It was early 2013 when I made a phone call to my good friend Nick Lakiotis to have our monthly conversation about what is happening in the pigeon world. I really enjoyed these conversations I had with Nick because his enthusiasm for life was always refreshing and he doesn’t hold anything back in our discussions. Because he is one the better pigeon racers in the Victorian Homing Association he also seems to be the conduit for very good and reliable information about ‘who is doing what’ in the pigeon fraternity throughout the country.
During our conversation I advised Nick that I had a problem in that I had bred half a dozen youngsters for Bob Stukel who was overstocked and therefore did not need the birds. Nick said to me “Don’t worry Andrew I need more hens in my race team” and promptly came down to pick these birds up. Whilst he was in my loft he noticed a few young hens in my stock loft and said to me “What are those birds in there? Are they are hens?” I replied “These are my Vandenabeeles I have bred for stock”. He said “I need these hens for my race team” I hesitated and he said “Don’t worry if they get high Fed positions I will return them to you”. Well how could I say no to a request like that. I knew these birds would be well looked after and would have the best opportunity to be successful so my newly bred stock birds went to their new home. I also knew that for my birds to be successful in Nicks’ loft they needed to beat his ‘Bird of the Year’ line, so no matter where they came in the federation races they still needed to beat Nicks’ birds.
In 2012 I had used around 24 pairs of stock birds to breed my race team which were mainly a mixture of Houbens, Janssens and Vanloons. From these birds, I had 2 pairs of Vandenabeeles which were raced ‘pure’ for the first time. I had no idea how they were going to race and the only expectations I had for them was that they needed to be competitive in my own team. Well as luck would have it they were not only competitive but they blew the rest of my race team away. During the race season they clocked in every race except for the 600. So I decided that I would sell the majority of my stock birds which I paid good money for and concentrated on the birds that were working for me.
These stock birds I had sourced from a number of fanciers which included the Lu Ping birds from Keith Saggers, Jack Vanderlinden – Little Boy lines and Des Sippets. They were all medium in size and well balanced. I remember that when I went to the Lu Ping sale a number of years ago at the VHA headquarters all the birds went for a fortune. It was at that sale that the late Keith Saggers chose the Vandenabeeles at considerable expense to put into his pigeon stud which at the time was the best in the country. Now I am told on good authority that Keith was a top stockman and knew how to choose birds, so as far as I was concerned if these birds were good enough for him they are good enough for me
Very soon after these birds were homed to Nicks’ house and the training began Nick rang me and said “Andrew these birds you bred me are fast. I am getting 6 to 8 of them in my first dozen birds. I am going to race them in the short races”. From that phone call onwards our phone call conversations increased to weekly.
It was looking like my birds were going to have a great year so I decided to go down to Nicks to see the birds come home from the 1st Club race. It is quite exciting to see the birds come home from any race and both Nick and I waited patiently for the 1st bird to come home from Shepparton. This bird was a blue bar and for whatever reason would not land. She flew around for 5 minutes and eventually landed after his 2nd bird came home. That second bird came 13th in the Federation. We worked out that if the first bird had landed it would have been around 5th overall in the results. The first bird home was a Vandenabeele that I bred from my 10th Fed Carrieton 813.4 mpm in 2012. This bird came home on the second day in the 1st 500 mile race and was subsequently stocked.
Following this race I worked out that this bird probably did not land as I was in the backyard wearing an orange top and Nick normally wears a black top. So I decided that even though I loved to see the birds come home from a race that It was better that I did not turn up to Nicks on race day anymore.
I had a spare Vandenabeele cock bird that I named ‘Boris’ and decided to mate him to my most consistent Vandenabeele race hen in 2012 which I named ‘Zoya’.This was a first time mating and I hoped it would work as I wanted to increase the mix of Vandenabeeles in the loft. Boris was bred from two birds that Russell Campbell, Paul Bryant and I bought for a considerable price from Keith Saggers and had a fantastic pedigree. He was in my stock loft for several years and had not even bred a clock bird. His new mate Zoya was an absolute ripper of a bird. I remember when Theo Vassikopoulos visited my loft to help me pick out my stock birds and made the comment “What bird is this?” I said “It is a Vandenabeele hen for my race team”. He replied “This is your best bird, you need to stock her’ but I disregarded his advice and raced her anyway. This hen ended up being my best race hen for that year and clocked numerous times for me. She flew every distance including 1st 500 mile smash race and was promptly stocked.
A few weeks later we had the first Federation race from West Wyalong and as I was not racing I did not attend the club rooms. On that day I received a phone call from Nick and I remember Nick saying to me “Andrew what are you doing? Make sure you sit down” and I said “Why?” and he said “I think you might have won the fed” Well as it turned out a short time later my bird ended up 4th Federation for Nick. A few weeks later this same hen placed 4th Fed Parkes and was looking like she might be able to get Nick another bird of the year. I asked Nick to keep this hen for stock but he was confident he could prepare her really well for the National Race. Unfortunately she did not clock for Nick in this race and she was subsequently on my request removed from the race team much to Nicks disappointment. On the same weekend that this hen (VHA 12 23001) placed in the Parkes race I was advised by Paul Bryant that my birds came 1st and 3rd in the Frankston Money race. The bird that came back third in that race was the same way bred as this hen.
“Natasha” 4th Federation 1st Section 1266.1 mpm Narrandera 4th Federation 1st Section Parkes 1232.9 mpm for Nick Lakioitis
The week before the Nyngan race which was held on 13th October 2013 I was talking to the prominent Springvale Club flier Daryl Kloprogge who you may recall won two 1st Federation races the year before. Like Nick he was also was doing me a favour by racing about a dozen of my birds. He told me that he had this hen of mine which was always his first bird home from the tosses so I asked him what the ring number was. He told me it was VHA 12 23002. I said to Daryl that I thought I knew how that bird was bred but I would check its pedigree at home, and it was as I thought - a nest mate to Nicks double Fed hen another pure Vandenabeele. I had a joke with Daryl and said that he would clock her. We subsequently kept in touch with each other via text messages and she came 25th Federation.
So all of a sudden due to good planning and great pigeon fliers racing my birds, my new pair of Boris and Zoya had become my number one stock pair in my loft. From the 4 birds I had bred to race I had managed to get 2 X 4th ,1 x 25th Fed in the Victorian Homing Association and won money in the Frankston Club.
But this is where the story gets interesting as while VHA 12 23001 and her sisters where having success another bird out of my stock loft was clocking for Nick. A little Blue Bar hen another pure Vandenabeele was starting to find some form. Over a 5 week period this hen came equal 13th Fed West Wyalong only 4 seconds behind his clock bird, 31st West Wyalong 2, 13th Fed Parkes and 65th Cobar .So this hen clocked for Nick 4 times for one federation position but could have easily been a triple fed hen. Unfortunately this great little hen was lost later on in the season.
So how did the Gabbys compare to the Nicks Bird of the year line.
Location Place Section Points Bird
Narrandera 1 4 1 27 Vandenabeele
Hay 29 10 2
Narrandera 2 28 9 3
West Wyalong 1 6 2 25
West Wyalong 2 31 5 0 Vandenabeele
Parkes 1 4 1 27 Vandenabeele
Dubbo 75 8 0
Parkes 10 bird 2 1 29
Parkes 13 4 18 Vandenabeele
Yolla 5 2 26
Cobar 65 11 0 Vandenabeele
Nyngan 19 3 12
20 4 0
West Wyalong 7 3 24
Yola 25 8 6
Coonamble 1 1 30
Nicks 1st Fed winner in 2013 off his bird of the year line
Due to the success of these birds for both myself and other fliers I intend to make them the backbone of my stock loft in the future. Over the past few years I have tried all types of birds in my stock loft with various degrees of success. As I only want to be a small team flyer I intend to keep my stock pairs down to around 22 a year. This will give me an opportunity to fly competitively whilst still being able to try out new birds in my loft. I will have around 16 Vandenabeeles as stock birds, 4 will be paired straight, 4 will be paired with Houbens and the last 4 will be paired with Casaerts. I have chosen to use the Houbens as a cross as I believe the birds will orientate faster and speed up for the faster races. The Casaerts have been chosen as the other cross as I believe this pairing will improve the Vandenabeeles in the all day events. These 12 pairs I will call my ‘A’ team as I expect these to be my leading birds. The next 7 pairs will be a mixture of Red Fox and Honey Suckle Janssens, Silver Shadow Van Loons and any other birds that I think will improve my loft. This I will call the B team. Their job is to win and get into my A team. The last 3 pairs will be what I call my plodders and their main job is to get Federation spots in the slow all day or two day races. For the moment I will be concentrating on the Dangerfields as these did really well for me at the distance in 2012. I will cross these birds with the Goodgers (red ace hen line) and Jurions. I may also be lucky to pick up a few race birds from other fliers that can fly the distance and be competitive for me. I love long distance racing and want to get better at it. The problem that I have is that the long distance birds do not really get a chance to prove themselves because in reality there are only 2 or 3 two day races in Victoria every year. What I am looking for are birds that will come home in their own time and that I can’t lose. They need to be ‘bullet proof’. Many of the distance birds I have tried to race simply vanish without a trace so I never know their capabilities. Any long distance stock birds that breed birds that do not make it to the 500 mile stage are very quickly removed from my loft.
So what are my golden rules for the birds I choose for my stock loft?
1. Choose quality over quantity – You only need one good bird to win a race. Look for a line of birds that are winning in big races or winning their Sections
2. Don’t choose birds that have won 5 or 10 years ago – look for birds that are winning in todays’ environment as the birds are getting better and faster every year
3. One bird in and one bird out – Don’t keep to many stock birds only keep birds that are winning in your own loft
4. Choose only birds that you like and that are going to be competitive in the type of race you want to win in. As an example if you want to win a fast race choose sprint birds, if you want to win a 400 mile race choose an all day bird and if you want to win a 600 mile race choose a long distance bird
5. Divide your stock birds into sprinter, all day and distance and breed more of the type of birds that you want to have success with.
6. Rotate – do not keep birds in your stock loft that have not bred any clock birds. Stock birds must be given a maximum of 3 years to prove themselves.
I do not for one minute believe that I would have found out about the capabilities of my Vandenabeeles without Nick Lakiotis, Paul Bryant and Daryl Kloprogge flying them for me, so I am eternally grateful that they let me race my birds in their lofts. What I am trying to highlight in this article is that it is possible it have success in this sport with excellent planning, a little luck and friends who are great pigeon fliers testing your birds.