Master Breeder Series John Heppner*
L To R Zuhair Haji and John Heppner
difficult to write about someone like John Heppner. Not because 1 don't have'
anything to say; the problem is 1 have too much to say. John would be the last
person to admit that he has contributed so much to the fancy. He, too, is one of
those men 1 consider a "complete" fancier' gentleman, judge,
exhibitor, officer, and writer. This Californian is also one of
And don't think you'll beat John when he is only exhibiting his secondary breeds: English Carriers, Nuns, Scandaroons, Dragoons, or Helmets. You just won't do it. Here he has proven to be yet another exception. 1 learned years ago that if you want to be the best in a breed, then only have one breed. Not so when you become a master breeder who just happens to like many breeds. A master breeder who can take any breed he wants, or several and be the toughest competitor you'll ever encounter. Just ask those of us who compete against John in the secondary breeds.
You English Trumpeter breeders already KNOW what I'm talking about. John doesn't miss anything in his breeding, selection, or preparation for the big English Trumpeter meets. That's why he is a master breeder of Trumpeters. I'd hazard a guess that he is also well on his way to a master breeder award in that old regal, "other" English breed: Carriers.
John serves the fancy in local, regional, and national offices. The NPA is lucky to have a vice-president of his character and level-headed- ness. He continues to provide ideas and leadership that help make the West one of the best regions in the NPA.
Finally, John writes an excellent article when he takes the time to put pen to paper. He authored the NPA beginners' guide - a tightly written booklet that introduces pigeon breeds and pigeon fancying to beginners.
And his numerous articles in the APJ have a wealth of wisdom for breeders of birds other than English Trumpeters.
Let me close with one last observation. John Heppner took some of my "thunder" when he made one point in an answer to one of my inane questions: he makes money selling pigeons. Oh, curses! 1 can see the disapproving raise of the eye- brows now. How can a master breeder do that? Listen to what John Heppner has to say. He says it better than 1 ever could and with much more authority.
1. Q. When did you begin raising pigeons? What breed did you begin with? What are some of the circum- stances surrounding that beginning?
A.. 1 first raised pigeons when 1 was 9 or 10 years old. 1 started with common pigeons but soon was breeding pure whites and some
with crests. My grandfather raised commies in his barn, built beautiful nest boxes for them, and usually ate the squabs. My grandfather
would hoist me up by my breeches and allow me to peer into the nest. An appreciation and fascination for pigeons was developed in
those early years. My father did not have an interest in pigeons although he had wanted them as a boy. He fully supported my efforts to get some for myself. Some older neighbourhood boys had pigeons. and 1 purchased my first ones from them - 1 certainly was not
aware of any competition at that time. 1 just had a pure love and admiration for them and would sit for hours in the hayloft (pigeon
loft) on the rung of the ladder observing their domestic affairs. 1 only became aware of shows and pigeon clubs at about age 23. My first fancy pigeons were Nuns. Rollers and English Trumpeters followed.
2. Q: What breed(s) are you concentrating on now? Why? Are there any breeds you'd like to work with in the future? About how many pairs do you have at the present?
I am actively breeding for breed improvement and show purposes the following
breeds: English Trumpeters, English Carriers, Scandaroons, Nuns, Helmets, Muffed
Tumblers, Berlin S.F. Tumblers, Viennas, English
Pouters, Kormorners. and
Yes. there are more breeds 1 would like to work with in the future. 1 would like to broaden into more varieties of Pouters such as Reverse Wing. Old German, Dutch, Poms and Pygmies. 1 love most all pigeons and would like to expand extensively into German Toys as well. 1 usually have somewhat over 1000 pigeons.
3. Q: What is your one "pet peeve" about the hobby? What one thing do you enjoy most about the bobby?
A: Probably my one pet peeve is the pious distinctions people try to make about pigeon fanciers being in it for the bobby or "as a business". In other words, if you make some money at your hobby you are no longer in it for the hobby. Of course, most hobbies cost. and if you are fortunate enough to make money on your bobby, that is a double blessing. I wish more people could make money on their pigeons. We then would have more pigeon fanciers. Also, 1 have a soft spot in my heart for "pigeon dealers." To me, a "feather merchant" is a worthy title and occupation. Often only the pigeon dealer keeps alive a rare breed. 1 love to browse through a pigeon dealer's operation in the hopes of spotting a rarity or a quality bird. We ought to honor our "feather merchants" rather than running them down.
The thing 1 enjoy most about our hobby is discovering success in the nest. That new baby showing superior development and raising my hopes that he'll become a super bird is what it's all about. 1 just love those squabs leaving the nest, and looking forward to the end of the first moult is always exciting.
4. Q: Do you compete in shows? Why or why not?
A: Yes, 1 compete in shows. I compete to see how good my pigeons really are. I compete to show the pigeon fancy what 1 have. Doing well at shows also assists in bird sales.
5. Q: Do you pen train your birds before a show? How do you prepare your birds for a show?
A. Yes, I usually pen train my birds for show although the training is quite incidental. You see, one evening 1 decide to put the English Carrier youngsters in a show pen to see what I have and to see how good they look. 1 just want to enjoy them, but they get trained in the process. A few days later 1 get a "bug" to put the Helmets up or the Dragoons. Not because 1 tell myself 1 must train these birds, but because 1 want to look at some good birds and see how they compare with each other. Keeping your pigeons lice free is a show preparation. Sometimes 1 have to pull the feathers which have the pin holes. Adequate bathing for muffed birds is important as show preparation.
6. Q: Are the present show awards fair, or would you like to see a new" system (like the European system) used? What changes in the American show awards would you recommend?
A: 1 am very happy with the current system of show awards, although I think more clubs should place all birds from first to last - not just the top three or five. All clubs in picking a reserve champion must be careful to bring back the bird that placed behind the champion. Make sure your reserve is truly the second best bird in the breed.
7. Q: Are standards helpful to you as a breeder? What about "Individual" interpretation of a standard? Would you like to see a hardbound copy of American and European standards published in English?
A: Yes, standards are extremely helpful and necessary - it is really the only way to attempt to arrive at a common goal. Individual interpretation of the standard is a problem. That is why so much discussion is necessary with birds in front of you. Also, one should observe the major judges at work and listen to the comments (-hopefully the judge is explaining his decisions). A hardbound copy of American and European standards in English would be great.
8. Q: Explain, briefly, your daily loft routine. What kind of feed do you use? Have you ever used pellets? What kind?
A: 1 have automatic water and my 17 year old daughter, Bonnie, feeds all the birds in the morning. 1 see my birds late afternoon. I wear a big carpenter's apron in which 1 store all of my supplies. 1 walk into all 45 pens, cheek around, band babies, wean YBs, switch eggs, etc. 1 use pellets and like them provided the birds like them. Pellets are easier for youngsters to digest.
the breeding season I use about 50% pellets mixed with a commercial feed; show
season 1 use 25% pellets. 1
use a local "Vitagold" coop pellet
- 15% protein. In
9. Q.. Which breeding method do you follow: outcrossing, line breeding, or inbreeding? Which is the most successful for you?
A: 1 favor line breeding more than anything else. Inbreeding can bring quick results, but I believe for the "long haul" you can sustain your own line longer through line breeding.
10. Q: Do you, or would you, cross breeds to improve a characteristic or add a new color to your breed? Why or why not?
A. Up until just a few years ago, 1 was personally not in favor of cross breeding. The reason for that was mainly my experience in breeding English Trumpeters; many of my pigeon friends always accused "so- called" English Trumpeters of just being crosses with German Trumpeters or maybe Bokhara Trumpeters. (Most were really poor English). Because of the accusations, Peter Wolf and 1 were super cautious not to do any crossing in order to rid the English of the crossbred connotation. The irony of it all is that 1 was accused of crossing Bokharas with English to get superior English when line breeding pure English Trumpeters did the job for me! Now intrigued by the possibilities of cross breeding and have been doing it a little the last three years. 1 support cross breeding. The proof will be in the end product.
1 1. Q. Has the study of pigeon genetics enhanced your breeding success? Or, do you intend to study basic pigeon genetics in the future?
A: Pipaeon genetics has helped me some - mainly in color. 1 should know more about pigeon genetics. 1 see pigeon breeding as both a science and an art.
12. Q: What pigeon magazines do you read? Why? Do you have a few pigeon books in your library? Which ones?
A: 1 read the A.P.J. and the Feather Fancier (A Canadian publica- tion). 1 have quite a few of the major standard works on pigeons.
13. Q: What pigeon organizations are you a member of? Which pro- vides the best service to you as a member? Why?
A.. I belong to many clubs: English Trumpeter Club of America, English Trumpeter Club of Canada, Western American Trumpeter Club, Interna- tional Bokhara Trumpeter Club, Western Bokhara Trumpeter Club, Western Pouter and Cropper Club, Nun Pigeon Fanciers' Society, NPA, LAPC, Santa Clara Valley Pigeon Club, American Helmet Assn., English Carrier Club, Midwest English Carrier Club, Pacific Tumbler Club, and the Western Short Face Tumbler Club.All the major all-breed clubs - like the NPA, LAPC, SCVPC - provide the greatest service through staging large shows.
14. Q: What offices have you held in your organizations?
A: 1 have been president of the LAPC, Western vice president of the NPA, publicity director of SCVPC, president of ETCA, director of the WATC, publicity of ETCA, and secretary of ETCA.
1 5. Q: What awards or recognition have you received from your pigeon activities?
A: Recogniton and awards 1 have received include Master Breeder, NPA; Master Breeder, American Pigeon Club; Superior Breeder, Western American Trumpeter Club; Breeder of the Year, Western American Trumpeter Club., and Out- standing Service Award, NPA.
16. Q: What one bit of advice would you offer to a novice getting started with your breed(s)?
1. Choose the breed and color you really like and "go for it". Forget the "breed the easy-to-breed varieties first" advice.
2. Do a lot of listening but be observant in your own loft. Learn from your own experience.
3. Buy the best you can afford and realize you are not in pigeons just to win. You have got to love the birds for what they will do for you at home.