Q&A With Pigeon Racing Champion Ron Pairan
Q. When did you start racing pigeons and how did you get interested in the sport
A. I became interested after a couple of my friends got pigeons. One of them, Ron Boyer, still races in California. Though I had pigeons, I wasn’t able to race them, and when I went to college I gave them up. When my oldest son joined 4-H he chose pigeons for a project. We obtained some birds from Bob Phillips. My son lost interest after a couple of years, but I was hooked again.
Q. Did you have any mentors in the sport that were important to you? If so, what areas of racing did they help you the most with? (racing, training, health, etc.)
A. I made an effort to stay after meetings and listen to what the top flyers in the club, such as Terry Lynn and Jack Donley, were saying, Ron Boyer was also helpful as was Bob Phillips, but most of my information came from reading and watching videos.
Q. Do you specialize at any distance or are you competitive for all distances?
A. I like to compete at all distances, young birds and old birds. I am probably best at middle distance races, but I am trying to improve my results in the long distance races.
Q. Do you fly any special system for young birds, lights, darkness, widowhood?
A. I leave the lights on to speed up the molt and fly young birds to the perch. I don’t raise early young birds or use any other system.
Q. What is your preferred system for competing in old birds?
A. I fly double widowhood.
Q. How do you prepare for short, middle and long distance races?
A. I train hard before the season to get the birds in top condition. For the short races I will train once or twice during the week and as the races get longer, I train less. This year, following the 200-mile races I only loft flew. I feed the birds all they want except for the day of shipping. On shipping day I feed the birds about the time I expect them to return the following day for short and middle distance races. For long races they get all they want just before shipping. For short races I feed barley early in the week, switching to race mix and adding peanuts and safflower at the end of the week. For longer races they get more corn, peanuts and safflower.
Q. What do you look for to know your pigeons are coming into form?
A. It is very difficult to tell. I like to see them looking healthy and active. They should want to exercise freely.
Q. Do you compete for average speed? If so, what are your thoughts on average speed?
A. I like to compete for average speed, but you shouldn’t be so obsessed with it that you take needless risks with your birds, especially if you are trying to build up your team. The average speed winner must be a consistent flyer, but is not always the best flyer. Theoretically, you could win all but one race on the schedule and still not win average speed.
Q. Do you fly any specific strain or family of pigeons? What are your thoughts on strains versus families of racing pigeons?
A. I have always felt that you should try to obtain the best birds that you can find without regard to the strain or family. The performance of the bird or of the bird’s parents is much more important than whether it is of a particular strain or family. Having said that, I do think there are families of birds that are better at a particular distance than others and that should be taken into consideration when obtaining birds.
Q. What would be your advice to a new flyer when it comes to acquiring stock birds?
A. I think that there are a lot of good birds available that can be obtained without spending a fortune. Keep in mind that no one is going to sell you their best breeders, but good flyers are always getting out of the sport and selling or even giving away their birds. Many flyers will also sell you late hatches at a reasonable price. One flyer I know, who flies the natural system, gave the eggs from each of his race winners to another flyer as the birds came in from races. I just gave away two eggs from two of my AU Champions to another flyer.
Q. How do you train young birds and old birds?
A. Several years ago I decided that I was losing more young birds from one to five miles than I was once I got them out further. I had read that Joe Rotundo started his birds out at 50 miles and I have a friend that used to start his birds out at 25 miles. I never had the courage to start from either of those distances, but now I start my young birds out at ten miles. The birds have to be flying strongly for a couple of weeks before you can do this, but I seldom lose a bird on my first toss. I also came to the conclusion that the reason that people lose birds from short distances is because the birds are too strong and want to explore or route, so they don’t come straight home. I started loft flying the birds before I trained until I get them to 25 miles and I have lost very few birds since. I train my young birds nearly every day until the races begin, gradually increasing the distance until the first race. I don’t let my old birds out during the winter, so I start them out slowly with a couple of tosses at five miles and increase it by increments of five.
Q. Do you vaccinate and if so, what do you vaccinate for?
A. I vaccinate for pox, paratyphoid and PMV.
Q. Do you believe in medicating? Do you try to cure sick birds? Do you use preventive medication and if so, what do you treat for?
A. If it is an important breeder, I will try to cure it. I use preventive medicating before breeding and before race season for Canker, Coccidiosis and Respiratory. I usually medicate again during the middle of the race season.
Q. Do you administer any supplements to your birds? If so, what are your thoughts on the subject?
A. I give the birds vitamins, brewer’s yeast, apple cider vinegar and garlic. I also like to give them several types of grit, pick stones, and oyster shells.
Q. What signs do you look for to know your pigeons are in good health?
A. They should have clean, white wattles, pink skin and silky feathers. They should like to exercise and be alert and active.
Q. What do you think is important in the construction of a quality racing loft?
A. Plenty of space, lots of fresh air and access to sunlight. Ceilings should not be too high or it will be difficult to catch the birds and they will tend to be wild. I use steel grated floors, so there is lots of air with no dust and no smell. It is healthier for the pigeons and the fancier. In my case, since I fly double widowhood, it is necessary to have at least two and preferably three sections. It is also important to have electricity for lights. In Central Ohio, where I am located, it is also a good idea to have electricity for water heaters.
Q. At the end of the season, what selection criteria do you use to determine who to retain and who to eliminate from the team, for both young birds and old birds.
A. For young birds, I look at how they performed in the races, with an emphasis on the longer races. I have found that the birds that do well on the 300 mile races tend to be my best old bird racers. With old birds, if they haven’t done anything within a couple of years, they are eliminated. If I have to decide between two birds that have performed about the same, I will look at the make up of the bird and its breeding.
Q. What selection criteria do you use for choosing/acquiring breeders? After you have bred from a stock bird, what selection criteria do you use to evaluate them as breeders?
A. I try to obtain birds from people I know and can trust. I want birds that have a great race record, whose parents have a great race record, or are proven breeders. As I mentioned earlier, people aren’t normally going to sell these birds unless they are getting out of the sport, so let the buyer beware. After I have bred out of the birds for two or three years, they must have produced either winners or birds that finish near the top consistently.
Q. If you had any special advice for novice fancier, what would it be?
A. Read all you can and talk to the flyers that are winning. One of the confusing things about this sport is that there are many roads to success. If you talk to one winning pigeon flyer, he will tell you he trains every day. Another great flyer will tell you he does nothing but loft fly once the races start. There are also many different systems. I think you have to have the courage to try new things and find out what works best for you. Also, I would tell them that you don’t have to spend a fortune on birds. I have purchased young birds bred from five time combine winners for $30 each. While it is true that these birds may not turn out to be any good, it is also true that many of those birds that sell for $5,000 each are also duds.
Q. What vision do you have for your future endeavors in racing pigeons?
A. I would like to continue to improve. I don’t think you should ever be satisfied with your results. My main point of emphasis right now is to improve my record in the long distance races. While I have done well in those races, I think I can do better with the right type of bird.
Q. What do you enjoy most about this sport?
A. I was always amazed that you could have an animal that would come home from hundreds of miles away. That still amazes me today. I also enjoy the competition and I find it very relaxing just to watch them fly around. Pigeon racing has also enabled me to meet some wonderful people from all over the country and even around the world that you have something in common with.
Q. If you could change anything in the sport, what would it be?
A. This is a sport where you are in direct competition with your friends. In other sports, you are competing with them against another team. As a result, sometimes there is jealousy. I am fortunate in my club that we all get along pretty well, but I know that it is not true everywhere.
Q&A With Pigeon Racing Champion Ron Pairan by Domanski Family Lofts