Meet The Member
What better place to start than with our club Secretary, Martin Coyle. A well know exhibitor of Modenas with an exceptional record of success in recent years around the major shows.
In this series of "Meet The Member" profiles we hope to introduce the personality behind the pictures published and at the same time hopefully provide valuable information to any newcomers to the keeping, breeding and exhibiting of Modenas.
Being new to this breed myself, I am aware of how difficult it can be to obtain information and knowledge about the breed, when our members are based all around the country.
Also I am sure that just as I enjoy viewing and reading about Modena lovers around the world in places like Canada, America, Australia, Europe etc. they equally enjoy the same for our GB members. When I last checked, this website has visitors from over 50 countries worldwide.
Q. How did you first come to keep Modenas? How long have you kept them and what do you regard as your best moment with Modenas.
A. It all started about 40 years ago whilst I was working at Torness Power Station whilst living with my parents in Berwick Upon Tweed. At that time, a work colleague asked if he could borrow my car, in order to drive to Kelso where he was going to clean out a pigeon loft for a friend of his uncle who was very ill. I went with him and I returned wit 2 pairs of Modenas. I only had them for 2 years as I was going to South Africa to work. Many years later I was back in the UK in Kent where I currently live and about 14 years ago I purchased some land behind my house. I decided that I would keep some fantails/doves and in the search saw an advert from Roy Nicholson in Essex and voila I was back to keeping Modenas.
Q. If you were starting again from scratch keeping Modenas, based on your current experience, how would you go about acquiring your initial stock?
A. If I were to start again from scratch, my approach would be to study which breeders were doing well in the shows and what Modenas they concentrated on and I would then purchase my stock from only a couple of breeders. When I started, I was desperate to have certain colours and was purchasing everything that I could. Roy’s Modenas in my opinion were excellent birds but we became good mates and from then on, I tried to steer away from the colours that Roy focused on. It was at the club’s Centenary show that I first saw the birds exhibited by John Walker and from that point I knew which direction that I wanted to go in. At the Club Show the following year, john very kindly gifted me 5 birds, 3 of which were on victory row that day.
Q. Most Modena classes within shows seem to be dominated of late by birds of Gazzi colouration, do you think that there is any advantage from focusing on the Gazzis as opposed to Schietti within the breeding stock you keep.
A. I don’t think that Gazzis have any advantage over Schietti except that it seems that some judges seem to be drawn to the older style/size/colour birds. Also at The Club Show, on victory row the Gazzis and Schiettis are judged (awarded points) separately and there are a lot less Gazzis to choose from.
Q. Health is obviously a large part of keeping the breed in top condition and most people are aware that stress within a colony is harmful to their health. To this end how much space do you believe is required for each pair within a breeding section. Let’s say you have an 8ft x 6ft section, how many pairs would you house in that space and how many nesting boxes would be in the section?
A. One of my Breeding Lofts is 8ft x 8ft with a flight pen of 8ft x 6ft. in this loft I normally put 5 breeding pairs and there are 10 nest boxes in there. With regard to the size of nesting boxes, I have a variety of sizes. Size wise some are L32” x H18” x D20” and others L16” x H16” x D18”. Despite the fact that there are always boxes spare, I get some hens that lay on the floor or even box perches and I have one white hen in particular who always lays on the flight pen floor
Q. Prior to pairing up your selected breeders, what management method do you adopt. By this I mean what type of food mixture do you use and how much per bird per day? Also, what medication/supplements do you give to the birds prior to putting your pairs together?
A. Up to 3 years ago I used to feed various mixtures but since using Versele Laga Black Champion Plus mixture and having noted an improvement in the birds, I have stuck with this mixture. Also, for the last 3 years I have treated against Salmonella/Paratyphoid. Once a week I add diatomaceous earth, oregano and calcium powder and mix with garlic oil. To the water once a week I add apple cider Vinegar, Aviform 11 in 1, Oregano Oil and multi vitamins. Once the babies have hatched, I don’t do anything different but I always have a seed and water pot in the nest box to encourage the youngsters to copy their parents to feed/drink.
Q. At what age do you wean your babies and do you wean them into any special type of section?
A. I wean the babies from 5 to 7 weeks of age and they go into a 1.5mtr x 1.5mtr section within my larger breeding loft which is 6mtrs x 4mtrs. Whilst in the weaning pen I give them 6 to 8 red skinned peanuts. When I am confident that they are independent, they move to one end of the Young Bird loft which is 12ft x 6ft with a same size flight pen.
Q. At what age do you think that show cage training needs to start for the youngsters?
A. In the young bird flights, I have 6 pens in each so that at weekends I can put them in the pens for a few hours. I find if I then leave them open during the week, they are frequently in and out of them.
Q. How many times do you think a youngster needs to have penning experience before its first show?
A. As I have said, I allow them to go in and out of them at will but at most they are placed in for a few hours once a fortnight.
Q. How much refresher training do you give your old bird show team before their first show?
A. I don’t really do any refresher training with adult birds however, outside the young bird loft I have what my wife calls a man shed. So, the weekend before a show I will put 9 birds in at a time and run my eye over them. This way I can tell which need trimming etc.
Q. What preparation do you undertake with your show entries and when do you do it, as you approach a show date?
A. The day before the show I do the same again and wash their feet and check that the parasite treatment that I have used is still effective.
Q. If you could pass on any one tip to new starters in the Modena hobby for showing, what would it be?
A. My tip would be to give every bird that you enter the best chance possible. By this I mean that you must ensure that every entry is clean and that foul feathers are trimmed correctly.
One other tip would be if starting up and looking for birds, wherever possible go and see the birds that you are buying. As Secretary of the club, I have received several complaints about a breeder who is no longer a member of the club. These complaints relate to being sent pictures of birds and then when the birds arrive, they are not the same birds. Also, where birds are supposedly purchased as pairs, what is received is twice as many cocks as hens and some hens too old to breed from. So do all you can to ensure that you are buying birds that you are/will be happy with.
Q. What has been your favourite/most treasured show result within your time with Modenas?
A. The one memory I have of being most excited was at the first Club Show that I competed at. I entered 13 birds that I had just bought from the sales pens for prices ranging from £35 to £100. Then John Walker sold me 3 birds from victory row at £10 each and 2 more that had come 2nd to those birds. Then Roy Nicholson gave me 3 cream Grizzles. Since then, all my top winning Modenas have come either from those birds directly or their children. So, I must say a massive thanks to John and Roy, TRUE LEGENDS! With regards to my most treasured winning Modena, it has to be my Supreme Modena at the Club Show 2016/2017, that year the young Schietti Meal hen won;
2016 Modena Club Show Supreme Modena
Peterborough 2016 Best Young Modena
Suffex 2016 Best Modena.
Q. Finally, what change would you like to see happen most within this hobby?
A. There isn’t a great deal that I would like to change other than the repeated groans about birds being too big. There is no specific size about the standard except to say that “A medium bird with the same qualities as a larger bird, should win”. So, what is medium? Is a judge supposed to do, look at the smallest bird and largest bird and pick his winner from something in between? There is a certain breeder who constantly refers to the Holmes Standard and yet, I have seen him sell small birds, large birds, birds with white flights, with massive heads and eyes that you can’t see for feather covering. If I breed a bird that I personally like, that is the opinion that matters to me.