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 Ask Ed > Buying birds.4
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  What's your recommended approach for buying birds?

  Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a great student of the genetics of racing pigeons. I like to pair birds in such a way that I bring out a common inheritance. I firmly believe that any great family of pigeons has a founding pigeon or two at the base of the family. Those founding pigeons had special gene combinations, or gene pools, and a percentage of that gene pool is passed on to the babies. We have discovered that in linebreeding very often a combination of the genes will bring back a high percentage of the gene combinations that formed the family. But random inbreeding can deteriorate a family faster than anything. So we never breed from pigeons for more than two generations that have not been tested very thoroughly.

In pairing two birds that are related, we try to breed to a breeding coefficient between 28 and 37 percent. That is the ideal that we have discovered for producing not only a high number of high quality racing pigeons but also a very high number of very good breeders. Breeders are discovered through the racing. Very often a bird with a breeding coefficient of 28 to 35 or 37 that has been a very good racer or even sometimes just an adequate racer will make an exceptional breeder. This has happened so often, not only in our own loft but also in the lofts that we have studied for over 20 years, we know that finding the proper coefficient and breeding to that coefficient, meaning related pigeons, is important. Taking a good or better than average racing bird with that coefficient and putting it in the breeding loft is the surest way of succeeding from one generation of birds to the next in any breeding loft.

I often hear fanciers make the remark that this or that bird is not "pure" so they donít want to breed from it. I canít imagine this statement being made in our sport. First of all, to attain "purity" from a genetic point of view, youíd have to breed a brother to a sister for five generations or more, and youíd have to start with inbred stock to begin your process. So to attain genetic purity in the truest sense of the word is a completely false statement. If by "pure" the fancier means heís not working with linebred or inbred stock, there is a little bit of merit in that statement only from the point of view that he feels heíll get better results from a linebred or inbred pigeon. But in reality, itís not so much the individual bird itself but the combination of that bird to the other pigeon youíre pairing it to that provides you with the breeding coefficient or racing coefficient that youíre looking for.

One great example of this in a family we should all be aware of is the Meulemans pigeons. In the 1970s the famous "Golden Couple" was put together in Karel Meulemansí loft. This Golden Couple was a combination of a supposed Janssen hen and a Van Den Bosch cock, and it was supposedly a well-known fact that the Van Den Bosch pigeons were some of the original birds of the Huyskens Van Riels. So some people like to say that the Meulemans are a combination of the Janssens and Huyskens, and this could be a somewhat accurate statement.

But to make the statement even more clear and to understand the study, the Golden Couple itself was a crossing of Janssen and Van Den Bosch. Their children were super pigeons. Indeed, there are few pairs of birds ever put together that were more prolific than this Golden Couple. But what made the Meulemans family so popular, and still popular today was that the children of this pair were such great breeders. The famous "Piet" which went to Germany and bred for the millionaire Hermes. Of course, everyone knows about the famous "Kadet" and how many champions that bird produced. There was the "Merck," the "Schone Donker," the "Junior," and on and onóso many champion birds. All of them were crosses and were great breeders, and in many cases great racers. So there is a prime example of a complete outcrossing that produced great pigeons.

So what did Karel Meulemans do with these pigeons but breed them back to the family. As an example, Kadet was bred back to another Janssen hen. Some of the other brothers and sisters were bred back to children of the other birds. The family was basically put together after first discovering a super gene pool and then combining this gene pool with itself. I think if there was any mistake that Karel Meulemans may have made in his ongoing breeding performance was that he bred the birds too close for too many generations and probably sold too many birds from the family without positive proof that his pairings were working. Yet today, there are still quite a few supreme Meulemans pigeons in the United States breeding really good quality birds.

We imported a Meulemans hen from Wilhelm Wulfmeyer in 1994 and sold that hen to a friend of ours in 1996. That hen bred the second National AU Hall of Fame pigeon in 1997, crossed back to a Janssen. So Meulemans pigeons still have quality, but the fact is that the whole family was started with an outcross, a pairing of two totally unrelated pigeons whose children turned out to be great breeders. So donít shy away from an outcrossed pigeon as a breeder. Only remember that in using an outcrossed pigeon as a breeder, the bird itís paired to is ultimately of great importance. Often, the final impact that a bird has as a breeder is based on the bird itís paired to.

As a rule, I donít like to see more than two crossings done in the breeding procedures with my own birds. Once I make a crossing, the criterion for the crossing is that the bird has to be supremely successful in the racing. Not just a one-time big win. What we look for is a pigeon that is consistently in the top 10% of the birds entered. If itís in our own loft, and we send 10 birds, it should be the first bird home. If we send 20 pigeons, it should be the first or second bird home. If we find a bird that does this very often, then we consider this to be a top 10% pigeon. In club competition, if itís in the top 10% very often and occasionally may fall into the top 20%, this is very good. The same goes for combine or concourse competition.

If we can get a bird that is in the top 10% consistently and the top 20% most all of the time, and it is carrying a breeding coefficient or not, then it is considered a possible breeding quality bird. If it is an outcrossed pigeon that has been a consistent racer and we want to consider breeding from it, then we will try to find another bird that is related to this pigeon.

In the end, there is only one standard for choosing breeding stock, and that standard is success in the racing performances. Pigeons that cost virtually nothing can have good racing performances and can be valuable from a breeding point of view. Other pigeons that cost many thousands have great racing records are also probably valuable for breeding, but only in the right combinations. If a supremely valuable pigeon is not paired properly, it wonít produce good pigeons. So keep in mind that the value of the birds you select as breeders lies more in how you pair them than in anything else.

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