Central Roller Club

Practical Advice To Roller Breeders

First Essential of a Good Roller is Type, Next is "Expression'-Feeding-Proper Matings-Training Young Kits


Note by Editor. - The following advice was given to the Roller fanciers of the U.S.A. by Bill Pensom when he made his first trip to America in 1948 and it is still good. - Taken from 1955 Pensom Roller Club Bulletin.

The first essential of a good Roller pigeon is type; like a miniature Racing Homer. Neither too shallow nor too deep in keel, short bodied rather than long, medium in size, not tiny and not large, plenty width but positively not too much width in front, too heavy or wide toward the rump, too shallow or too deep in keel or too long in the tail is not physically built to roll correctly. "Any bird that rolls correctly is of right type'. 'You cannot get them too short'.

Second essential of good care is "expression'. Proper expression is hard to define. Either you can see it or you can't. We Americans might call it personality, like one sees in a smart dog. But a good one combines the appearance of intelligence with a certain amount of a ready to go look in a bright eye. Shows no fear of being handled, yet has a go-to-hell look in the eye. Per som said, “I would not have a bird I could not hold.' Assuming your birds are not all pets, neither wild as crows and scared to death of you, they should handle in either one of the other ways described above.

Third essential is feather quality. Without correct feathering, and proper density and length of secondaries, and especially strength in secondaries, a good Roller cannot exercise the control demanded of a good one for long, if at a11.

By looking at a bird's head for "Expression' (intelligence, personality or whatever you call it) Bill could pick out your best birds. He wants a good frontal, the head is higher in front of the eyes than it is directly above the eye, making the head too long to be round on top, good birds were not pinch-faced behind wattles, they were wide between the eyes, beaks were short and medium long on good birds. Two birds with equally good heads can look differently due to size of beaks, learn to look at the head disregarding beak length. Head or face of bird should start to fill out right from back of wattles; opposite if pinched. The neck is rather short than long, stout than thin, legs rather ducky plus short than long, and if narrow in rump as desired it's natural to have what is called a one feather tail in width, and short. In fact short in all respects is the key word in place of long, whether considering neck, body, legs or tail, not saying you cannot have a good bird longer than desired in the neck and legs, but when you get them too long in the back from rump to end of tail the bird is close to hopeless as a spinner. Big birds can' have long tails as compared with smaller birds but still be balanced and properly proportioned to spin correctly, although in culling you can safely cull all the too large birds, and certainly the too small ones, because they lack stability and physique, and the rolldowns, and the too frequent performers. This leaves you with the medium sized birds and the sound birds.


"Proper kit performance impossible and correct rolling very improbable if birds are fed on quantity of the best and expensive pigeon mixed feeds.' He fed about four handfuls to a kit of 25 birds 12 hours before he intended to fly them the next morning. He hand fed them just a trifle always after they came down, and kept them hungry enough so they would chase him all around the place if he had the feed can and dropped a kernel now and then at his feet. They would follow him around the block yet they were not starving. He controlled them entirely with the "corn tin' (feed can) when down. Each man must learn for himself the exact amount to feed his birds to get and keep them in hard lean flying and performing condition. Hungry birds will not fly at all, fed 10 to 12 hours before liberated longest, birds should be flown empty, and this is about 12 hours after givings, them all they need, not all they want. You will have to learn what is correct to succeed. Birds should always be rewarded with a little something when they return to the loft. Little canary seed, or hemp or any light seed feed like water grass, something digested in short time, if you intend flying them again the same day. The best kit is flown every other day at most.


Proper mating of the birds is the key to success. The test of a Roller fancier's ability. All matings should be based on the character of the individuals as displayed by the expression, (after type is assured.) Therefore the importance of understanding his term expression. Pensom mated best to best, like to like, although they might not look alike. He constantly selected nest mates for pairs, until told by owners, their relation. He said he never realized the value of the pedigrees until asked to mate up strange birds in the many lofts he visited. He would pick a red badge cock out of a cock pen and go in and select a blue checker hen in another loft that was its full sister. They were alike for mates to him but only the breeder would know the relation. Did it several times. Pen Som said never to mate two yellow eyed birds together (more than once at least) not to mate red spangles together, and never two birds with a wild or fierce expression. Result—rolldowns—learned from years of experience. "Rollers will not follow Mendel's law in breeding.' Because instability is accentuated this is in relation to the roll only. If a good hen needed more stability, feather, or any other desired quality, he selected the cock bird wealthy in those features. Mated hard colors to light or soft colors. The best feather comes in the dark colors, and on the big birds, as the size is reduced the feather quality decreases. He mated beautiful rec spangles to dirty tortoises and dari checks, showed disregard for any color breeding for that purpose.

Training Young Kits

Pensom said birds should be released from Semi-dark loft, Out through an open door right into the air and never be allowed to alight on top of loft first, and then sent up. Reason: Excitement makes them perform. He divided his young kits into two classes. nne-all birds that showed Signs of tumbling at all were kept in One kit. and second-all that did nothing uit fly were kept in another kit; add rds from second to first kit as fast they showed sign of tumbling v.hile in flying kit, until you had a kit of 25 in he action kit. This gives you all earlier performing kit on the turns, and if mixed, the flyers retard the amount of performance. If started real young and segregated as above, te y vvill roll earlier and you will know before next breeding season wat you have as spinners Otherwise some birds will not roll until they are two, three or more years old. “ A bird that sails shows signs of extra vitality, and might not develop spin for three years.” Many good stock birds have been killed for that reason. Young birds at first will learn to fly in proper form, changing directions more often if flown in small kits of about fifteen or so, but maximum amount of performance will not be obtained until you have added up to 25 birds total. To get young birds to fly up, fly five or six old hens with them, the best you have in the loft are none too good. You must get them up to proper flying form, as low flyers are prone to fly in the same direction.Flying in wind will cause them to stay down low and behind trees for windbreak. Better not to fly young at all that to fly in strong wind and have ten form bad habits. Pull the head off one that flies across the kit and into the lead on one side, all the time, turning the kit. As long as wild flying young birds fly as high or higher than the kit they are all right. They'll come to kit in time. Those that stay beneath it are not good. Take out poor performers and add better Ones. Ordinary performers will improve if flown with the good ones; by the time your birds have come into full development of their roll, you will have your best kit.

"The best birds are those which make the most number of somersaults in the shortest space, and not the deepest birds, but the ones that roll so the small hole can be seen from the side.'

Do not breed from any that are overdeveloped as Rollers; too-frequent, mad Rollers, maybe I should also say rolldowns, as it has been done. This is a crime. The big birds will roll down of their own weight when not down to perfect flying weight.

If you mate two good spinning birds together and their youngsters will not roll, the youngsters will make the best stock birds. Replace some of your old birds each year with some you have bred. An old bird which looks young is a very valuable one to keep. If you have a cock bird that produces exceptionally well young when mated to several different hens, mate it to as many good hens as possible, the results creates continued dominance of desired qualities.

Many birds are forced to roll down by being forced to fly when they are lacking tail feathers or wing feathers during the molt. Birds flown when tenth or last flight is in the blood stage can be ruined for all time; it hurts them to spin and they quit and alight in trees, on housetops and continue to do it the rest of their lives. Natural deficiency in sufficient secondaries or the right quality or spacing of primaries will cause a bird to roll down, as well as mating that increases weaknesses, or over develop the tendency to roll.'