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
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
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
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
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
any secrets in the pigeon game that gives you the edge on the
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
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.
1st prizes did the micky betts loft win during the 2005 racing
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
of racing gives you the most enjoyment out of the sport mick ?
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
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
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
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
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
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
Q21, is there anything within this sport that you still
have to do? Any goals to achieve ?
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
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 .
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!