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“Starting out” with rollers seems to be the hardest part. Like any project in life, “starting out”
seems to be the scariest. That first step into the unknown is the biggest step. Everyone wants to start out on the right foot. There are many ways to skin a cat and I am going to just give you one that I feel worked for me. Of course there are many opinions on many subjects in the roller world. From feeding, selecting breeders, flying, color, judging and the list goes on and on.

It just seems that many questions are always asked,”What strain is the best?”…….”What strain should I pick?” The answer is …..ALL OF THE ABOVE! What I mean by all of the above is simple. There are a lot of good strains and you should start out with more than one strain. That is what I did. I started out with 4 or 5 “good” strains and compared the strains.

Then weed the strains down to the strain or strains that work best for you. I have always believed that it is 20% the strain and 80% the fancier. Some fanciers (RARE) can bring the best out of any strain. Some fanciers can only bring the best out of the strain that fits their style of husbandry. Some fanciers spend most of the time working on a strain that they can never get a handle on.

I just feel that you should get 2-4 different strains and compare the strains. Then pick the strain or strains that react in a positive way to your style. It is true that you can go to many the fancier’s house and watch a good kit of birds in action. Then possibly get some birds from that very fancier. You take them home, breed them or fly them. No matter what you do, you can’t get those birds to perform like the birds you saw in that good kit of birds.

Or you get some birds with a fancy name behind them like “Mason”, “Higgins”, “Campbell”, “MEE”, and the list goes on. You get those birds home with the fancy names attached, and no matter what you do, they never live up to the name. You waste a lot of time and energy with that one pot of gold strain. Then you dump that strain and move onto another strain with a different fancy name. It may take years to find the strain or strains that work right for you. The fact is, that when you go to that “Established” Fanciers house and watch his birds. You are watching that fanciers many years of trial and error at work. If you think for a second that you are going to take that strain and make them perform like that “Established” fancier.

Well, you are chasing that unrealistic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is not the name of the strain that makes them perform…it is the fancier’s hard work to find a strain that fits them. When I am talking about strains in this post, I am talking about established proven performance strains. Of course if you get poor quality birds you will breed poor quality birds. My point to the above paragraph is that you have to have something to compare to.

You can’t stand under a kit one time and say these are the birds for me. You have to bring the strain back to your loft and try to manage them. That is how you tell what strain is good for you. I am not talking about just one strain, but a couple of strains. I found it so much easier in the beginning to have numerous strains in my loft to compare to. When you start out with more then one strain, you can compare the character of one family to another.

For Example, the character of one family may excel in the cold weather of the great lakes region…but you get the birds to the West Coast with hotter weather and the birds do not perform the same. There are so many factors that make birds perform and not perform. So having numerous strains in your loft will help you compare Apples to Apples. I feel that you can kill two birds with one stone. You can fly 3 kits of 3 different strains with ease. You can compare your kit birds to each other all in one shot.

You can even mix the kits to see how they react to each other. I started out with some birds from many well know fanciers. I started out with some Mason, Lavin, Roe, Campbell, Chavarria, Turner and Emami birds. Over the years I have bred many young out of these particular strains in my loft. I flew the young and took many notes. I kept track of when the birds came into the roll, character of the birds, how they fly together, what strains react the same way to feeding, body type, kitting, when the young take to the sky, homing, and the list goes on. I then broke the strains up into groups that seemed to work well together and most importantly work with my flying style. It was so easy to compare one strain to another when they are all in your loft and you are the one handling them.

I really started focusing on the pairs that put me in the direction that I wanted to go. I found it simply amazing on how different some families are to one another. I actually had a lot of fun “Starting Out” and taking this first step in comparing families. I feel that I have gained a lot of ground by trying some different strains and comparing and weeding out what I did not want. I found the Mason, Lavin and Turner birds did not fit my game plan. When I say that these strains did not fit my game plan I am not saying that these strains are not good. These strains are doing very well in lofts around the World. Every pair that I had, were proven, solid producers. They just did not fit “MY” game plan. The purpose of writing this is not to compare one strain to another. It is to help give a tool to a new fancier to help him/her find the strain that is right for them, without sacrificing a lot of time and energy on just one strain.

Some of the differences that determined whether a strain was part of my plan were very subtle differences. Some came down to that fact that I just did not like the look on the perch compared to the other strains. They all performed about the same…”I” just liked a certain look. I also found that the three strains that I have narrowed it down to, react the same in the air as well as in the loft. Through comparison of many strains, I found the strains that seem to work the best for me. The breeders that I no longer wanted were not culled because they were very good producers. They were passed on to other fanciers to use in there breeding programs. If you get attached to your breeders, like most of us do, you can also use the unwanted breeders as fosters. I may narrow down to just two strains, but that is far beyond just “starting out.” The fine tuning starts when you settle on a family.

I honestly think that you will save time and money starting off with numerous strains to compare to. I learned so much more about the strains that I kept and the strains that I did not keep. It actually helped me become a better over all fancier. It pushed me to really look over every aspect of being a roller fancier. It forced me to leave no stone unturned. It opened my eyes to the many different characteristics in different families of birds. Of course this may not work for every new fancier, but it is just another tool in the toolbox or another way of “Starting Out”. Again, I want to say that the names of strains mentioned in my article do not reflect good or bad quality in a particular strain. The strains that I picked were what worked for “ME.” I mean no disrespect to any of the strains or fanciers mentioned.

If it was not for many of these well know strains and fanciers, The Birmingham Roller would not be the bird that it is today.

Rock and ROLL
Paul Fullerton
First Alarm Lofts

Paul Fullerton