The reasons for keeping fancy pigeons are obvious to the reader since it proves one of the best pastimes thinkable. One may go for arts, for nature study, for literature study, for sculpture and one may keep fan- cy pigeons thus having the best of all those things.
It is agreed that it is a pastime and that is a matter man did not always have an abundance of. However in the 17th century Holland had the "golden age". Merchants had money to spare and Dutch ships sailed the oceans bringing, among other things, pigeons to our country. Of course these merchants required the extraordinaire for their mansions, while in the towns flying tumblers (Amsterdam ) or thief cropper (The Hague) became very popular and in fact, have remained so.
Willoughby mentions in his "ornithologia" the Uploper in 1678. This. was a rather long cropper with a balloon resembling that of the Norwich Cropper and in fact was used to form that breed. The names implies something of temperament, "to walk towards one". From that. the Dutch balloon cropper evolved. Not a breed with a standard but bred on work- manlike lines more by the thief cropper fraternity and still to be found in the town of the Hague at the thief cropper lofts of' which this town still has many.
At the beginning of this century, with show becoming popular, there were 3 related forms of cropper all referred to as the Holle Cropper. The towns of' Amsterdam. the Hague and Groningen were where one could go and look for them. The Amsterdam birds were rather large. big balloon and a coarse headed form, the Groningen more of a flyer, the Hague variety a small "tail sweeper".
n the year 1904 the Dutch Holle Cropper Club was formed and immediately work was started to bring unity. The result is now clear to see. A beautiful little cropper. Full 01' temperament and round, round, round. One of the most important people in this. development was Mr. J. Ph. Tuyl. It was, he who brought forward the idea of a bird that fitted perfectly into a circle. Only 10 years after the forming of the breed club, Mr. Tuyt brought forward his famous cock "KING" in crude resembling what we want from a Holle Cropper today. With the help of the fantail and the Groingen Slenk (an old flying breed), the standard of 1920 was achieved. Not at all unlike what we have nowadays but, but with the tail carried low (not fitting in the circle remember?) and rather straight in front.
During the second world war much damage was done. The German occupier put a stop to all pigeon keeping, presumably thinking that birds as a Holle Cropper could be used to bring messages to England. The penalties for those that did not comply with that rule were enormous but yet some fanciers managed to pull some of their beloved birds through this dark period.
After that era of course the development continued. With the help of the Modena pigeon the tail was lifted and front was given. That breed and of course selection within the Holle Cropper itselflf gave us the picture of today.
Very popular at shows in the Netherlands where it is penned in cages which are board- ed so they can't see each other, thus preventing them to outlive themselves at the first day and sleep during the remainder of the show, it has now found its way well over the borders becoming one of the most popular blowing breeds. Foster parents are required in some strains but there still are many about that take care of the nesting duties in a most perfect way. One important thing to remember when breeding Holles is that of the balance. Several birds lack depth at front, while the bodyline from front to back, seen through the legs should be continuous. The latter is not only important from a judges point of view but birds lacking front will always try to walk back- wards and press their tail down to regain balance.
Handfeeding young Holle Croppers
Handfeeding young Holle Croppers is a critical item. A lot of breeders think that Holle Croppers should be able to bring up their own offspring. Everything should be done by natural causes. Well, until some point I agree with that. In rare occasions some pairs were able to bring up their own youngs. Most of the time, however, I found that the Holle were not able to do a good job. It took too long before the youngs were ready to leave the nests, in others they simply stopped feeding the youngs after 7 days, and started off for a new round of eggs.
I have been using feeders to bring up the youngs, still do in fact, next to my, at the moment 10 breeding pairs of Holle, I keep six pairs of racing pigeons, they do their job to satisfaction. 2 problems show up now. There's not enough fosterparents for the eggs of the Holle, and I don't have enough room to keep more than 6 pairs of racers.
To bring up the rest of the youngs of the Holle I started handfeeding them. Why handfeeding you might ask? Well it's pretty simple. I breed my Holles for shows, I need a lot of youngs every year, so the best of them can stay for the showseason and to improve the quality of my breeding stock. So the sportive element is very important to me. If you want to improve yourself in the pigeon sport, you need youngs, so you can select and get your average quality in your loft to a higher level.
Here is how I do handfeeding
I take some energy corn, add water to it and leave it be for about 1 hour. The corn will be weakened enough by now, you can make a thick fluid out of it with a little more water and some firm stirring with a spoon. Also a little coffee creamer is added for the needed vitamine D, the youngs need strong bones, right. When the corn and water is stirred to a smooth substance it can be injected directly into the throat of the young. Make sure that you inject far enough into the throat so the young won't have to swollow, that's where it all can go wrong.
I start feeding when the youngs are 7 days old, after 14 days the young are taken from the nests of the parents to Kindergarten, where I feed them once a day. In the Kindergarten there is some normal seeds as well, the youngs will start to pick up some seeds after a few days. When they are 23 days I put them in the youngsters loft and they will eat by themselfs.
Although I have been very succesfull using the handfeeding method, I know it isn't the way a true pigeon breeder wants it to be. I gave my motivation to act this way before, I know a lot of breeders will disagree with it. However, I've seen a lot of youngs in a lot of lofts where the Holles bring up their own offspring, I can't say that it's a pretty sight. Very skinny youngs, badly growing youngs, is this what you want? All I know is that I can't stand to see all of that in my loft!