"Mr Otto Meyer - Breeding & the Trenton's" - "SIDE B"
(American Masters Series - Volume 2 - Cassette Tape, transcribed By D. Pianto)
Race birds should be flown to eggs not youngsters and this applies especially to the longer races. Many pigeon men feel that the bird that's feeding youngsters will hurry home to that youngster, it sounds very good but it doesn't work that way. I'll never forget, and in the Army I had a good pigeon man and this man had an idea he could fly his old birds to youngsters, I said well I want you to try both methods, try one compartment on eggs, try the other compartment on youngsters. He did and he didn't believe what I told him.
But after the races he came to me and thanked me, he said I never knew that, he said I didn't believe it when you told me, but he said all of my cock birds and winners were on eggs in the longer races, he said I didn't clock one of those birds that was feeding youngsters.
Well that man has made All American several times already. I'm not going to mention his name but that just goes to show, it's part of the training and should fly the old birds to eggs and not youngsters.
You may wonder whether or not I use medication, I use very little medication. The only medication I do use is to control worms, not for cures.
Many men like to feed Vitamins, Vitamins are fine, but if you go to a Doctor it'll be rare if you find a Doctor that will prescribe Vitamins for you. He'll tell you if you wanted to try them, you ask him he'll say, "Well if you want to take them then alright", but they just don't seem to prescribe them, however, I will say Vitamins aid the birds and make them better speed.
It may not be necessary for racing purposes, but I do think that pigeons given Vitamins will make better speed and there are many different concoctions you can buy on the open market. Many are advertised in our pigeon magazines, which you can purchase there and some of them don't tell you what they are, but they are good and these things are nice to know.
You try them and if they work fine, continue with them and if they don't work try another, but you don't have to be doping your pigeons with a lot of medication. I do like Vitamins for speed and that's all.
Well Mr Meyers you really answered a lot of different questions for us, I think was very well presented.
Thank you there are many other things. There's one thing I'd like to mention is feed. Now the use of feed during the racing season is very important. You should never change to any different type of feed once you start to race carry the same feed.
Many of the professional pigeon men buy enough feed to last them through an entire race season so they wont even have to buy a new quantity. They know it's the same feed and that is good because it wont throw your birds off, but if you change feeds you you'd be surprised you'd be at the bottom of the lists.
I can assure you I've seen good pigeon men that didn't notice, ah just one recently who couldn't understand why? I said did you change feed? He said, "Yes I did run out". Well that was it and he was down in the races for several weeks, until he came back up again.
Now as to the feed, you may ask, want to know, what is the best feed to be using? I'm not going to prescribe specific grains, but I will say that conditioning feed which is more on the order of breeding feed without all the course grains in it, is far better feed for long distance, than the racing pigeons eat, which consists of four or five grains, such as Maple Peas, Canadian Peas, Vetch and Corn.
Now those feeds are all right for youngsters, I don't mean as squeakers but when training youngsters. Youngsters seem to fly on it all right up to about 200 miles, old birds will fly on it well up to about 200 miles then you have to change. When you change you throw your birds out of condition, for the old birds, so I feed the conditioning feed from the very beginning of the old birds all the way through and the old birds will make 500 and 600 miles per day on that type of feed in other words, it gives them a better variety and gives them a number of small grains too, such as Wheat, Capricorn, Milo, Canary Seed, Millet, Rape, Hemp and many others of the smaller grains.
I also like Rice; Rice is an excellent grain to add. You should carry a lot, 3 to 4 per cent Rice in your feed all the time especially in hot weather, because it's just like a Chinaman, you work all day on a handful of Rice, so it is the pigeons will fly in the heat of the day if he feeds them Rice.
Another thing, by feeding Rice, Rice will swell up and carry water, so the pigeon won't have to go down for water on the route home, and Rice is a good source of energy as well, made primarily of starch and starch is energy and you probably have a lot more question, I'm not going to bother you anymore on the training and conditioning of pigeons, we'll go on to something else.
Well one question, I did have a question about, you're talking about the birds flying faster to eggs, is there any specific time, as far as how many days on eggs that seem to be?
Yes I'm very glad you asked that because you should not ship a hen that's just laid, you should hold her for at least eight days, preferably ten days or longer before you race her, because then her vent bones will be back to normal and she will be in wonderful tip top condition, shape, top health and she will give you a good performance.
Now of course the longer you can keep her on eggs the better. One of my good friends who was all American 4 or 5 times told me that he even, 18 days or so when the hen would get off the eggs, he'd slip a little bit of a squeaker about 2 or 3 days old to that hen, just for a day and then take it out and put the eggs back in and she'd continue to sit for maybe another week and he said he won a few 600 mile races doing that and the birds had been sitting for 21 or 22 days, so that's a good thing but remember don't fly the hen and the cock is usually not in good shape either, if the hen has just laid, the cock is worn out from driving, let him rest up too.
So the formulation of pigeon milk during the last few days is not an indication of any thing then?
No, not unless you have extremely hot weather, if you have hot weather it may have some effect then. This gentleman lived up in the North, as mentioned 5 times All American and he was not bothered with any heat, but here in the South you may have to watch that closely.
What about the Cock birds, what period of time do they do best at?
On eggs, you can fly a cock even when he's driving, if it's not a long race and you'll get a good race out of him, on the shorter races if a cock is driving, but I am a little wary of about sending yearlings, because yearlings when they drive go a little crazy and they get a little half cocked and you might lose a good yearling, but a two year old or older can be flown safely in the shorter races when driving and if it's not a hard race may win that race for you. I like driving cocks in short races, that is if there two years or older. Now I hope I haven't taken up too much time on this one?
No that was very good Otto, why don't we go, move into a little about the breeding program that you instigate there, kind of what you look for and what kind of breeding program you use?
I size a pigeon man by his ability to breed good pigeons, almost anyone can race well providing he gets good pigeons and is told how to race them and with little coaching he can fly well, race well, but for breeding it takes a little more study and my opinion, a man is not a top pigeon man until he can breed good pigeons, as well as flying them, because breeding good pigeons is much more difficult than just racing.
There are many things, which, I watch, in selecting pigeons for stock and I look over my youngsters every year and I do it daily you might say. I keep my eye on certain birds, how they were developing and I don't' like pigeons that are too large. Birds in one family should be of the size of that family.
When you get birds that are too large (Giants) too that family, I wouldn't consider them for stock unless you had too and then you could conduct what we call a compromised breeding program, which sometimes we are forced to do, because we don't have anything else, but try to keep your birds uniformed in size that is important.
Another thing, make sure they have the proper wing feathers and body feathers, also another thing and this is Number One for me, many people do not realise the importance yet, but if they studied pigeons as long as I have and studied the eye, I'm sure they would agree, that the eye is the first thing that I study, if it hasn't got the proper eye, I don't want to waste time on the bird, because the eye will tell you whether or not that bird is a good breeder, whether or not he's a good racer or both and if he doesn't have the proper eye qualities, he's not going to breed good pigeons.
He might breed one once in a while if you have him on a good mate, but why waste a good mate on a bird, that's not capable of producing good all of the time. Now when I say all of the time that would be rare because even our good birds usually don't do that. If you get a percentage of 75% of the youngsters out of one pair that fly through the young bird series and you have them at the end of the old bird series, I consider your doing quite well.
If you lose 3 or 4 perhaps, re-mate them, when I say re-mate them, mate them to other birds, maybe you'll do better and 50% average of youngsters at the end of the season is not bad.
You could keep that pair mated, maybe they'll do better the next year and if they don't change them and you'll discover which birds really do your producing and those that don't, unload them, put them back on the road and fly them if you wish, but don't waste time occupying space in the breeding loft, it's too valuable.
Another thing I watched and especially on birds that are not flown as whether or not they are right handed or left handed pigeons and many men probably never heard of this, you might laugh when you do, but it's true as can be, some pigeons are changeable, some are right handed today, tomorrow they'd be left handed, those that are not changeable, a bird that is always right handed or the bird that is always left handed should be mated to one of the opposite, other words, a right handed bird should be mated to a left handed bird.
Now if you're a racing pigeon man and your working on birds in your race team, I can assure you, you have eliminated all those birds that are strong right handed and strong left handed. The birds in your race team will usually be changeable, one day their left the next day their right, back and forth, so you don't have to worry about it, but your birds that have not been flown and their bred out of good stock, watch and make sure you get a right handed and a left handed bird together.
What's an indication of that Otto?
What's an indication of argh, how do you determine right handed and left handed pigeons?
You determine by the tail feathers. Now there are Twelve tail feathers in the tail, Six on each side and naturally the middle of the tail either the right side or the left side tail feather has to overlap the one on the left or left will be at the top of that one on the right and if it's on, which ever one is on top and I use the birds right not my own when I'm holding the bird facing you, I mark it down as the birds right and that is a good thing.
If you get two right handed birds try to mate them, strong right hands you'll find won't mate, one will get pecked up, the cock will just pick the hen raw. Take two left handed birds, same thing. These are just a few of the many things that I watch in breeding.
You know Otto, you've mentioned Eye Sign a couple of times, once in the breeding and once in the flying, could you give us a little bit of information on that?
Yes Eye Sign is the circle of the eye immediately surrounding the Pupil. Now you see this with the naked eye, with a glass you can see it better. I like a complete circle eye sign, they come in different colours, these colours are viable for certain things, some are good for long distance, others good for fast days, others good for hard days, in other words I can look at your bird and I'll tell you where it will do the best, I can't tell you definitely if the bird will be a winner, but I'll tell you where he will score the best, at 1200 yards or 900 yards, 1500 yards.
I will tell you approximately where he will do the best, to give you his best performance when he's in proper condition. Now of course you take a bird that has Black eye sign or a Green as mentioned by Cranston? The Green is considered according to Cranston? as number one . It's number one for a hard day only, don't expect that Green or a bird with a Black eye sign to win on a fast race, he just won't do it. If you ever here of one winning, I'd like to know about it, I've never heard of it myself, but the lighter coloured eye signs such as Yellow, those are for your faster speeds.
Also you have what we call Silver eye signs, that's probably the finest of all eye signs. Also you may find these eye signs pigmented with Black specks in them, that's always good, but with the Silver eye sign it's good for long distances, short distances, good weather, foul weather, the bird is always there, that's the best you can get, there not common, you find them sometimes in the Violet eye and I like a Violet eye, the colour of the iris doesn't mean too much, it's interesting and the eye sign colour is the important part.
Now there's another part of the eye, I'm not going to go into too deeply because I have to have a pigeon to show this to you, otherwise you may never find it if you don't know about it and it's commonly called the Inner Circle. Some people call it the Inner Eye Sign.
Another circle immediately next to the pupil, between the eye sign and the pupil itself and it cannot be seen unless you have a 10? Glass, Microscope and a strong light and once you see this circle, and once it's shown to you, it is important especially for breeding and you'll find that those birds that have a heavy black inner circle and the correct name for that is Sphincter, that is the technical or scientific name, Sphincter Muscle, and by the way, that muscle has never been photographed.
No one has ever been able to photograph that circle as yet, all they do talk about it, but the eye sign is commonly photographed and appears in some of the English Magazines, especially the Pictorial review, and they have some beautiful pictures, not only of the pigeon, but they show the eyes of the parents as well. Those eye photographs are very, very, nice and are interesting to study.
Another nice thing I like in the eye is, you'll see that the eye sign and the iris, kind of loop back and forth, a good indication of a long distance bird and then when they say that the bird is well wired it means it's good for long distances. Now I hope I haven't omitted any thing else?
That was very enjoyable Mr Meyer and we could probably do a whole tape just on eye sign.
Well why don't we move along and maybe, I wanted to ask you, kind of what you do to maintain the vitality in the family?
Yes, now in that respect I think it's important that a person conducts an inbreed, line breeding, now this is very important especially if you have an outstanding pigeon and you want to retain some of those outstanding qualities.
In other words you have a pigeon with an outstanding eye, eye quality you want to retain and if you go mating that pigeon to an outcross your going to lose that quality.
Every time you outcross, your cutting it in half, but by inbreeding and line breeding, by that I mean mating of brother and sister together, breeding the son back to the mother or the daughter back to the father, and continue this for two generations, maybe three, but one caution, you must be extremely ruthless in the selection of stock you retain.
Inbreeding will fix the good qualities; it will also fix the bad qualities. Those that don't have the good qualities should be eliminated. These are the poor specimens; they'll do you no good. You can give them to some friend if he'd like to try them and he can outcross them, but there no any further use to you, but the good qualities can be retained and fixed after you inbreed and line breed these birds for several generations and you get this quality fixed in the birds, you can outcross them and don't lose it.
The same as though when the youngsters come out when their crossed and they just look like the old original one which was inbred or line bred and that's an important thing to remember and keep in mind to do, this inbreeding and line breeding should not be conducted just as a matter of course, it's only when you have something really special that you want to retain. You should have a good reason.
Now in this connection if you want to produce hybrid birds and these are the birds that have that extra vitality, the extra zip, you want to become an outstanding winner you should breed hybrid birds and the way that is done is that you take two different families and inbreed them, then you cross those two inbred families and you will be surprised at what you produce.
You will produce some beautiful looking pigeons far superior than the parents and you'll have the vigour that you need in the long races and to lead.
Hybrid birds are great pigeons, not too good for reproducing, sometimes they do well but the hybrids are primarily for racing. Now I think I've covered that part?
How many pairs do you normally maintain Otto?
I usually mate about 40 pairs, sometimes I have more than that, rarely do I have less than that, usually I have more and of course from my race team I usually let them mate any way they want unless there's some special bird I want to reproduce, then I'll catch him and all my mated pairs are mated separately.
I don't just throw 40 cocks and 40 hens in the loft and let them select their own mate, no indeed, I select them carefully myself and they've been separated long enough so they should go together as you put them together, they way you want them.
Don't let them see their old mates till after they have been settled to the nest box good, and I settle each pair to one nest box and I pen them up and let one pair out at a time and back after they've eaten and drunk and put them back into the box and let out another pair, and after they get down on eggs, let a few pairs out at a time and gradually let them all out.
Then you know that the youngsters out of the first round are absolutely out of that pair, then no canoodling, no funny business going on, these youngsters are definitely from that original pair that you mated and you can retain certain family bloodlines by doing this by making these mating's. For a beginner this we'll leave to come under the next question.
That was my next question, I was basically going to ask you, closing or getting close towards the end of our tape, and I thought that it might be well if you could kind of give us a summary of what one could do to develop a family?
Very well, I think a beginner or anyone who wishes to establish his loft on one family should acquire 3 to 6 pairs and he should get the best that he can obtain, get them from one loft for they'll all be of one family and these pairs can be re-mated if you wish, try their youngsters and those that don't fly too well, change the parents, change the mating of the parents and usually one of the 6 pairs you'll find you have maybe 3 possibly 4 maybe only 2 pairs that really produce well, then you concentrate on those best pairs and placing those others in from time to time and by doing so you're going to have one family of pigeons that look alike, same size and handle the same and they take the same amount of training.
You don't have to knock yourself out to conditioning one big bird and ruining the small ones, they all take the same amount of handling and training the same and you will have a good family that you can depend on.
You'd do far better than just having pigeons from this man, another man and so forth, you'll have birds that won't stand back of you in the race loft and give you a good performance. Now, anything else?
Well I think we're real close to ending, I would like to do, Otto to come back and do an interview with you regarding your Feather Reading and maybe get into a few subjects that we've think covered?
I will say on feather reading it's an interesting subject, because it tells you so many things and what it tells you is really be as accurate as if not more accurate than the records being kept by the majority of pigeon men, tell you how many pairs of eggs the hen laid, how many youngsters she produced, the same with the cock, if you have re-mated either of the birds you can tell that in the wings of pigeons.
You can tell whether or not a bird has been out overnight, if it is a race bird, it will tell what round of youngsters it was raised from itself, it will tell you whether or not the bird is best for short distance racing or long distance racing and the ninth flight feather is a good feather for conditioning.
It tells you the condition of the bird by an oil spot an inch and a half from the end and on the narrow side of the feather and that oil spot will appear just the time you need it for the old bird races, April, May and June.
It starts out with a small little dot and as time goes on it's spread further and gets larger. If the pigeon has that oil spot, he's in good general health, you can depend on that.
Also the feather reading will tell you whether or not you have a food family of pigeons that is straight, that is one family, strain, same as an outcross, it will tell you whether or not that strain is outcrossed and usually you can determine how many outcrosses have been introduced.
It is a great thing in my opinion, it's one of the most important things introduced to the sport in the past 50 years. You don't have to ask a man too much about a pigeon you can look at it yourself.
Right, well thanks very much Otto, and like I say, I think that would make and interesting tape in the future.
We've been talking this afternoon with Mr Otto Meyer, M.E.Y.E.R, certainly one of America's Racing Pigeon Masters.