Our world of sport – Pigeon Racing
Lee Walker is secretary of the Sheerness Flying Club and has been involved in the sport since he was introduced to pigeons by his grandparents. He tells us about a sport that faces many challenges but that he and many others find addicting.
TO BE INVOLVED
My grandmother and grandfather had been carrier pigeons since the 1950s and at 14 I got involved myself. My grandfather passed away at that time, my grandmother was not the most mobile, so she took me and one of my partnered brothers to run the birds.
I spent as many hours as I could around school life with my nan, helping with cleaning, feeding them, watching them fly around the shed exercising and leaving with my uncles to train them while we had good results in Channel Racing.
I’m not racing at the moment, when my Nan passed away, with myself aging and with professional commitments, I didn’t have time to spend with her and got married and moved into my house. own house with my wife. We are renting an apartment and it is not the ideal configuration!
Our long term plan is to find our own place so that I can get back to the racing side of things. I miss it. Since 2003, I have become the club secretary of Sheerness Flying Club, so I have spent many hours making sure that the administrative aspect of running the club and getting results for the members when the birds come back be finished. I’m still very involved, even if I don’t get my hands on part of the sport, which is the most rewarding part.
THE CALL ?
It’s one of those addicting things that once you’re involved, although you can have ups and downs, it’s very hard to get out of it.
There were members who left for different reasons and 15 to 20 years or more, they came back. It’s one of those things that’s hard to get away from when it’s in your blood. For me, it’s quite interesting to see a youngster hatch and take him into his life, then take him to practice, watch him come home, then send him to the run and watching him come home and take care of them day in and day out. daytime. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and what you put into something is rewarded with loving their home environment enough that they want to come back.
STATE OF SPORT
The sport as a whole is in rapid decline, at a very rapid pace. Unfortunately, there are very few young people arriving and the members are getting older and older.
We don’t have the limbs behind to carry it for the long haul. The Royal Pigeon Racing Association has launched initiatives in parts of the country where it has offered its support to schools, to get them to set up a community loft, where children can handle pigeons and get involved in care, but I think there is a lot of room for this to be increased. This is the only way to prevent the sport from disappearing completely.
Lots of factors go into it, you have more renters than owners, owners are as funny with animals as you can imagine so it’s not easy. Newer properties don’t always have the largest gardens now. The biggest problem is that generations of children now prefer to be stuck in front of game consoles or their TVs and phones and not have that preparation to take care of something and take care of something for hours a day, everyday. It’s a change of attitude in people.
The upfront expense of getting started in sport doesn’t come cheap. It’s quite expensive to start with, but once you’ve set up the pigeon loft you don’t necessarily have to pay a lot of money to buy pigeons. When you join a local club these members will always come together and raise birds to help you get started, members are very helpful, they will lend you some of their knowledge, not all of their secrets, but it’s the same thing that all.
SECRETS OF SUCCESS
Pigeons are trained to be taken from their homes to certain places and released to come back and as to what makes a good pigeon that is a very difficult question to answer.
It’s something that people don’t really know, we never really found out what made the pigeon come home. This is one of the secrets that we pigeons would never want to know.
People have their own theories, there is the theory about the earth’s magnetic fields used to navigate, some think they use landmarks and a good day when a pigeon is as high as it can be , they can see up to 25 miles. This suggests that they can use some benchmarks.
Like many other sports, different pigeons are successful at different distances. Some can be very good at races up to 150 miles, but not as good at races up to 600-700 miles. A lot of it depends on how you train them and how you feed them. The longer they have to go, the more high energy corn they need. Birds that are sprinting distance will have a lighter diet but with more explosive energy so they can cover shorter distances at a faster pace. On a good day, with a tail wind, a pigeon can fly over 70-80 mph. They can certainly go. For a bird that flies long distances, it can average 35 to 40 mph the entire distance.
The world record price for a carrier pigeon was broken in 2020, a Chinese bought a pigeon, a two year old hen, from an amateur in Belgium which brought in £ 1.4million.
At the club level now the UK cash prizes are negligible, they wouldn’t even cover your running costs, but it’s more for fun. As you move up through the levels you can compete nationally to compete for Channel Race honors and the birds come back from Spain and France then there are cash prizes some races may have cars as a prize but in places like Belgium, France and Holland the sport is still huge and the prize money is there for them.
RUN IN KENT
The format we use in Kent is that there are a number of clubs in the county and that are split into two federations, Kent Premier and Kent Cosmopolitan, then they become the top tier.
When you fly as a member, although you fly against your own members, you also have the honor of piloting the federation and we belong to a federation which has 12 clubs. These are all competing for the honors of the federation and the prestige that this brings. A club can send an average of 100 to 200 pigeons, a federation can send 1500 to 2000 pigeons. For five or six weeks of the year the two Kent federations come together to form the Kent Invicta South Road, these are usually longer races and the two federations compete against each other.
Last season Covid affected us a lot as it reduced the length of the season, we never started until June when we usually started the second or third week of April.
We typically had 14 breeds of old birds and seven breeds of young birds which was reduced to seven and seven. With social distancing it had a huge impact on the club environment as we couldn’t all get together. the same time. It had a negative impact on the life of the club and the social side of things.
During the winter we couldn’t have any meetings. As a club we have adapted as much as possible using technology rather than the face to face contact that we would like and hope to have as we move forward on the lockdown roadmap.
During the Christmas period and early this year, bird flu placed restrictions on the movement of pigeons with exercise only allowed around the loft for up to one hour a day, ensuring that that they do not mix with wild birds. too long and lessening the risk of influenza entering the sheds and spreading. These restrictions are now lifted, but the pigeon sport license has not yet been returned to us by DEFRA to allow the race. The governing body is working to lift this restriction.