For the novice (Harry Shannon)

It must be confusing to the thinking novice when he starts to study all methods, feeds etc., that can be found in tippler publications today. Like the saying – `there are many ways of skinning a cat’. Most of these are sound but overlook the more important aspect – the question of management; by this I mean observation and the physical handling of the birds. I always get a picture of the young novice weighing out the esact amount of barley and the birds flying well for some weeks, and then all of a sudden they don’t want to know. Many possibilities may happen then but usually confusion reigns and common sense goes out the window. At this stage the sport may lose the less resourceful fancier and the one who then takes up the challenge may see a kit fly eighteen hours plus and become disillusioned again when somebody tells him there is a secret tonic or some other magic formula that must be known. If he believes this then he gives himself another mountain to climb. Far better for any young novice to concentrate on the basic fitness of the birds. After all they need to be fit to fly a reasonable training time in not always the best of weather. This may mean a better diet than just barley but more important it means knowing the birds intimately which unfortunately for the novice doesn’t come overnight. One of the absorbing things about tipplers is that you never stop learning.

Keeping the birds under control, getting them dropped when you think they have flown enough hours for their condition is important. I usually fly my birds every other night but I don’t believe in long training flys (over five hours) and may be less than half this if the weather is unfavourable. In other words a balance of food, condition, weather, must always be maintained. A good start for the serious novice is to start training himself by running to attempt a marathon. A sure way to find out how the birds tick – and yourself. This no doubt will produce a laugh but a fact none the less.

Hopefully we can arrive after about four or five weeks with a disciplined kit carrying no surplus weight but sound in health and feather. They would have been fed something between barley and wheat or a mixture of both depending on the quality. The amount would again depend on the weather etc. but no more than they need. How they fly, come to droppers etc. will help to determine this. Linseed is given with the grain and just enough canary mixture to teach the birds to eat it in the last week before fly. Grit and a dose of epsom salts, about two teaspoonfuls to a pint of water, about once a week. I would stress this is only a guide: again the careful monitoring of the birds during training is the most important factor.

Many good `build ups’ are in print and I will not add another. My only advice would be to try all sensible ones and pick what suits your birds best – and improve on it.

Some fanciers rely heavily on a tonic in the `build up’, some don’t. I think an iron tonic at the start to be a good help, but again if the birds are not properly conditioned in training I don’t think anything will make them right while resting.

I hope this throws some light on what can be confusing for the novice who is dedicated and seeks to get the best from his birds but remember when disappointments crowd you as they no doubt will. Few consistent flyers have achieved success without many times going back to the drawing board.

What about the birds ? Well I can only give my own personal findings of some of the recognised types I have crossed with my own birds. I don’t think there is the perfect tippler in any breed as this can come and go without proper management, but certainly there are good and bad characteristics in all.

Leaving colour aside I will just give the most striking qualities I have found in each of the families best flown in the sport today, as it is from these that the novice will probably form his own family:

Boden Type – Best dark flying qualities

Hughes Type – Best Young Bird flying ability

Davies Badges – Esceptional health and feather

I would not attempt to argue bad points etc. because nothing in life is perfect, and it is a fact that I have not inbred to any of these great families so I cannot consider myself an authority. Although I have been breeding tipplers for 30 years now I do not consider I have created my own strain, rather I have always put health as the first ingredient for breeding, and in recent years I have been trying to lighten the colour for better dark flying visibility. In short I am still learning and searching for perfection, an enjoyable part of the sport, so I won’t mind if it takes the remainder of a life-time to find it.


H. Shannon, NTU Yearbook 1984