GOING THE DISTANCE THROUGH TO BARCELONA
An Interview with Crowley & Green 1st Open BICC Barcelona 2011
The partnership of Crowley and Green consists of two ultra keen, pigeon mad individuals, namely Anna Crowley and Richard Green. The partnership first "came onto my radar" in the mid 1990's as a result of their phenomenal successes with the CSCFC and BBC racing a team of widowhood cocks. Since those heady early days of sprint /middle distance racing success the partners have moved on and set their sights on achieving consistent success at the highest level possible - long distance International pigeon racing. In recent years the partners have begun to rack up consistently top class performances in classic races at the distance. Amongst these wins was 2nd Open International from Dax. This steady progression towards the top culminated in Anna and Richard's outstanding success from Barcelona in 2011 racing with the BICC. How did this transformation from high class middle distance racers to National winning long distance racers take place? I'll let Richard Green tell you in his own words.
I first started racing pigeons in 1985 with a gift of approximately 25 young birds which were bred by and given to me by my brother-in-law Terry Roughton of Wisbech in Cambridgeshire.
There is no doubt in the early days that Terry was a major influence in my success as he also supplied me with a detailed feeding and race program which resulted in me taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd Club from Weymouth in the first young bird race in which I competed in the Warminster South Road Flying Club. This early success was quickly followed in my third race when I won 1st Club and 1st Wilts Fed from Exeter.
From 1985 to 1989 I flew from a small self built loft (24ft x 6ft) in my back garden on the hillside in the small village of Crockerton which is located on the A350 just a mile outside of Warminster.
At that time I only had a small team, just 12 pairs of Widowhood Cocks, a few pair of stock birds and a small team of 30 young birds. These were enough to compete at club and Fed level with the odd successful foray into the shorter Classic and National races.
With the breakdown of my marriage in 1989, I recommenced racing in 1991 with my partner Anna Crowley from our current address in Compton Bassett. We have raced successfully from this location for the last 20 years. Initially, we started with two small lofts, one 12 ft x 6ft loft and the other 24ft x 6ft. However, we are fortunate to have a large garden and so our present set up comprises seven different lofts giving us a total frontage of about 150 ft. These seven lofts consist of: two stock lofts which contain our 80 pairs of stock birds, 2 young bird race lofts for our 120 young birds and three old bird race lofts from which we race 27 widowhood cocks, 32 pair on total widowhood and 18 hens on round about.
In the past we have used grids on the floors and also deep litter in order to lighten the daily work load, but having recently retired I now have time to wield the scraper on a daily basis. This is the system I prefer as when used in conjunction with Harkers Loft Treatment, any wetness in the droppings can be noticed which gives an immediate indication of health.
Mating the Birds
All birds except for a few hens raced on the round about are mated at the same time which is either the day after Boxing Day or if we go to Blackpool show then it's the Monday after the show. The first round of eggs from the stock birds being floated under the racers.
We race 18 hens for the distance to 9 retired cocks (best racers) on the round about. The best race hens are put in this loft with the nine youngest hens being paired to the cocks at the same time as the other birds. They are allowed to hatch and rear a round of youngsters (eggs from the stock loft) with the hens being removed once the youngsters are about 16/18 days old and the cocks being left to rear the young. These youngsters are weaned at 24 days and then a few days later the cocks are then repaired to the other 9 older hens who are allowed to sit 6 days before the eggs and hens are removed and the hens placed in the adjacent section with the other 9 hens that are all raced on a jealousy system.
Prior to racing, all old birds on the widowhood system will receive at the most three training tosses from 20 miles. The only day they see the basket thereafter is on basketting day for racing. The system is slightly different for the round about hens which are trained single up from 30/40 miles twice a week when they are repaired later in the season.
The race birds are exercised twice a day when they must fly for at least one hour morning and night. They are encouraged to fly early in the season by letting out different sections 15 minutes apart which gets them used to flying the full hour.
As the season progresses and they become used to the system then they will often fly for much longer and are difficult to get out of the sky. The sign to come out of the sky is the opening of the traps, once the boards are down then they usually land and are fed straight in, they are not allowed to wander about the garden. Any bird that does not come in is forced to fly again for 15 minutes they soon learn the system - in the sky or in the loft.
We only send in the first two club races with the old birds, thereafter we compete solely in classic races with the CSCFC, BBC, BICC and NFC. We are extremely fortunate as virtually every week we are able to compete at the top level which makes for marvellous racing. I hear some fanciers complain that there are too many National races but for us there can never be too many as we do not compete at club level.
The old birds are raced really hard with even the yearlings crossing the channel at least 8 times the furthest race for them being 400 miles from Saintes with the NFC. The older pigeons will also cross the channel eight times with most of the two year old pigeons except the sprinters going out to 560 miles to either Pau or Tarbes. My longer distance birds "The Inter Continentals" will cross the channel 5 times before their selected long distance races which will either be Barcelona, Marseille or Perpignan. Some of the Barcelona birds if fit and well will also being sent to Perpignan a month after Barcelona.
Our young birds are trained really hard along the line of flight with three tosses from 5 miles, three from 10 miles, three from 15 miles, three from 20 miles, three from 25 miles and three from 35 miles. The birds are always trained in baskets of 12 birds and once they have all received the initial training then they go three times a week with one basket let go at 15, 20, 25, 35 miles and on the return 25, 20 and 15 miles. Hopefully by the time racing comes about they will all have had 30+ training tosses. We have in the past raced all our young birds out across the channel but in future intend to race the cocks inland to the channel and the hens to the classic and National young bird races. Some of the hens possibly having four channel races the last from Tours a distance of 306 miles.
The majority of our young birds are raced on the darkness / light systems except for our reserve team of 30 later bred youngsters which will compete in the last few inland races on the natural system.
We feed our birds on Versele Laga corn with the Stock birds being fed a mix of equal parts of Breeding Plus, Breeding Subliem and Breed and Wean as much as they want.
The Young birds, before racing begins, are fed 20% Depurative, 20% Widowhood Plus, 20% Gerry Plus and 40% Breed and Wean. Once racing begins they are fed the same as the Old Bird race teams which are fed early in the week 50% Depurative and 50% Breed and Wean followed later in the week with 50% Superstar Plus, 25% Gerry Plus and 25% Energy Plus. All birds have 10% Hormoform and human consumption red skin peanuts added to their daily feed.
The "Inter Continentals" also have a hopper containing Willsbridge No 1 mix (Beans, Peas and Tares) covered with garlic oil and coated with brewers yeast in front of them at all times, once they are being prepared specifically for their distance race.
We have several families at stock and rely in the main on our Maris pigeons to do the business for races up to 250 miles From 250 to 450 miles we rely on several families of pigeons e.g. Janssens, Wildermeersch and Verreckt-Arien. In races from 450 to 600 miles we rely on our Santens and Brakeles and then over 600 miles our Van Geels and Van De Wegens come into their own. It's simply a case of "horses for courses" and having "all bases covered" so to speak.
When we introduce a family then we tend to keep them pure until we have discovered the best winning lines within that family. We then cross the best sprinters into the best middle distance pigeons and long distance pigeons to give them more speed.
Recent Performances in Classic Races.
Our best performances are as follows:
1st, 2nd and 3rd Open BBC Bordeaux
1st and 2nd Open BBC Lamballe
2nd, 5th, 19th, 26th, 28th NFC Saintes
5th Open Welsh SR Nat San Sebastian
2nd Open National and 2nd Open International Dax
3rd and 5th Open BBC Barcelona
9th and 12th Open BICC Perpignan
2nd Open H4H Open Fougeres
1st Open CSCFC Bergerac
2nd Open CSCFC San Sebastian
3rd, 4th and 8th Open CSCFC Bergerac
3rd Open BBC Bordeaux
1st Open BICC Barcelona
6th Open BICC Marseille
The one's that gave us most pleasure were obviously our Dax and Barcelona performances in that order but in our opinion our best performance was to take the first three positions from Bordeaux with the BBC.
We are fortunate to have raced many top pigeons the best 500 mile pigeon was " BRIMSTONE" a Janssen who not only won 1st Open CSCFC Bergerac but was also 2nd Open International Dax (19,400 birds), 43rd Open NFC Saintes, 42nd Open BBC Bordeaux, 116th Open CSCFC Cholet and 170th Open NFC Dax.
Another Janssen of note was "HONEST JOHN" who won 3rd Open BBC Bordeaux, 3rd Open CSCFC Bergerac, 50th Open CSCFC Bergerac, 57th Open CSCFC Bergerac, 74th Open BBC Bordeaux, 89th Open CSCFC Nantes and 178th Open CSCFC Messac.
Our best Wildermeersch cock was "HELLFIRE" who won 13th Open NFC Saintes, 32nd Open NFC Nantes and 13th Open CSCFC Bergerac in his career he won twice 1st Section and once 2nd Section in the National Flying Club.
Our best extreme distance pigeons are brother and sister "MINX" and "METEOR" who between them in the last three seasons have won 1st, 3rd and 5th Open from Barcelona, 6th Open from Marseille and 9th and 12th Open from Perpignan. They are both in the race team for 2012 and will be sent with high expectations.
Our best sprint pigeon is "SNAPPER" a blue MARIS cock who has won 1st Section, 3rd Open CSCFC Lessay, 28th Open CSCFC Carentan, 1st Section 202nd Open NFC St Malo, 229th Open NFC Saintes and 201st Open NFC Poitiers.
Our Brakeles have also performed extremely well with "MAMBA" winning 1st Open BBC Lamballe her brother "DRAGON" is also an exceptional racer winning 1st Section, 16th Open NFC Alencon, 2nd Section 6th Open BBC Bordeaux, 21st Open CSCFC Bergerac, 27th Open BBC Bordeaux and 216th Open NFC St Malo. Not forgetting "GOPHER" who has won 12th Open CSCFC Pau, 35th Open CSCFC Tarbes, 36th Open NFC Tarbes, 43rd Open BICC Falaise and 156th Open CSCFC Cholet.
Thoughts on the future of the Sport.
If our sport is going to survive in the long term then I believe that drastic action needs to take place. My suggestions, for what they are worth, are that the RPRA needs to get a grip and organise racing within this country. Where racing is organised on a weekly basis and all clubs compete weekly at Club, Federation, Section and National level. Where instead of having 10 organisations having separate liberations from one race point they are all liberated together in one race say - Carentan, and the same weekend another National race where we all compete in our clubs from say Nantes, and so on as the season progresses and the races get longer. If this was planned and organised carefully then it would make for exceptional races with high birdage for both sprint races every weekend and longer races every weekend.
Once again if we wish to increase the number of members in the sport then drastic action is once again required - let's say a new rule for 2013 that every member of the RPRA is to fly in partnership with a new member. This would mean that every single one of us would have to go out and introduce a new person to the sport. Obviously we would have to make exceptions for those fanciers who for whatever reason could not attract a new member. But if only 50% of us took a new partner It would make a tremendous difference.
BUT will either of these suggestions happen NO - not until pigs fly.
All birds are treated for canker whilst sitting their first round of eggs and again three weeks before racing, followed by a treatment for worms and respiratory problems.
I am a great believer in the use of supplements on the food and in the water and regularly use minerals, amino acids, respiratory aids, probiotics, proteins and a wide variety of vitamins. These supplements are used to improve the condition of the birds, enhance their racing performances, shorten their recovery time, and help with the moult and in the breeding of top quality youngsters.
If I could only use one product / supplement then without hesitation I would choose to use a product called Norvet PLG which apart from being used in the water at the time of illness is always in the water on the day of basketing. This ensures that my birds go to the race with a clean crop and helps them immediately fight any infection that they may face whilst in the race panniers.
My thanks to Richard and Anna for taking the time to answer my questions and if the above doesn't assist fanciers in their quest to produce, condition and race pigeons at the highest level in this sport I don't know what will.
Congratulations Richard and Anna on your pigeons' many fine performances and in particular the winning of 1st Open BICC Barcelona in 2011.