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Micky "The Scawsby Maestro" Betts
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The best just get better!

Hi Guys and Gals! Here`s a rare old treat for our readers coming from the pen of your Eyesign Scribe, but in this special feature I shall not refer to eyesign at all this feature isn`t about the eyesign theory and I`ve deliberately kept away from it for one reason only and that reason is that for this feature I`ve interviewed one of the (Giants) of this fine sport, now my reputation proceeds me as an eyesign expert as does this guys reputation, Micky Betts Jnr as a total pigeon man an expert in the art of pigeon racing and I personally rate him as one of if not the best all round pigeon fanciers in the U.K. today.

This guys got that special affinity with our feathered friends and not just your “ordinary Joe” type of pigeon fancier, Mick is the most dedicated, forward thinking, genuine fancier that anyone could wish to meet, a man in whos company you can learn more about the pigeon game in a couple of hours than you could with a lifetime of book reading or whatever, but my friends I can now let you be the judge of that last statement as this feature unfolds, I have struck up a good friendship with Mick over these last few years and have watched the “Maestro” go from strength to strength, it was during one of my visits a few weeks back now that I decided with Micks permission that it was time that we had an update on one of Britain`s best pigeon men so I did the interview on the spot so what you are now reading is how it is! Nothing was scripted or anything, Read on I am sure you will enjoy!

Questions By Rob Woolliss
Answers By Micky Betts (Jnr)

Q1, Its now been 2 seasons since I last interviewed you mick whats been your finest moments racing since that time?

My finest moments in the last few years is probably winning the National for a second time with my super cock Prince Willy , however I feel a great sense of achievement at the way my pigeons have performed overall , they have performed beyond all belief in the last 5 years , I also feel very proud at the way some of my pigeons are performing for others for example just recently a friend of mine who had a pair of pigeons from me last year has won the R.P.R.A sprint award with one of them. To choose any one performance as a finest moment I would always choose the National wins but to be honest I feel its not any one performance that thrills me it’s the reflection of a whole season and the cosistancy at which your team have performed for example this season I have won a total of 42x1st prizes including 5x1st Open Provincial This for me is a finer moment than any one performance.

Q2, Your midlands national winner Galilaoe had just won 1st open Midlands National F.C. remind me of his breeding and bloodlines.

My Midlands National winner Galileo is from my old family which are of the origin of Jos Soontjens and Louis Van loon with the odd other pigeon introduced into them but the mother PIED ANGEL is one of 2 hens that form my colony of pigeons at this moment the other being SUZY both these hens are breeders of National winners , R.P.R.A. Award winners and many many multiple 1st club, fed winners, The hen that wins R.P.R.A. sprint award for my friend Frank Bristow is a granddaughter from Suzy ,out of my good cock Little Star who himself won 12x1st and 1st Fed etc etc .

Q3, The Betts loft is now a twice 1st open midlands national winner with two different pigeons what bloodlines and breeding is the second national winner?

The second National winner PRINCE WILLY who I believe is very special is directly from Suzy who herself won 4x1st as a youngster when paired to a direct cock from Willy Thas a son from his Super cock the Prince, this combination of my old origin with the pigeons from Willy Thas is proving very good at the moment for me ,I have only done this with a few pigeons but with a very high success rate.
Prince Willy won the National 20 mins in front against the wind on a very hard race he also won 1st Ace pigeon BHW Trophy middle distance and 3rd National Ace Pigeon R.P.R.A. and R.P.R.A. Award South Yorkshire and Derbyshire Region.

Q4, What bloodlines now dominate the micky Betts loft?

At this moment the bloodlines or origin which dominate my lofts are my old family of Jos Soontjens and Van loons origin , Then I have the pigeons from Willy Thas which I have had since 1998 and more recently a new family of pigeons from a good friend of mine Freddy Vandeheede , I have been friends with Freddy for 3 years now and in the last few years I have pigeons from all his top pigeons which are at this moment going through a trial period but I am very pleased so far with the results from theses pigeons , he at this moment for me is the best in Belgium on Middle Distance and with youngsters he has phenomenal. results.

Q5, Do you prefer a mixture of strains or just a couple of pure bred families?

There is a big emphasis in this Country on pure bred pigeons but for me there are only 2 types of pigeons good ones and bad ones and the only way forward is to select the good ones and eliminate the bad ones.
What I have in place at my lofts is my old family of pigeons which are excellent and have stood the test of time , when I bring new pigeons in I like to keep them as a family initially until they prove they can compete with my own pigeons if they don’t stand up to my own pigeons then they are disposed of, if they do and perform cosistantly then in time I will begin introducing them onto my old pigeons looking to improve what I already have.

Q6, you are one of if not the top racing loft in the U.K. do your own bred (the Betts pigeons) fly all distances or is it horses for courses and you have certain breeds for certain distances?

My own pigeons will fly out to 400 miles on a good day this is no problem they will top the fed at 60 miles and the same at 400 miles ,but I do believe that when racing becomes over 450 miles in hard conditions its another type of pigeon that comes through so I guess its like everything else in life , to do a job and do it with precision and accuracy you need the right tools to perform the given task and this is the same for pigeons.
One point of interest though is I personally haven’t sent my pigeons on to 600 miles but a friend who has some of my pigeons in the USA called me this year with a lot of excitement as he had timed a yearling grandson from my Galileo on the day in very hot conditions from 600 miles .

Q7, What strain have you been able to adapt to your management for sprint racing , maybe combined strains?

All my pigeons have to sprint and then a selection are chosen to go out in the National races upto 500 miles , my old family are very very fast pigeons but can be a little daft as youngsters , the Thas pigeons will win as youngsters and beyond from all distances, I think at this moment I am developing an allround performance pigeon which will win at the highest level from 60 miles and the same from 450 miles a real modern day athlete of the sky. This as not happned overnight though it takes a lot of time and selection to get right.

Q8, same question as no7 but for middle to long distance racing

For middle to long distance I use mainly the Willy Thas pigeons and a combination of Thas and my old family , and now I will be working also with the pigeons of Freddy Vandeheede.

Q9, in your own opinion mick what makes a top flyer so successful, what do you need to get to the top in this sport?

I believe a lot of hard work and dedication makes a top fancier successful but to get to the top in pigeon racing it starts with the pigeons without good pigeons you are wasting your time and fancy pedigrees don’t make a pigeon good a basket will decide that for you, and I will guarantee that the basket is the finest selctor of pigeons in the world.

Q10,are there any secrets in the pigeon game that gives you the edge on the opposition?

Im sure many people would like me to say yes there are magic potions etc and you all must have some , but the truth of the matter is it all comes down to good pigeons and good mangement .
There are many good pigeons in all areas but what makes the difference these days is the understanding of the health of the pigeon this will give you an edge over your fellow fanciers , keeping the health side correct is the hardest thing in modern day pigeon racing but it is essential to perform at the highest level.

Q11, What clubs federations and societies are you flying with at the moment?

At this moment I fly with Scawthorpe and Sprotborough h.s. and we compete in the Balby marking/section of the North East Provincial which boasts some of the finest fanciers in the whole of Yorkshire for example this year 5x1st North East section Midland National and 2x1st section K National flying club and 2x1st National wins have come from members of the North East Provincial I would doubt any organisation in the country could boast such amazing results from there members , this is the quality of opposition.
I am also a member of Whitly Bridge 2 bird club and The Midland National Flying Club , also the Northern Classic although I have only competed in this club once but I aim to send in the future.

Q12,how many 1st prizes did the micky betts loft win during the 2005 racing season?

This year I totalled 42x1st prizes in club, section, Open and 2 bird club .

Q13, how many of those 1sts were won in which clubs? (list them all please mick)

These where won in Scawthorpe and Sprotborough H.S , Balby Section and the open of the North East Provincial and also I won Whtiley Bridge 2 bird club.

Q14, how many prizes racing did the betts loft win altogether (collectively) during the 2005 season?

The total I couldn’t be completely certain off without facts and figures but it will be over 250 positions, at club , section, open ,2bird and National level.

Q15,What type of racing gives you the most enjoyment out of the sport mick ?

To be honest I love all racing be it a short race or long distance , but at this moment I feel a little more satisfaction from the National races .

Q16, When breeding do you get the biggest percentage of winners coming from inbred or outcrossed pairings?

Normally I only inbreed for stock purposes and this is usually done in the summer, what I do is linebreed in my old family and usually regardless to what they are I pair best to best , outcrossing with 2 good pigeons usually gives good pigeons , to be successful racing you must always outcross and pair good pigeon to good pigeon, regardless of what they are and make your own family of pigeons based on winning pigeons and then when you find a very good line of pigeon be careful to maintain it.

Q17,are you trying out anything new with regards to strains, systems, feed patterns, management techniques or anything since our last interview? if so could you enlighten us?

I am always striving to improve in all aspects of the sport so yes I have brought in a new family of pigeons which I have previously mentioned, as far as systems go I have a system that works for me which I can give a basic run down of it, however I couldn’t say this is exactly what I do everyday in racing as sometimes I may change things depending how and what I see within my lofts , but this is the same for everyone im sure. For racing I no longer break pigeons completely down when they come back from a race as I believe its far more important to have the body of the pigeon back in condition as quick as possible after a race so you can begin preparing it for the next week but at the same time my pigeons are not ever fed heavy , my feeding is much lighter than the conventional way of feeding in the U.K. with the biggest emphasis in my loft is on the health of the pigeon .

Q18,what are your personal thoughts on the massive young bird losses we suffer all over the U.K. in this day and age?

This is a tough question but my honest opinion is that the majority of losses are due to unhealthy pigeons and inferior pigeons. Years ago the losses where very little ,but in them days the selection of pigeons was much higher as people had there own pigeons based on winning pigeons , they would pair winners to winners and proven racing pigeons where bred from with very little losses , in this day we have a very big commercial side to the sport where many many pigeons are coming from the all over the world into the U.K. and in all honesty 75% are no good , but because people have spent money on them they breed many youngsters from them and when they lose the youngsters it’s a disaster , and sometimes there best pigeons are in the racing loft proven down the road and don’t get bred from , but the problem doesn’t stop there because what people do then is because these pigeons have fancy pedigrees and cost them a few pounds they don’t dispose of them because they are no good they then advertise them and somebody else ends up with them and the process starts again .
Don’t get me wrong it isn’t the only reason for losses ,we do lose pigeons through wires , hawks and a percentage through clashing and bad weather liberations but my opinion is that a lot of inferior and unhealthy pigeons form the biggest percentage of losses.

Q19, could anything be done to lessen these losses in your opinion mick?

I believe we need more veterinary practises that specialise in pigeons and I believe people need to do more homework when they buy pigeons and look more at results of fanciers and winning pigeons rather than buy pigeons which are well advertised with fancy pedigrees but have no real worth at all , always remember one thing when buying pigeons base your selection on results.
As for clashing etc , at the moment racing in U.K. goes in so many directions its very difficult not to clash but we have to trust our race controllers to get it right and as for weather there is no real excuse these days for getting it wrong with liberations as we have brilliant technology on the internet etc for weather reports.

Q20, how can we attract back into the sport the now declining numbers of fanciers, and do you have any thoughts on this decline? Why are they leaving the sport?

This question I don’t really no how to answer its very difficult to no what to do , you see in this day and age with kiddies all they want to do is play on games machines so unless it’s a child coming from a background involving pigeons it is unlikely to appear attractive to a young lad or lass and some of the older ones are finding it more expensive an hobby and the health problems that occur theses days also drive people to say enough is enough , I think though the biggest downfall in pigeons today is the lack of sportsmanship we once had , there doesn’t seem the same fun in the game it seems there is so much jealousy and very little credit given to the fanciers that reach the pinnacle in there sport and what happened to helping one another out when there is a problem this never seems to happen any more, I believe we are all to blame a little we don’t do enough to help one another.

Q21, is there anything within this sport that you still have to do? Any goals to achieve ?
There is always goals to achieve , I have been very lucky to win big races at National level but I will always strive to win them again , to me every race I enter is a goal as I love the competition of racing be it a local race from 100 miles or a National race from 400 miles .

Q22, Do you have any interest at all in the so called long distance races? I call them endurance tests out to around a thousand miles?

No not really racing from 700 to 1000 miles for me is 2-3 days and im not sure you can condition pigeons correctly for this racing , my preferred racing is middle distance from 200- 500 miles and maybe the odd 600 mile race , once you begin trying the endurance tests you lose the athleticism in your pigeons and then your pigeons become worthless as racing machines from 60 to 500 miles, don’t get me wrong I think it is amazing for the fanciers to put up such memorable performances from these distances and I believe it takes a special kind of pigeon to do it but everyone as there preferences.

Q23, Why do you think that there is so much sickness and health problems within the sport nowadays, is the fancy itself responsible?

Yes to a degree we are responsible for the misuse of antibiotics but not only in pigeons , in people and all livestock there is new health problems occurring new strains of bacteria and a lot of this occurs because we become resistant to certain antibiotics and then the disease becomes stronger I also think we don’t do enough culling of weak pigeons, we try to treat the pigeons because one pigeon is weak instead of eliminating the bad one, we then are treating healthy pigeons for no reason and creating a resistance to antibiotics, a lot of illness in pigeons is created through stress and a lot of times we are responsible for this by creating a stressful enviroment for the pigeons through maybe overcrowding etc . Another problem is we don’t have adequate veterinary facilities or not enough of them for the fanciers so a lot of people treat there pigeons for a problem they don’t have or treat the pigeons with the wrong thing which all the time lowers the resistance to disease within the pigeon.

Q24, what effect do you think that the pigeon politicians are having on the sport! Helpful or detremental?

My opinion is pigeon politics is one of the downfalls of the sport , every year at this time of the year , there is so much trouble being caused and normally by the same people , it seams they get a kick out of causing trouble and once racing begins it all seams to go away until the end of the season again , a lot of times the fancier and so called sportsmen of the game do everything in there power to indirectly have a go at the fanciers who are successful because of there jealous nature and they will stop at nothing to try and make it difficult for the successful fancier to win the following year , I think it is so pafetic and such a sorry state of affairs that pigeon racing suffers such single minded people , I often think that if fanciers put this much energy into there pigeons when racing they would do so much better. It is the only sport I know where credit isn’t given to success.

Q25, in your opinion where has the sportsmanship gone in the sport?

Out of the window

Q26, is there any subject that ive not touched on in this feature which you would like to highlight mick?

I cant think of anything but if anyone had any questions on any aspect of the sport and I can help I would be more than willing to, I am a phonecall away and would always be willing to help people if I can .

Q27,To finish off mick would you put down for us a list of importance in your order of the things we need to consider in order to reach the top of this sport?

I think first of all you need good Stock you must choose what kind of racing you wish to compete in be it short distance , middle distance or long and then choose the fancier based on results to obtain pigeons from. Management – It is crucial you get the health side correct and a system that works for you an old guy once said to me pigeon racing isn’t difficult it’s the fancier that makes it difficult , this is very true always let common sense prevail. Loft – you must make sure the enviroment in your loft is good, the finest things in the world for pigeons are sunlight and oxygen and they don’t cost a penny. And finally always keep an open mind and be willing to listen and learn it doesn’t matter how much you win there is always new ideas and ways to keep improving , it may be the simplest thing in the world but it makes all the difference.

Well there you have it my friends! Well worth a read I think, I would just like to thank Micky Betts for his time and input, I am honoured to be considered his mate, till next time its goodbye from me and its goodbye from him!

Rob Woolliss! -  Author of The Eyesign  Pictorial
by: Rob Woollis

Phone: 07851219470

I hope this helps somebody in some way and I hope I have made it as interesting as possible, thank you Rob for the opportunity to share some things with fellow fanciers.

I hope this helps somebody in some way and I hope I have made it as interesting as possible, thank you Rob for the opportunity to share some things with fellow fanciers.

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Example of the Soontjen based pigeons in my breeding loft at this moment.

1593 --- 10x1st and 3x1st fed sire and grandsire of fed winners

1628 --- 10x1st and 3x1st fed sire and grandsire of fed winners

Super 74 cock --- 5x1st and 1st fed sire of winners

29 cock --- 5x1st and 1st fed sire of top winners

Nantes cock---- super cock topped fed from Nantes on a real hard day by 17 miniutes also winner of many more top prizes and sire of winners.

Blue 68 winner of 4x1st and 1st fed and sire and grandsire of top top winners.

The cock which won the R.P.R.A. Sprint 0-250 miles Award is a grandson of
Suzy and he is the blue cock which I am holding in the photograph, he has now won a total of 13x1st prizes including 3x1st Open North east provincial he his predominantely Soontjens breeding from my old family of pigeons. His Father is a son from Suzy is Mother is direct from the Green eyed cock.

I have also bred the R.P.R.A. Sprint award winner East Midlands region for Frank Bristow this year this pigeon is also a grandaughter of Suzy being directly from my Little Star who himself won 12x1st prizes .
Quite a good record i think youll agree 2 R.P.R.A. Sprint award winners in 2 regions bred by myself in same year .

Both theses pigeons will now go forward too the National Sprint awards , so i wait and hope we can get a National award.

The other cock out of interest that you was holding the pied cock in the photo with us is also a champion pigeon in my lofts with 11x1st prizes and 3x1st Open
he his also from my old family of pigeons.

Big Griz one of Micks top Willy Thas Stock hens.
Big Griz one of Micks top Willy Thas Stock hens.

Galileo --- 1st National Portsmouth plus many many top positions club and fed and sire and grandsire of fed winners .
Galileo --- 1st National Portsmouth plus many many top positions club and fed and sire and grandsire of fed winners .

Brians choice --- 6x1st and 1st fed and sire and grandsire of many winners
Brians choice --- 6x1st and 1st fed and sire and grandsire of many winners

Little Star --- 12x1st , 1x1st fed , 4x 2nd fed 21st National , sire and grandsire of fed winners and R.P.R.A Award winners.
Little Star --- 12x1st , 1x1st fed , 4x 2nd fed 21st National , sire and grandsire of fed winners and R.P.R.A Award winners.

Pied Star -- never raced he his sire super pigeons for me and others at all levels of competition. These are just a sample of the breeding cocks of my old family the hens are of equal quality , it is my belief that you would not find many stronger flying lofts with Soontjens or soontjen based in the country , there is not many lofts can advertise this amount of top racing/breeding pigeons from the same family anywhere.
Pied Star -- never raced he his sire super pigeons for me and others at all levels of competition. These are just a sample of the breeding cocks of my old family the hens are of equal quality , it is my belief that you would not find many stronger flying lofts with Soontjens or soontjen based in the country , there is not many lofts can advertise this amount of top racing/breeding pigeons from the same family anywhere.

Prince Willy -- 1st National La Ferte Bernard R.P.R.A. Award winner and 3rd National ace pigeon , etc etc . also sire of winners .
Prince Willy -- 1st National La Ferte Bernard R.P.R.A. Award winner and 3rd National ace pigeon , etc etc . also sire of winners .

Suzy. one of the best breeding hens in the U.K. at this present time.
Suzy. one of the best breeding hens in the U.K. at this present time.
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