Before I start these notes I would like to emphasize that unless one has birds of a reputable strain it is a waste of time hoping to fly at all. Now this might sound a little harsh to the novice in general, but to achieve success in any job. one must have the right tools – Tipplers in our case, this is very important. The initial advice I would offer is that before a start is made even to keep and fly Tipplers correctly, find out where your nearest society is that caters for the breed. Get to know the names of one or two of the members who keep and fly in competition. The reason for this is that it is vitally important to have some idea as to the layout of a Tippler loft. Sometimes location is difficult I know, but please try to have a look around, it will be well worth the time and trouble taken. The size of the loft you intend to have may depend on the room that is available, or maybe the pocket! I have known of birds being flown from no more than boxes, but I think we have progressed since those days. I would say that the general standard of lofts I have noticed in the last twenty years or so have improved out of all recognition.
In building or purchasing your loft, please try to have one large enough to allow a little room for possible visiting fanciers to view your stock. Please
NO EYESORES for your neighbors to be offended at. A few coppers extra for a bit of paint is money well spent. Erect something that adds value to your hobby and also your property. If position only allows you to erect your loft near to your house make sure that you (and i.e. your visitors) are not carrying excess dirt into your home from dirty floors, should you get invited in for coffee or tea. And remember, no stealing the household utensils – brushes, dust pans, jugs etc. I have even seen the tea towels vanish – it’s much better to have your own. Also if you are going to have electricity laid on, make sure you have no loose cables to trip over, fix them securely out of reach. Now we have these points established what next? What time do we have to spare? How many birds are to be kept? I would suggest the minimum to be three pairs of breeders of all one reputable and consistent strain, with perhaps three or four droppers, I presume we all know what these are! Do not buy the first birds that you see for sale, make your choice after you have visited several lofts. There are quite a few types, colors, sizes, etc. (This can almost refer to some pigeon keepers).
Any genuine fancier will be only too pleased to help you if it means another member in his or her club. They certainly would not part with stock that is not a credit to them in case your friends ask where you obtained your birds from. They will willingly explain what grain and how to breed good strong youngsters. I would like to point out that cleanliness is very important – you cannot clean your loft too often. It is also a good idea if possible to see birds flying belonging to the strain you are obtaining. There are different styles, wing actions, some fly high, some low etc. It’s never a waste to get this problem sorted out from the start. Better to do this than waste a couple of years and then find out you are disappointed with yourself. Now to the training! When they are reared – by this I mean when they are beginning to fly from their nest boxes and are feeding and drinking, separate them from the parents after making sure you have the ring numbers in your stud book. Put them into their own quarters in the company of the droppers, but make sure the droppers are not aggressive. Now starting them off correctly is very important. Allow them into the trap or flight, whichever you have decided upon. Training your birds takes a lot of time and attention so allow them to more or less live with your droppers for a day or so to get used to them. Make sure that they are undisturbed when in the trap or flight – by this I mean watch any intrusion by cats, dogs, etc. Once they are frightened this way it takes quite some time to get them settled again. However, now that they are separated they want to be fed differently on a diet of wheat, barley and dari, in equal proportions for settling without starving them to death. Do not forget that they will soon be dropping the first flight. As far as the old fashioned way of settling on barley goes, I have never been a great believer in this method, pigeons, or rather youngsters, cannot fly develop and grow on this grain. Try if you wish, out the object of this article is to place in front of our novices my way of training etc. I have been flying for nearly 60 years – for the records: Starting 1935 I flew I8 hours 50 minutes and missed my kit. In 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939 I won the Nationals with most creditable times. In 1940 I missed one bird at night. These times were flown without the use of artificial lights. Then I was off in the services, which kept me quiet until 1946. In 1947 and 1948 I was again winning Nationals, so there is not a lot wrong with my methods or my birds. My family managed to keep my stock alive while I was in the Army (with a special Government permit), and I have flown them successfully since with some good times, which I will not put down in this article, but there are records if anyone should care to check.
Now my particular diet for weaned youngsters is a mixture in equal parts of wheat, dari, groats, oatmeal and barley. Feed only once every 24 hours, as much as they will eat with water to follow immediately. Never leave any surplus food in with them once you know they are used to both food and drink. Another thing I do wile birds are feeding is to move my hand in amongst them, I don’t mean in an excitable way, but just to get them to gain confidence in your behavior. There is nothing worse than a loft full of wildly emotional pigeons. Also talk to them to get them used to your voice while eating. Use the same tone of voice as you will when training begins in earnest; not an army instructor’s voice, but a reasonably quiet voice. It only wants to be heard a few feet away from your loft, even when you are trying to get your birds to alight. Anyone who has seen or heard me dropping my birds will tell you that they hardly hear me at all. Never get excited or lose your temper or you will be in trouble again. Flying Tipplers successfully is a job that requires patience and time, but once you have grasped the idea of what must be done and your birds are flying well, you will think it all worthwhile. Another point, do not let your hobby become an obsession, think also of your family, don’t let the birds rule your life but ask opinions, make arrangements ete., so that one thing fits in with another. Don’t forget to tidy up after your visitors have gone. I have been to some places and it looks as if a bomb had dropped afterwards. Most pigeon flyers’ wives that I know have excellent temperaments, but one or two are taken for granted I am afraid, so bear this in .mind, get your family on your side, and also interested. Think about it!
Anyway, to get to birds again. When your youngsters have been in and out of the trap for a couple of days or so (it is of no advantage to keep them in longer than this) as long as they can use their wings let them walk out on to the top of the loft. Now it does not matter if for the first time you only let them out of the trap door – get them in again and feed, don’t worry too much about them until 24 hours after. Let them walk out again ‘and this time be careful
NO STICKS OR ANYTHING WAVING ABOUT. Control them, if possible, with the use of a grain or two of corn which they will be looking for, and use of the droppers which they should associate with food. Don’t leave them on the top more than perhaps half an hour but be present and keep talking to them. This is where the fun begins, and here again it is an advantage if you have been present at an experienced Tippler fanciers loft when he lets his birds out. However, carry on like this for a week, having them out every night with the droppers. If you have anything like competition Tipplers, by this time they would have all been in the air and getting an idea of what they have to do. My particular birds would be almost “Kitting” but here again, there is no substitute for experience. The droppers are still “out” even if birds are all in the air for the first week. The second week I put them out without the droppers – now this is important. The first time you do this let them get airborne but after ten minutes put the droppers out, don’t try to drop them, (et them know that they can if they wish though. The second time out in the second week, your kit should be liberated and left to fly. Use your discretion as regards this but don’t let them wander away, move your droppers around to see if they respond. If you are sure about this, don’t worry them, carry on like this for the remainder of the second week and, depending on the weather, they could be flying anything up to six or seven hours.
You are now well on the way to having your first kit of youngsters settled but don’t take too much for granted, they still want an eye keeping on them. While you are waiting for your third weeks instruction go along to your corn stores and purchase the following:- 3’/2 lbs. Red Rape, White Millet, Plain Canary – 2 lbs. Grouts, Oatmeal -1 lb. Hempseed, Dari, Tares, Niger and Small Rice. These are the seeds I shall want you to use for long flys in competition (or for pleasure) as I do now, although they have to adhere to competition rules. Now please take careful note of these instructions – the reason being that it is hard to ask some novices to-days they are asked. I have had a lot of experience of this over the years! After spending weeks and weeks showing, explaining, encouraging, giving, demonstrating what to do why they have to do it, when they have to do it, or not to do it, only to be met with excuses, forgetfulness, and even little white lies. With atl the good intention in the world one cannot work like this. But for all this, there is quite a lot of satisfaction in instructing National winners. Of course, once this is achieved it is sometimes presumed that all is known about flying Tipplers, but take that as you wish!
To get back to the corn and seed! The reason I ask that you take note is that one cannot expect to fly Tipplers for long times without the use of conditioning seeds, neither can birds be flown on just one diet – they have to be conditioned and this cannot be achieved unless the birds are used to these seeds, although I have heard one or two flyers try to have us believe that this is the case. So for this reason, I would ask that one spoonful (as an example for measurement) of each seed be mixed together – except maize and peas. When this has been done you are ready for the third weeks instruction.
The main diet is now changed to half wheat, half dari, but to get the birds used to the seeds etc., we will be giving before the main feed approximately 1 teaspoon for every three birds a mixture of the seed to familiarize them. Let the birds out to fly every other day according to the weather for approximately five or six hours – which they should fly comfortably. In doing this, make sure you have plenty of daylight as once the air cools and the fight drops the birds will just fly on ancd on. No matter how many droppers you have, you can say goodnight to them which means a job in the morning getting them in.
So into the fourth week! By now you should know your birds and have their behavior in mind. Incidentally, you can gain loads of information from your birds by having a little notebook and pen on your person to jot down your birds actions and characteristics – anything that strikes you as unusual. Mistakes can be made which are not always the birds fault. There is many a good bird condemned through no fault of its own but through thoughtlessness of the owner. Reading various articles makes me wonder if enough attention is paid to some strains of birds. Something is wrong or needs adjusting if fanciers breed so many youngsters each season but state that they finish up with so few. Another point I would like to make while it is on my mind. – Don’t let your birds out to fly taking it for granted that everything is in order; that they are flying alright, so going away and leaving them unattended. You don’t have to stay under them every minute, but think about it – they may be ali right when you leave them, they may be okay when you arrive back, but it’s the time in between that you cannot be 100% sure about, so if you do have to leave them, try to have someone keep an eye on them for you until they are more trained. Carrying on into the fourth week: Let them out to fly every third day for approximately 6 or 7’/2 hours, depending on conditions. Various winds, rain etc, can help or hinder their progress. They are not machines, contrary to what some fanciers may think, so please give some thought to the work you are asking them to carry out. Treat them fairly and like athletes.
Following written instructions is far different than having your instructor present, so you will have to start to use your own judgment. Do not take anything for granted; so many things can and do happen. To prepare for the first test this is how I would feed for a fortnight before competition, starting on Sunday:
Supper – wheat and dari.
Turn out next day for 5 hours, on coming in feed the same. Ditto the next night. Turn out for 6’/2 hours. On coming in feed i teaspoonful of plain canary, dari and wheat and approximately 9 peas each. Next night (Thursday) feed same amount of plain canary, same of groats, wheat, dari and about 9 peas each. Ditto on Friday. Turn out on Saturday for 9 hours flying, but previous to liberation offer them a drink of water.
They should fly this time comfortably.
On coming in feed main diet of wheat and dari. On Sunday give same again. Fly on Monday for 6 hours. On coming in give a small quantity of oatmeal (teaspoon between 3) same amount of plain canary. Fill up with usual wheat and dari. Liberate on Wednesday (last time out before trial fly) for 6 hours.
This finishes their training and this is where novices can get excited as the actual 3 days feeding takes place. This can be a little confusing (I am going to assume that 8.30 p.m. was when you dropped your birds, you will have to adjust this if it conflicts with your actual time).
Feed 1 teaspoon rape, 2 teaspoons canary, 1 teaspoon groats, approximately 12 tares. 8.30 a.m. Friday morning substitute – millet ~ instead of rape and feed the same. 8.30 p.m. Friday night,
;1 teaspoon millet, 2 teaspoons canary, wheat and dari, 9 peas each. ° 12.00
noon Saturday, 1 teaspoon rape, 1 teaspoon millet, 1 teaspoon canary, 1 teaspoon groats, wheat and dari and tares to fill up with.
By now the birds will be anxious, but be careful with them. Feed them two hours before liberation. They want nothing heavier than seed, so you to the first mixture I prescribed when they were being taught this will be fine for them. Leave for twenty minutes before you offer them a drink of water to make sure
THAT THEY DO DRINK. Just a word of warning (and this happens to fanciers who are not novices), if birds do not eat what is offered to them in the order prescribed, don’t, substitute this by feeding grains you know they like. You will upset the whole system. Don’t be put off at all. If they are too forward to eat, shut them up until the time comes around for the next feed, they will be quite okay. Anyway, you have done your job now; turn out the kit and enjoy your day’s sport, but don’t forget to have that little note book and pen on your person for reference.
The instruction I have given here is for young bird flying. As you will notice the use of tonics, vitamins etc., are missing – I contend these are not required. In a later issue, time permitting, I will vary this for old birds – there is a difference. Also I have not made any reference to dark flying. This is a waste of good pigeons until a certain degree of practice is achieved and a few individual flys have taken place. I would advise that this should not be entertained to start with.
I hope these few notes will help out, and I say in all sincerity that if these instructions are followed (on reasonable pedigree birds) you will have some good days sport. My only regret is that I cannot take an active part myself. Every competition day my thoughts are with my many friends, but the nearest fancier and club is approximately 36 miles away from my place here, but I enjoy my hobby and can watch my birds while walking along the sea front. However, space does not allow me to carry on much longer so may I wish my many friends all over the world all the very best for the 1988 season. Enclosed is a photograph of my loft which faces the sea, due east, not really the best way to face but it is the position of our house that decided that.
The information I have given here takes the interested novice well forward to his first fly of anything up to 15 hours, which is a good enough start, so use your own discretion – and to recap! notebook; don’t leave birds unattended; be fair; treat as athletes; give confidence in loft; help prospective newcomers; and don’t get obsessed. You can spend quite some time with your birds. If it is in your power, please try to encourage the social side of your hobby. Get all and sundry interested
WITHOUT BEING BORING. This is quite an insight into what may be done, but please don’t expect everything on a plate, try to think for yourself, that is where your entertainment and experience will build up.
Arthur Newton – NTU England