Over the past few years, Mike’s main ambition has been to win a National, and after winning his section twice, being 2nd Open and 4th Open, he thought it would never come. He is over the moon to have won, although it was a very tense time for him and his wife whilst waiting for confirmation, knowing there would be fanciers further north yet to time in. They both play a very active role in the pigeons and as Mike is self employed, a team approach is needed although he said he is able to take time to be with the birds as and when required. His son Daniel has also become very keen over the last three years with his own team at different location, and this had allowed Mike and his wife to go on holiday for a week, knowing the birds would be very well looked after. “Just let them out when you can” Mike said before they left, although Daniel did not want to and the pigeons were confined to the loft for a week. This was just four weeks ago, so when they returned Mike sent them to Messac with the local club to tighten up their fitness, a nice ten hour fly would do them good he thought. It turned out to be a little more difficult and the National winning pigeon took thirteen and a half hours before he came, “although he flew straight through the window to his hen waiting in his box and looked as fresh as a Daisy” Mike said.
The following few days he was bouncing around the loft, flying off on his own for ten minutes or so, when Mike discovered he was chasing a little blue hen at his friends loft just down the street. Locally known as “Tiny” Mike asked him if he could borrow the hen, just in case he needed it, as the cock was so interested in her. He agreed and the hen was put to one side. The little cock was being so individual around the loft and returned from Messac without being tired, Mike decided to mark him down for the National Flying Club race from Sigogne, a distance of 506 miles.
On marking day he put the widowhood hens to the team as usual and when he picked up the little cocks hen, she began cooing strongly so he thought she would be alright for the cock and she went all over him straight away, but after a while she lost interest and just sat looking out of the box so Mike removed her and waited five minutes before replacing her with the new blue hen borrowed from Tiny. She went crazy when she saw him and was all over him, so much so that his plumage had to be straightened out as he was put into the basket to go to the marking station with just two other loft mates. “it was Tiny’s blue hen that made him come” he said. So he has called his little chequer National winner “Tiny”.
In a very neat and tidy set up, Mike races a very small team of pigeons, and although he has enough nest boxes in his lofts for many more cocks, he prefers to keep just four or five per section. He says he has advised his son Daniel “the most important thing is to find the individuals and the only way is to watch them, so you can give them your full attention”, this he finds is more effective with just a few good birds. He races the team on the traditional widowhood system, paired up on Valentines Day, allowed to rear youngsters, and parted when they are sitting six to eight days on the second round of eggs. If one or two pairs take longer to go down, he will pot egg them and not let them rear at all hens and young birds can come away at the same time, letting the team settle into a routine as quick as possible. They are fed in a trough and Verselle Super Widowhood is in front of them all day, they can have what they want and are never hungry. The feeder is removed each evening and any excess is given to the young birds, so nothing goes to waste and Mike insists it is important that the birds can pick out what they want, when they want. He has not used any medication for ten years or more and keeps everything as natural as possible, the only thing they get is multi vitamins on a Sunday in the water. His young birds are races natural too, he does not put them on the darkness and thinks it is too stressful on the birds to have them moult twice in one year. “They have enough stress and strain during the season without putting them through that” he said. He thinks it is the cause of young bird sickness experienced by many these days, although his birds do not get it.