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 Ask Ed > Buying birds.3
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  What's your recommended approach for buying birds?

  Another way to buy birds, especially in the U.S., is from the auctions of convention races and futurity races. After these races, the top position birds are often sold. Frequently, weíve seen some of these birds go for very small amounts of money. If I were a beginner and I knew that a fancier had entered stock into a futurity or convention race, I would not hesitate to try to purchase this manís birds after the race. For as little as $75 to $100 you can acquire these birds that have gone through all the training, and have given a good accounting of themselves in the race. Once you have the bird, you can even call the breeder and ask to purchase a pedigree. Most breeders are very hesitant to just give a pedigree, but some will. High quality pigeons can often be obtained in this way.

Iíve often been asked this question by new fanciers: What do I look for in a breeder? One of the things that Iíve learned over the years is what not to look for or pay so much attention to. I think itís very important to try to look for in a breeder exactly what the owner of the family looks for. Weíre going to make the assumption that youíre only dealing with very successful fanciers in trying to buy breeders. Some of these people are eyesign specialists and they only want to look for eyesign. Others look for performance only. Some look at the wing and the overall body make-up. Generally, Iíve made myself aware in the years that Iíve been in the sport of the various things that I like in my own pigeons. Then I look at the pigeons in a particular fancierís loft to see if he likes the same things in his breeders that I do. Is the pigeon Iím interested in first of all very closely related to his best breeders and racers? Do not buy a bird from a fancier if it is not of his core bloodline.

Many fanciers will sell birds that they have brought in and tried without success. If the bird up for sale is not at all related or closely related to the core blood of the family, you have to assume that the fancier wants to sell it because it has not been successful. You need to be purchasing from the stock that is producing the very best for him. The first criterion is "Is the bird from the same genetic background as the core birds in the manís loft?" This is what I mean by pedigree. I am not referring to just a piece of paper. In Europe and in the U.S., lots of fanciers donít like to write or keep pedigrees. When I refer to pedigree, I am really speaking about the actual genetic background of the bird. Sometimes we get hung up on a paper pedigree and forget to look beyond that.

Second of course, is the bird itself. What did the bird accomplish? Was it a racing pigeon? Did it race well? Was it a breeder? Was it simply a pigeon that was bred for stock? Is it a baby? If so, then it should be from a pair of birds that has been very successful. If it was bred to be a stock pigeon, it should be easy to determine why it was bred for stock. Perhaps the brothers and sisters of this bird are great breeders. This could be a very wise purchase.

The third thing to look for is whether the bird is well balanced. I think balance in a pigeon is a very important factor. Is the bird strong? Does it give you the impression of having strong character, not only in the body and the muscles, in the frame of the bird, but also in the will of the bird? Is it a bird that gives you the impression that it is an athlete?

Many fanciers, of course, like to look at the eye. I like to see a beautiful eye, but be aware that there are a number of families of pigeons whose owners paid no attention to the eyes at all, yet managed to bring out great quality pigeons. Some of these families of birds became very linebred and inbred pigeons, so that the inherited qualities, i.e., the fixed traits in the pigeons, may not include a great eyesign. One such family that I can note is the Dr. Horn Busschaerts. Iíve seen a number of these pigeons, and these eyes not impressive. Theyíre certainly not pigeons that would win an eyesign show, but I know of some of them that have bred outstanding birds. So eyesign is a personal matter, one that you must decide whether it is something you prefer or absolutely must have in your own loft. But be aware that eyesign in and of itself is not a major criterion for top racing or breeding results in some families of birds.

What do I like in the muscle? Personally, after having handled many thousands of pigeons, and having such noted experts as Brad Laverne and others teach me a few things about handling pigeons, I have come to be able to recognize suppleness in a muscle and feel the vibrations in a muscle. Suffice it to say that I like to have a pigeon in the hand that has the feeling of buoyancy and has a good supple muscle, a muscle that I can dig my fingers into gently and feel a swelling of muscle. This generally indicates the bird possesses, and is likely to pass on to its young, an abundance of the tools that are necessary to fly, not only for a long time but also quite quickly.

In terms of wing, I personally have seen champion pigeons that had both strong wings, very abrupt, (sometimes called "snappy" wings) and other birds that had very loose wings. I am not enough of an expert in that regard to give an opinion. I just know that there are certain things that I like to feel. I prefer to have a supple wing in my hand, but it doesnít mean that I wonít breed from a bird that has a snappy wing.

One of the other criteria that I might look for is a rear end thatís got strength. The tail set is not wobbly and moving around when youíre handling the bird. A bird with a strong back will generally have a tail set that extends straight back from the pigeon when you hold it in your hands. In holding a pigeon, I see some fanciers squeeze and almost mangle a pigeon when they handle them. I like to hold a pigeon as gently as possible, as though the bird hardly knows itís being held. Pigeons are highly sensitive toward people that are manhandling them, and they tense up. Allowing a bird to relax in your hands will enable the bird to reveal its inner qualities. So, I like to hold a bird as gently as possible, and in many cases after Iíve held the bird for a few minutes, I can open my hands and the bird will just sit in my palms, not even attempting to fly away. When a bird is totally relaxed, you can then feel its inner qualities.

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