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Recollections From Ollie D. Harris
Submitted by Carl Schoelkopf

 

Born in 1916 Ollie Harris had always been around rollers. His father had been a roller man and so many of their friends were too. His birds were colorful. He liked them small, pearl-eyed with high velocity spin and deep. That isnít to say that he didnít have birds who were not pearl-eyed and a bit oversized as well. However, he drew the line on high-velocity spin. If they didnít have that, they were gone and depth was very attractive to him.

If you know the pigeonís background, you can breed to the color you like, he once said. He liked mating blacks to blues and believed that the light- red checker was an off-shoot of the blacks. In the U.S they are called lavender. According to him you breed better rollers by mating pearl eyes to yellow or orange and bull to yellow or orange as well.

Ollie believed that good rollers may have either a short or long keel and still be good, but one should never keep a flat-keeled bird as it will be a twizzler. Rollers with narrow primaries are more frequent and those with weak secondaries are highest velocity- ďthe best rollersĒ. He also said that there is no correlation between coming into the roll early and rolling down. He was speaking of birds who come into the roll at 5 or 6 months or so. Most roll-downs come from poor feeding and  management practices. Also, he said that birds come into their prime in the third year.

On flying, Harris said to knock the birds down before flying. That is, to reduce the quality of feed given. Barley is good to get rollers ready for a fly. They should not be fed to build up the habit of flying around like homers. Sometimes flying a smaller kit will help this. He recommends bicarbonate of soda or quinine and iron in their water the night before they fly. Barley brings them down and hemp seed given an hour or so before putting them up will help keep them up the needed time.

On judging the quality of the roll, he said: Honest blokes know what good roll is when they see it, but some are more likely to promote what they have rather than what they know they should have. He also said, never to use a bird that rolls with a fault in your breeding. The weaker the feather, the better the roll. Keep in mind high velocity! The good roller must also have a good physique, a good, strong rump.

Harrisí birds are very colorful, but he says that he has no color preference. He spoke of the black mottles of Billy Irons and the Whittinghams or Worchester. If you want to improve your style, velocity, or depth, put the best daughter back to the father for this kind of improvement.

On breeding in general, Ollie said that to breed successfully - you must get down to a single parentage line.  Look for expression in the eye. It is a sign of intellect in the roller. With experience in observing your pigeons you will learn to recognize expression when you see it. No one can point it out to you in one sitting. It takes time. He likes a large pupil and the pearl eye. Eye sign, as the homer people know it, means nothing. Any color in rollers can be good, if the breeder knows what he's doing.

In handling, he says always to feed the birds something when they come down, so they will habitually trap and not become bums. You may want to hold the majority of their ration until later, though. The birds will do sufficiently well on barley, wheat and oats as a regular ration.

Ollie Harris believes that the birds, today, are improving but still lack quality. There just isnít enough high-velocity. If there is one thing you can breed for, it is this. It will add astonishing performance to your kit.

 

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