in the team? What is the ratio of frequent reasonable standard rollers to infrequent excellent standard rollers?

Acquisition

Finding the right individuals for your team requires a skilled eye and patience.  The team will not be built overnight. Researching the best resources, by personal visit, reputation, or help from an expert will save time in the long run.  A hastily acquired individual will cost time and resources that could otherwise be spent on developing a good team. Remember that ‘a silk purse cannot be made from a pig’s ear’. Taking time to acquire and put together the best team possible for the money and resources available will pay off in exponentially. Eventually you must be able to produce your own team and this is no mean feat. Acquiring and assembling a team is much easier than producing your own, however, with good observation skills and experimentation is possible to produce good to high standard performers which may enhance the team.  Selecting birds to be the stock of the breeding pen is a separate topic, but be aware it will not always be your ‘star’ performers in your team that will produce you your best results, and yet neither will it be those ‘duffer’ with significant problems they just require culling!

Selection

Once a team is assembled the kit master is responsible for enabling the best performance from each individual. Balance is the essential message here. Too many frequent rollers will lead to highly energetic activity but with no team performance. Exceptionally high quality rollers may be somewhat infrequent, a few of these in the team will enhance the overall spectacle, but too many will lead to seldomness in performance.
There are several ‘types’ of roller knowing them and mixing them in a team can be done successfully if done carefully!

Types:

The 5 main types come in a variety of depths and frequency

  • Very Fast Tight rollers
  • Fast Tight
  • Fast and Very Fast Wingy
  • Fast Graceful
  • Slower Graceful

VFT: In this category one should bear in mind that it is usual to find more short rollers than deep ones, and the deeper they are usually the less frequent. The deep and frequent ones are generally useless for team performance as they exhaust themselves too quickly and lose the kit.
FT  On the other hand these can be found in deep and frequent, but one needs to remember with this type they will use up a lot of energy so they must be very fit to prevent them losing the kit or landing early. Successful fanciers with this type of bird are the very keen and observant ones that are able to balance its need for exercise to keep it fit and rest to prevent exhaustion.
FVFW  These birds are quite entertaining to watch and come in all depths and frequencies. They are often quite energetic as they seem to use less energy and therefore don’t tire as easily as the ones that aren’t wingy.  I think this is because it takes more effort to open the wing fully when rolling, the wingy ones seem to flick the wing beat which maintains speed but loses the impression of roundness. A variation of this type is the roller that looks very fast but if the observer looks closely they will see that the bird is in fact not rotating head over tail quite correctly, but is rolling head over one wing – this maintains velocity and the visual spectacle, but gives a slightly lob-sided picture to the careful observer.  Please note that all these, although not the perfect type, are still quite scoreable for competition purposes, and certainly most casual observers would not notice the difference! Not a type I would give any quality points to though!
FG  I have had a soft spot for this type of roller for years, and only recently acquired a few from Dave Moseley.  Barry Shackleton in the 70’s had some wonderful examples of these, and in the past I saw some of these in Middlesbrough in the late 80’s and 90’s at fanciers who seldom competed.  Last year I saw some wonderful rollers of this type in a near enough perfect team at Chris Robinson’s.  This type is not as quite as fast in the roll as the other 3 types, but is very close. However I believe this type beats its wings fuller and spreads its wing flights in slightly more extended way reaching higher in its wing arc, thus when propelling itself in the roll it gives itself a rounder and cleaner shape.  It appears that it does this using less energy than the other 3 types and therefore is able to perform quite frequently and often deeply without too much stress.  This type instantly reminds me of the high diver in the Olympic games that seems to perform effortlessly.
SG  As long as this type rolls fast enough it is a charmer to watch, this type will roll frequently sometimes quite deeply and fly long times without distress.  It is in a way the best type for competition as it requires very little management, and is the workhorse of many teams.  However it must have the ‘gracefulness’  without this aspect it is the worst kind of roller – the kind that is not in fact a roller at all.
So which should I select for my perfect team?  It is necessary to remember that a very fast roller uses more energy than a slow graceful roller yet it is possible to fly all 5 types in one team. The more types you have, the more astute you need to be to balance the team.  Fast deep rollers need more rest to maintain their frequency, any excess of body fat will inhibit their performance, the fast graceful type seem to cope with overfeeding much better and can carry a limited amount of excess without affecting their performance.  Any roller that is frequent will need ample nourishment and rest, the blend of styles within your team is your choice, a lifetimes experiment may not be enough to get it right, but it can be a rather entertaining pursuit of perfection.  (For me this year my 44th year with rollers, it seems perhaps a little too long!)

A few examples:

  • A team of 15 FGs will look even better with about 5 VFT in it, as long as they match the depth of the FGs.
  • A team of 15 FTWs  will look much better with 5 FGs in it
  • A team of 15 FTs will look worse with 5 VFTs in it .
  • A team of 15 FVFW will look worse with 5 VFT or FT rollers in it.
  • A team of 20 of any type except FVFW with the same depth factor will look good.
  • A mixed type team with different depth factors will look worse that a mixed team of the same depth.
  • A team of FGs or SGs will usually get more  points than a team of FVFWs.
  • A team of  FVFW should score less quality points than a team of FT or VFT rollers – but often don’t!
  • Most teams of FT or VFT will receive more quality points than a team of FG’s or SGs. But probably not by me.

Feeding

Feeding is extremely important because it is through feeding properly and maintaining exercise that you are able to see what quality of birds you have. Until the birds are in the proper condition it is impossible to evaluate them and therefore put your best team together.  I believe a lot of good rollers are killed each year because their owners don’t have them in the right condition to evaluate them.  Equally lots of poor specimens are kept because they were capable of doing a good job on one occasion.  If you have to starve your team, give tonics, or mess with them in some way in order for it to perform then from my point of view – you probably haven’t got the right birds!  That is not to say that from time to time your team will need boosting up, or their ration reducing to get them to the optimum weight and fitness, but this should not be necessary on a day to day basis. From time to time you may want to play with bits of folklore (Epsom salts, Rue Tee, Golden Boost, Brewers Yeast, Sulphate of Iron etc) to attempt to get that extra 10% out of them for a competition, but generally they should not need messing with.  Clean water, mineral grit and wheat are the staple diet of the perfect team. They will require worming and occasionally some seed (for fat soluble vitamins –unless this is in the grit as a supplement).
However, one small tip I learned from Dave Moseley, which has stood the test over the last couple of years – balancing the team on food.  The team will break more frequently together if they are at the same level of fitness and weight, to do this Dave feeds wheat to the team in increasing small quantities until the team begins to leave food. At this point he begins gently to cut back the food in equally small quantities until the birds fly for a good time. Keep them at this ration should ensure that they all have enough of what they need without as much as they want to eat . When the team is flying for about an hour on this ration they are clearly fit and not undernourished thus in a better state to be evaluated than half starved or overweight. Remember, once the team is balanced up in terms of fitness,  the time the birds fly should indicate whether they need more or less food. Clearly be aware of weather changes, rollers will need more in cold weather than in hot!

Breeding

This is slightly away from the main point of this article, but perhaps it is prudent to say a few things about the topic. Firstly breeding a team requires a bit more time and patience.  Once you can recognise the types it is easier for you to decide which you need in more abundance and select breeding stock accordingly.  There are a few points to make here:

  • Very Fast Tight rollers are difficult to produce!  Along the way you will have rollers that are too deep and crash, birds that drop early, and birds that burn themselves out before they are two years old (become deep and sloppy as yearlings, or become more and more seldom as they get older).  You will need to breed more rollers each year if you decide to go this route, unless you get very good at it very quickly or are very patient. For those that have these and manage to maintain their stud I’m sure its deeply satisfying.
  • All other types that last are produced by selecting your stock birds wisely and by following a breeding plan that follows the principles of line breeding. Outcrosses will not produce these types consistently!

How should I select stock?

Some simple rules here are:

  • Get good advice from the original stock supplier as to what to pair to what
  • Watch the birds in the air and select the type you want first.
  • Watch them for as long as possible before stocking – so you can –
  • Avoid birds which are too deep
  • Go for style before depth or frequency
  • Avoid birds which are infrequent or you notice don’t always roll in the break
  • Avoid birds which drop early, or hang outside of, above or below the kit
  • Don’t use birds with a fault you don’t like just because its excellent at something else
  • Don’t try to ‘average out’ a pair. A short and a deep does not give a medium – more often it gives one short and one deep or two short or two deep!
  • Use your 4 best rollers and feeders rather than 4 good and 16 mediocre.

Basic notes on training.

Rollers that are bred from good stock don’t take much training at all. Once the youngsters begin to fly ensure the only place they land is on the landing pole or loft top.  Ensure youngster are fed what they need to build proper bones and muscle, but at all cost prevent them becoming overweight or emaciated.  Fly youngsters once or twice a day but use your observation skills to ensure you are not exhausting them by over flying or losing fitness by under flying.  Sometimes youngsters that are very active need flying less to allow them to get stronger, and sometimes they need flying more if their fitness is suffering or less because the rolling effort is making them tired.  On the other hand lazy youngsters are often a problem, as they cause the rest of the team to drop early and thus their fitness suffers.  Fly the lazy ones more often with other teams if possible, take them a ride out for a 1 mile fly back until they get on with it, and if all this fails (and don’t wait too long) send them back to the manufacturer with a note!

Selection and De-selection:

A good fancier will have a second team in training from which s/he can take reinforcements or replacements when ever the team requires support. Some individuals in the team will need resting, or an injury or illness may require the team member to be substituted.  Therefore the second team must be as close to a clone of the first as possible.  As any football follower will know it is rather silly to replace the first team centre forward with the reserve team goalie!  If you know your two teams thoroughly, you will know which are the front birds, centre and back birds.  It seems logical to only replace front pigeons with front pigeons – indeed front pigeons can be a replacement for any of the team, but clearly back position birds will do little good for your team if a front bird is needed.
De-selection can also be needed for birds that develop temporary faults – for example a white cock bird of mine gets much much deeper in the roll when he goes into the moult.  Although he doesn’t leave the team too much, he does spend some time out.  He also is prone to land earlier than the rest, although he will always do 30 minutes or so, he does tend to disrupt the team a bit.  Once the moult is over he shortens up and goes back to his position in the centre of the team.  I have a red chequer cock which flies in the second team which is a central pigeon and substitutes very ably for him. Very occasionally a first team member may develop a strange habit which distracts the team – landing away, dropping early, flying above the kit, pulling or drawing the team away from its best flight pattern, flicking over instead of rolling, or just stopping performance. The cause of this can be numerous, perhaps the most common is the moult or the bird pairing with another of the team. Resting the bird or birds for a month or six weeks will usually tell you whether this is a temporary or permanent development. Clearly demoting to the second team is necessary until such a determination is made. It would not be fair to condemn a bird before returning it to fitness with the second or third team first.
Some members of the team may need to be de-selected permanently, for example after a silly knock resulting in a stiff tail one of my favourite  bronze chequer hens never regained her sharpness, the team suffered a lot from her absence until a suitable replacement was found.  As birds get older they may need to be replaced, especially if they have been sound for three or four years and some progeny from them is needed for the future.  Others will be lost via falcon attacks, even if not killed and taken many are maimed and unable to fly or perform to their former standard. 
Sadly sometimes birds have to be culled from the team because they are too much the ‘star’ and not enough of the team player. The very deep roller that returns to the team reliably then rolls again is no doubt a star, but if this star is disrupting the team effort, losing the cohesiveness or general concert performance of the team – then sadly s/he will have to go.  Last year I had 2 such rollers in my team, splitting them into another team halved the problem and doubled it at the same time.  Whereas I only had one bird out of the kit most of the time, I had the same irritation in both of my good teams!  Perfect in the roll, but not helping the team.  Of course you could argue that if I had bred another 18 of these then I would have no problem, or that the 18 that didn’t roll as deep were the problem…..well in theory perhaps but practically the team has to take precedence over the stars!
When changing the team either substituting birds you fancy are better than the current ones in the team, or de-selecting ones you think are not helping or could be better, try to do this one by one and over some time not in rapid dramatic changes.  The team will need time to get to know the new member, as will the new member need to get to know the team. Also the substitution may have unexpected consequences not foreseeable or surprising – good or bad.  Time to evaluate the effects on the team needs to elapse, and your thorough observation of the effects calculated over time.
As most experienced fanciers fly in their competition team more than the required number – for easy removal of the excess, please bear in mind that too many extra birds may lose you the advantage of the excess.  A team suddenly depleted of 3 or 4 members may respond badly and produce poor results. A better plan is to have only one extra bird and be sure that you watch that bird to ensure it does not become central to the teams’ performance.  A nice steady centre bird is easier to lose from the team than a frequent ‘showy’ front pigeon.
On a final note in regard to selection and de-selection, remember that the reliable everyday workers in the team – especially the shorter rollers are often taken for granted.  My advise would be don’t deselect them until you try them out in the stock loft! 

Maintaining Performance

Remember even the very best team cant stay in tip top performance mode for ever. The very best teams can be maintained in peak performance for about 12 - 20 weeks. Eventually the team will need rewarding with a long rest.  Frequent periods of one weeks rest and careful monitoring of fatigue levels in the birds can forestall or postpone the inevitable loss of vigour, but eventually the team will lose lustre and have to be given a complete rest. Good food copious bathing and plenty of space would be the ideal.  Of course this will inevitably result in some egg laying activity, but hey it is a holiday.
When the holiday is over be careful how the team is returned to full fitness. Reduce the weight of the team gradually and return them to a weight and diet similar to the old regime before trying them out again.  Expect little performance at first, don’t despair if the kitting and performance are less than normal at first. In my experience it takes about 3 weeks for optimum performance to return after the long rest, about 3 flies after a short rest.

Succession Planning

Lots of fanciers seem to be able to maintain a good standard of excellence for 3 to 4 years, very few for longer than that.  If you look at the competition results it shows how fanciers emerge into the top positions for a period and then are lost.  I believe this is because of an over dependence of one or two teams and one or two producing stock pairs.  The fancier gets a bit complacent about being able to always put out a good team, and doesn’t notice the team depleting before their very eyes.  A few Peregrine attacks, sickness, stock birds getting older, a key hen going barren, a key cock bird dies or becomes infertile, stock is stolen, a flyaway happens.  Or simply as I did long ago forgot that my own stock was more important than helping others with theirs!
If fanciers wish to remain on the top of their game and last for more than a few seasons they have to take a few lessons from the ones that have.  Bob Brown, Ernie Stratford, Bill Barratt and Ollie Harris may not have had the same vigorous competition that most UK fanciers now have, but they kept a high standard going for many many years. They did this by being ruthlessly selfish, and generous when they could afford to be so. They  calculated who should benefit from their stock, so they had a reserve backup (being fed and cared for by someone else) should they need one.  Their succession planning was never neglected, they always had breeding plans which would open up the next generation with some solid (I know this will produce) and some experimental pairing (might even be better) calculated to maximise their potential for the next 3 or 4 years ahead.   Masters of success like George Mason, who relentlessly year after year continues to rise to the top,  have clearly modelled themselves thus!

Final Thoughts

Finally, when I imagine my perfect team I have come to realise that its my perfect team. Each fancier will have their own dreams fantasies or visions of what theirs would be like.  After waiting 44 years to see a ‘proper’ quality full turn, I finally saw 2 with 30 seconds this March over my own loft.  Despite all the splendid teams I have seen over those many years I had never seen the perfect break before – so it is only now that I feel qualified to write this article. Although I realise that many more of you could have written this article before me as you didn’t I don’t feel to arrogant in doing so. To those of you that have had a perfect team and therefore know all this stuff I say I hope you weren’t too bored by it, and for those of you who have yet to achieve your perfect team I say  – have patience!  Best wishes,
Graham Dexter

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Heine tells us how its done!

Flying Birmingham rollers is already for many years a popular hobby in Holland. Flying these birds has been for many years the same as in our surrounding countries of Europe, and that is with three birds and from portable loft or backyard. What people were looking for was individual quality of the birds, every bird showing a good roll was one point. Even then the deep, fast rollers were admired more than the average ones, but there was no difference in rewarding the just good roller and the beautiful spinner, both just got one point.
The big change in Holland came in ‘89, when a few keen roller fanciers realized that the way Birmingham rollers were flown in England was the real and best way to fly Birmingham rollers, so they founded a new club and started organizing 20 bird kit competitions. The new club got a group of enthusiast fanciers and pretty soon we flew nice competitions in Holland.
In the eighties a few different fanciers imported pigeons from various fanciers in England like Bob Brown, Bill Barrett and Ernie Stratford, but these pigeons were flown and selected to perform the way Birmingham rollers were flown on the continent (3 birds and individual). Important qualities like kitting and team performance were not important matters to select for, so the overall quality of the birds changed but not in favor of the 20-bird team performance we were looking for. It took lots of time to breed back the qualities we wanted. In the nineties more birds were imported from new famous names in England, like Shackleton, Lennihan, Besance, Mason, Dexter and Kitson. Now we had lots of different families of birds to work with, but the best way to fly, feed and train these birds is not an easy thing to do. Most fanciers tried hard to find out what family they liked best, outstanding kits and birds were flown in those days, but the management, how to control the birds and make them perform on competition day is and always will be the most difficult thing in this hobby. Quite a few fanciers got frustrated at the end and quit the hobby, sad but it happened. We now have still the same amount of people in Holland enjoying this beautiful hobby, but a lot of the leading names have changed over the years.
I started in this hobby in 1990 when I bought my first BR of a still good friend of me, Epie de Jong. I read an article in a newspaper about him and his strange and rare hobby with Birmingham rollers. Epie was president of our NBRC for many years and was one of the people starting this club.
I bought two pair and it were descendents of the Ernie Stratford imports. I bred myself that summer a little kit and was enthusiast to see my first young birds start to roll. I had no idea about how to train and feed them to perform better, just did what I thought was best. I worked with these birds for two years and they were good kitters and flyers and some nice rollers, but not very active.
Meanwhile my teacher and friend Epie, got rid of all of his Stratfords and had replaced them for Barretts which were easier to manage and were more active, I visited him a lot in those days so I saw the difference too and I also liked the Barretts better.
I must say that we didn’t know how to manage the Stratford birds so they might have been much better than we realized, but we didn’t know how to handle them, what caused highflying, stiff kits and overflies. Like everywhere in the world we too were impatient, and maybe got rid of the birds too soon because Mr. Stratford did fly great kits in England in those days. We will never know.
Epie helped me to get started with Barretts and I flew a mix kit Stratfords and Barretts, my first year in the club and in competition. I was hooked! The next year I got rid of the remaining Stratfords, they were nice rollers, but seldom in the roll. Just Barretts and most of ‘em came from Epie, because he was breeding lots of birds and had every season his ideas of continuing with a few combinations and their offspring and then got rid of all the others. Because I visited him a lot, I knew the quality of the birds Epie didn’t want to use anymore, and I could lay my hands on them! Epie was more focused on individual performance then on real teamwork, he bred fantastic rollers, but never really scored high in competitions, he knew why, but didn’t care. He bred lots of good Barretts, and quite a few came to me.
Riekus Duiker was another full time pigeon keeper in those days and he flew mainly birds of imports from Dexter, Kitson and Besance, he bred and flew about 100 youngsters a year and was flying and training these birds and some breeds of highflying pigeons as his daily work. He flew fantastic rollers in those days, but also a lot of problem birds he gave a “second chance” over and over. He flew the best quality pigeons in those days, but often things like a splitting kit, bumping birds or landing early hurt his results. My idea was that he was too soft with his problem birds, he drowned in it trying to learn about the reasons of a bird not kitting, landing early, bumping etc. etc.(cull and move on would be better).
Jan Hatzman was the third fanatic Birmingham roller flyer in those days I visited quite often, he flew birds of a Lennihan/Besance cross and he managed to create a fantastic family of birds, beautiful type and superb quality. The main problem Jan was struggling with was to show what his birds were capable of on competition day, when the yard was filled with critical fanciers. A tough problem!
These three people were my “teachers” in the hobby, they had read a lot about our hobby from England. They also knew everything about pigeons and had a lot of answers on my questions.
In those days I was a service mechanic and traveled all week for my work, and could therefore visit these guys very often and see their pigeons fly and talk about it, I learned and saw a lot.
I didn’t read a lot of articles about our hobby, but what I read was about how to train, feed, solve problems, prepare for competition etc. etc. After a few years visiting my friends and listening to their answers and solutions for all kinds of problems you run into in this hobby, and reading some more articles I realized that for every answer or problem in this hobby there are about ten answers! The worst thing about this is that the “people who know” can tell you what to do, or how to solve a problem, but can’t show you! So what’s the truth! I stopped asking and reading and just flew my birds and did what I thought was the best and I did have good results.
I started to know my own birds! In the air is the best place to learn all about your birds! I flew an average of three kits in those days, breeders included.
During the summer season I don’t have real bad hawk or falcon problems so no reason to keep my breeders locked in. I want my breeders to prove to me that I made the right decision to have used them as breeders in the previous year, they had to be good again or otherwise I won’t use them again.
I selected them because it were good kitting, flying, performing and stable pigeons, so what’s the risk in flying these stable good birds again? I bred them to perform for me and I want to enjoy them again after the breeding season. I bred them to fly and perform for fun for me and I think it’s cruel to lock birds in like that because they are too good? Liars, your birds are just not stable enough!!
Breeders have to prove themselves again in the air at least a couple of years after the breeding season, to confirm me that I’m working with the right birds, no lottery, but proven birds.
My opinion is that you should know your birds as good as possible, try 100% and then and only then you can make the right decision about a bird, either get rid of it or fly it or even use it in stock.
I’ve seen way to many fanciers with far too many pigeons. It’s impossible to know that many birds good enough to make the right decisions. They are lying to themselves about the reasons they keep that many birds. Most of them don’t know those birds well enough so they hesitate to make the decision “live or die”, so what they do is an extra kitbox to avoid the final decision! Meanwhile their breeding loft is filled with “pedigree birds” which might breed them those “champions”.
I believe that the average fancier with a normal job can never handle more than at the most about a 100 pigeons including breeders, that’s a kit of old hens, a kit of old cocks, a yearling kit and two youngbird kits. I’m sure that if every fancier should force himself to keep this many birds the quality should improve enormous. He would know his birds better and take easier the best decisions.
In ’93 Holland joined the WC for the first time. Not the entire club thought we were ready to compete with the rollerworld, including me. It was expensive and I thought we have no chance at all, so I didn’t fly in the WC. Two years later in ’95 I won the competition again and decided to try my luck in the WC. The results of our fellow fanciers the previous years and meeting Norman Reed at my place made me curious, they finished somewhere in the middle I believe.
Monty Neibel came over to judge my kit in 95’; he was enthusiast about my wife and birds. He told me he sure would like to train my kit by his methods for some time and was sure he could do a lot better with these same birds. He was enthusiast about how my birds kitted and worked together as a team, nice breaks with nice style and good depth, but they were soft (slow) in the roll, and I totally agreed with him. I finished 12th what was a never expected success. Monty’s enthusiasm was contagious and I became even more fanatic in flying better and faster pigeons. I could lay my hands on a few birds of a mix of Lennihan, Mason, Barrett, and Besance blood and introduced them in my family of Barretts.
I slowly got what I was looking for, more speed and smaller birds, but also what I didn’t ask for, a lot of new problems again. Looking back I think I introduced to many different birds in my family at the same time, it caused a lot of questions and took quite some time to get rid of the undesired traits.
The pure Barretts I flew were really good birds, kitting perfect, explosive breaks, and the only thing I wasn’t happy about was their size and speed in the roll. I often wonder where I would have been at this moment if I hadn’t introduced these outcrosses. I had no patience and that’s a mistake that often ruins good families of rollers, I think I’m just lucky it worked well for me.
I’m happy with my birds as they are at the moment, but still try to improve, I know they can be better!
In 96’ and 97’ I was still struggling with my new blood in the family and didn’t qualify for the WC. My fortune came back in 98’ when I qualified and Eldon Cheney came to Holland to judge my kit.
In May that year when I qualified I flew a beautiful kit and everybody in the yard was enthusiast about the performance, good teamwork and big breaks. What a beautiful hobby, friends in the yard and a good kit in the air! In July when Eldon judged the kit for the WC the weather wasn’t really good, it was too windy. The kit flew too low most of the time and danced up and down around the trees most of the time. They scored pretty good nevertheless and I finished third that year, that was a huge shock for me because the kit didn’t perform half as good as when I qualified! So you start dreaming about what could have happened if the weather had been better that day? I realized I was close!
The next year I was ready for it and did qualify again. Monty Neibel who had won the previous year came to Holland again to judge my kit. The second time I met Monty and again he judged my kit.
I had all the luck you need; birds in perfect shape, good weather and the number one rollerman of the world judging my kit! The kit was”awesome” like Monty said; tight kitting and enough big explosive breaks. We all were enthusiast about the kit and I won the WC with a big score!
In 2000 the millenium year the tenth anniversary of the World Cup Rollerfly I was invited to judge. Steve Clayton our General Coordinator organized a perfect trip for me. Everywhere I was I met nice enthusiast people, just fantastic. When I judged the kits in America I was really surprised by the way lots of these kits flew, it was so different than everything I had seen before. Most kits I saw just flew as an unorganized group above the loft and it seemed that no bird knew in what direction they had to fly!
You could see they were selected to kit because the birds wanted to stay together! Lots of the breaks seemed more a coincident of frequent birds rolling together than working together as a team. What you saw after a break was that lots of birds came out of the roll facing all kinds of directions, and then flying back to the rest of the kit coming from all those directions. I think it’s not important for these birds in these families because they never know where the rest of the kit might be? There was too often no fly pattern, like the fig.8 I was used to see. I’m sure you need the fig.8 fly pattern for the best quality breaks, the birds fly quietly in the same formation for the best set up before a beautiful explosive break. Coming out of the roll the birds know where the rest of the kit is and know how to get out of the roll to face the right direction! Another thing I saw in a lot of these kits was that when the kit broke, and say 5 birds rolled the remaining birds made a fast change of direction, so when the 5 rollers came out of the roll the kit was gone! A terrible habit of the kit, because they should fly slow and wait for the rollers to get back to the kit. What happens when a kit just flies in circles is that the birds are often changing position in the kit, because the birds on the inside fly slower than the birds on the outside so to keep up with the rest lots of birds take a shortcut. You can imagine that this kind of flying is wrong for a good setup and break together. I saw too many kits just flying left, or rightwing circles above the loft. Probably through wrong selection or not paying enough attention to this important part of flying rollers (for team performance), this habit seems to be gone in lots of roller families.
Another amazing thing to see for me was the amount of kitboxes most fanciers had in their yard. I thought how could these people ever fly that many birds. I’m used to watch my birds when I fly’em, and I need all my spare time to do so for the three kits I fly, besides my work. The best and only right way to fly these BR is to watch them all the time and get them in yourself. (no use of traps!).
If you have no time for that, then fly fewer kits but be there when they’re out! You have to see everything they do!
I have to know all the ins and outs of all my birds to take the right decisions. I realized that either these people had a lot of time off or weren’t watching their birds all the time they’re out, so they don’t really know their birds! Some think they do! The old-timers advice always was don’t fly them if you don’t have time to watch them! You have to watch them to get to know them!
I mentioned to a lot of people that I hate those little closed kit boxes you see all over America, I can’t understand why so many people still use those things, it’s like pigeon housing before WW II. The English fanciers have moved on, look at their lofts nowadays! America wakeup it’s 2003!
The disadvantages: hot ovens in the sun, you can’t see what’s going on inside and that’s very important! The English style loft and in the back your kitboxes used either dowels or wire, is the best for climate control and observation of your birds. The birds get used to your presence in the loft, and won’t really change their behavior when you’re there, you can study them. When friends visit you, they can have a look at your birds, no need to stick their heads in a kitbox with the danger of a bird slipping over your head. Feeding your birds when you’re gone in kitboxes by relatives or friends is always a risk, of a bird slipping out, most of them hate to do it. After some time you should know that all the birds will have their own perch, when you see a normal top perch bird in a bottom perch you should realize something's wrong. If you see birds mating on the floor you should pay attention! You can see what the strongest birds in the kit are and the weakest! Some kind of fly problem? Try to fly the kit without the strongest (top perch) birds or without the weakest (bottom perch).
Lots of things you can learn from your birds without flying! I’ve seen fanciers releasing their kit and then they see an egg in the kitbox, on competition day! In an open kitbox they would’ve noticed that this hen was already fooling around with a cockbird for several days! Can cost you a good hen!
Often one or two birds don’t want to fly and the fancier has no clue, he could have noticed something if he knew what’s going on in the kitbox! If all this doesn’t make sense and you’re happy the way it is, you don’t have to change anything, this hobby is for your own pleasure. But don’t blame your birds, when you don’t improve anymore, it’s only you who can change that!
Listening to the comments of fanciers when watching a kit together, (not for competition) you very often hear them talking about those beautiful individual performers in the kit, good frequency, style, depth etc. they’re beautiful to watch, but are they good team pigeons? I think they’re not! The only good individual performer I would like is the one that flies everytime to the front of the kit and then starts performing. In this hobby a kit breaking together a few times and flying flat for the rest of the time, is quality wise a lot better than a kit with beautiful individuals all the time (can’t deny that the last kit is more fun watching!). Our hobby is for TEAM performance, so for the best results keep your team together (kitting) and make them work together! (the breaks). These beautiful individual performers ending in the breeding loft (what’s happening everywhere too often) will get you more good performers but less and less teamwork, and more kitting problems. These birds have a serious fault! Lots of fanciers just deny that fault and only talk about that beautiful style, depth etc. and put ‘em in stock.
I think you can better breed with a less quality performer without faults and try to improve the quality than to use a good spinner with a fault. It’s easier to select for better and better quality than to select to get rid of a fault in your family you bred in them yourself! You make ‘em sick and then try to heal again!
This is a beautiful but very difficult hobby and everyone working with these fantastic pigeons for several years knows what I’m talking about.
I traveled around with high expectations but was a little disappointed about the quality I saw in kits of people already in the hobby for many many years and still not capable of showing me some good performance in the air. I’m not talking about an outstanding kit in 20 minutes but just a few breaks showing me their real potential in an exhibition kit. Since I met lots of fanciers all over the world I realize more and more how difficult it is what we want to achieve:
A kit of 20 pigeons flying tight together on a nice height, setting up and explode in a full turn with excellent speed, style and depth. I’ve seen a kit like this a few times (in my dreams).
The most important thing no one should forget is that this is a hobby and a hobby should be for fun!
The pleasure in the hobby and the friends are more important than the quality of your birds.
I wish everybody a beautiful fullturn next season and lots of fun with birds and friends.

John Wanless My Life With Birmingham Rollers

Roller Performance Standard

For several decades the breeding and flying of the Birmingham Roller has had no real written breed or performance standard beyond personal opinions described in various pigeon journals, letters between fanciers, communications on internet sites, and the individual opinions of judges during competitions. As a result, controversy and confusion have dominated the fancy. Operating primarily on the basis of individual bias and personal opinion has destroyed numerous roller organizations and has the greatest potential to bring about the ruination of our hobby. Without a written standard, it is likely that flying competitions will continue to be judged and scored inconsistently and confusion will continue to reign as to what constitutes standard performance.

Following, you will find a copy of a breed/performance standard for the Birmingham Roller that has been developed and will someday be submitted to the NBRC for approval by a majority of voting members. As a part of this process, this article is designed to enlist your endorsement of this standard, as an individual or as a roller club, for support when it is submitted. The standard was evolved over the past five years through monitoring discussion points regarding Birmingham Roller performance among novice and experienced flyers and Master Flyers on a personal basis and at NBRC Conventions, with judges at NBRC competitions, and through communications on a variety of internet sites. It is intended as an educational tool designed to define the Birmingham Roller’s performance and breeding objectives in an effort to bring about more consistency in judging NBRC competitions from region to region across the country, and to provide concrete objectives for the backyard flyer who tends to be more isolated, and thus improve the breed at all levels. The sooner everyone who participates in the hobby at any level learns the performance standard, how to identify it, how to score it, and how to breed for it; the more we will see consistent improvements in the quality of performance in the various strains of Birmingham Rollers.

Please put your personal biases and feelings aside and read the document objectively, with an open mind, and with the highest regard for the benefits that it will provide in the breeding and flying the Birmingham Roller. We need to come together as individuals and as local, state, regional and national roller organizations to adopt these standards for performance so that all members understand what the performance objectives are in breeding and flying the Birmingham Roller, as well as to gain better insight as to what a judge will be looking for in the evaluation of kits of rollers for those interested fanciers. Do not be surprised if you see ideas, herein, that you have may have read in the literature or expressed personally in public forums. Please feel free to write to me or to e-mail me at [email protected] or contact me by phone at 336-601-6877, should you notice any apparent omissions that you feel are important to include in the  standard, your feedback is appreciated. Thank you for your time and for your commitment to the roller hobby.

 Birmingham Roller Breed/Performance Standard

The National Birmingham Roller Club is a nonprofit membership-supported organization established in 1961 that is dedicated to the promotion of the flying and breeding of the Birmingham Roller pigeon. The NBRC sponsors two national championship competitions annually, one consisting of kits containing eleven birds, and one for kits containing twenty birds. In general, a Breed Standard (also called a Bench Standard) in animal fancy and animal husbandry is a set of guidelines which is used to ensure that the animals produced by a breeder or breeding facility conform to the specifics of the breed. Breed Standards are typically devised by breed associations, not by individuals, and are written to reflect the use or purpose of the species and breed of animal. Breed Standards help define the ideal animal of a breed and provide goals for breeders in improving stock. In essence, a Breed or Performance Standard is a blueprint for an animal to fit the function for which it was bred, i.e., herding, tracking, racing, or in the case of the Birmingham Roller, specific performance feats during flight. Breed/Performance Standards are not scientific documents and are subject to modification and updating over time. This standard is intended to describe the breed and its standard performance during flight, thus assisting breeders in the selection of stock capable of producing that performance in the air in future generations. It highlights the most desirable and most undesirable traits possessed by the Birmingham Roller, and attempts to describe average, as well as minimally desirable traits. It is also a working document that will evolve as out knowledge and understanding of the Birmingham Roller grows. In developing a Breed Standard, I have included a range of qualities that are necessary to ensure the future integrity of the breed, and am committed to maintaining this integrity in future revisions. Again, this document is intended to assist people interested in the stewardship of the Birmingham Roller, with the ultimate purpose of passing on healthy, vigorous birds capable of quality performance in the air for the generations that follow.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The Birmingham Roller is a domesticated pigeon breed from the Rock Dove (Columba livia) or Rock Pigeon, which is member of the bird family Columbidae (doves and pigeons). This breed originated in and around Birmingham, England, where they share common ancestry with other performing breeds of pigeons, such as Tipplers, Oriental Rollers, Dutch Tumblers and West of England Tumblers. The breed, it is assumed, was developed from the crossing of some, as of yet, unknown combination of these breeds via selective breeding for their ability to perform a series of rapid backward somersaults for a distance of several yards during flight, referred to as rolling or spinning. Birmingham Rollers, like all domestic pigeons, possess a homing ability which drives them to return to where they feel safe and where they find sustenance. With this natural ability, breeders launch groups of rollers, known as kits, into the air to watch and awe at their synchronized acrobatics. During competitions these groups, or kits, are judged on a variety of factors pertaining to the quality and depth of the performance. This Standard is written with the mature two-year-old in mind. Bear in mind that age may affect comparisons with this Standard and that it is most desirable to choose breeding stock at maturity.

In general, the Birmingham Roller is a pigeon of small dimensions, six to eight ounces in weight when in proper flying condition; round of body, which is not deep or shallow; sometimes referred to as apple-bodied, but also found to be long cast, as well. It is not too pronounced in the chest; nicely refined in head shape, which may well vary in contour between long, well-rounded, flat or with a pinched in face, and possessing small crests or peaks in the feathering of the head. There is generally a variable space between the end of the keel bone and the vent bones and keels may vary as to length and shape. They are short of leg and are to be found both clean and muff-legged. The eye can be of any color: usually pearl, yellow, orange, gravel, bull, or brown and  should be bright and expressive of high intelligence and character. Hard feathering appears to favor quality performance over soft feathering, but standard performance can be found in rollers with either type of feather. This Standard will not address details of feather color or body type because these have not been found to be absolutes in the Birmingham Roller breed of pigeon. Characteristics of the Birmingham Roller such as character, temperament, intelligence, though difficult to portray on paper, are nonetheless possessed by the standard rollerand affect the bird’s response to organized training and stability of aerial performance. There may be exceptions to this description of the standard Birmingham Roller, but they should be treated as such, since they may not be capable of contributing much towards the goal we seek.

(Picture of a roller)

HISTORY

The historical basis for the breed standard, hereby established by the NBRC, was described by William H Pensom in his book The Birmingham Roller, Chapter 3, p. 10, where he quotes Lewis Wright: “The standard reads as follows: The True Birmingham Roller turns over backward with inconceivable rapidity through a considerable distance like a spinning ball.”

The standard set forth here operates on this historical basis that quality of performance is the essential characteristic of the Birmingham Roller, and that the proper execution of said performance is a requisite. The name Birmingham Roller shall be used to designate those birds that perform in accordance with the high standard set for these rollers since their origin.

Historically, many breeders have referred to the “True” Birmingham Roller. “True” appears to refer to the sense of the roller being genuine, i.e. living up to the standard as opposed to a bird that does not live up to the standard which was referred to as a mere “tumbler”, though the two may have occupied the same nest, according to Pensom. The idea of the use of the word “true” is to create contrast between the bird rolling correctly and a similar bird rolling improperly or not at all. For the purposes of the standard, as outlined here, the term “true” is confusing and redundant, so shall therefore be deleted from reference here, since the standard for the Birmingham Roller, as outlined, deals with only proper, correct, or “true” performance.

 Similarly, the literature contains many references to “Champion” rollers. Such rollers may be considered to epitomize an idealistic roller possessing the very best of all qualities including character, type, performance and capacity for production; an exceptional rarity in the breed rather than the standard roller. Therefore this standard will not include this term in referring to the standard for the Birmingham Roller. Likewise, the terms rolling and spinning may be used interchangeably, here, though it is admitted that, in general, spinning denotes a higher quality and speed of performance than does rolling. The specific performance characteristics hereby defined shall include kitting performance, initiation of rolling, frequency of performance, depth of rolling, quality of performance (considering speed and style or wing position during the roll), and exiting the roll.

KITTING PERFORMANCE

The ability of Birmingham Rollers to fly and perform in groups known as kits is of paramount importance among the characteristics of standard flight for this breed of pigeon. A tightly-packed formation of rollers within the kit is most highly-favored, and rolling initiated from the front of the kit is favored over rolling from the back of the kit, though either is acceptable and either may be scored in NBRC competitions. The Standard Birmingham Roller is one who develops an awareness of the performance of the other birds within the kit, known as kit sensitivity. Kit sensitivity is a quality that promotes the simultaneous initiation of rolling among many birds within the kit, known as a “break”. A break containing multiple rollers performing quality spins is one of the most valued of Birmingham Roller feats, though quality spinning at greater depths by individual birds is, in itself, appreciated by large numbers of fanciers. NBRC 20-bird competitions require a minimum of five birds initiating the roll simultaneously in a break for scoring purposes. Rollers that time the initiation of the roll within a half-second or more of the other rollers in the break, which is known as a “waterfall”, may also be considered standard performers for the purposes of individual competitions, or in the NBRC 11-bird national championship, and for the purpose of back-yard enjoyment, where such performance is enjoyed and highly valued by many fanciers who focus more on individual performance. The initiation of a break, however, should appear as though the birds have all hit an imaginary wall at the same time in their flight path, causing them to instantaneously initiate the roll. Any five birds or more that begin to roll at the same instant, regardless of any individual rolling that may occur before or after those five birds in the break should be scored as a break. Standard performance of the roll does not include wing-clapping, sailing, tail-sitting or any other maneuvers in flight just before or after the roll is initiated. The roll should begin with a quick snap or instantaneous tuck backward along the line of flight, and end with a “popping out” or instant extension of the wings. However, a roller that sets up for the roll, which can be described as a slight banking move upward in a stalling motion along the line of flight is also considered standard performance. Standard performance for the Birmingham Rollers requires that birds that roll from the kit must return to the kit immediately after the roll is completed. While in flight and returning to the kit after rolling, a roller is not considered an “out bird” unless it assumes a flight path opposite that of the kit on an arc of more than 360 degrees and fails to join the kit upon intersecting it; or if the roller returns to a position more than ten feet above, below, or along side the kit at any time during flight. NBRC 20 bird competition rules state: “A group of five birds is the minimum that can score if the remainder of the kit is returning directly from a roll, have been separated by extreme weather, or have been chased off by a bird of prey.” Kitting is a protective mechanism among pigeons and kits of Birmingham Rollers will react instinctively to the presence of birds of prey in the skies during their flight. Initially a kit may separate due to their presence whether the attack is aggressive (on kit individuals or on the entire kit), or whether the bird of prey is merely flying by inspecting the kit as potential prey. However, standard performance flight characteristics of the Birmingham Roller requires that a bird return to the main body of the kit, that group containing the largest number of birds, within five minutes after the bird of prey is no longer visible in the skies to human observers on the ground. For competition purposes, scoring will resume at that point in time. Any bird that has not returned to the kit at that time is considered an out bird for scoring purposes. Any roller that flies and performs alone, as an individual without regard for the presence of the kit, for any reason, and in spite of any perceived quality and depth of performance, as well as those deeper rollers that strike off alone in a flight pattern other than that of the kit after being with the kit for some period of time, are deemed to have a fault in character or mental strength and are considered out birds and non-standard performers. It should be noted that some deeper performers may appear to be out of the kit during their return to the kit after rolling, but shall not be deemed so, as long as they continue to chase the kit with a flight path parallel or coincident to that of the kit, and eventually intersect the kit. Any such roller that fails to join the kit upon intersecting it is then considered to be an out bird at that point in time.

FREQUENCY OF PERFORMANCE

 

The standard for performance in frequency of rolling is one standard roll per minute. The minimum frequency accepted within this standard is one standard roll every two minutes. The physical abilities and limitations of the Birmingham Roller restrict its ability to execute standard rolls greater in number than 2-3 times per minute at this point in time, this limitation serving as adequate for the upper limit of the standard for frequency of performance. In other words, if any particular roller is capable of executing standard rolls at a higher frequency, that number shall serve as the standard for the upper limit of frequency of performance. Rollers that execute a standard roll less than one time every two minutes, and those that roll so frequently that they are unable to keep up with the kit are deemed to be outside the standard as hereby established. It is acknowledged that a roller’s age, condition, and diet may all contribute to the issue in the evaluation of whether or not the frequency of performance meets this standard.

 

 

DEPTH (DURATION) OF PERFORMANCE

 

Depth of performance appears to represent the duration in time that the roll impulse is experienced by the roller. Depth is secondary to correct spinning. While the minimum standard of performance in depth for the execution of a standard is herein established at ten feet, it is important to bear in mind that those birds which rotate the most revolution in the shortest space, regardless of depth, are of tremendous value. Regarding those rare rollers that appear to spin in place without much vertical descent, most “slow rate descent” rollers that can be identified DO drop, though they appear to do so more slowly than other rollers. Two seconds of standard performance in the execution of spinning, with minimal descent is quite impressive three seconds-possible; four seconds-probably a stretch. For the purposes of awarding points and multipliers in NBRC competitions, the baseline for the minimum standard is ten feet of depth, 1 second duration of spinning, and awarded a baseline multiplier of 1.0 in competition.

The following table establishes additional depths, durations, and multipliers to be awarded in NBRC 20-bird competitions:

          Depth                             Duration                        Multiplier

          10 ft                     1.0 sec                            1.0

          15 ft                     1.5 sec                            1.1

          20 ft                     2.0 sec                            1.2

          25 ft                                                             1.3

          30 ft                     2.5 sec                             1.4

          35 ft                                                            1.5

          40 ft                     3.0 sec                            1.6

          45 ft                                                            1.7

          50 ft                     3.5 sec                            1.8

          55 ft                                                            1.9

          60+ft                    4.0+ sec                         2.0

As with the standard for frequency of performance, the standard for the upper limit of performance in depth is limited by the physical limitations of the birds imposed by the laws of nature as living creatures. Such abilities and limitations do not necessarily preclude the production of rollers capable of exceeding the upper limits of this standard for depth. If and when this occurs, it will raise the bar for the upper limit standard.

QUALITY OF PERFORMANCE (Speed and wing-position)

 

The quality of the performance of rollers reflects both the speed and the style or wing position demonstrated by the rolling pigeon. Standard performance for execution of the roll requires that the bird must turn over backwards, spinning clockwise like a ball, and that the bird must fall vertically with the appearance of a straight line from start to finish (with the rare exception of rollers that appear to spin in place with minimal vertical drop.) This simplistic concept of standard performance for rollers, which has been used by the NBRC for decades, will be developed further in this standard. The roll is to be of very high quality, smooth and clean from top to bottom, wings barely visible with no perceptible glitches or wobbling, and with sufficient speed so as to render individual revolutions imperceptible so that the revolutions cannot be counted; approximately eight to twelve revolutions per second. When viewed from the side, a hole representing the center of rotation may or may not be visible, depending on the vantage point of the observer, the body type of the roller, the speed of rotation, and the “tucking” ability of the roller.

During the performance of the roll, the pigeon strokes its wings by reaching toward their head with some part or all of the wing, pulling down and back to propel themselves, and holding the wings down beneath the stomach in a slight pause until the make the next stroke, repeating this pattern of movement over and over again with tremendous speed. Almost all will reach out and up to begin the power stroke, but never above the back or head. In extremely fast strokes, the bird seem to “flash” stoke too fast for the eye to see in what is appears as a rapid series of muscles spasms or muscle twitches; hence the blurring effect. The longer the wing is held in the down position, the more visible it is during the spin. This creates an illusion of wing position known as “style”.  Birds that roll smoothly are “in sync”, stroking their wings once for each revolution and at exactly the same time each revolution and bringing their wings together under their stomachs when they are upside down as they finish each stroke. Style is also affected by the speed of the stroke; slower strokes making the wing more visible and creating a different illusion. There are also variations in the timing of the stroke along the arc of rotation during the roll that creates different illusions or styles. Variations in the timing of these dynamics create a variety of illusions that we call style or wing position which affects the appearance of the quality of the spin, and are awarded a numerical score or multiplier in NBRC competitions. The power used by the pigeon in the stroke, as well as the timing, length and speed of stroking, all contribute to the speed of rotation of the pigeon on the axis of rotation. The speed is also given a similar numerical score or multiplier. It is recommended for scoring purposes in NBRC competitions that the kit is given a separate score in each category in order to arrive at a single value for the entire kit after averaging the speed and style displayed by the kit members who perform in each break during the entire scoring period. Bear in mind that for the purpose of evaluating the performance of individual rollers, one might refer to a 1.4 or 1.5 quality pigeon; however, for scoring purposes in NBRC 20-bird competitions, the judge must average the style (and speed) observed in only the rollers that participate in each break throughout the duration of the scoring period, assigning an overall score averaging the performance of those birds. The individual performance of birds and/or waterfall performance observed outside of the breaks should not be taken into consideration in evaluating style and speed for scoring purposes. In NBRC 11-bird competitions, the quality of the performance of each bird must be evaluated and each performance by every spinning roller is to be awarded bonus points for exceptional speed and/or depth. 

The upper limit of standard performance, a roller spinning at its best is perceived as a shrinking ball of feathers with no distinguishable anatomy; a blur. For the purposes of NBRC competition, an extremely high speed, shrinking ball, blurred spin in which the speed accelerates with depth is awarded a multiplier of 2.0, regardless of depth, as long as it is within the standard range for depth. Performance faults observed during the execution of the roll shall not be included as standard performance. These include wobbly, loose, slow and sloppy, and/or plate rolling and twizzling, slow low X-wing performers, or slow Axel rollers whose wings are visible angling at less than 45 degrees or less laterally from the side of the roller. Also included in types of faulty performance are wing switching and rolling where the plane of the spin is tilted off of vertical by more than 45 degrees. In other words, the axis of rotation deviates from horizontal by more than 45 degrees.

Rolling style is characterized by the appearance given by the position of the wings during the roll when viewed at 90 degrees to the axis of rotation of the spinning pigeon in front of, behind or below the performance. As described earlier, the length of the wing stroke contributes to the character of the wing position or style, shorter, faster strokes being favored over longer strokes, the latter also tending to be a little slower. Because rolling styles are illusions, correctly identifying their differences is an area that tends to be open to dispute. Various rolling styles are illustrated geometrically in the chart below:

                                                                                       (Wing style chart)

Just below the shrinking blur performance, a slightly less ideal wing style is characterized by the roller spinning so fast that the revolutions are still not capable of being counted and the wing position (style) is not visible. Barring any obvious faults, such execution of performance, also known as ball rolling, is granted multipliers from 1.8-1.9 in NBRC 20-bird competition. Standard execution of the roll, slightly below ideal, is characterized by pigeons whose wing strokes are only slightly shorter than the blur and ball rollers with wings held close to the body, yet appearing somewhat visible approaching a vertical position with wing tips that bow in slightly. It is best described with the symbol ( ). This superior style of performance earns multipliers of 1.6-1.7 in the NBRC 20-bird competition.

The predominant standard wing style for high-end quality performance is the “H” pattern; often described as “wings straight up” or “wings parallel” during the execution of the roll. They are similar to the ( ) rolling style, except the vertical wings do not appear to bow in or touch at the tips. There is a wider separation of the wing tips. H pattern rollers are awarded multipliers of 1.5 in NBRC competitions. ( ) pattern rolling is preferred over H pattern rolling because the wings are kept in tighter during the stroke, and the length of the wing stroke is shorter than in the H pattern, so they look better-more like a spinning ball-from all angles. H pattern rolling, and above, tends to show some of the cleanest spins, fluid and smooth in appearance. Viewed from the side, if the stroke is short and fast, the outstanding illusion of a spinning ball is created very effectively with H-pattern rolling. A slower, longer stroking version of the H pattern is the U pattern which is awarded a 1.4 in NBRC competition. 

Lesser rolling styles are characterized by the degree to which the wings appear to project out to the sides of the rolling pigeon, relative to the axis on which rolling occurs. The “A-pattern” or “A-frame” rollers do pull their wing tips together at the top of the stroke as desired, but they tend not to be particularly fast in the roll, and they tend to have the longest stroke because they start with their wings projecting laterally at nearly 180 degrees from the body of the pigeon, parallel to the axis of rotation. The wings in this style are more visible than in any style yet described, especially from the side, parallel to the axis of rotation, and in front of, behind, or underneath the axis of rotation at 90 degrees to the axis.  They tend to be so visible because the wings are stretched out laterally away from the body, and then brought together under the roller so that the wings touch. A-frame rollers generally are awarded 1.3 multipliers in NBRC competitions.

Continuing down the scale of quality, among the most common of rolling styles we have is the “X-pattern” roller, which varies from High X to Low X. In these patterns, too, the wings are clearly visible, projecting out to the sides of the rolling pigeon at varying angles giving an obvious “X” appearance to the style. They can vary in both the speed and length of the stroke which affects the appearance and quality of the roll. Some are ugly, if they take longer, slower strokes, but most rollers seem to take short strokes with only a slight outward stretch of the wings giving the High X appearance with less visible wings. These will look like a nice spinning ball when viewed from the side along the axis of rotation and underneath, and some can even blur the wings with this style. Because of this, the High X-pattern, especially with short strokes and speed, is favored by many fanciers over the A-frame roller, and likewise, earns a multiplier of 1.3 in NBRC 20-bird competitions. However, if the strokes are long and slow, and the speed of rotation slow, the wings become clearly visible projecting out at 45 degrees from the sides of the roller, and we have the very mediocre and less desirable Medium and Low X-wing roller, which qualifies for only 1.1-1.2 multipliers in NBRC competition.

 “Axel rollers” are a rarer type of performers which give the appearance that the wings project out horizontally from the sides of the bird. The strokes are short with the wings fully-extended and the speed of rotation of the roll is very slow. It is difficult to imagine how a bird can even roll with both wings held straight out, which likely accounts for the scarcity of this type of performance. It can also be very difficult to define the point at which Axel Rolling merges into Low X rolling. Axel rollers do not meet the performance standard of the Birmingham Roller and should not be scored in NBRC competitions. However, a minimum standard performance, also rare, has also been identified that is sometimes mis-identified as Axel-rolling when viewed from in front of, behind, or underneath the roller. This style is similar to A-frame rolling where the wings are visible, but are only somewhat projected laterally, usually only the last joint of the wings or the wing tips; and the wings are not brought together under the stomach of the bird. The speed of rotation is extremely fast and the stroke is more moderate in length. Since the roller takes smaller wing strokes than the A-frame roller and the wings don’t stick out to the sides as much, and do not fully extend when stroking (like the Axel Roller), they look even better from the side than does the A-frame roller. In fact, when viewed from the side, they are often mistaken for H-style rollers or better. This minimum standard performer earns a 1.0 multiplier in NBRC competitions.

Each and every wing style described here, depending on the consistency of the spin, the speed of rotation of the spin, as well as any introduction of identifiable glitches such as wobbling, wing-switching, loose or sloppy rolling, etc. would not be considered standard performance, and should not be scored. Wing position alone is not the sole determining factor. As pointed out earlier, true quality of standard performance is composed of both wing position (style) AND speed. Style, speed and faults are all the result of different degrees of inconsistencies created by the rolling pigeon varying the speed, timing and length of the stroke. All rolling styles have to have speed, or they are not considered standard performance. Short, tight stroking is always preferred over long stroking as it contributes to both the speed of rotation, as well as, the tight illusion of a spinning ball of feathers.

EXITING THE ROLL 

Upon completion of the roll, the Birmingham Roller should finish cleanly with the wings snapping out away from the body of the pigeon in order to stop both the rotation of rolling and the vertical descent of the roller. There should be no wing-switching, tail-riding or plate-rolling at the end, and the roller’s flight path should be the same as it was when the rolling performance was initiated. Notice we do not say “….in the same direction as the kit”. This is for the obvious reason that the kit may change the direction of its flight path while a bird is rolling deep. Certain rollers seem to develop an awareness of where the kit is located at the end of spinning and have developed an uncanny ability to execute a quick flip, if the kit has changed directions, so as to reverse its path of flight and make a quick return back to the kit. By no means is this considered a fault and the performance of these rollers should be considered as standard and scoreable in NBRC competitions.

There are several things that will cause a roller to exit the roll not facing the direction it faced when the roll was initiated: 1. wing-switching will turn bird 180 degrees each time it does so. If it occurs more than once, it may or may not alter the direction the bird is facing upon exiting the roll; yet it is a fault. 2. As the roller spins downward, it may slowly corkscrew or twist, as it drops, so that it will exit the roll facing in another direction (if the depth of performance is sufficient.) This too is a fault. 3. Winds can also have an impact on this and cause the bird to exit the roll in a different direction in a roller that otherwise performs straight and true. This is not a true fault and should not be considered to be one. It takes critical observation to distinguish these differences, especially in breaks of any significant size.

 BREEDING PERFORMANCE 

There is no other class of performer which gives so much satisfaction as the Birmingham Roller, both in the air and in the breeding pen. However, it must be understood that the Birmingham Roller is one of the most difficult of birds to cultivate, due to the complexity of its performance. Only fanciers possessed of patience and determination will be successful breeding them, because little can be accomplished in a short time. In striving to produce the ideal spinning Birmingham Roller, breeders should consider, first, confining their choice of breeding material to those individuals which conform to the desired standard of performance during flight. Each year, the fancier will recognize such quality performance, and any outstanding, mature bird should be considered for use in the stock loft after being proven in the air for two years.

Genes for qualities such as constitution, temperament, intelligence and reproductive capacity, should not be ignored less they be lost or dissipated, not through the working of some mysterious force, but because little effort has been made to retain or cultivate them. Any hereditary character which is ignored or taken for granted, instead of being carefully observed and consistently bred for, may be lost in a breed or strain, possibly beyond recall. The careful consideration of all desired qualities is essential if they are to be preserved or enhanced. This applies equally to structure, constitution, temperament, or performance ability. The mature Birmingham Roller is equipped to control the quality and depth of the spin, especially when coming to land. Rolling ability may certainly be stabilized and improved by various methods, including, inbreeding, line-breeding, and family outcrosses, if sufficient care is given to the choice of rollers used for breeding in each generation, and is accompanied by sensible observation of performance.  Weaknesses that may appear do so because the parents or other ancestors carry the genetic factors responsible. Through these various breeding methodologies, all qualities, whether good or bad, which lie latent or hidden in a strain, may be brought to light. However, breeding is not a creative force and its effects are limited by the nature and content of the genetic material to which it (breeding) is applied. The conception of the Birmingham Roller as a breed possessing an unlimited degree of plasticity, and capable of being modified in any direction by selection, is mistaken.

Likewise, the assumption that by selection we can ensure that each generation will automatically show a progressive development of the attribute the selection upon which the selection is based is equally flawed. Selection can never cause the emergence of a quality, whether physical or mental, that is not already represented genetically in the stock used for breeding. Selection can only bring about the chance for the particular arrangement of genetic material that may produce the specific physical, mental, and performance qualities that one seeks to produce. The only way to effect improvement in any direction is to make sure that the appropriate genes are present in the pigeons mated, through the laborious process of trial and error and critical observation of performance, and then to fix them in the strain in a goodly portion of the birds that are bred in that strain through selective breeding.

There is no formula available that can establish a Birmingham Roller as a product noteworthy among pigeons except the evaluation and praise of experienced and qualified authorities on the breed who are able to frequently witness outstanding birds in flight. The only guarantee a breeder can have of the true quality of the rollers that he has produced is that the birds have met with the approval of other qualified breeders, who are also informed in the intricacies of cultivating the Birmingham Roller. The NBRC seeks to provide such a venue for its members through the competitive process in sponsoring National Championship competitions, though other effective means may be available to the fancier through local, regional, and state organizations.  This written standard seeks to supplement the individual opinions of judges who may be experienced flyers of spinning rollers, helping to insure that performance in flying competitions will be scored more consistently so that confusion, as to what constitutes standard performance, will no longer reign. It is anticipated that roller organizations will adopt this standard for utilization in the encouragement of beginners and novices who are unfamiliar with the fine distinctions of roller performance, but also to mitigate changing personal taste in performance among fanciers with more experience in the breeding of rollers. This will serve to improve the odds that all flyers of the Birmingham Roller will be more successful through more participation and more consistent judging, thereby achieving personal gratification and status through the achievement of awards, such as the status of Master Flyer.

 Cliff Ball

Articles

Eye Sign in Rollers

By Brian Krog

In regards to eye sign Monty Neibel said he had been influenced by what Hans

Roetenbacher had to say on the subject. It seemed Hans had just flown a kit

that had really impressed the audience, so afterwards the admiring group had

stuck around to listen to what Hans had to say on the topic of breeding

better rollers.  Hans also bred homers, and so the inevitable question came up

about eyes came up.  Hans replied that whether it be homers or rollers the

eyes were a very important and were an often neglected area, and said one

should always used the same "rule" when breeding. As the audience

breathlessly awaited the "masters" next pronouncement (eagerly noting his

every word) Han's said "In regards to the eyes - I've always preferred it

when they had two."  That story cracks me up...I can picture how it would

have sounded with all the immense dignity Hans could muster as he told a

story.  This tip has always been invaluable advice in my own loft.

 

               

A red grizzle cock bird from Bryan Lay

 

 

 

COMPETITION FLYING FOR NEW MEMBERS & BEGINNERS

By: Guil Rand

 

Wade Stephens and I have been contacting members of the club, and encouraging them to get involved in the World Cup Competition. It got me to thinking that we have many new members that probably don’t really understand about the competitions that the club participates in. The following article is an attempt to help new and old members have a better understanding as to how the club functions and operates. Hopefully it will help all to understand the importance of participating in the competitions.

 

The Utah State Roller Club was first organized in 1953, by several gentlemen that loved the roller pigeon, and wanted to have an organization that would help them to be able to better enjoy these acrobats of the air. In the 1960’s the flying roller became a favorite show breed. The Show Roller was developed, and for all practical purposes became a different breed from the performing roller. For many years, the USRC had a group of show roller enthusiasts and a group of performing roller enthusiasts. In the mid 1990s it became apparent that the show rollers and the performing rollers were 2 completely separate breeds, and the only thing they had in common was the name roller. The show roller people had a different agenda than the performing roller people, and a decision was made to separate the groups. The show roller fanciers formed their own club, and the performing roller fanciers retained the name of Utah State Roller Club, with an agenda to fly the birds in competitions where their birds could prove their worth as a roller in the air.

 

By the time this split took place, the flying roller group had established some fly parameters for the club. Since the club was growing, it was decided that the club should be split in geographical divisions. The club was too large to have a club wide fly that could be completed in one day. The idea of divisions was to have enough competitors within a geographical area that each division could have competitive flies and be able to fly all their competitors within one day. To compete in any of the club sponsored flies, you must be a member of the USRC.

 

Currently, the USRC has 7 divisions. They are: 1. Cache Valley, 2. Ogden, 3. Salt Lake Valley, 4. Utah Valley, 5. Southern, 6. Coal Country, and 7. Southwest Wyoming. Each division is supposed to have 3 local flies in the spring and 3 local flies in the fall. Top competitors in each division of both the spring and fall competitions receive a plaque recognizing their accomplishments. The club also holds a yearly State Championship Competition in June. To qualify for the State fly, you must finish in the top of your division.

 

In addition to these local and club competitions, the USRC encourages all roller fanciers in the Mountain West Region which makes up the state of Utah, and southwest Wyoming, to compete in the World Cup (WC) competition and the NBRC National Championship Fly (NBRCNCF). You do not have to be a member of the USRC to participate in either of these competitions. All roller fanciers are eligible to fly in the WC competition, but to participate in the NBRCNCF you must be a member of the NBRC. The WC is held in the spring, and the NBRCNCF is held in the fall.

 

The World Cup is one of the most prestigious pigeon events in the world. It started as the Northwest International Fly in the late 1980s, when roller fanciers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Southwest Canada decided to have a competition. In just a few years, it became the World Cup and was expanded to include the United States, Canada, and England. Since that beginning, several European countries have been added, as well as South Africa and Australia. The world is divided into geographical regions. Each region holds an annual regional competition to select the top kits to advance to the finals. There have been as many as 1300 kits flown at the regional level, with as many as 85 finalists competing for the World Cup. For every 15 kits that are entered in a regional fly, one qualifies for the finals. The finals judge has the honor of travelling worldwide judging the top roller kits. The winner of the WC is invited to judge the next year’s competition. It now takes the WC judge 11 to 12 weeks to judge the competition. The entry fees that are paid go to pay for the judges expenses while he is judging. The WC is a 20 bird competition.

 

The NBRC National Championship Competition follows much the same protocol as established by the World Cup. The United States is divided up into several geographical regions. Each region has a regional competition in the late summer or early fall to select the top kits to participate in the National Championship. The top kits in each region participate for the national championship. There have been as many as 900 competitors in the NCF with as many as 75 finalists. Each region gets one finalist for every 10 kits that are entered. The winner of the national championship is invited to judge the next competition. It takes the final’s judge about 5 or 6 weeks to judge the national championship.

 

The one main difference between the WC and the NCF is that the NCF actually has 2 flies that are conducted at the same time. The NCF has a 20 bird competition and an 11 bird competition. The 20 bird competition shows the ability of the roller breed to work together in unison as a team. Points are awarded by the number of birds in the kit that actually start rolling at the same instant. The 11 bird competition is designed to judge the individual roller, as each time an individual roller rolls, it is awarded points.

 

The Utah State Roller Club supports all of these competitions, and has adopted the rules that have been formulated for the WC and NCF competitions. The logic is that if we are going to support and compete in the major flies, we should use their scoring system, so that we understand it. The scoring system that is used for these competitions is very fair for everyone involved.

 

In the mid 1990s the NBRC established an award for competitive roller fanciers. This award is called the Master Flyer Award, and is given to competitors that have acquired 750 points by finishing in the top of regional and final competitions for the World Cup and NBRC National Championship Flies. These points are awarded based on the number of kits that are actually flown in a competition. It is important to have as many kits entered in a regional competition as possible so that a region can have as many people eligible to compete in the finals as possible. It is also important that as many people actually fly a kit as possible so that those that finish near the top can receive Master Flyer Points.

 

This year, the Mountain West Region (Utah) has 45 kits entered in our regional fly. This means that the top three kits will qualify for the World Cup Finals. If all 45 kits that are entered are flown, then the top 8 finishers will receive Master Flyer Points (MFP). If 40 to 44 kits are flown, then 7 people will receive MFP. If 35 to 39 kits are flown, then 6 people will get MFP, and so on. In the World Cup, at least 50% of the kits entered must be flown to get the maximum number of qualifiers for the finals. Right now it looks like we will have 41 of the 45 kits flown. This is really quite outstanding. Many regions barely get 50% of the kits flown.

 

I have found that I learn more about my birds when I compete with them, than when I just fly them for my own entertainment. Of course I enjoy the competition too, but most of all I enjoy the camaraderie. I hope that this article helps those of you that are just getting started in the competition roller hobby to understand why it is important that you compete as soon as you are able to. Competing helps you learn more about your birds, it can help others to achieve their goals, and it gives you the opportunity to meet more roller fanciers and learn more about the hobby and how to be successful in it regardless what your personal goals may be. I would encourage everyone to attend as much of the regional competition as you can. Support your fellow competitors, and meet some really nice people. One final word, I know that not everyone is interested in competing. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone that is interested in rollers is welcome in the Utah State Roller Club.

 

 

 

Articles

 

Reflex Arc

By Rick Schoening

 

My theory of the reflex arc being the cause for rolling is based on Years of observations and many hours of research in the library at the university (Before Internet). A reflex arc is described as" intense coordinated muscular activity lasting several seconds and originating in the spinal column." If you want to read my article on it, it appeared in the August 1981 issue of the APJ and reprinted in the Roller Journal in August 1993,volume 5 number 2. It's written somewhat in a scientific jargon, I was just out of college at the time.  Re-read it a couple of times and it should sink in.

Rollers need their brains to stop, not to start the reflex.  A reflex arc has to develop over time. This explains development time in birds that haven't flown. The tail riding phenomenon is an RA (reflex arc) starting to develop. An RA  needs external stimuli to initiate it. Wing clapping, other birds rolling, changes in barometric pressure, sudden release from the kit box, just to name a few. A properly executed RA starts abruptly with great muscular intensity, and stops just as fast.

RA is part of all vertebrates. You touch a hot stove and your hand pulls away before your brain even knows it. You had to get burned first, before the reflex developed.  There has to be outside stimuli. You poke a very young puppy in the ribs and nothing happens. Wait a couple of months and try it again. You will see it develop. The dog scratch RA is a classic one that I feel demonstrates the similarity to rolling. Next time you get a puppy, try it over a period of weeks and months. The ones you poke the most, will be the ones that scratch sooner and more vigorously.

As you can see I could go on and on.  Does knowing what causes rollers to roll help you breed better rollers? I don't think so. I suppose the only plus of knowing and believing in the RA, is that great rollers need to be very intelligent and have a mastery over their bodies. This is what has been called "expression".  Weak-minded rollers have trouble with inhibiting the RA. We call them roll-downs or bumpers/crashers. I call them culls. Well this should stir the pot out there. All I want to say is that the RA theory is light years ahead of the Epileptic theory.

 

Article

How to not succeed in the pigeon hobby

                        By Richard Miller

 

1.   Buy several unrelated birds and make your own family.

2.   Buy birds supposedly down out of a famous bird that has been dead for many, many years.

3.   Never visit any other lofts to observe their birds.

4.   Never check competition records to see who is doing it right.

5.   Buy a very good bird to put into your family to improve your birds.

6.   Never keep a free bird. All free birds are junk.

7.   Believe every thing on a pedigree.

8.   Buy only from those who brag how good their birds are. The better

they are with the pen the better the birds. Goes hand in hand.

9.   Expect something for nothing.

10.  Buy only from those who have to advertise to sell their birds.

Better yet only buy from those who sell a lot of birds.

11.  Only big bucks will get you good birds.

12.  Bad mouth the previous owner behind his back, if the birds don't

work out for you. Never, never ask him for help.

13.  This is your unlucky number.

14.  Never ask the previous owner how to fly and feed them.

15.  The less time you put into your birds the better, they will be.

They thrive on green water, a wet and dirty loft and soiled feed.

16.  If you do get good birds, don't tell him, keep it a secret. You

will never need any more from him.

 

Article

 

How to Breed for Concert Performance

 

By:  Rick L. Mee

 

Concert performance in rollers is defined as 5 or more rollers rolling at the same time together.  The ultimate goal, or as it should be, is to get 20 rollers to all roll at the same time, a minimum of 10 feet, the deeper and faster the better.  Most top roller fanciers will agree that the ultimate depth that a roller can withstand the roll, and still be able to retain its tight tuck position, is about 40 ft.  It takes most fanciers years of trial and error before they can develop such kits, and it seems that other fanciers were born to it.  Although it appears that roller flying my be an easy endeavor, most never unlock the true potential of the roller pigeon in its ultimate form, that being a pigeon that does all of the necessary things we require such as kiting ability, speed, style of roll, depth etc. There is one little ingredient that is seems is never taken in to consideration, and that is the desire for the roller to do it collectively.

 

So how do you breed for concert performance?  It is so easy, has been repeated several times, but very few follow the advice of those obtaining it now, or have obtained it in the past.  There is only one way of obtaining concert performance in your flock, and I am about to discuss with you what I have found is working for some of the more prominent flyers in the World.

 

It all starts with shrinking your gene pool in the beginning.  Preferably, starting with only one pair of proven breeders, which both excelled in the air in every way imaginable.  It will be necessary to use fosters in the beginning so that you can raise as many as possible from this click pair.  Discipline yourself to not stock any of these youngsters until you have flown them for at least 18-24 months.  If you do this, and only allow those who lasted this long, you will always have strong stable spinners.  Once these youngsters out of the click pair have made the grade, select the top cock to mate back to the mother, the top hen back to her father.  Once you have done this, you can develop more pairs if you so desire.  Never allow anything else in to your newly developed family, unless someone else’s family of rollers has a very strong attribute that your birds are definitely lacking.  To intensify your gene pool even more and the system that I prefer over the aforementioned, is instead of using the original hen from the click pair, eliminate her all together, and only mate the best daughters back to their father.  This will force you to create a family solely out of one bird, and of course this cock must be awesome in every way.  You will need foster parents to pull this off. This is called polygamy breeding, and in its purest form.

 

In doing the above, what we create is a flock which are all similar in type, require the same amounts of feed, react the same to different grains and kit very tightly because of the relationship to each other within the kit.  When you fly rollers that are this close in relationship to each other, there is an automatic mental connection between each bird in the kit because of their closeness.  Of course, there are a hundred other reasons that the above mentioned breeding practice works, I have only mentioned a few.  The main one and one that few rarely mention is called kit chemistry, and is achieved when those who are worthy of the competition team are flown together for a long period of time.  The only changes made to the competition team are as a result of a casualty, one is removed for breeding, or one of the young birds has proven itself to be better than the lowest quality bird in the competition team. It is a progression game we play with rollers, and should always be searching for the youngster to move up to the competition team, to make them just that much better.  Try to not make changes to your team at least 1 month prior to an important fly, as it will take a few weeks for the kit to fully act as a team again after a change has occurred.

 

Through correspondence and many loft visits, I have found that the more consistent flyers are all flying kits, which were derived from just a few rollers in the beginning.  Haphazard and countless mating of different families, later to have their young flown together only leads to kits that roll individually, or at best not collective enough to bin big competitions.

 

These are only my opinions, I hope someone gains something from it.

Article

 

IS IT TIME TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP

 IN COMPETITION SCORING?

By: Guil Rand

For several years we have been using the 1-2-3 scoring system to judge our kits in 20 bird kit competitions. The system has served us well, and gives a form of graduated credit for kits that have larger breaks. Most of us are all fairly familiar with this system now, and even though it received harsh criticism when it was first presented to the roller world, most of us have adjusted to it, and learned to use it. It provides a way in which a kit that has larger breaks receives more points, than a kit that has smaller breaks. It has been accepted by most roller fanciers that larger breaks should receive proportionately more points than smaller breaks.

            Sixteen years ago the major flies were judged on the basis of half turns, three quarter turns, and full turns. The rules stated that the judge was not to give credit for anything under 10 birds rolling simultaneously. One, half turn (10 birds) was better than any number of 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 bird breaks. One, three quarter turn (15 birds) was better than any number of half turns. And one, full turn (20 birds) was better than any number of half turns and/or three quarter turns. There was no consideration given for quality or depth of the birds being judged. The problem with this system was that you might have a kit ripping off several 10 to 14 bird breaks, with fast spinning, tight, 30 foot rollers, and it would be beaten by a kit that had one 15 bird break with 15 foot depth and mediocre quality.

            An excellent example of the injustice of this scoring system would have occurred in the 1997 NBRC Fall Fly, if we had been using this system. Don Ouellette won the fly with a total score of 669.6 points using the 1-2-3 scoring system. His largest break was 14 birds. This kit was one of the top 3 kits I have ever witnessed. I have never seen another kit with such high quality, smooth rolling, deep (40’ average) rollers. I judged that kit, so I know how good they were. To this day I have not seen such a superb kit, for quality and depth. I have to admit that I made a mistake in scoring that kit. I awarded it a 1.6 for quality and a 1.6 for depth. The quality and depth factors should have been 1.8’s or 1.9’s.

            Matt Purvis scored 434.33 points in that fly, and came in third place. Matt had a very fine kit. It was a joy to watch and judge. If I remember, it had two 15 bird (three quarter turns), but the birds were no where near the quality nor did they have anywhere near the depth of Don’s kit. But under those old rules, Matt’s kit would have won with two, three quarter turns. Of course I was the only one who saw both kits, but it would not have been fair or right for Matt’s kit to have beaten Don’s.

            Back in the early 1990’s, Doc Reiman, and Brent Martindale created a much more equitable and fair scoring system. There was a tremendous amount of thought given to this system. It was called the 1-2-3 system, and it has served us very well for the past 13 or 14 years that we have been using it. When it was first unveiled it sounded very complicated. A point was to be given for each bird that rolled in unison in a break that was 5 to 9 birds. Two points were to be given for each bird that rolled in a break of 10 to 14 birds. Three points were given for each bird that rolled in unison in a break of 15 to 19 birds. And 100 points was to be given to a kit that had all 20 birds rolling simultaneously. Doc and Brent understood that there is a wide range of quality and depth between rollers. They felt that some allowance should be given for a kit of birds that had more depth and or better quality, than one that was just acceptable. They developed quality and depth factors. A factor of 1.0 was to be given for rollers that rolled at least 10 feet. The depth factor could go up to as high as 2.0 for truly, phenomenally deep rollers. Likewise the quality of the roll in rollers varies. A bird that rolls with just barely acceptable quality receives a 1.0 factor, while birds that can roll with exceptional, unbelievable quality could receive up to a factor of 2.0. These factors were to be multiplied times the “raw score” the birds received from the breaks they performed.

            The 1-2-3 scoring system makes it possible for a kit of high quality, deep spinning rollers to beat a kit of mediocre, shallow rollers. An excellent example of the validity of the quality and depth factors occurred in the 2002 NBRC Fall Fly. Eldon Cheney was the judge that year. I was fortunate to have qualified to participate in that competition, and had a kit of birds that really liked to work together. In the finals, they had (3) eighteen bird breaks, and several other breaks over 10 birds. The kit really worked together as a team. However, they were not very deep, and they did not have very good quality. The kit scored about 450 points for the raw score, which was the second highest raw score that year. But because of my birds lack of depth and quality they came in tenth place, with 542.52 points.

            When the 1-2-3 scoring system was first introduced to the roller community, it was scrutinized, argued over, ripped apart, kicked around, and debated for months. Many thought that it was way too complicated, and would be difficult to use. No one would be able to understand it they argued. Despite all the negative comments, it was much fairer than any other system that had been used to that date. Eventually the system was adopted for the World Cup competition, and the NBRC Fall Fly followed suit when it was formed.

            I would venture to say that a majority of local clubs use the 1-2-3 system today. The Utah State Roller Club adopted the 1-2-3 system as soon as the World Cup started using it. We are very competitive in Utah, and felt that if we flew our birds using that system, then we would be better prepared for the large competitions. As a club, we felt that the 1-2-3 system was vastly superior, and more equitable than anything any of us had been exposed to.

            So what is this article all about? I believe that is time for us to take the next step in improving the 1-2-3 system. Now that most of us are convinced that it is the best system for judging roller competitions, and that it is not all that hard to learn and use, it is time to move forward and make it even fairer. The thing that has bothered me about the 1-2-3 system is, why is a 10 bird break worth 20 points and a 9 bird break only worth 9 points? Why is a 15 bird break worth 45 points and a 14 bird break only worth 28 points? Why is a 20 bird break worth 100 points and a 19 bird break only worth 57 points. My concern is that we have these plateaus where the points jump up significantly. I agree totally, that the more birds that roll in unison, the more credit the birds should receive. I feel that it would be a better refection of a kit if the scale was evenly graduated from 5 to 20, rather than just increased at three plateaus.

            What if we had a graduated scale? A 5 bird break would receive 5 points, and a 6 bird break would receive 7 points, etc. The scoring should increase in a steady, graduated manner, giving more points for each increasingly larger break. The scoring would look like this:

5 bird break = 5 points

6 bird break = 7 points

7 bird break = 9 points

8 bird break = 12 points

9 bird break = 16 points

10 bird break = 21 points

11 bird break = 27 points

12 bird break = 34 points

13 bird break = 42 points

14 bird break = 51 points

15 bird break = 61 points

16 bird break = 72 points

17 bird break = 84 points

18 bird break = 97 points

19 bird break = 111 points

20 bird break = 126 points

            A scoring system such as this gives credit for each break, graduated so that the scoring is completely fair. I think most of you would agree that a 15 bird break is better than a 14 bird break, but not 17 points better. And a 10 bird break is better than a 9 bird break, but not 11 points better. In the same respect is a 13 bird break only worth 2 points more than a 12 bird break, or a 19 bird break only worth 3 points more than an 18 bird break? The more the kit works in unison, the more points it should receive. The system should reflect a steadily increasing scoring method that gives increased credit for each step, not just at certain plateaus.

            Well, there it is. I am sure that many of the old concerns will be brought up about how hard or how complicated this suggestion will be to learn. But I know that if we just try it, we will be able to catch on, and will find that it makes our scoring that much more accurate. I’m looking forward to reading your comments, and I’m always willing to talk on the phone or email. Please let me know what you think.

Articles

How to Get a Good Start in Rollers

By Tom Monson

If I were to advise any beginner I'd say this:  Go wherever you can, and accept gift birds or pay $10 or $20 a pair for about four pair of rollers, understanding that these won't be World Cup candidates.  They're just to give you experience, to give you something to work with while you're learning the ropes. 

Spend your "pigeon money" on building a loft that is not an eyesore, a  nice loft that makes our hobby look good, not ridiculous, to your neighbors.  Join your local club and participate in EVERYTHING.  Attend every fly competition and meeting, and volunteer to help out with the annual picnic or whatever comes up. 

The other guys will see that you're not just a flash-in-the-pan.  They'll conclude that birds given to you will not be wasted or mistreated.  Before two years is out, you'll be offered some of the best squeakers or eggs from some of these guys' best pairs. After the last fly competition of the Spring, if you tell them how much you like their birds, they'll likely offer you free birds to breed from, from their best kit. 

Keep your mouth shut and your ears open.  Be friendly and ask polite questions.  You'll have your competitors (club members) giving you advice and tutoring you on how to fly and handle rollers.  They'll come over and help you choose mates for your best birds. 

Within three years, you'll have a better stock loft and you'll have more success flying your rollers - and more fun doing it - than the guy who goes out and spends three weeks' wages on "rollers," but never learns how to handle them, because he makes it clear he wants to bring in out-of-state birds that he supposes are better than his club members' birds, and he goes around bad-mouthing his club members because they weren't prepared to give him free breeding stock the first time he showed up in their back yards.

 

 

"Drop a pebble in the water"   By Cliff Ball

Drop a pebble in the water:

just a splash, and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water:
in a minute you forget,
But there's little waves a-flowing,
and there's ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing
to a great big wave have grown;
You've disturbed a mighty river
just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading
from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them,
once you've started them to flow.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute you forget;
But there's little waves a-flowing,
and there's ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart
a mighty wave of tears you've stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy
ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
just a flash and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort
on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn't believe the volume
of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
in a minute you forget;
But there's gladness still a-swelling,
and there's joy circling yet,
And you've rolled a wave of comfort
whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water
just by dropping one kind word.

~By James W. Foley~


 

 

 

During our lifetime we drop many pebbles into the preverbal pond of life. The roller fancy is but a microcosm of life as we each interact with others who share our love of the sport and sharing with the people that comprise the roller fancy. This is a story about a young 12 year-old boy of Laotian heritage, his love for rollers, and pebbles dropped by men in the roller hobby. Let it remind you of all the things you do and the impact they have, not just on you, but on those around you.

 

 

No one really knows where, when or and how Toulee Moua developed a passion for roller pigeons. He lived in Schofield, Wisconsin with his mother and father, both born in America to Laotian parents who immigrated to the US. Like most of us in this hobby, boys like Tou, at this age, often become fascinated with the aerial dynamics displayed by rollers during flight. We do know that he was very active on the internet where he researched and read everything he could find about training and flying rollers, feeding them, kit box design and construction, etc. He collected quotes from roller men and bought Pensom’s book, “The Birmingham Roller” to add to his collection of roller memorabilia. As luck would have it, when he was 10 years old, Tou came across an article that I wrote in 2005 entitled “James Turner; the Man Who Put Color Into Spin”, which happened to be posted on a roller site on the internet. The article touched a cord with Tou, somehow fired him up, and he began to pursue the opportunity to meet and talk with the two great roller men that he had come to idolize-both of whom were mentioned in the article; James Turner and William H Pensom. When Tou was telling his uncle about the article, the uncle asked, “Who wrote this article? How do you know it is true?” Tou responded, “The man who wrote this is the NBRC National Fly Director and the World Cup Southeast Regional Director, and has won his region several times with Mr. Turner’s family of rollers”.

 

Tou’s research soon led him to videos on a variety of internet sites that showed rollers in the act of spinning. “He couldn’t wait to see them for real”, recalls Touhoua Yang, Tou’s 26 year-old uncle. Mr. Yang is a school teacher who (last March) married Tou’s mother’s sister, who is from Hickory, North Carolina, and attended college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Showing his uncle the videos,Tou told him, “Someday I’m going to have some of those pigeons!”

 

Tou also obtained a video from Hank Zimich of Des Moines, Iowa; a video of a 1995 NBRC Convention held in South Carolina that highlighted their fliers; Don Greene, Tony Roberts, Don Simpson, and John Castro, and many others. Watching this video over and over, the performance of these birds, really excited Tou and he became, somehow, drawn to the Carolina roller men who he had never met. He could name many of them and knew that Don Simpson was the only original South Carolina roller man who was still actively judging and competing. “Tou knew that Mr. Simpson had judged the NBRC National Championship. He seemed to know all about these men,” recalls Mr. Yang.

 

While most kids have pictures of teen idols, like Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers; or sports idols, like Jerry Rice, hanging in their bedrooms, Tou’s prized possession was a picture that he proudly displayed on the wall of his room; a picture of James Turner and Joe Bob Stuka together. He had read that Joe Bob had said good things about Turner. “Mr. Stuka is from North Carolina and has won the World Cup!” Tou confidently informed his uncle. Tou’s uncle said that Tou had researched and knew the NBRC and World Cup systems of competitions well, and explained the breakdown of the regional structure and qualifiers to his uncle in great detail. He even knew, somehow, and was excited that Don Simpson, from South Carolina, would be judging their region’s competitions this fall.

 

 

After pleading with his parents for a couple years, during the spring of 2010, Tou’s father and uncle relented and built a small kit box to Tou’s specifications that he had found on the internet. Searching the internet, he found, on Craig’s List, an advertisement for rollers for sale in a small town near Green Bay. The asking price was $30 for a pair of two-year old rollers, quite a stretch for a 12-year-old, but Tou saved his allowance and proudly made his first purchase with his own money. After settling them, he was absolutely committed to feeding them and flying them regularly. The only problem was that they never rolled. Determined to see them roll, Tou had learned that the way rollers were fed could influence their performance, so he asked his father and uncle to buy him the various grains he needed; barley, milo, and wheat so that he could follow the recommendations that he had been reading about to get the most performance out of his rollers. Still, they didn’t roll. Though they didn’t roll, Tou never gave up on them. Tou’s uncle shared his frustration that the pigeons failed to perform. “He couldn’t kill them, though”, recalls Mr. Yang. So the uncle decided to try to find this boy some rollers that would roll. He contacted a well-known flyer that Tou had read about, who had created his own family of rollers and had done well with them; Rick Mee. Mr. Yang called Rick, but they just couldn’t afford his asking price of $100 for a pair of good rollers.

 

 

Tou was given an assignment in school at about this time, in which he was to write a paper about the person that he would most like to meet. The man he wrote about was James Turner. Tou’s paper read as follows:

 

 

 

 

Mr. James Turner

By: Toulee Moua

 

 

Most kids my age want to meet the Jonas brothers, Miley Cyrus, Justin Beber, or a movie star. I know someone who wants to meet the president. The one person I want to meet the most is Mr. James Turner of South Carolina. Most kids my age don’t know him and most teachers don’t know him either but I know a lot about him and I will tell you why I want to meet him.

 

James Turner is a respected roller man in the sport of flying rollers and the kind of rollers I am talking about are pigeons. Mr. Turner has raised these special pigeons for over 30 years and won all sorts of roller competitions in the US and a lot in the South Carolina and North Carolina area. Most roller men are very competitive and keep a lot of secrets but Mr. Turner is not that way. Everyone who has ever meet him say he is a good man who always helps out everyone who wants to learn about roller pigeons and that’s why I like him.

 

Roller pigeons also have lots of different colors and Mr. Turner is very different from the other roller guys because he thinks that these pigeons should also be pretty to look at. I agree. The rollers roll in the air but when they are in their kit boxes, they are also nice to look at and that is another reason I want to meet him. To see a roller roll is just the coolest thing ever and then to see a yellow or white or even a stencil color roller roll just makes it even cooler.

 

Mr. Turner is about 70 years old and has so much knowledge and that is why I want to meet him. I wish he would share his information to me so when I have rollers one day, mine will roll in kits together. I just want to have some roller pigeons more than anything else in the whole wide world but if I don’t know how to keep them, there is no point. And that is why the person I want to meet the most is Mr. James Turner of South Carolina.

 

 

Touhoua Yang supported and encouraged his nephew’s interest in pigeons, as best he could. At first Mr. Yang didn’t understand why these were any different from the pigeons on the street downtown, but Tou was quick to educate him as to the distinct differences, and corrected his uncle’s reference to them as rolling pigeons. “ No, they are called roller pigeons,” Tou would remind him, confidently. During the next couple of years, Tou continued to bug his parents relentlessly for permission to contact and talk with Turner. But his parents were reluctant to call a perfect stranger, themselves, or to allow Tou to do so; because of cultural mores, as well as concern for their son’s safety, so they asked Tou’s uncle, Mr. Yang, to contact Turner. Mr. Yang and Turner finally had a friendly conversation in the spring of 2010. James explained that he did not raise large numbers of rollers, but invited Tou’s uncle to visit him at some point. Mr. Yang’s wife attended college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has relatives who live in Charlotte, North Carolina, whom they visit from time to time. Mr. Yang was very pleased with Turner’s friendly manner, considered him a gracious man who was more concerned about promoting the roller hobby than about making a buck selling pigeons. Mr. Yang asked James if it would be all right if Tou wrote a letter to him, reporting to Tou’s parents that it would be appropriate for him to do so, based on the conversations that they had. Tou found Turner’s address on line and even though his parents doubted that he has the right man and the correct address, Tou wrote James a letter which read as follows:

 

Hello Mr. Turner,

 

My name is Toulee (Tou) Yang. I am 12 years old and I live in Schofield, WI. I am your biggest fan because I think you have some of the most beautiful rollers in the world and your rollers can still roll. They are beautiful and they roll and I think that is totally awesome.

 

I will tell you a little more about myself and I hope you don’t mind me sending you a letter only because my parents won’t allow me to call and talk to you. I have been bothering my parents for 2 years now to get me some rollers and earlier this spring, my dad finally allowed me to have my pigeons. I found a blueprint for a kit box online and my dad helped me build my kit box. I currently have 2 rollers in my kit box that my dad and I bought for $30 which is a lot since it was paid out of my allowance money that I saved. The guy at the farm said they were rollers but it’s been over 2 months now and the birds still don’t roll and they are supposedly 2 years old.

 

Since I was 10, it has been my goal to get some birds from you but it’s so hard for a kid to get in contact with someone like you. I have read so much about you. I have a bunch of books with quotes from you and other great roller pigeon men too. My favorite article written about you was called “James Turner: The Man Who Put Color into Spin” by Cliff Ball. I read that article when I was 10 and you instantly became my hero. That’s when I really started to do my research on how to raise and train rollers.

 

Anyhow my uncle, Tou (same name because Tou means boy/son in our culture), said he actually called and talked to you about 2 weeks ago. I was bugging my parents to call you but my parents don’t like talking to “strangers” so my mom told my uncle about the situation and my uncle said he gave you a call. He said that you guys talked for 30 minutes on the phone. He said you were a really nice and gracious man. He also said that you don’t have too many rollers anymore. My auntie is from Charlotte, North Carolina and my uncle said that if they go to Charlotte this summer, they might stop by and visit you. My uncle Tou said that you invited him to visit you. I am so jealous. I want to be able to come and see you and ACTUALLY TALK with you. I know I am just a kid but I have read so much about you that it would be cool to actually meet you and your birds.

 

Uncle Tou did tell me not to get my hopes up about possibly getting some real “James Turner” birds because you don’t have too many rollers anymore. I understand too because must take a lot of time to breed rollers so they roll the way you want while still keeping them colorful. So if I never get any rollers from you, that’s ok too since I know I don’t have the money to pay for them but I hope you will talk to me and teach me more about rollers.

 

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read a 12 year old boy’s letter. If it’s not too much to ask, could you write me back sometime since I am not allowed to talk to you. By the way, I will be turning 13 on September 2nd…I will be a teenager.

 

God bless you,

Toulee Moua

 

 

Of course, Tou did have the right roller man and the right address. After receiving the letter, James and Tou spoke on the phone several times during the spring and struck up a friendship. “I’m so proud to have you talk to me. Sir!” proclaimed Tou to his mentor. James replied, “Well I’m just as proud to talk to you as you are to talk to me.” James was struck by the young man’s manners. “He always called me sir”, he recalled. During one of their conversations, Tou inquired as to the whereabouts of William Pensom and whether he might also have the opportunity to talk with him, as well. James kindly informed Tou, “That will not be possible because Mr. Pensom died over forty years ago.” James was so impressed with how well-read Tou was regarding all aspects of the roller hobby and with the knowledge that Tou has acquired. “This kid was the real deal!” James fondly recalls. Impressed by the young man’s commitment to the hobby and by his interest in genetics, James sent Tou a book on pigeon genetics and a dvd that was developed by Danny Joe Humphries in Kinston, North Carolina, who had video-recorded James’s discussion of various aspects of genetics and the inheritance of color and pattern. At one point during these conversations, Tou asked James, “Have you ever become friends with someone that you never met, by just talking to them on the phone?” “Why, yes,” replied James. “I consider you and me to be friends, Tou.” Mr. Yang revealed that he would talk excitedly about his conversations with Turner for hours after they spoke on the phone together.

 

 

Tou eagerly looked forward to the opportunity to visit with James in August, when he and his uncle planned to visit their relatives in Charlotte. James was making plans to make sure the youngster took home pigeons that could really roll. Though James was planning to donate the rollers without any charge, Tou’s uncle indicated that it is the custom in their culture not to accept animals as gifts. Some money has to exchange hands to compensate the owner for the time and trouble of raising and feeding the animal…or birds in this case. That visit would never take place, however. James had not heard from Tou for several weeks, which was not like him. The calls from Tou stopped and the meeting never took place. James told himself that he was unduly concerned. Perhaps the strict parents had become concerned about the relationship and had intervened. Perhaps they were concerned that he was encouraging Tou’s passion for roller pigeons instead of school, James thought. But, no such luck.

 

 

Tou’s other love was football, and this was his first year for him to try out for the middle school team. On August 15, Tou’s father picked him up from football practice at 6:00 PM, as usual. On the way home, at an intersection, a drunk driver went through the red light and t-boned their vehicle in the intersection killing Tou’s father instantly. Tou was seriously injured and lay in a coma for over a month. His birthday, September 2nd, came and went without his ever knowing it. On the Tuesday after Labor Day, Tou regained consciousness a little, and opened his eyes. The doctors believed that perhaps he was out of the woods and would begin to improve. But the next day, Tou lapsed back into a coma and died on September 18.

 

 

Since the tragedy, Tou’s enthusiasm for rollers has rubbed off on his uncle, and Mr. Yang has found in Wisconsin, through Craig’s List again, a Jeff Roberts who has Tony Roberts’ line of rollers from Doug Trotter in Colorado; birds that were banded by James Turner and Tony Roberts. He intends to raise and fly them in his nephew’s honor in the hope that Tou can look down on them from above and finally get to see Birmingham Rollers that actually roll. If Tou had known that some day the NBRC Bulletin would publish an article about his passion for the sport with his photograph on the front, he would not have been able to contain himself with excitement. “He would have loved to be associated with anything to do with the roller hobby”, says his uncle.

 

 

The tragedy of this young roller man’s life being taken from him has impacted many of us in a most significant way, especially Turner, of course, who lost his young friend. It is so difficult for mortal man to understand why the Good Lord calls the young home so early. How can their work on earth be done so soon? We may never know the answers to such questions. For me, the story of Tou was not only one of great tragedy, though I grant the wisdom of the creation and taking of life to a much higher authority and wisdom than that of my own mortal being. But Tou’s story touched my heart. It reminded me of the pebbles dropped into a pond. There were many pebbles dropped into the pond of life and the roller world for which he had such passion during Tou’s short life; pebbles that took the form of articles written, videos recorded, website postings, telephone conversations, and pigeons that were sold; events that occurred over a span of several years and over many miles. The ripple effect of these actions, touched lives in ways that we could never have predicted or even known about. But these events remind us that it is worth considering and remembering the impact that we have on the lives of others with our words, our actions, and our deeds on our journey through this life.

 

-by Cliff Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The perfect kit

Creating the perfect kit
By Graham Dexter

My definition of a perfect team is one that performs to an excellent standard on a regular basis. It has to be reliable in its everyday performance and regularly perform safely to a consistently high standard and exceed expectations from time to time. This does not mean that it is a team comprising of all star performers, indeed sometimes it is the individual star performer that betrays the overall performance of the team. The team that performs in competent unison, seemingly effortlessly, safely and stylishly, without significant errors is the perfect team for me. However that is simply my perfect team, each fanciers must set his or her personal objective from their own standard and vision of what they consider perfect. It maybe that other fanciers have other objectives. For some it is simply to beat the competition; to produce a reliable workmanlike performance, to produce a graphic advert in order to sell more stock, or even to set a standard for others to pursue. Any of these objectives can be achieved in time when a thorough path towards this goal is followed. My advise is thus to follow the following pathway.
Research, information and knowledge:

Any fancier embarking on this team building will need to ‘know his knitting’ a well known maxim for people in business. A team can only be built if the fancier has a good overall knowledge of what he is trying to achieve, a sound knowledge of management methods, a good grasp of training, feeding and keeping the team healthy. Usually this knowledge and skill is built up during an initial ‘apprenticeship’. This apprenticeship may have had with it many failures and disappointments. It will have had some sporadic success and these are from which we all learn. For the apprenticeship to be meaningful we must have learned hard lessons which gives us our motivation to succeed.
Vision and Recognition

The kit master is you. You will have learned what an excellent team is through seeing one in action or having exceptional vision of exactly what you want to achieve as an end result. It is well known that a writer who starts a story without knowing the end page will nearly always fail to achieve a good result. It is only when you are able to recognise what you want, or visualise the finished product that you will be able to move forward towards your personal end result.
Observation

The fancier who has the ability to see what is going on in the team, to be able to recognise the signs of excellence and also the individuals who are disturbing the team is the one most likely to succeed. The fancier, of whom I know too many, that watches the team for only a few moments then turn their attention to the tea break is sadly not going to make it. This type of fancier, when they are in another fanciers back garden, tends to study the construction of the loft, the breeding boxes, the kit boxes, the feed bin – while the birds are in the air. These fanciers will never learn what they need to learn about a team of birds from these efforts. Although all of the aforementioned curiosities are valuable – but should be attended to after the kit has landed or at least flown some time. The fanciers that don’t pay attention to the team in the air are seldom likely to become the astute observers that they need to be for success.
So what’s to look for!

· Flight pattern: are the birds flying in a figure of eight, what speed do they fly at, are their tails tight or spread? This helps us know if the birds are in the right condition – thus are we watching a team ready to perform, or birds that aren’t really going to show us what they are made of yet!

· Individuals: Which birds start the break? Are there any birds pulling the kit in different directions? Which birds are rolling too much – distracting from the bigger breaks? Which birds constantly roll from the back of the team and cause the kit to lose altitude? Which birds constantly fly above the kit causing the kit to lift too much? Which birds roll too deep and distract the team? Are there birds in the team that roll when about to land thus causing the rest of the team to be unsettled and more dangerous when approaching to land?

· Markers: Are there birds in your team that act as markers for the team – i.e. are there some birds that when rolling deeper are showing you that the rest of the team are low in body weight? Are there birds that stop rolling first when you have been over flying the team? Are there birds that only land early when they unfit, too heavy or undernourished? Are these birds showing you that the team needs more feed, less, different? Do you have a bird in your team that only flies too long, too high, or doesn’t kit when you are doing something wrong in your management? Markers are valuable birds the less observant of us never identify them!

· Quality: How consistent is the individual in the team, does it perform to a high standard in 100, 90, 80 50% of the breaks? In the break how many birds close their wings and glide down in the confusion of the activity without performing properly? How many birds commence the roll with a clap first, or end the roll facing away from the kit, or do a loose somersault to end the roll? How many birds perform to low standard but always roll on the break? What is the ratio of reasonable standard rollers to excellent standard rollers in the team? What is the ratio of frequent reasonable standard rollers to infrequent excellent standard rollers?
Acquisition

Finding the right individuals for your team requires a skilled eye and patience. The team will not be built overnight. Researching the best resources, by personal visit, reputation, or help from an expert will save time in the long run. A hastily acquired individual will cost time and resources that could otherwise be spent on developing a good team. Remember that ‘a silk purse cannot be made from a pig’s ear’. Taking time to acquire and put together the best team possible for the money and resources available will pay off in exponentially. Eventually you must be able to produce your own team and this is no mean feat. Acquiring and assembling a team is much easier than producing your own, however, with good observation skills and experimentation is possible to produce good to high standard performers which may enhance the team. Selecting birds to be the stock of the breeding pen is a separate topic, but be aware it will not always be your ‘star’ performers in your team that will produce you your best results, and yet neither will it be those ‘duffer’ with significant problems they just require culling!
Selection

Once a team is assembled the kit master is responsible for enabling the best performance from each individual. Balance is the essential message here. Too many frequent rollers will lead to highly energetic activity but with no team performance. Exceptionally high quality rollers may be somewhat infrequent, a few of these in the team will enhance the overall spectacle, but too many will lead to seldomness in performance.

There are several ‘types’ of roller knowing them and mixing them in a team can be done successfully if done carefully!
Types:

The 5 main types come in a variety of depths and frequency

· Very Fast Tight rollers

· Fast Tight

· Fast and Very Fast Wingy

· Fast Graceful

· Slower Graceful

VFT: In this category one should bear in mind that it is usual to find more short rollers than deep ones, and the deeper they are usually the less frequent. The deep and frequent ones are generally useless for team performance as they exhaust themselves too quickly and lose the kit.

FT On the other hand these can be found in deep and frequent, but one needs to remember with this type they will use up a lot of energy so they must be very fit to prevent them losing the kit or landing early. Successful fanciers with this type of bird are the very keen and observant ones that are able to balance its need for exercise to keep it fit and rest to prevent exhaustion.

FVFW These birds are quite entertaining to watch and come in all depths and frequencies. They are often quite energetic as they seem to use less energy and therefore don’t tire as easily as the ones that aren’t wingy. I think this is because it takes more effort to open the wing fully when rolling, the wingy ones seem to flick the wing beat which maintains speed but loses the impression of roundness. A variation of this type is the roller that looks very fast but if the observer looks closely they will see that the bird is in fact not rotating head over tail quite correctly, but is rolling head over one wing – this maintains velocity and the visual spectacle, but gives a slightly lob-sided picture to the careful observer. Please note that all these, although not the perfect type, are still quite scoreable for competition purposes, and certainly most casual observers would not notice the difference! Not a type I would give any quality points to though!

FG I have had a soft spot for this type of roller for years, and only recently acquired a few from Dave Moseley. Barry Shackleton in the 70’s had some wonderful examples of these, and in the past I saw some of these in Middlesbrough in the late 80’s and 90’s at fanciers who seldom competed. Last year I saw some wonderful rollers of this type in a near enough perfect team at Chris Robinson’s. This type is not as quite as fast in the roll as the other 3 types, but is very close. However I believe this type beats its wings fuller and spreads its wing flights in slightly more extended way reaching higher in its wing arc, thus when propelling itself in the roll it gives itself a rounder and cleaner shape. It appears that it does this using less energy than the other 3 types and therefore is able to perform quite frequently and often deeply without too much stress. This type instantly reminds me of the high diver in the Olympic games that seems to perform effortlessly.

SG As long as this type rolls fast enough it is a charmer to watch, this type will roll frequently sometimes quite deeply and fly long times without distress. It is in a way the best type for competition as it requires very little management, and is the workhorse of many teams. However it must have the ‘gracefulness’ without this aspect it is the worst kind of roller – the kind that is not in fact a roller at all.

So which should I select for my perfect team? It is necessary to remember that a very fast roller uses more energy than a slow graceful roller yet it is possible to fly all 5 types in one team. The more types you have, the more astute you need to be to balance the team. Fast deep rollers need more rest to maintain their frequency, any excess of body fat will inhibit their performance, the fast graceful type seem to cope with overfeeding much better and can carry a limited amount of excess without affecting their performance. Any roller that is frequent will need ample nourishment and rest, the blend of styles within your team is your choice, a lifetimes experiment may not be enough to get it right, but it can be a rather entertaining pursuit of perfection. (For me this year my 44th year with rollers, it seems perhaps a little too long!)
A few examples:

· A team of 15 FGs will look even better with about 5 VFT in it, as long as they match the depth of the FGs.

· A team of 15 FTWs will look much better with 5 FGs in it

· A team of 15 FTs will look worse with 5 VFTs in it .

· A team of 15 FVFW will look worse with 5 VFT or FT rollers in it.

· A team of 20 of any type except FVFW with the same depth factor will look good.

· A mixed type team with different depth factors will look worse that a mixed team of the same depth.

· A team of FGs or SGs will usually get more points than a team of FVFWs.

· A team of FVFW should score less quality points than a team of FT or VFT rollers – but often don’t!

· Most teams of FT or VFT will receive more quality points than a team of FG’s or SGs. But probably not by me.
Feeding

Feeding is extremely important because it is through feeding properly and maintaining exercise that you are able to see what quality of birds you have. Until the birds are in the proper condition it is impossible to evaluate them and therefore put your best team together. I believe a lot of good rollers are killed each year because their owners don’t have them in the right condition to evaluate them. Equally lots of poor specimens are kept because they were capable of doing a good job on one occasion. If you have to starve your team, give tonics, or mess with them in some way in order for it to perform then from my point of view – you probably haven’t got the right birds! That is not to say that from time to time your team will need boosting up, or their ration reducing to get them to the optimum weight and fitness, but this should not be necessary on a day to day basis. From time to time you may want to play with bits of folklore (Epsom salts, Rue Tee, Golden Boost, Brewers Yeast, Sulphate of Iron etc) to attempt to get that extra 10% out of them for a competition, but generally they should not need messing with. Clean water, mineral grit and wheat are the staple diet of the perfect team. They will require worming and occasionally some seed (for fat soluble vitamins –unless this is in the grit as a supplement).

However, one small tip I learned from Dave Moseley, which has stood the test over the last couple of years – balancing the team on food. The team will break more frequently together if they are at the same level of fitness and weight, to do this Dave feeds wheat to the team in increasing small quantities until the team begins to leave food. At this point he begins gently to cut back the food in equally small quantities until the birds fly for a good time. Keep them at this ration should ensure that they all have enough of what they need without as much as they want to eat . When the team is flying for about an hour on this ration they are clearly fit and not undernourished thus in a better state to be evaluated than half starved or overweight. Remember, once the team is balanced up in terms of fitness, the time the birds fly should indicate whether they need more or less food. Clearly be aware of weather changes, rollers will need more in cold weather than in hot!
Breeding

This is slightly away from the main point of this article, but perhaps it is prudent to say a few things about the topic. Firstly breeding a team requires a bit more time and patience. Once you can recognise the types it is easier for you to decide which you need in more abundance and select breeding stock accordingly. There are a few points to make here:

· Very Fast Tight rollers are difficult to produce! Along the way you will have rollers that are too deep and crash, birds that drop early, and birds that burn themselves out before they are two years old (become deep and sloppy as yearlings, or become more and more seldom as they get older). You will need to breed more rollers each year if you decide to go this route, unless you get very good at it very quickly or are very patient. For those that have these and manage to maintain their stud I’m sure its deeply satisfying.

· All other types that last are produced by selecting your stock birds wisely and by following a breeding plan that follows the principles of line breeding. Outcrosses will not produce these types consistently!


How should I select stock?

Some simple rules here are:

· Get good advice from the original stock supplier as to what to pair to what

· Watch the birds in the air and select the type you want first.

· Watch them for as long as possible before stocking – so you can –

· Avoid birds which are too deep

· Go for style before depth or frequency

· Avoid birds which are infrequent or you notice don’t always roll in the break

· Avoid birds which drop early, or hang outside of, above or below the kit

· Don’t use birds with a fault you don’t like just because its excellent at something else

· Don’t try to ‘average out’ a pair. A short and a deep does not give a medium – more often it gives one short and one deep or two short or two deep!

· Use your 4 best rollers and feeders rather than 4 good and 16 mediocre.


Basic notes on training.

Rollers that are bred from good stock don’t take much training at all. Once the youngsters begin to fly ensure the only place they land is on the landing pole or loft top. Ensure youngster are fed what they need to build proper bones and muscle, but at all cost prevent them becoming overweight or emaciated. Fly youngsters once or twice a day but use your observation skills to ensure you are not exhausting them by over flying or losing fitness by under flying. Sometimes youngsters that are very active need flying less to allow them to get stronger, and sometimes they need flying more if their fitness is suffering or less because the rolling effort is making them tired. On the other hand lazy youngsters are often a problem, as they cause the rest of the team to drop early and thus their fitness suffers. Fly the lazy ones more often with other teams if possible, take them a ride out for a 1 mile fly back until they get on with it, and if all this fails (and don’t wait too long) send them back to the manufacturer with a note!
Selection and De-selection:

A good fancier will have a second team in training from which s/he can take reinforcements or replacements when ever the team requires support. Some individuals in the team will need resting, or an injury or illness may require the team member to be substituted. Therefore the second team must be as close to a clone of the first as possible. As any football follower will know it is rather silly to replace the first team centre forward with the reserve team goalie! If you know your two teams thoroughly, you will know which are the front birds, centre and back birds. It seems logical to only replace front pigeons with front pigeons – indeed front pigeons can be a replacement for any of the team, but clearly back position birds will do little good for your team if a front bird is needed.

De-selection can also be needed for birds that develop temporary faults – for example a white cock bird of mine gets much much deeper in the roll when he goes into the moult. Although he doesn’t leave the team too much, he does spend some time out. He also is prone to land earlier than the rest, although he will always do 30 minutes or so, he does tend to disrupt the team a bit. Once the moult is over he shortens up and goes back to his position in the centre of the team. I have a red chequer cock which flies in the second team which is a central pigeon and substitutes very ably for him. Very occasionally a first team member may develop a strange habit which distracts the team – landing away, dropping early, flying above the kit, pulling or drawing the team away from its best flight pattern, flicking over instead of rolling, or just stopping performance. The cause of this can be numerous, perhaps the most common is the moult or the bird pairing with another of the team. Resting the bird or birds for a month or six weeks will usually tell you whether this is a temporary or permanent development. Clearly demoting to the second team is necessary until such a determination is made. It would not be fair to condemn a bird before returning it to fitness with the second or third team first.

Some members of the team may need to be de-selected permanently, for example after a silly knock resulting in a stiff tail one of my favourite bronze chequer hens never regained her sharpness, the team suffered a lot from her absence until a suitable replacement was found. As birds get older they may need to be replaced, especially if they have been sound for three or four years and some progeny from them is needed for the future. Others will be lost via falcon attacks, even if not killed and taken many are maimed and unable to fly or perform to their former standard.

Sadly sometimes birds have to be culled from the team because they are too much the ‘star’ and not enough of the team player. The very deep roller that returns to the team reliably then rolls again is no doubt a star, but if this star is disrupting the team effort, losing the cohesiveness or general concert performance of the team – then sadly s/he will have to go. Last year I had 2 such rollers in my team, splitting them into another team halved the problem and doubled it at the same time. Whereas I only had one bird out of the kit most of the time, I had the same irritation in both of my good teams! Perfect in the roll, but not helping the team. Of course you could argue that if I had bred another 18 of these then I would have no problem, or that the 18 that didn’t roll as deep were the problem…..well in theory perhaps but practically the team has to take precedence over the stars!

When changing the team either substituting birds you fancy are better than the current ones in the team, or de-selecting ones you think are not helping or could be better, try to do this one by one and over some time not in rapid dramatic changes. The team will need time to get to know the new member, as will the new member need to get to know the team. Also the substitution may have unexpected consequences not foreseeable or surprising – good or bad. Time to evaluate the effects on the team needs to elapse, and your thorough observation of the effects calculated over time.

As most experienced fanciers fly in their competition team more than the required number – for easy removal of the excess, please bear in mind that too many extra birds may lose you the advantage of the excess. A team suddenly depleted of 3 or 4 members may respond badly and produce poor results. A better plan is to have only one extra bird and be sure that you watch that bird to ensure it does not become central to the teams’ performance. A nice steady centre bird is easier to lose from the team than a frequent ‘showy’ front pigeon.

On a final note in regard to selection and de-selection, remember that the reliable everyday workers in the team – especially the shorter rollers are often taken for granted. My advise would be don’t deselect them until you try them out in the stock loft!
Maintaining Performance

Remember even the very best team cant stay in tip top performance mode for ever. The very best teams can be maintained in peak performance for about 12 - 20 weeks. Eventually the team will need rewarding with a long rest. Frequent periods of one weeks rest and careful monitoring of fatigue levels in the birds can forestall or postpone the inevitable loss of vigour, but eventually the team will lose lustre and have to be given a complete rest. Good food copious bathing and plenty of space would be the ideal. Of course this will inevitably result in some egg laying activity, but hey it is a holiday.

When the holiday is over be careful how the team is returned to full fitness. Reduce the weight of the team gradually and return them to a weight and diet similar to the old regime before trying them out again. Expect little performance at first, don’t despair if the kitting and performance are less than normal at first. In my experience it takes about 3 weeks for optimum performance to return after the long rest, about 3 flies after a short rest.
Succession Planning

Lots of fanciers seem to be able to maintain a good standard of excellence for 3 to 4 years, very few for longer than that. If you look at the competition results it shows how fanciers emerge into the top positions for a period and then are lost. I believe this is because of an over dependence of one or two teams and one or two producing stock pairs. The fancier gets a bit complacent about being able to always put out a good team, and doesn’t notice the team depleting before their very eyes. A few Peregrine attacks, sickness, stock birds getting older, a key hen going barren, a key cock bird dies or becomes infertile, stock is stolen, a flyaway happens. Or simply as I did long ago forgot that my own stock was more important than helping others with theirs!

If fanciers wish to remain on the top of their game and last for more than a few seasons they have to take a few lessons from the ones that have. Bob Brown, Ernie Stratford, Bill Barratt and Ollie Harris may not have had the same vigorous competition that most UK fanciers now have, but they kept a high standard going for many many years. They did this by being ruthlessly selfish, and generous when they could afford to be so. They calculated who should benefit from their stock, so they had a reserve backup (being fed and cared for by someone else) should they need one. Their succession planning was never neglected, they always had breeding plans which would open up the next generation with some solid (I know this will produce) and some experimental pairing (might even be better) calculated to maximise their potential for the next 3 or 4 years ahead. Masters of success like George Mason, who relentlessly year after year continues to rise to the top, have clearly modelled themselves thus!
Final Thoughts

Finally, when I imagine my perfect team I have come to realise that its my perfect team. Each fancier will have their own dreams fantasies or visions of what theirs would be like. After waiting 44 years to see a ‘proper’ quality full turn, I finally saw 2 with 30 seconds this March over my own loft. Despite all the splendid teams I have seen over those many years I had never seen the perfect break before – so it is only now that I feel qualified to write this article. Although I realise that many more of you could have written this article before me as you didn’t I don’t feel to arrogant in doing so. To those of you that have had a perfect team and therefore know all this stuff I say I hope you weren’t too bored by it, and for those of you who have yet to achieve your perfect team I say – have patience! Best wishes,

Graham Dexter

Let us oft speak kind words By David Curneal

"Let us oft speak kind words"    I will start this small article with a church hymn,     From the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Hymn Book page  232.      1. Let us oft speak kind words to each other   At home or where’er we may be;   Like the warblings of birds on the heather,   The tones will be welcome and free.   They’ll gladden the heart that’s repining,   Give courage and hope from above,   And where the dark clouds hide the shining,   Let in the bright sunlight of love.        [Chorus]   Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live   And sunshine forever impart.   Let us oft speak kind words to each other;   Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.          2. Like the sunbeams of morn on the mountains,   The soul they awake to good cheer;   Like the murmur of cool, pleasant fountains,   They fall in sweet cadences near.   Let’s oft, then, in kindly toned voices,   Our mutual friendship renew,   Till heart meets with heart and rejoices   In friendship that ever is true.         Text: Joseph L. Townsend, 1849–1942        Music: Ebenezer Beesley, 1840–1906     As I sang this song in church Sunday. I had in my mind how this song,  should be a part of the hobby.     With the internet and all of the online clubs it seems that we are  fast to be sarcastic, hurtful, disrespectful and at times down right  mean. This type of behavior only hurts an already small hobby. ( Pigeon  raising isn't even in the top 50 of the most popular hobbies )We debate  about this or that, which can be helpful if it is kept to a mature  level. We learn from each other and we grow in the hobby from the  advise we hear or read from others.     Negativity makes people not want to be involved, negativity makes  folks want to leave, negativity makes investigators want to run away  rather then try pigeon raising.     So how can we make pigeon raising a kinder gentler hobby? I have made  a list of a few things.     1- Embrace differences,    The roller hobby has many aspects that many folks enjoy. If you do  not like one of the aspects and someone else does, you should you be  the guy / gal that encourages their joy in their achievements, rather  then belittling them for the same. Some folks enjoy flying in comps,  some do not. Some folks like to bring birds to the fair, some do not.  Some people like to experiment with colors or patterns, some do not.  The list of differences could fill volumes, I think you get the idea  with these few examples.      I do not have interest in competition flying, even though I  understand its values. But I would never call someone a name that loves  to fly comps, but I have been called many for not wanting to fly comps.  We should embrace our fellow pigeon fanciers rather then push them  away. All pigeon fanciers are our allies if they raise rollers, or any  other breed, we should encourage them with their goals and help them  where we can.     2- Do not get involved with verbal or internet disputes, where the  folks involved are not acting like adults.    I have been guilty of this and have pledged to myself and others to  not be a part of this type of behavior. For example I was reading  online where one person  was supposed to get some type of award and for  what ever reason he did not get it. Well the dispute that followed and  the way it was handled by both parties. Turned my beloved hobby into  something you would see on the elementery school play ground. Some of  the people commenting on the thread made it worse by calling names etc,  some of them said knock it off and quit making the roller hobby look  bad. I give Kudos to the second group.     3- If you disagree do it in private. ( Unless it can be done with  respect )    We all do things differently, we should agree to let folks do things  the way they please. Not everyone can fly in the morning. Not everyone  can feed 18% pellets. Not everyone can breed in stalls etc, etc, etc.  Unless someone is stating that they are doing something illegal or  dangerous we should let them do things how they like. If you strongly  disagree speak in private with the person. Do not spread drama.    4- When answering a question for someone remember your roots.    We all started somewhere, we all had tons of questions, we all needed  answers. Please do not belittle someone over a question. Do not make  them feel small or not important. It is everyone's responsibility to  help grow the hobby. So answer questions with respect.    5- Be honest, nuff said     6- Be a Mentor. I get my greatest joy from the hobby, when I see  others enjoying the hobby. I love to hear success stories and I love to  help folks with whatever I can. I was blessed with many people that  helped me along the way. I want to be one of those people that help  others enjoy the hobby. I hope and pray that you are one as well.     I hope that with the small ideas I have given, we can get along  better, and increase everyone's joy in our great hobby. But most of all  remember the title of the song I have quoted when ever you decide to  answer an internet post, a question or a letter.     "Let us Oft Speak Kind Words"      

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