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One most common question on the minds of roller fanciers is how can we breed champion spinners? As we all hear that sometimes a mating is stumbled upon a pair of rollers that produce a high percentage of champions.  You often read of a single roller that consistently breeds champion spinners, irrespective of the mate chosen for it.  Such rollers often carry a name such as the producer hen or the Goldmine cock.  But why is it that only a few rollers consistently produce the desired goods and yet the majority fails to produce any creditable youngsters?

First and most important is the breeding selection a fancier has to make.  If rollers fancier breed from his kit flyers and find a pair that breed exceptional rollers, the fancier should put them to stock immediately.  It is rare occurrence to find a goldmine pair.  The fancier who fly his breeder will find out the hard way that when he loses them to a hawk or an over-fly, they will never be replaced and never find another mating like them again. 

It would be very frustrating if a nest pair of champion spinners was discovered but you could not remember who produced them.  An ideal breeding setup is one in which pairs of rollers are housed in a separate compartments.  But in most lofts, this is usually impractical due to space limitation.  Remember that rollers are promiscuous, which it raises a big issue for roller breeders.  They will mate with others in the loft if they get the opportunity.  But if the roller fancier has a reasonably inbred family of rollers, this would be less of a problem as the gene pool is relatively homogeneous.  Although, it would be extremely frustrating when a champion spinner is bred and you hadn’t realized that it was from a different cock. 

How does it all work? 

When a roller grows inside the egg, it uses the genes within it’s chromosomes as the blueprint as to how it is going to look and fly.  It gets the genes from its parents; those genes will also determine how large the muscles will grow, how efficiently its metabolism will be, how its resistance to disease, how sexually active it will be and how keen it’s homing instincts and abilities are among other things.  The dam of the young bird will have pairs of genes for all these characteristics and so will the sire.  But both parents can not contribute both pairs of genes for each of the characters to the youngster.  Only half of each gene pair will come from each parent.  This is why trying to breed young rollers that are just like the parents so unpredictable.  It is very hard to know which of the pair of genes from each parent is in each sperm or egg.  Therefore, it cannot be predicted which of the pair of genes that make each characteristic in the adult rollers will be used by the offspring. 

A range of individuals can be produced from a roller pair and the youngsters will vary in makeup from a super roller all the way down to a very poor roller.  We can surmise that there can be over tens of thousand of combinations.  A breeder will have a long way to go to find that super roller considering most fanciers breed only four to six youngsters from each pair.  But it is not that impossible.  Even though a large number of unique individuals can be produced, a quarter of them will have a large number of the dominant super genes, half of the young will have an average number of the super genes and the last quarter will have the least amount or no super genes.  In real terms, at least on in four rollers bred from the pairing will be an excellent roller.  It can be estimated that probably one in twenty will be a good roller and perhaps on in a hundred will be an exceptional roller, which will contain most if not all the dominant super genes from both parents. 

We could be very lucky and the first roller hatched will contain all the super genes from both parents.  But in general, the rule is that the more young birds you breed from a pair, the more chance you will have of producing a champion.  The champion cock can only pass half of his genetic material to his offspring and not all of those genes would be dominant.  The hen that was paired to him will only contribute the other half.  The genes would be diluted even further in the grandchildren when the sons and daughters were paired.  This is why you often hear of top fanciers use the expression “the apple never falls far from the tree.”  This means that if you want super rollers with the super genes, you need to stay close to the original parentage.  The sons and daughters might have some or most of the super genes combination will be intact. 

Inbreeding is a method of breeding used to overcome the problem of the super genes being halved and diluted.  By re-crossing a champion roller with its dam for example, or with its daughters, or by mating it with its sisters, the super gene combination can be concentrated and held together.  75% of the young from such pairing will have the super genes. You can still inbreed further with one of the daughters from the super roller and dam mating and backcross again to the original super roller.  By constantly doing so, dramatically you can concentrate the number of super genes in the offspring.  This degree of inbreeding is not really necessary to reproduce the champion roller, as a large number of genes are responsible for characteristics in the offspring that are irrelevant to the performance. For example, color of the feathers or color of the eyes.  That is why champion rollers can produce other champions that are not always exactly identical to the parents. 

If you have achieved a highly inbred family of quality rollers, how can you make them better?  With an inbred family, to produce even better young birds, you need to introduce a new super gene that your own family of rollers don’t have, you need to add something extra.  This is when an outcross is relevant.  It will introduce new genes into an inbred family of rollers.  This introduction will produce a roller that is superior to either of the parents. It is known as hybrid vigor.  It generally occurs when new super genes are incorporated within the genes of the highly inbred group of individual rollers. 

Be careful, hybrid vigor can be a very fragile concept.  When it occurs within a loft, and unless a careful breeding strategy is carried out, it can easily be lost.  It happens more often and frequent than you think and explains why fliers can have a tremendous season or two, winning prestigious competitions, and then sink into the background and never to be heard of again.  The simplest solution to maintain hybrid vigor is to keep together the pairs of rollers that produce the better rollers and not introduce any outcrosses.  It is essential to set up two lines of breeding to increase the number of pairs that produce the magical hybrid vigor.  The producer hen must be line bred back to her father or brothers but never to her sons.  The cock must also be line bred back to its mother or sisters but never to his daughters.  The resulting offspring from the two separate lines can then be mated and hybrid vigor will reappear. 

Best to best is another alternative breeding strategy to produce excellent performers.  Simply keep pairing best performing cock to best performing hen.  In this way, a variety of super genes will combine, and they will keep recurring in subsequent generations. If your goal is to produce more frequency in your rollers, use the birds that were almost at the edge of being overcooked as breeders. Overcooked is not by any means are roll-down. Overcooked rollers are the birds that can fly and stay in the kit while spinning fast and hard for 10 to 12 minutes without hitting anything or rolling down, but land earlier than the rest of the kit. These types will produce more frequency in the offspring while keeping stability. If you would like to produce more heat and frequency in the air, use the best hen roller that is a little hotter in the breeding loft. The appropriate mate would be your best cock that posses a great mental strength and control but also with a touch of heat. 

In closing, one of the problems associated with constantly out crossing is that the breeder generally has to breed a large number of young birds.  This has to be done to increase the chances of producing an individual roller with the right combination of super genes.  However, once a champion has been found, it is then a matter of out crossing with the super genes from other champion rollers.  This in its own way, produces another problem, if an out cross does not improve the champion line.  Then the decision has to be made to cull and remove all traces in case these new genes diluted or disrupt the super gene combination.  If you have a reasonably inbred family of rollers, this will cut down on the number of aberrant genes that have to select out when testing the offspring and if you decide to introduce fresh blood to improve quality, speed, depth or style at a later date, the task would be much easier.


Jay Alnimer