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Put together a string of a few winning scores in the NBRC and World Cup competitions and it is highly likely that a roller fancier will receive the highest compliment of many requests for his birds. And what hobbyist can resist the urge to “try” a bird or two from a fellow hobbyist when he observes the kind of awesome performance that he has been looking for, whether he competes or not? But it occurs to me that we must be very careful of the decisions we make regarding another family of birds, or a fellow roller-man, after acquiring a pair of his rollers, or even a kit, and trying to evaluate and make comparisons against the performance of our own birds. Flying out squeakers from another family of birds only reveals a snapshot representation of that family, based on a few individual birds. Most roller men raise a number of mediocre birds and culls…probably too many…..and it is important to remember that a competition kit likely represents a commitment; a commitment to a family of rollers.  

A winning kit represents the best of, perhaps, several hundred birds that are bred and trained over a number of years. Chances are, any birds that are obtained will not be representative of what we see, by way of a competition kit, of this family of rollers. It is unfair to any individual flyer, or to a family of rollers, for any of us to acquire a few birds, train and fly them business as usual, and then make a snap judgment about that family of rollers, or the flyer who handles them, based on that limited experience.The new family of rollers will likely need to be fed differently from our own family, flown differently, trained differently; and, especially, selected and bred differently. Maybe not in a major way, mind you, but in subtle ways that could mean the difference between success and failure in obtaining the results we are looking for. In reality, all that we have really proved in our failure is our own inability to duplicate the results of the flyer whose results we hope to emulate; and our own shortcomings as a loft manager in handling the new family. But it’s difficult to look in the mirror when we are looking to find the reasons we failed to produce the desired results. It’s much easier for us, as human beings, not to take responsibility, and instead take on the attitude, “I tried a few XYZ birds and they didn’t do as well as my own…or, “I wasn’t pleased with their performance.” Or it may be tempting to jump to conclusions that the new family is stiff or unstable or poor in quality or speed of performance. Of course you could be correct in your judgements…but you could just as well have missed the mark completely.

There are many things that fly in the face of success in this effort. The first thing is our experience; whether ample or lacking. Lack of experience speaks for itself in precluding our success. On the other hand, the experienced flyer may be too proud or too arrogant to inquire about handling the new birds. Secondly, we may already have a preconceived notion or prejudice against a family of birds. If we have an agenda, even way in the back of our minds, questioning another flyer’s competence, or proving to ourselves that a family of rollers is unstable or stiff…that prejudice will likely insure that we are successful in that effort.  Thirdly, the dynamic of exchanging birds actually contradicts the success of this effort. If we are lucky enough to obtain a pair of breeders, we are probably not going to get someone’s click pair that is producing high percentages of quality performance. Those kinds of stock birds are just too far and few between in most lofts.

Success with any limited sampling of his family of rollers will be, primarily, dependent upon the kinds of percentages of high quality performers that are being produced by the average pair of birds in his stock loft. So if we get a pair that is producing 1 or 2 decent birds out of ten, a degree of disappointment in the family looms on the horizon by the time one considers the potential for mishandling the new family, losses due to BOP or disease, etc. Even if we obtain a kit of squeakers from a new family or strain of rollers, we are still dealing with the handler’s percentages and the potential for losses. Remember, we could be left with a kit of very mediocre birds or culls that are not truly representative of the potential of the new family. To expect that a fellow fancier is producing high percentages of quality performers and making them available; well, it “ain’t gonna happen.”! 

So when we hear a fancier criticizing another family of birds, “I tried a pair (or a kit) of hose birds and they didn’t have the goods”, we must immediately consider the source. This guy may be no better than the guys who cruise the internet roller sites disrespecting other roller men and their family of rollers, which they have never even handled or worked with. He may be even worse…..using a limited experience with a few birds from another family, intentionally, to use it as a basis to further promote his agenda to discredit another flyer or family of rollers. That’s the worst kind of pigeon man. Thankfully, these kinds of men are few in number. So like most of us, those who jump to hasty conclusions about another family of rollers are most likely looking for the easy path to a winning kit of rollers. And there ain’t no easy way. It takes commitment. There’s that ugly word again. It takes the commitment to breed enough birds to offset the low percentages of quality performers in any given family; to offset the losses. In my opinion, one cannot truly evaluate a family of rollers until he has raised a hundred birds and trained them through a minimum of two seasons. Sure we can get lucky…strike gold quickly…but that’s a long shot and we’re, more likely than not, to be disappointed by anything less than the kind of effort that has real potential to produce quality performance. 

So what is a fancier to do? Having developed a sincere interest in a particular line or family of roller (we’ve heard it a thousand times) in order to properly evaluate the family, take the time to see the birds in the air; several times. Spend some time talking to their handler; many times. Above all, we cannot draw any broad conclusions about the family or the line in general, based on our limited experience with only a few birds. The only fair judgment we can make in these circumstances relates to only these individual birds, in our hands. 

Are there exceptions to this? Oh absolutely! Sure there are exceptions. There are roller men with years of experience in the hobby who have advanced their breeding programs to the place where they are producing high percentages of birds who are capable of quality performance.  Donated kits from these experienced men can be like mining a vein of gold. And then there is always Lady luck. We might just get lucky….stumble on a champion…..or like my friend, Charlie Stack…have someone give you a kit of birds in which half the kit is pre-potent or highly productive in producing quality performance capable of catapulting you to a National Championship in a few short years…..sure, that could happen. 


Cliff Ball