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Feeding a Flying Kit of Rollers

By William H. Pensom


I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO WRITE A FEW LINES on how to feed birds to get the best flying and performance out of them. In the first place, you have to have the right kind of pigeons; that is, birds bred for flying and performance. The birds have to be bred for the job they are required to do. There is no way in which we can make a pigeon roll, but we can encourage it to do so. The most important item is regularity in all things, chiefly in the time of liberation and feeding of the birds.

All through life we strive to get our rollers to fly properly, to kit properly, and give a maximum performance at all times. I must have tried everything to master the feeding problem. I have used recipes recommended by many fanciers, old and young. I have never obtained anything from them out of the ordinary. I have found that I get the same results no matter what I feed. The biggest problem so far as feeding goes is to find a solution which gives a consistent result of the highest order.

After practically sixty years with the breed, I now find that feeding is really no problem at all. You can regulate the birds by feeding anything palatable. I am now quite sure that the whole problem is in the birds themselves. You have to have the right kind of birds to begin with. A good bird will answer to any method of feeding so long as the quantity is regulated. Too many fanciers feed too much, but very few feed too little. I will say that various grains will regulate the speed of flight but nothing will make them fly higher or lower. This is entirely a weather or atmospheric condition. We do, however, have to go through the processes of learning how to feed our birds. I might say how to “handle” them. This is a term intended to mean, “management.” The birds should not be mauled unless it is absolutely necessary. Pigeons resent being handled. You should never handle your birds unless you have to. Tame flyers are always a doubtful asset.

One of the best grains that you can feed pigeons is a small yellow corn. You add to this 15% wheat and 10% peas and you have a long-time energy feed for good strong flying. If you want the birds to fly close together and dart about in small circles, feed them plenty of peas. Rollers will fly steady if fed upon an ordinary mixture including 10% inclusive of lentils, flax, millet, rice, rape, and Spanish canary seed. Barley, especially malting barley, is a good cereal for long, high, steady flying, but they do not last long enough on it. Barley and flax seed are especially good during the moulting season. A good red wheat is also good at this time.

There are numerous recipes for feeding rollers, but personally I feel that a good mixture, not very high in protein, and millet seed is all that they need. This should bring out the best in your birds. I have no problems of any kind in flying pigeons. It is very simple. My advice to any roller fancier is to obtain a decent pigeon feed mixture and some millet seed, also of decent quality, and do not overfeed. Get into the habit of flying your birds once a day, whether it be morning, noon, or evening, and be consistent. Birds should not be flown during the heat of a summer day. They should be flown as early in the morning as possible. This is the best time. Never feed before liberation. Always feed the birds after they have flown. Give twenty birds three handfuls of millet, and then give them about six handfuls of the regular feed. Always provide clean water and then shut them up for the day. If they appear too hungry the next day, feed them a little extra of the regular feed. If they are not too hungry, try feeding a handful less, but always feed the same quantity of millet seed.

A good kit of birds should fly no more than one half hour to three-quarters of an hour, the weather always having the final say. If you want to lose your kit, feed them well. Another aid to losing birds is to give extra seeds such as rape, canary seed, linseed, and millet. Then you can say good-bye to your birds. Don’t blame your birds because they do not respond to this type of feeding; blame yourself. If the birds do not respond in good order to the system I have outlined, then you have the wrong kind of stock. You should keep your birds on the small to medium size. They should have average feather cover and be short on the leg. Then you are on the right track.

As I have already said, there is an unlimited number of ways to feed rollers. The simplest is the best way. This includes all your flying breeds. The best way to destroy the better flying and performing qualities of one’s birds is to try and breed what we might term, dual purpose rollers. This is to say, a bird which can roll in the correct manner and win in the show pen at the same time. You are wasting your time. It cannot be done. If you want to show birds, then breed show birds and select the long-keeled, tight-vented birds with excessive feather and big heads. You will never find a champion without a short keel, or shall I say, without some space between keel and vent.
By saying this I do not mean to discourage anybody from the show aspect of rollers. I enjoy the shows and have shown for many years. I am going to try and breed some show birds myself this coming season. I plan to breed these birds for show only. The real roller is subject to a mental condition and cannot be tampered with in the show direction. The danger when considering looks too much, is to lose the better spinning qualities.

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