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pigeon The Champion pigeons
By: Ken Easley 07/25/00

The true champion is hard to produce but never hard to recognize. We may think we have one coming along but time usually paints a different picture. Most of us are able to produce pretty darn good rollers along the way. Some of these are very nice but disappointment usually comes, due to them doing something to let us down. At times I am sure we have all thought maybe this is as good as they get. Maybe our expectations are just too high. If one keeps trying to improve his stud slowly and carefully the results will follow. The addition of a key bird here and there may be required.

At some point we will become more impressed but still not completely satisfied. Then it happens, we will raise a bird that is outstanding. He will be head and shoulders above the rest. With patience and proper use of the champion several outstanding birds from this line will be the foundation for an outstanding family of rollers.

These birds will not roll down to the ground or ever hit anything. Some of them will be able to roll different depths, which we very much like to see. These types seem to enjoy rolling. We won’t have trouble with them getting lost in overflies because they rarely go out of site and have excellent homing instincts. For those who may be at an impasse. They can get as good as we make them through proper matings.

It will be noticed that some birds will be very balanced and typy but lack the mental aspect required for outstanding performance. Another problem encountered when searching for the champion is the occasional bird that is fairly balanced and rolls to a decent degree and has shown itself to be stable but lacks the perfect body for high speed. To make things even more complicated, there are birds that are typy, balanced, stable and have outstanding speed but must be starved down to keep them in viewing distance or they won’t reproduce themselves.

This is the reason that so very few true champions are raised. The true champion is outstanding in every regard.

All performance aspects of the roller are a balancing act between the body type and mental type. To produce good rollers we need the correct mental type as well as the correct body type. These types may not be identical in every bird. The mental strength or propensity to roll must be in correct proportions to the physical strength of the bird.

The most important and difficult to establish factor is producing the correct mental type and locking it into the gene pool. What is meant by the proper gene pool? This would be owning a hen and a cock that are of a similar stable fast rolling type and come from common family built from such types for many generations. Offspring are a direct result of the genes of the ancestors, so it stands to reason that you will produce a higher percentage of good rollers if there are many good rollers in the background.

Second, what is the correct mental type. This would be birds that are strong and enjoy rolling with confidence and control. The birds that are able to control when and where they roll. This includes the ability to roll with outstanding quality.

Many will try to tell us that they have picked a good roller from the perch when in reality they have no idea what the bird is capable of. The best and more sound approach is to prove them out in the air before stocking them.

Another required element is proper training. Proper training is accomplished when these birds have been flown on a regular basis until maturity, which does not take place before the first adult molt. The adult molt is the molt that takes place the second season of flying.

The reason proper training is important is the fact that genetic makeup can be modified or sharpened through the development or experiences of the individual bird. It is a minuet amount, but everything counts. Some will have us believe that what is in the genetic makeup is there at birth and all is learned behavior. Not so, remember the Galapagos turtles? One set of turtles on one island had short necks because the shrubs they ate were short. On another island the turtles had much longer necks and could reach higher due to the shrubs being higher on that island. How did this happen? The turtles with the longest necks always survived the best and passed these genes on. Eventually the neck length was visibly different.

Rollers are no different. They evolve how we allow them to. If you want good rollers, how should you make them? I think it is obvious to most.

I believe that there are many different types of rolling genetic makeup that can surface.

I would say that there are a minimum of ten different types of genetic makeup that will produce a roll. These would include single types and combinations of several. It is similar to the color aspect of genetic related activity.

One genetic type may produce the donut roll whereas a different type produces the deep fast ball roll. I may be wrong, but I believe that the ball roller and the donut are almost the same except the body type being better on the donut roller. There is the short roll, the tumble and the twizzler. There are slow deep rollers and fast deep roll downs. These different types of roll are like the different types of colors except the only way to see the type of roll is by viewing them in flight. One may build a decent picture of the genetic makeup of a bird in the breeding pen by switching mates and flying out the young. Good records are required for this type of research and it should be considered second choice behind using proven rollers from the old bird kit.

First of all we have a bird that will flip over. This is caused by an impulse or sudden fit something like an eye twitch. When there are two of these impulses back to back it will create a double flip. When multiple impulses to flip over happen, we get rolling. There are birds that roll faster than the rest, and this is caused by the impulse to flip over coming in faster intervals.

The speed of roll, as well as the duration of these impulses determines the depth. An analogy of this would be a rifle shot would compare to a single flip, whereas a machine gun would be like a deep roll.

We also find there are different strengths of the impulses.

A rolldown has a long series of impulses that are so strong that he cannot stop himself except by hitting the ground. Sometimes this will not stop them. I have seen birds roll down to the ground then keep rolling across the ground like a parlor tumbler. This would be the really strong impulses. The birds with weaker impulses range anywhere from a champion to a bird that can overcome this urge and not roll at all. We have all heard the saying that some birds are possessed by the roll while some birds’ posses the roll. The birds that possess the roll are the ones that are able to overpower the urge to roll until they feel like cutting loose. They are also able to roll different depths due to being able to control the starting and stopping point of the impulses. They can roll at lower altitudes and adjust the depth and or speed as needed. These are the most desirable, but the most rare to find.

Sometimes we see the occasional bird that will roll really fast then lock the wings and sail down for some distance until he is able to overcome the impulses. This is a bird that has strong impulses to keep rolling but has learned a way to save himself. With time and age they will generally overcome this affliction. It is however a fault and the bird should not be used in the breeding pen.

Taking this into consideration it only makes sense that when we pair our birds; we should take these points into consideration.

It seems that the best way to have some control over the outcome is by using the birds that perform in the air to your standards in the breeding pen and by eliminating the ones that do not. The only way to figure this out is to fly them out. The value of a roller is measured by what they do in the air. What they look like should be considered only after they pass the flying test. Anybody can raise a nice looking roller but these beauties are only interesting to the beginner, as their worth in the air is little.

Every time you stock a bird without properly flying them out, it is just like throwing the dice. You are gambling that the bird’s offspring will perform like he looks. This will also be a setback in the picture you are building of your breeders and how to properly select mates. For example how would you mate a fast tight roller that was in the 15’ range if you wanted to keep the speed and add depth? By mating a deeper roller to this bird. How could one know which was a deeper roller without flying them out?

There is absolutely no way in the world that one can tell correctly whether a bird is sound by merely looking at the bird on the ground except after many years of flying and observing the best as well as the worst in the air and on the ground. I would say a minimum of thirty years is required to make decisions with any certainty based on the looks of a bird on the ground. Even then why would you want to do this when you are able to fly them?

The only possible reason is the looks of the bird in question. All is decided by the looks of a bird and not by it’s merit as a performer.

The intelligence of a person comes into play when mating birds but nothing including super intelligence will replace experience.

Some will try to convince us that stocking a bird early is not due to the looks of a bird. We will find there is no difference in this and color or show pen breeding. Some will say; I flew them for a season and they were excellent. That is wonderful but we have all seen birds that rolled excellent the first season only to change wings or roll down the second season.

Some will try to convince us that the roller can be produced by almost any bird whether it be a cull, champion or brother to such and that “proving them out” in the breeding pen is a good practice. This can be done, but on a larger scale what is taking place is the correct genetic makeup hits now and again giving the owner a false sense of reasoning.

The suspect bird produces a good one and the owner feels as if his suspicions have been confirmed, (because that is what he wants) when the truth is the bird carried the genetic makeup of many and happened to hit the right one that time. If the owner would use only the best air tested birds’ year after year, generation after generation, he would begin to realize the benefits of multiplying the genetic chances of duplicating the best.

Let us do a little analogy here. What if you had all black badges? Let us say that you acquired a red bird. If you wanted you could turn the whole flock red. You ask how? You breed the red to one of the blacks and get a black that carries red. By mating this black back to the red, many reds can be produced. After a while you will have many reds by using the reds. There will be a time frame when either color may be raised. This is where some guys are stuck raising rollers. They mate a red one and a black one together and get a red. When they get a red, they believe that this is good enough. When in reality, if they were to keep breeding the reds together and eliminate the blacks they would eventually have a very high percentage of reds.

We will do better percentage wise to use birds that, generation after generation have performed properly in the air thus locking in the multiplied chances of breeding better birds. It is difficult for me to explain. I am sure there are others with better communication skills that could convey my thoughts better. The genes or genetic makeup that causes a roller to roll are carried from generations back to the present. The more stable birds in the genetic makeup or background, the better the chances to produce the same.

The choosing of birds on the ground by looks alone without the proper years of experience can be detrimental to the family. Many years of this type of thinking has caused the genes to be mixed to a point that you never know what will pop out. This can be corrected, but only by picking properly selected birds that have been flown out and proven to be sound.

Would you rather have a pair of horses that won the Triple Crown to start your family of thoroughbreds for racing, or would you prefer to start with some really attractive Welsh ponies for racing? If you want to take home the money, I suspect you would prefer the proven performers.

The only consideration other than performance in the air should be type. Type is a bird’s physical makeup. This is before a good portion of outstanding rollers has been developed. After the best are abundant there will be no need to worry about type. The finest rollers always have the right type. If performance is equal, always pick the bird with the best type. If the type is off on the most stable and decent roller you have to use, then pair this bird with one of exceptional type in order to produce birds with both. You may only get one or two out of 20 young raised that carry the good type and the good rolling ability. This will be the starting point to a family that eventually will produce better percentages with proper choices.

To achieve the best results we must fly many rollers till maturity, which is not before two years. Then carefully choose the very best in every way to start the gene pool. Then rather than going backwards to older birds in the family tree we must keep upgrading by using only the best from the air of the same type, increasing our chances of producing more of what we like in a roller.

The best characteristics to keep in mind are:

1. The ability to roll multiple depths (The ability to flip or short roll when close to the ground and deep when at a safe altitude.)

2. The ability to roll fast and tight with good style.

3. Good homing instincts

4. Flying the correct height

5. Good kitting instincts

6. Stability ( no rolldowns)

7. Frequency of roll (one to two times a minute)

When we have established a good number of tight, fast spinning, and stable rollers, then we should start the process of refining the body type. Refinement of body type is difficult to understand until an idea of what the best look and feel like. When this is set in our mind, then and only then can we move to the refinement stage.

The body type on a roller is the determining factor on the style of roll that is produced. The style we are after is the donut. The donut roll is a roll in which the bird spins in a tight ball with a small hole showing from the side. The hole should be no larger than a fifty-cent piece. The preferred ones are tighter still. The hole is the size of a quarter. Only the correct body type will give a clean hole with the outside of the ball being smooth as well, giving the impression of a donut. These types are not produced in great numbers; in fact they are few and far between. These types should be studied closely to put in our mind's eye a picture of the correct body type. An attempt should be made to produce this body type when pairing breeders. All of the champions that I have seen (and they were very few) were tightly wedge shaped, and low on the leg with wing butts showing. This type adds to the overall control a stable bird will have. An extra enhancement if you will. When held in the hand, the body feels compact. The keel feels not too long in fact short with a good pitch or angled toward the vent bones with a small space between the two. The depth is apple-ish feeling, not real deep or shallow, but having some depth in the front. The tail is tight and usually rigid and the bird will be aware of itself including the tail. The tail has a hingy quality wherein if you are holding the bird in a way to allow the tail freedom, it will pop up at a ninety-degree angle. The tail acts as a rudder, (not brakes) and helps the bird to have greater control of direction coming out of the roll and the ability to ball up tight in the roll.

It will be noticed on most of the best birds that the wing butts will be noticeable, giving the appearance of a strong athlete. The head shape is personal preference only. I like them with a slightly flat spot on the top with a good medium length beak. The eyes may be any color or multi-colored with a good strong sheen. Looking as though they possess intelligence and good health. The slight look of almost arrogance can be seen. Liken to that of an eagle, but not to that extent. The bird should be calm with a ready to go look as if he or she is confident and ready to make adjustments to the situation. The low profile look. (Very slightly stealthy) Before they settle down in a show pen it will be noticed that the best will tipi toe just for a second. Some may laugh or make light of these statements. I have had rollers in excess of thirty years and can assure you they all have personalities and fine detailed observation will allow some to understand them. If one is unable to make such observations, they should not worry. It is not necessary to raise champions. The champion will be noticed by any and all that views them in the air. One of the reasons that very few are to be seen is the fact that most of the better breeders will lock them up in the breeding pen after their second season, as they should. Should you see a breeder that claims all birds in the stock pen are champions as described above, let caution be the guide. Should a fellow truly have more than three or four of such birds, then he knows the roller well.

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