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THE PONDEROSA LINK: M & R Hamilton of Coalisland & District

Mickey Hamilton holding the 02 bred Silver Shadow hen of Ponderosa, responsible for so many winners (see text).
Not much room to try and fit in the scale of the large loft that engulfs the garden to the rear of the house.
Having previously flew to the Open Door, the new traps are used with Bricon ETS. Notice the extractor fan between the traps and also the large poultry louvers on front of loft.

Winning combination Mickey Hamilton with Henry McLaughlin (l) and Tom Nelson from Dublin (r). Tom was ISRF Fancier of the Year in 2006.

Having handled a few of the class pigeons of M & R Hamilton in the stock lofts, time to leave them in peace.
Not surprising the youngsters are bouncing as the loft opened on an early morning call.


The Coalisland based partnership of M & R Hamilton (Mickey & son Ronan) have enjoyed excellent success since the formation of the father and son partnership in 2003, flying within the very competitive NIPA Section A and affiliated Coalisland & District HPS.  

I quote competitive because with fanciers such as Henry McLaughlin (Blue Devil Lofts) a former Section A Fancier of the Year in no less than four occasions and a breeder of pigeons to win Clubs, Sections, Opens and Nationals around the country, then you have Carl Murphy the first winner of an NIPA Gold Medal, Kevin Carolan a former O/B National Winner to name a few, of course there are many more in this very competitive Club with a membership of 20. Looking through the statistics the Coalisland Club members have accounted for five NIPA Open Winners in recent years, with that part of the country classed as very unfavorable indeed for the racing pigeon.

Mickey Hamilton along with 16 year old Ronan are a class partnership enjoying their fair share of success since first starting to race young birds in 2003. Mickey himself had pigeons before from 1992 to 1997 with just one Club success in all that time, with many hours put into pigeons, Mickey would admit that he worked non stop at them in that period far more than he currently does in this new system of success. During that time between 92 and 97 he found trying to balance work, family and pigeons were verging on the brink of near impossible proportions hence deciding to call it a day in 1997.  Having always had a very strong friendship with fellow club mate Henry McLaughlin, he never lost his interest in pigeons and as time and years progressed he decided to visit Henry’s in the Y/B season of 2002 on a weekly basis, during this time Henry was to set a flying record within the NIPA and still is and likely to be the only fancier in Section A of the NIPA to win 6 x 1st Sections back to back.

Mickey learnt a lot during his visits to Henry’s and soon come to realize that pigeon racing wasn’t all about how many times you had the birds in the boot of the car, but more it was to do with having good pigeons and more importantly a good management system. Having seen enough to get the bug bighting again internally he decided that the time was now right to have a go at racing but this time investment would be significant and the job would be complete properly, all that was anticipated achievable wouldn’t be possible without assistance so keeping it in the family, son Ronan was encouraged into the frame.

With the mental physical infrastructure in place, then came the next step in the design of the loft, again having witnessed an indulgence of progression in the design of lofts that were being used by successful fanciers just not in Ireland but the Continent and with limited amount of space to be took into the equation, who else but Liam Prunty was contacted about erecting a loft that Mickey felt would service and fulfill the needs of what the partnership were setting out to achieve.

Next came the import of good pigeons just not pigeons, but good ones. A family of pigeons that had always caught the eye of Mickey, but were outside of his budget all those years ago, were the pigeons of Ponderosa U.K Stud, namely Tony Haynes of Weymouth, Dorset. Mickey made contact with Tony and purchased 6 pair, and as the saying goes he has never looked back. Up till this day they have formed a formidable friendship and one that Mickey is very proud off, as he quotes he can not thank Tony enough for supplying pigeons that have institutionalized the M & R Hamilton lofts. Not of course forgetting about the quality of pigeons closer to home, stock has also been acquired from fellow club mates Henry McLaughlin and Carl Murphy, all carrying success stories.

What has the Hamilton loft achieved in those four and half years racing, quite something else if you ask me and many of the fanciers in and around the Section A locality. In all 32 x 1st Clubs, 14 x 1st Section Diploma’s and many top NIPA Open positions many of which were within the Top 10 including twice 3rd Open and 2nd Open Yearling Cocks National. This success started right away I might add the first two races in the Y/B programme of 2003 seen 2 x 1st Club’s and 2 x 1st Sections. The father and son partnership have been NIPA Section A Fanciers of the Year in 2007 and 2005, finishing runner-up in 2004 and 2006. All achieved by competing at the top of the largest RPRA organization from the shortest to the longest available race points.

Management and racing of the O/Bird team is somewhat less hectic, than those times during Mickey’s last spell in pigeon racing, this is down to his systematic approach and better understanding of the pigeon racing sport. The O/Bird team numbers 38 with a mixture of cocks and hens raced on a semi widowhood and roundabout system, the cocks are raced to a couple of sections on the upper floor of the loft on the left hand side, with the hens housed on the lower level to the right hand side as you look at the loft. The other two areas of the loft are used to house the stock pigeons lower left hand side and the darkened Y/Bird teams on the first level right hand side. The loft is off wooden structure and prior to the introduction of ETS they all accessed the loft through open doors. This has now been changed to facilitate the ETS which Mickey says is a godsend for the working fancier he himself being a Full-Time Service Engineer for a major Poultry Parts Company. The ETS traps were made and purchased from Alan Beattie of the local Charlemont Club. Heaters are installed in all sections and used as the weather dictates. Previously Mickey has always mated the cocks and hens up again during the O/Bird programme, but last year decided to keep the widowhood and roundabout going right to the end without mating and had the best O/Bird season since re-entering into the sport of pigeon racing.

This accumulated in probably one of the best results achieved by any fancier from Sennen Cove sending 12 pigeons and having 11 home on the day, and fanciers don’t need any reminding on how hard a day that race turned out to be. The loft finished with 5 in the top 20 of the Section with 4 finishing in the top 100 this race also resulted in the loft winning the NIPA Section A Meritorious Award, the 12th bird was waiting on the loft the following morning at dawn, some achievement considering the first pigeon was timed at 7.21pm on race day.

Feeding is Gerry Plus 1 and ½ ounces per pigeon per day split between morning and night, but as with all fanciers they are always looking to improve so this year the O/Bird teams will be fed on three occasions, which Mickey admits has resulted in better over-all performance and flying around the loft. The feeding is by hopper rather than to the widowhood boxes. Supplements are all of the Natural resources, with Cider Vinegar used in de-stilled water every second day, they will also get Natural line once per week with garlic granuals mixed in the water also once a week, just on the feeding front on a Thursday evening the birds both old and young will get all the food they want with everything that’s left being removed about 1 hour after. Then on a Friday morning at 8.0am they will get their food as usual but they will never eat much if on top form and a true indication of what the weekend holds pending on what amount of corn is retrieved from the loft at 12 noon.

The sections that house the cocks are scraped everyday including the boxes which are fitted with floor grills. The Hens are scraped every other day pending on availability of time. As mentioned above the cocks are flying well around the loft when let out morning and night, in the lead up to the first race they will get approximately 10 tosses up to 25 miles. Once racing has started the cocks won’t receive any further training tosses. As for the hens which normally take over the racing role come the fourth race they will be started some time later than the cocks and will receive around 5 tosses prior to their first excursion with only one chance for exercise around the loft in the evening, but fly they do with many nights having to physically call them down from the skies over looking the loft. Ronnie Williamson’s transporter is used for the purposes of training but once again no more tossing once the racing has started. Every other week they are treated with Euromycin in the prevention of respiratory and then every third week they will get B.S. Also during the season they will be treated with Metrodynasol at a dose of ½ a tablet at various times for canker prevention this is almost a certainty after a hold over. Prior to racing they will get a seven day treatment of Incospectrum. The cocks sections measure 6ft x 8ft with 12 boxes in each, the hens section measures 12ft x 9ft and is fitted out with V perches.

The Young Birds are raced and placed on the Darkness system right from the word go when shifted from the nest a total of 14 hours of darkness per day. The section that houses the 75 youngsters measures 13ft x 8ft and is spilt into two. Pipa boxes are installed for the youngsters more than what’s required and they are cleaned once a week with the majority of droppings gathered in the trays that are beneath the rows of perches. As for the floor covering it is deep litter with the assistance of the Cat Litter granules, this is something Mickey reckons more and more of the fanciers in the area are doing, he relates to watching the Boscheind Flyers DVD and on it they have used the exact same deep litter in the Y/Bird loft for the last 10 seasons with excellent results and a number of National success’s obviously although with the top took of it every so often.

The section which is pitch black with darkness is fitted with an electric extraction fan that runs 24/7. As for the louvers at the front of the loft, these run the whole length of the frontage and are similar to the louvers used in poultry farm house, these have up side down V runners that are closely knitted together and let in next to no light whatsoever. Up till about mid May they are fed Breeding mixture twice a day as much as they want, they will then move onto a Diet mix, this change in feeding is to get more out of them when exercising around the loft which will see them out at least once a day, prior to this and up until the middle of May the Y/Bird team are only out once a week. They will come of the darkness on the 16th June and as training and racing starts they will be on Gerry Plus at a measure of 1 & ¼ ounces per day per pigeon, supplements in the water are the same as the O/Birds as mentioned above.                   

Training of the youngsters which is all done by Mickey himself will start at 4 miles to which they will get four of these, then they will progress to 10 miles again four of these and finally to the furthest point 28 miles with as many of these before their first race which is normally the 2nd Area Liberation. After racing has commenced they will get two tosses per week on a Tuesday and a Thursday up until the 3rd race then they will get no more training. The youngsters will be vaccinated upon leaving the nests for Paramaxo and will also be done at the end of May for Paratyphoid, after any treatment they will get Flight Path to line the gut once again. 

Stock birds number 18 pairs with the majority purchased from the Ponderosa Stud U.K in Weymouth. These have been very well complimented not unusually with Hartog from fellow club mate and good friend Henry McLaughlin and also former NIPA Gold Medal winner and club mate Carl Murphy. Mickey was telling me that he and Carl exchange youngsters every year and they have both had their fair share of success from their exchanges. As for Henry’s Hartog’s like so many who have them they do well were ever they go and the Hamilton loft is no different one pigeon named ‘Treble One’ has produced many 1st prize winners including a 1st Section winner in its two first nests also G/Sire of 42nd Open Talbenny and G/G/Sire of Alan Beattie’s 1st club winner in the Charlemont HPS.

Mickey also tells me they have done very well mated into his Ponderosa Van Loons hitting right away including one nest that produced 1st Club, 1st Section A and 2nd Open Yearling cocks National on a Velocity of 1885 from Pilmore Beach, two weeks after that the same pigeon yet again topped the Section A of the NIPA on a velocity of 1164 and also has a 1st Club, 3rd Section A Rosscarbery last season to add to the CV. This is only one example of an exceptional line coming from Henry’s and Mickey’s pigeons mated together. Without doubt and taking a 90% ratio in the 14ft x 6ft stock loft is the Ponderosa pigeons first purchased in 2002, exceptional breeders include a Silver Shadow Cock who is sire to the Coalisland HPS club winner from Sennen Cove the last three seasons to three different hens, sire also to Carl Murphy’s Double Section Winner and also Sire to a 12th Open Bude, 13th and 34th Open Sennen Cove and a nest pair of hens who finished 45th and 62nd Rosscarbery Y/B National. Think you would agree an exceptional cock. Also another Silver Shadow hen again 02 bred has produced 2 x 1st Section winners for Mickey and is the dam of Carl Murphy’s Double Section Winner, she is also dam of 33rd Open Barleycove, 12th Open Bude and 13th Open Sennen Cove as well as dam of Mickey’s Meritorious Award winner. Class pigeons being managed by a class fancier.

I will pen of by thanking Mickey for what truly was a very enjoyable visit and with pigeons like what the loft beholds, no doubt many more visits from myself will follow, as the years of success continue.    

Adie McCormick
Ireland's Own Pigeon Auctions

Tel 028 92604778

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