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All material Copyright © 1996-2014 by Silvio Mattacchione & Co. unless otherwise noted.

Successfully Starting A Family Of Racing Pigeons On A Small Budget

By Silvio Mattacchione

In the following brief article I will give my readers an actual concrete example of the approach that can be taken if a novice or a pigeon fancier returning to the sport wishes to achieve success. I know that success can be achieved so long as the new or returning pigeon fancier is dedicated to doing his research. I intend to use as my concrete example the case of a Canadian, Don Glionna, a former tippler fancier who chose to return to the hobby at age 64,  (after he had knee replacement surgery in 1999) on a limited budget flying from a small backyard loft in downtown, Oshawa, Ontario.

Over the years I have been confronted with several questions from beginners or people returning to our sport after decades overwhelmed and invariably asking the same question: Where do I begin?  What the novice fancier or the returning fancier is really asking is a number of questions all rolled into one: How can I ever hope to compete against all those fanciers with deep pockets who can afford the very best birds in the world? I cannot afford the best birds? How can I compete? How can I ever hope to form my own family of birds? Can it be done? How can it be done? There is no hope! Is there hope?

Well there is always hope and the answer to "Where do I start?" is, you start at the very beginning! Where is the beginning? Research is the beginning. Before you even think of purchasing any birds think seriously about where you want to be in 5-10-15 years. Have a plan, set goals and then work diligently to achieve these goals one step at a time, slowly, methodically.

Read everything, study everything, become familiar with fanciers in you immediate area. Visit lofts, as many as you can. Before you purchase birds you need a suitable loft. You need to find a loft design that suits your needs as well as your pocketbook. The loft need not be fancy, it need not be large, it need not be expensive, it just needs to suit your circumstances. I will give you an actual example of how one Canadian, a returning fancier, confronted all of these actual problems and did so successfully. This fancier, a former "tippler " man lives in an older downtown section of Oshawa Ontario on a small single-family residential lot. In Oshawa Ontario, fanciers are confronted with a building code that states that structures over 100 square feet require a building permit. We all know that once the building dept. gets into things then costs escalate very quickly..Most people would see the small back yard as a drawback but given the right mind set this restriction can , in fact, become an  advantage. Lofts under 100 square feet must be well thought out and ultimately force the fancier to carefully control numbers. Since, of necessity, the loft is small your neighbors are less likely to become upset with you and your hobby. Instead of having one huge and possibly inappropriate loft in a small back yard you might consider two or even three small well built, clean well maintained lofts that in most cases are not much taller that the surrounding wood fences bordering your lot line. In fact this is exactly what Don Glionna did. He insured that each loft was less than 100 square feet in overall area and kept each loft to a maximum ceiling height of 6 feet. This insured that building authorities in his town were not involved and he then set out to build three small lofts: one for breeding, one for young bird racing and one for a few pairs of tipplers and fancy birds. The lofts are neat, well designed, well built and well maintained. Plus Don Glionna works hard to maintain great relations with all of his abutting neighbors.

Figure 1. Don Glionna outside his 8'X12' breeding loft (with visitors Gardi Gamboa and Joel recently arrived from Saudi) built totally by his wife Jackie. This is the ideal small loft for the small backyard.

Don Glionna was confronted with these building limitations and proceeded to have his wife build three small lofts in his residential Oshawa backyard. The stock loft pictured above as well as his young bird loft and his small tippler breeding loft all pictured below.

Figure 2. Don Glionna in front of his young bird loft. An ideal small yard loft for 20 young racers. This loft is 6'X8' with a sliding glass door and California style trap.

Figure 3.  Don Glionna and visitor in front of the  tippler loft. This loft is 4'X 8" and is ideal for several pairs of tipplers and tumblers.

So as we see above Don Glionna took what seemed to be a disadvantage and successfully turned this alleged disadvantage into a plus. It's all in how you view your circumstances. Some see only problems and complain and others study the situation and figure out unique solutions. Don Glionna turned his disadvantages into real advantages. Three great small lofts built totally by his wife to suit their small backyard. Small loft, select number of birds equals happy neighbors, a win/win for everybody

Don Glionna is a retired 70 year old who is a diabetic and has overcome cancer as well. These seemingly huge disadvantages have not stopped him in the least. He deals with them every day and Jackie, his wife, is totally supportive. She loves the birds; she designed and actually built the lofts as well as all of the fittings, perches, nest boxes and even the crates in her small garage workshop. So we can see that bigger is not necessarily better and smaller is not necessarily less advantageous. It all depends on your point of view and how you choose to deal with those things in your life that you cannot change.

When Don Glionna got into the racing pigeons (remember he was a tippler man) he was retired, the prices of good birds were through the roof, so how could the fact that he and Jackie were on a fixed retirement income be turned to their advantage. Well having no money to waste they needed to make every penny count. Research was the key to their hopes of developing a small family as quickly as possible. Don visited all kinds of successful local fanciers, he studied all of the upcoming sales catalogues, went to every sale looking for just the right bird. He refrained from the urge to purchase just anything, he wanted just the right birds and in time the right sale came along and Don Glionna was ready. His patience and research paid off in spades. The city of Oshawa is home to the extremely competitive "Oshawa Racing Pigeon Club." Some of the most competitive fanciers in that club are the Yassein Brothers, Hossam (an eye surgeon) and his brother Wail (an optometrist). Over the years these highly successful brothers spent a substantial sum purchasing some of the very finest racing pigeons from Oak Haven Farms and its owner Mr. Campbell Strange. Mr Strange had an incredible ability to locate and bring to North America some of the finest racing pigeons in the world.

Now it turns out that in October of 2001 the Yassein Brothers had an auction /disposal sale in Oshawa and Don Glionna studied the sale material closely and like a man on a mission he went to the sale intent on purchasing one possibly two pigeons. He had decided on a checker whiteflight cock and this cock's daughter. The cock (now called "The Baron") had been purchased for a rather large some of money by the Yassein Brothers and Don Glionna was in the final analysis able to purchase this cock lot #65 for $350.00 Can (just a fraction of its original purchase price). Somehow Don Glionna saw, in this bird, what all of the others at that auction sale failed to see. He saw the inner potential of a magnificently inbred pigeon. Don Glionna's keen stock sense developed over years of keeping tipplers paid off in spades and that cock that was auctioned off at that sale was quite the buy! Don Glionna knew the background of this pigeon very well. This checker whiteflight cock OHF 1996-6257 bred by Campbell Strange was from what is possibly the greatest line of Janssen pigeons ever bred. This cock was a son of WWC 1988-2549 who in turn was a direct son of Campbell Strange's exceptional cock "SCHALIE" NL 1978 1807899 (a slate cock that was sire to 1st National Basel against 6645 birds). Now "SCHALIE" in turn was a direct son of one of the greatest racing pigeons of the last Century who had been 15 times 1st Federation -none other than "De 46" NL 1965 1384946 also commonly referred to as 'VERBART 46." A direct son of DeKlak's "VECHTER X WITPENNEKE." This cock that Yassein auctioned off in 2001 was inbred top and bottom to "VERBART 46." A royally bred cock for only $355.00 Can. So what did Don Glionna see that others did not?

Figure 4. "VERBART 46" Bred by De Klak one of the greatest Janssens of all times.15 X 1st Federation plus an even greater breeder.

Figure 5. The inbred checker whiteflight cock OHF 1996 6257 now called "The Baron" purchased by Don Glionna for $250.00 Can at the Yassein auction in 2001. This cock became the foundation of a wonderful family of inbred pigeons that has been incredibly successful for Don Glionna.

At the same time Don Glionna also purchased the direct daughter of OHF 1996 6257 "The Baron" her number was CU OGB 1997 3847 a blue checker pied hen lot #53 for $375.00 that Don called "Apple Jack" and thus this line of birds are called his "AJ's." Don mated this father and daughter team together and resisted the urge to fly these birds for two years until he had sufficient stock in hand. When he finally raced these birds they were fantastic. As I stated earlier "DE 46-VERBART" was a bred by Jos van Limpt of Reusel Holland, who had the following words to say about De 46: "In those days I had several real good pigeons from my famous couple 'Vechter'and 'Witpenneke'. But none of them was as good as the "46" óf Piet Verbart, that won 15 firsts. Piet Verbart got the "46" as an egg. If I had known how good this bird would become, I would never have sold the egg of course. But everybody makes mistakes. Nobody can see into the head or heart of a pigeon."

Figure 6. A son of the Baron mated to a granddaughter of the Baron.

When I first visited Don Glionna I immediately spotted "The Baron" then looked at all of the birds in the stock loft and knew instantly that Don Glionna had, in an incredibly short period of time, populated his stock loft with sons and daughters of  "The Baron." It was obvious he was proceeding on an inbreeding and line breeding program. It was a pleasure to see those beautiful hens and to realize that Don Glionna had come to understand the incredible value of the hens to the long-term future success of any loft. Over a year later I asked if I might borrow one of these hens and I proceeded to mate it to a son of my "Phar Lap." In fact, I thought so much of Don Glionna's hens that one of his hens was used to breed my pick entry for the 2005 Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race in South Africa. I was very pleased with the results (Blue Panther was 229th overall and 2nd Canada National) and was totally surprised that fellow Canadians were not beating a path to his door. I guess the real reason that they do not is the truth of the old saying that most people seem to be more interested in the "sizzle" rather than the "steak." Well Don Glionna is currently serving "steak" and I for one am not so full of ego or pride that I cannot see it and pull up a chair to feast on some great "steak" myself. Whether other Canadian fanciers recognize it or not is of little concern to me. Clearly there is a lesson to be learned here. You are never too old to start a family of pigeons.

Figure 7. The hens off of the Baron and his sons are like peas in a pod. Exceptional bodies, beautiful faces and wonderful performance. The ideal racing pigeons.

Figure 8. You can see for yourself the consistency of these pigeons both hens and cocks. It is a beautiful thing to see and believe me you do not often see it in most lofts.

Figure 9. How many times have you heard people claim that they go to Europe to look for small backyard lofts that are really successful. It is my contention that you can save your flight to Holland and Belgium and find small successful backyard lofts in Canada and the USA if you care to really look.

Figure 10. As incredible as it may seem Don Glionna has successfully started an inbred family of "Verbart  46" pigeons  and it took him only five years to do so. If you are new or returning to the sport keep this small backyard success story in mind. You can do it to with a lot of research a lot of dedication and a clearly laid out plan that you wish to follow.

It is interesting to note that the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union publishes a yearbook of all CU club results every year. I have contacted this official source to view the young bird results for the "Oshawa Racing Pigeon Club" for the following years 2003, 2004. Historically the young bird races were typically dominated by H. Yassein, J. Martieri, Bruce Bidon and others. In 2003 it was a different story. After a slow start to the season things started to happen for Don! In the club races he was 3rd & 4th at Mattawa; 1st, 3rd, 4th, & 5th, at Latchford, 1st, at Newliskeard, and at Matheson he was 1st & 2nd with birds #1023 & # 1021 (1023 was 2 hours ahead of anyone in the club); he also had 6th. 9th.& 10th place .On this race Don topped the Kawartha North Shore Combine . Don had sent only a total of " 6 " birds to this race. The last race was Mattawa , Don was 1st. & 3rd. That year he took Young Bird Average Speed- 2nd. Young Bird Loft -1st. & 3rd. Champion Young Bird. This was also the first year of the Oshawa Gold Band - Encore Race. Don sent "3" birds. Not only did he win the Encore Race but also his bird was first on the day, ahead of all the Gold Band birds! These results were NEVER published.

Well in 2004, the "word " in the Oshawa club was that Don's winning was just a "fluke"! Well the first race Burks Falls, Don was 1st, 3rd, & 6th . The second race, Burks Falls, Don was 2nd,. 3rd, 4th, & 5th. In the results of the Up North Pigeon Racing Combine, for this race, out of 101 flyers & 1787 birds, Don was 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th. Race # 3 Don takes the top 4 spots in the club. Don continues to be in the top 5 for the rest of the season; winning Matheson twice thus winning Young Bird Average Speed, 2nd Young Bird Loft as well as 1st, & 3rd. Champion Young Bird. All of this was done while undergoing surgery on his back for skin cancer & training the birds only once a week!

So as you can see with a great deal of patience, a lot of research and a very modest amount of money the beginner or the person returning after decades can still hold his own against the well financed lofts. It can be done and Don Glionna has shown that it can be done reasonably, modestly and successfully. Continued success to you Donnie and thanks for the education and the example that you provide to other fanciers across North American. The most important thing in pigeon racing is the total enjoyment and love of the birds and as long as you never forget that fundamental point you will always be a champion, where it counts, regardless of your placement on the race sheet.

Racing Pigeons Section Contents

Ashdon Farms

Background on Silvio Mattacchione, his pigeons, his loft, and inbreeding program.


A group of articles and editorials addressing various aspects of the sport of pigeon racing and the history of Silvio's line of Spanjaards/Janssens pigeons.

Pigeon Books

Buy fantastic pigeon books online! Selections include The Will to Prepare by Robert Kinney, Rotondo on Racing Pigeons by Joseph Rotondo, and The Pigeon Guide by Dr. Jon Esposito and Shannon Hiatt.

Pigeons For Sale

Some of Silvio Mattacchione's own winning stock is for sale.

Pigeon Consulting

Sivio Mattacchione offers a wide range of racing pigeon consulting services and consults with owners as far away as Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines and the United States. Each consultation is tailored specifically to meet the client's needs, and is conducted in as thorough a manner as possible.

Charity Events

Good causes supported by Silvio and the racing pigeon and parrot communities.


Clever pigeon pictures constructed of keyboard strokes by artist Jerry Downs.

Pigeon Links

Links to other racing pigeon sites including those of clubs, products, and information resources. An easy way to navigate a series of pigeon web sites!

Contact Us

Silvio's e-mail, mail, phone, and fax contact information.

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