DAVID HALES of HOCKLEY
Winner of Europa Cup Best average all International races with the BICC plus 1st Open BICC Marseille 2013 .
The final visit on our recent "fact finding mission" to London and Essex was to the Hockley loft of David Hales. Ever since I became Press Officer for the BICC I have been in almost constant touch with David, such has been his consistency in appearing near the top of the BICC race results.
Having more than held his own , firstly at North road racing winning the Fed old bird average with 6 cocks and the Fed young bird average more than ten times, including five years in a row, and winning 27 young bird races on the trot in one club plus a Combine win and numerous Open race wins, David decided to concentrate more on South road racing. This literal change of direction culminated in David winning1st Open NFC Sartilly, 2 x1st BICC Falaise etc in recent seasons. However, the lure of long distance success has proved too much, and in the past few seasons David has focused all his efforts on success at the extreme distance competing with the BICC on the International stage.
The 2013 old bird season saw the Hales team knotch up an impressive series of performances in International races which lead to David winning the Europa Cup with the BICC with the best average in all International races. This series was as follows:-
Pau International:- 9th[63rd Open International],23rd,&27th Open BICC.
Agen:-71st Open .
Barcelona:- 3rd & 14th Open.
St Vincent:- 32nd Open.
Marseille:- 1st,8th & 13th Open.
Perpignan:- 46th & 53rd Open.
Pretty impressive to say the least.
These performances were achieved by a team of pigeons racing to one of the most impressive lofts I have visited in over 40 years of writing.
This is a really imposing structure set alongside a huge lawned area that could double as the American prairies should a film company need an easily accessible Essex location for a Western!
The loft must be at least 100 foot long and is divided into numerous sections with an internal walkway fronting the whole set up. Self built by David it was light and airy with excellent ventilation and has been set up so that David can race cocks and hens on widowhood, round about etc and young birds on the darkness system. Although the loft is extensive I would guess that there was less than 100 pigeons housed in a loft that could comfortably house many times that number.
An example of this was the fact that in some sections that were capable of housing 16 cocks there were only two cocks present and other sections with the same capacity that housed perhaps five cocks. There is certainly no overcrowding here.
The sections that housed the hens were quite innovative as the hens perched on 4" x 3" blocks in tiers of five or six and their droppings were deposited through a sloping dowelled aperture onto the floor of a corridor that backed onto the hens section[ see photograph]. This corridor had a perspex front allowing the sun to shine onto the corridor floor, thus drying the droppings which could then be simply swept up. An innovative labour saving aid to loft hygiene.
When David decided on his transition from sprint/middle distance Fed and National racing to International extreme distance racing he soon realised that he needed the birds to handle this type of racing. Two fanciers that sprung to mind were Jim Biss and David's good friend Alan Parker. These two outstanding fanciers had a habit of getting repeat performances from 700 miles. This was just what David was looking for, as he firmly believes that the pigeon's origins bred from generations of performers from the distance is of the utmost importance.
As David openly admits, the transition from club, Fed and National racing to International racing has not been easy, as he sometimes felt that he was stumbling around in the wilderness . In the early days it was a struggle to get birds home let alone be competitive. The step up from club, Fed and National racing to International racing is quite considerable but the rewards of success at the top level are obviously sweeter.
David got his first taste of success from Dax in 2005 winning the BICC 550 miles with a little Blue Cheq hen of Biss bloodlines , but as he says if he thought he had cracked it he was to be proved wrong once again!!
At this point I think I'll let David and his good mate and helper Duncan explain their methods in preparing pigeons for the extreme distance.
"I hope that the following will give you a brief insight into how I prepared my birds to achieve our success in long distance International races over the past few seasons.
Since 2003 excluding 2005 my young birds have received very little racing, plenty of training down to the coast 70 miles, but no importance put on racing with maybe the odd race for experience.
My 2007 youngsters were just trained, the cocks as yearlings were raced to the coast 130 miles with 4 going to Tours 292 miles but the hens were sent to 3 or 4 races then had 2 BICC channel races Alencon and Saran and were prepared for the London & South East Classic Club Bergerac race 470 miles. To be honest I could have given these hens a bit more work but from 12 sent 10 returned with 3 on the day on a reasonably hard day. This seemed to prove that the blood was there. In fact my first bird in this race had no training as a young bird and was still carrying nest flights.
Perhaps there is a tip there to all new starters trying to build a team, train young birds hard but they don't all have to be raced?
The cocks over the past 3 or 4 years have been treated a lot more lightly not being asked to work hard until they are 3 years old then they are expected to fly at least one International and two 550 miles plus races in the same season.
The cocks were treated for Cocci and Canker along with Ivermectin for the lice and worms before pairing. The birds were not treated again until racing was over.
I paired my birds for the 2008 season in March and then went on holiday, a family friend Brian Robertson looked after the birds whilst we were away. The birds were allowed to rear a single youngster with the hens taken away when the youngsters were 10 days old and the training for the cocks commenced out to 40 miles before the racing season started.
I used the early club racing for fitness until the channel racing began. After that very little club racing was done.
The older cocks were raced out to Tours with both the London & SECC and the BICC in preparation for Tarbes races with both the NFC and London & SECC. These races I feel, give the birds the desired "time on the wing" in preparation for the International racing later in the season.
To be totally honest my early season form was at best very average (although I did manage to pick up a 21st Open NFC Alencon which was gratefully received). This I believe, is due to the late pairing, and the type of birds housed. I knew from the previous year that the birds would come good for the races I was aiming at - the Internationals.
The previous year the birds were buzzing late June early July and then the channel closed I nearly packed up I had put in a lot of hard work to get the birds into the condition to fly the International races.
Yes a lot of work! I had trained the birds from Poole (130 miles racing distance to me) in two's and three's on more than one occasion and all for nothing. I was so upset when I finally decided to train the young birds I took them straight to Brighton 70 miles and I think I dropped 3!!
Once the Tarbes races were flown the cocks were given open hole to come and go as they pleased and finally they started to move with some freedom and aggression. The open hole was supplemented with a trip to Brighton every weekend right up until basketting.
The cocks are flown a type of widowhood celibate love of home method, allowed into one half of their boxes with the bowl left in the other side, sometimes I let them into the bowl and occasionally during the season they got to see their hens, but always when they return from the big races.
My 2nd Open BICC Marseille winner "35" an 03 Blue cock has been a very loyal servant, he is a 100% Jim Biss lines. He won last year from Littlehampton doing 2300 ypm and has also been 96th Open from Tarbes NFC. His prep race was the London & SECC Tarbes race 580 miles.
I got 5 of 8 home from this race and all four cocks sent that had earlier been to Tarbes returned.
This result gave me and the birds a boost for the final International race of the year and they were spot on.
I had told anyone silly enough to listen to me that the Blue cock 80 would be home between nine and ten as he had been in his previous two Tarbes races, on the day I thought that mid-day might be more realistic.
I was over the moon when he arrived proving to me that my Marseille result was no fluke and I was finally heading in the right direction putting two distance performances back to back. What was more amazing was the huge lead he had and that he was still relatively fresh.
What a super pigeon 580 miles, 580 miles and 617 miles all in around 6 weeks
My 1st Open BICC Perpignan winner "Ninetilten" an 04 blue cock had been prepped by having two Tarbes races and in both of them returned second morning between nine and ten as he did from Perpignan. This cock never looks hurt he is 100% Alan Parker lines and was not raced as a young bird just trained.
My 6th Open BICC Perpignan winner an 05 Blue Cheq cock "38" is a bit of a favourite I just had a feeling he would come good he had NFC Tarbes as his prep race. His breeding is Jan Aarden cross Alan Parker, this line of Jan Aarden has been very successful for me and others both North and South, and he was not raced as a young bird just trained.
My 11th Open BICC winner an 05 Blue Cheq W/F cock only had three or four channel races up to Tours 290 miles then had a long rest with plenty of Brighton trainers. His breeding is Hofken Janssen from my friend John Gilbert from Hullbridge, This cock was trained hard and raced hard as a young bird having two channel races. He is part of what I call my small middle distance team but was so well leading up to the Perpignan race he was added to the list.
I got 7 of 8 home from this race, all 4 of the cocks sent that had already flown Tarbes returned.
Feeding for racing is mainly Gerry Plus with some maple peas, peanuts and Homoform added. All food is hopper fed with food in front of the birds most of the day.
A little fresh grit is given daily along with minerals as I feel they need them.
Once racing finishes I feed the best farm food I can get my hands on including, wheat, barley, maize, beans, peas, groats and plenty of it.
The birds are at this time ,late September, happily paired and on open hole. Rearing a single youngster from the season's top performers, they will remain paired until around Christmas before being split. Once split they will go onto a lighter diet before the pairing preparation begins once again for the following season
My ambition was to win the London & SECC Tarbes, the BICC Barcelona race and after that an International. Unfortunately the LSECC has now been disbanded so its now a case of Barcelona or bust!"
There you have it then "straight from the horses mouth" so to speak.
As you can see there are no hard and fast rules at the Hales establishment. David prefers to pair and rear from the cocks after racing has finished and not pair the next year. The cocks this way seem to take longer to come into top condition without being forced although they seem to last the whole season possibly better. David feels that you seem to get earlier form when you pair and rear in say March and although the Internationals start early, it's a long time to keep decent form between Pau in June and Perpignan in early August. However, using this method, the fancier gets the chance to try youngsters from the better proven long distance racers at the end of each season.
During my visit I handled a number of top class long distance racers including possibly the "star" of the loft - a long cast blue called "Tubby". This long distance slogger has 3rd Open BICC Marseille[670th Open International];8th Open BICC Marseille 637 miles plus 7th & 9th Open BICC Pau International including 110th Open International overall, being clocked twice on the day at Pau.
Tubby was bred from an Alan Parker hen when paired to a cock obtained from Fauch Brothers.
Tubby's brother, another long cast blue cock has won 1st 74th Open BICC Perpignan and in the year that he won the Perpignan race he had already flown Tarbes twice beforehand.
Amongst the photos that accompany this report is one of a pigeon called "Jake", this is David's that has flown Barcelona 709 miles in 2012 and 2013. He proved to be a lovely shallow keeled and long cast dark chequer with silky feathering. Jake's pedigree shows a strong influence of Brugemann Brothers "Orhan", "Myra", "Sutra" and "Tycha" lines crossed with Jan Theelen "Rode Rene" lines.
Bred in 2009, Jake flew Guernsey and Falaise as a youngster then Tarbes BICC as a yearling, he was 8th bird to the loft and could have been in the top 50 of the result if clocked but David used a junior which already had 6 birds with 2 rubbers in so was full.
He went to NFC Tarbes in 2011 and came home steady but not in the clock.
In 2012 not paired before racing he had a couple of inland races plus a couple of channel races the final one being 292 miles Tours with the BICC. He was then flown at home and trained to Brighton a couple of times. Sent to Barcelona for his first attempt at 700 miles he ended up 4th Open BICC. He recovered so well he was sent back to Perpignan 617 miles a month or so later where he was again first bird to the loft being 45th Open BICC.
In 2013 he was paired early March and reared a single youngster. He had 2 inland races then 2 short channel races with the BICC and EECC. He was not raced for 3 weeks prior to the Barcelona race but flown and trained a few times. The cock had taken a slight knock to his keel in the build up and David had seriously thought about leaving him at home but his condition and health saw him off to Barcelona for the second year running. It was a very tough race but Jake showed his quality again being 2nd bird to the loft finishing 14th Open BICC. Because of the toughness of the race and his previous knock David decided that was enough for the season.
The 2013 1st Open BICC Marseille winner proved to be a terrific , medium sized pencil blue cock of Biss x Alan Parker bloodlines.
Dave ended up not only winning Marseille but also the 2 bird average along with the best average Pau and Barcelona and as mentioned above, also winning the Europa trophy for the best average Pau, Barcelona, Marseille and Perpignan.
All birds handled during our visit were, as you would expect with a fancier of David's calibre, in excellent condition. Just as we were about to go inside for a warming cup of tea, David let the cocks out for a fly and they were still going strong 45 minutes later even though the traps were open for them to re enter the loft at any time - and this in late January during a howling gale.
The return journey to our base in Harlow Old Town was undertaken in a thunderstorm accompanied by gale force winds and was a pretty "hairy" experience I can tell you! So much so that when we neared the hotel we nearly knocked down a policeman who was halting the traffic due to a fallen tree which was blocking the road.
Nevertheless, we got back safely and were soon in the company of Steve Pearmain, Pat Mahoney and Charlie Simmons who had braved the storm and travelled all the way from Basildon and Wickford to have a convivial drink with two travelling Welshmen. Your company was greatly appreciated lads.
1stOpen BICC MarseilleGB09N99490-layout
David Hales Barcelona Cock Jake[see text]
David Hales'Champion Tubby see text for performances
DavidHales 1st Open Marseille and Europa Cup winner Best Average all International races
Hens section with easy clean grid system
One of the coks' sections
The Hales loft
David Hales and Duncan Goodchild