Derek Cook (my father) decided to start up a pigeon stud with the pigeons he had been acquiring over the years.
He started racing pigeons in the early 1950’s and has been racing and breeding pigeons ever since, apart from a short break when he had to do National Service.
As a typical pigeon fancier the number of pigeons grew from a few in the garden shed to having three lofts! He was a successful fancier taking many prizes racing in the Essex North Road Combine, racing against some of the top fliers in the country at the time. In the early 1980’s he started buying Leen Boers which were original imported into the country in 1981 by Stan Thorogood, Barry Fiddler and John Wright.
Twelve pairs were originally imported and dad slowly managed to buy these original birds and eventually ended up with eight of the twelve pairs. At the time he also had Janssen’s, Catrysse, After spending quite a lot of money on buying in pigeons it was decided that he should try and recoup some of the expense by selling young birds and the stud was formed in 1984.
In the mean time I was born in 1979 (a great year!) and of course was immediately put to work cleaning out in the lofts and generally being around the pigeons.
Here are a couple of photos from my younger days!!!
At the age of 11 I had my own loft and pigeons and raced against my dad registered under my own name.
I raced natural and dad raced widowhood, it was hard to beat him but when I did it didn’t matter where I was in the rest of the results only that I beat him! A picture of us at a club presentation a few years ago!
Starting from the left my mum, then me (I think I won the young bird averages cup) my dad and my sister in a blue top with three other club members.
At this time we lived 10 miles east of Okehampton in Devon and in the 14 years we were there we won everything up to and including 1st Combine on more than one occasion. The stud was devastated in 1989/1990 when 160 mile per hour gales hit the country and blew the lofts over, roughly £20,000 worth of pigeons were lost, none were killed, which was a miracle, the roofs popped off when the lofts were blown on their backs and the birds were just blown out of the lofts.
Only one of the pigeons was every found and reported it actually made it back to her original owner!
We pulled the lofts back upright and repaired them as there was little damage, which again was another miracle.
The stud grew from there replacing what birds we had lost by breeding and racing our own and in the early 1990’s we introduced the Jan Aardens.
The Jan Aarden took over from the Catrysse and Van Wanroys we had for the distance. In 2001 we moved to Polehayes which is 10 miles north west of Okehampton, prior to the move the stud was nearly sold up only by luck did we not sell the Leen Boers due to the auctioneer double booking us but we did sell most of the Janssens and Aardens.
At our new location we erected a 5 compartment loft as our new stock loft, this was designed with dowel partitions and doors, what we have always wanted instead of wire mesh. Each section housed 15 nest boxes and had a raised aviary accessible by a small pop hole for the pigeons to go in and out.
There was also a racing/breeding loft, two 8 foot by 12 foot sheds with 12 by 12 foot aviary on each shed, these held the young cocks and hens ready for sale.
There was one other loft with room for 16 breeding pairs and two smaller sections for weaning the young birds.
The stud has now been built back up and we breed and sell 500 pigeons a year. In the time we have been at Polehayes we have bred pigeons to win from 1st Club up to 1st NIPA 27,000 plus birds and 1st Scottish National and one pigeon we entered in the Sun City Million Dollar race in 2008 was placed 1st UK and 3rd Open 3,600 plus birds. We are now undergoing some changes to the stud some of the older lofts that were moved from the other side of Okehampton are going to be replaced with new easier to manage lofts dryer and more insulated for the birds. We have also been buying in new stock to improve on what we already have, we are always striving to improve and one of the biggest pleasures for us id to hear how well our birds are doing for other people.
Over the past few years we have been updating and upgrading our racing and breeding lofts to better house the birds we have here. The original loft that was built here has finally had its last upgrades. The sections now hold 18 pairs and instead of a pop hole they have a 4 foot tall by 2 foot wide window to access their new (3 times larger in volume) aviaries.
The old racing loft, which was mainly used as a stock shed has gone and 4 breeding sections are in its place and the sheds that held the birds for sale have been replaced with 2 breeding sections and 2 sale sections. All the lofts are constructed from shiplap boarding except the original one that is still sterling board. All lofts have box profile tin rooves and all aviaries are 8 foot wide by 10 foot long with 10 foot by 10 foot lofts and are accessible through 2 x 4 foot by 2 foot windows giving a nice 4 foot square opening to fly through, so during the day the birds have around 18 foot total length flight