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Grasshopper Hops Back To The Past


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Grasshopper Hops Back To The Past




Stepney is a district of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and is situated in London’s legendary East End. Stepney’s foundations stemmed from a medieval village that grew around its famous St Dunstan's Church, where the bells that hang in its belfry are mentioned in the nursery rhyme 'Oranges & Lemons'. Many elite fanciers to sprout from this district, but regarding the fanciers winning the prestigious Tommy Long Trophy, the powerful bells kept ringing the same rhyme “When will that be, says the bells of Stepneyâ€. In 2013, one of Stepney's indigenous children stepped up to the plate and silenced the bells, to be crowned king of the London North Road Combine and against all the odd that pigeon racing places. However unlike most coronations it was not through a Line of Successions, to be seated at the London North Road Combine throne, but by the will, power and performance of two of his monumental Dames, to arise as King Dennis Nunn of Stepney.


It could be said that Dennis' was always set up to be a fancier, as for all his life he has been surrounded by pigeons. Dennis' late father, raced pigeons before and after the war, and Dennis' brother Tommy also raced. Dennis' interest really started when he was gifted some fancy pigeons while he was still in full time education, and this is where he learnt the essentials of care and observance in pigeon keeping. After a number of years, Dennis got married to his wife Barbara and moved into there marital home and was only without pigeons for a very short while. It wasn't until Dennis nephew asked if they could obtain some Show racers, to which Dennis obliged and once a team was established the 3 years they presented the birds at shows they were highly successful. Then in 1970, Dennis' journey in pigeons took a different direction, persuaded by his his brother and a number of cousins, Dennis took the plunge into the racing fraternity and joined the very big Stepney Green club. Success was instant, as it could be said Dennis' dominated the first two races he competed in, taking 1st, 4th and 5th the first race, 1st 2nd and 4th the following week, in a club with huge membership and enormous birdage. At this time Dennis first birds were Janssen's from his brother Tommy and pigeons from Freddie Clayton of Red Flash Black Flash Fame. In the 70's Dennis like the majority of fanciers only raced natural, and his employment at the time enabled him to train his natural pigeons on all dials of the compass, north, east, south and west.


In the early days Dennis' biggest influence was his father. Dennis always remembers that his father gave him two bits of advice “Never start racing pigeons†to which Dennis ignored, the second was the most valuable piece of advice any pigeon fancier can receive “When ever you go into your shed, look for one to remove, and only when you can be honest with yourself you'll end up with a good team of pigeonsâ€. This piece of advice has been invaluable in Dennis career in pigeons and helped him to achieve being premier prizewinner of the Stepney Green club for 23 years and to be an exceptional competitor in the London North Road Combine to which Dennis has now won a total of 3 times. Another mentor in the game who’s advise still rings true today is that of Freddie Clayton. Freddie always advised young Dennis that you can be too kind to pigeons, to be successful you must be strict and you must be ruthless. Then a little bit later on in his racing adventure, Dennis says he owes a lot of his success flying widowhood to Johnny Porter, as he spent many hours questioning and listening to Johnny, and from these conversation it helped build Dennis' modern day methods to which we will explain now.


Dennis is a big believer that the moult is a very important time of the year, and the work done in the winter dictates how well you will fly the forthcoming season. Dennis states to bring the birds into the moult quickly, especially the darkness young birds Dennis feels the birds must be fed new wheat, as it is high in protein as well as being rich in sulphur, which is highly documented to be very helpful in the moult. Dennis will also use a mix high in fat seeds as he believes this helps the birds through the moult to produce nice soft feathering. During this period Dennis will also use for a number of days Garlic oil combined with Brewers yeast, to help provide all the necessary vitamins and proteins that the birds require during this period. Consequently fresh grit is provided on a daily basis, as well as a bath once a week.


The best preparation in Dennis' eyes prior to pairing is that the birds must be extremely healthy, and to achieve this Dennis is a big fan of garlic and uses it on a daily basis all throughout the winter. Dennis believes garlic to have a natural antibiotic affect on the birds and helps to keep disease building bacteria, fungus and yeast at bay, as well as helping to boost the birds immune system. Dennis is also a supporter of the use of vinegar, both in the drinker and as a solution in a spray bottle to be sprayed around the loft, and he is adherent to its antibacterial, fungus and mould killing effects. Dennis' also feels that is essential that during the winter period the birds never be allowed to put on any excess weight, and to prevent this Dennis keeps his birds rationed to 1 ¼ ounces of food per pigeon. Though Dennis does state that hens must be monitored closely and exercised regular during this period as they are more prone to putting on fat, and if he notices the hens are putting on weight he will lower the quantity of grain to 1 ounce each, and would be on a rising plane 4 to 5 days prior to being paired. Prior to paring however Dennis' uses a Trimethoprim and Sulfamethoxazole combination treatment for a total of 5 days, to be 100% sure that the birds are completely clear of any harmful diseases that the birds can pass onto their young. The birds will be paired up then around about the end of January or beginning of February.


18 cocks and 18 hens once paired and settled, receive an open loft from morning till night, so by the time racing starts the birds have worked themselves into a natural fitness, but they have also become street wise to the local sparrow-hawks and peregrines, which Dennis is plaqued with since a local fancy stopped keeping fancy pigeons. The birds at this time are fed GEM's Breeding mix, and they stay on this mixture until young birds are weaned. Much like the moulting season plenty of Garlic oil and Brewers Yeast is used to help produce big and robust young birds.


Once weaned the sexes are split, and exercised at routine times until training commences by friend and club mate Georgie Fry, where they will receive 4 to 6 training tosses from 30 to 50 miles. Once racing commences the cocks are trained no longer, but the hens are still trained as their season does not start until the birds are racing at the 170 mile stage as their main aim is combine racing. The day to day exercise regime is cocks out for 1 hour in the morning, they are then followed by the hens for an hour. The hens are trained in the afternoon 2 to 3 times per week all through the old bird season. The cocks then go out in the evening again for an hour, and the hens go out again for an hour after the cocks. The hens are exercised and trained really hard as they must be super fit as their aim is 300 to 500 mile racing.


Dennis has a firm belief that 1 ¼ ounces is sufficient for a pigeon to race, and exercise well on. Starting on a Saturday the birds are fed on a mixture known as Gems Sprint mixture 1 ¼ ounces in one feed, and in the drinker the birds only receive clean water. Sunday to Monday the feeding is split into a morning and night feed equalling again the 1 ¼ ounces, however the composition of grain is a 50/50 concoction of 50% Gems Sprint and 50% of Gems Depurative mixture, with a herbal tea in the drinker that either Dennis boils himself or the Naturaline tea made by Natural grains. Wednesday the birds receive 100% Gems Sprint again 1 ¼ ounces with either a multivitamin or vinegar added to the drinker. Thursday the birds are fed again Gems Sprint however the birds are fed to appetite. Friday morning the birds are fed early in the morning 1 ounces and whatever the birds leave is taken out 2 hours later. Dennis does state that the birds will eat very little on a Friday, and his water treatments may very as from time to time he will use products like Orego-Stim and probiotics, from what Dennis observes in the loft. The system does change however leading up to London North Road Combine Races. Dennis buys various seeds, such as Canary Mixture, Hemp, Rape Seed and Long Grain Rice and mixes the ingredients all together, this will then be feed ½ teaspoon per pigeon in their boxes after they have had their feeds, and this will be fed 4-5 days leading up to the Combines Thursday basketing.


Dennis does many different forms of motivation on basketing night he does not give the cock or hen a chance to get bored. Sometimes he will only show the hen, sometimes he will only allow the birds the bowl, sometimes he will only let the hen into the box. However when he does show the hen and bowls together, there is no set time limit that Dennis runs them together, he states the right time is when the cock gets low in the bowl and the hen standing above him, then it is time to basket them for the club. When Dennis is looking for a big motivational trick, he will lock all the cocks in his corridor, and put all the hens in the cocks section, and then Dennis will take one cock and put him amongst all the hens, with all the cock loft mates watching and trying to get in.


Dennis' sets his stall at winning all races, but he has to admit his true love is racing hens especially at the longer distance events. Dennis feels these hens are more reliable, and honest, and they recover much quicker then what a widowhood cock does from races of 300 mile plus. Dennis' very rarely treats in the racing season but he says if he hears there is any illness knocking about locally in the clubs he will treat with the Trimethoprim and Sulfamethoxazole combination treatment for 4 days.


Dennis races his 30 young birds on the darkness system, x and he feels they must have at least 10 hours daylight. The loft is never completely dark it is more like a moonlit night, enough light to see the drinker. Dennis only darkens his young birds for 8 weeks only, to which they go on the system on the march equinox and he feels these 8 weeks darkness is the reason why since racing the darkness system he has never suffered with young bird sickness. Dennis has firm beliefs that young bird sickness is caused by leaving the young birds on the darkness for too long. He also states that young birds must be trained by the time the birds reach 12 weeks of age, these early lessons in life will give them a much brighter future and he is a reason why he suffers so few losses. As soon as they are flying for 40 minutes, they are basketed and trained 10 miles up to 30 miles, then trained on local trainer Georgie Fry. No extended use of lights are used once of the dark to try and keep the young birds in good feather, although the sexes are kept together and they can do as they wish, and sitting and rearing young will naturally make the birds hold any feathers for the big races in September. The young bird feeding system only difference to his old birds system is the quantity of grain, of which they will receive 1 ½ ounces as they are still growing and are not the finished article of a pigeon.


When introducing new stock, Dennis does not venture far from home. He approaches good local fanciers and buys of their best. He does not believe in any theories any longer, although at one time he spent years studying the eye until an eye sign expert evaluated his pigeons eyes, he then released him and the eye sign expert did not see eye to eye, and he had wasted 15 years of his time devoted to the theory. Dennis ideal pigeon when introducing new birds to stock is that the bird must fit comfortably in his hand.


His modern day family of pigeons originate from Brian Hawes Leo Van Rijin's, Stuart Elvin's Busschaerts and Jutla Brothers Peter Van Der Merwe's which he has blended together successfully. One of the best pigeons in Dennis' loft must be 'Champion Olivia'. This special Van Rijin Cross Van Der Merwe latebred was never raced or trained as a young bird, but eventually when she was raced Dennis could not look back. She is a winner of 1st Open London North Road Combine Berwick, 9th Open North Road North Thames Combine Thurso, 44th London North Road Combine Stonehaven, 45th Open North Road North Thames Combine Alnwick, 50th Open London North Road Combine Thurso, she is also a winner of 3 x 1st Club, 2 x 2nd Club, and 2 x 4th Club. Another exceptional Dame of his round table is 'Champion Denise' a winner of 3rd Open London North Road Combine Thurso, 3rd Open Essex and Kent & London North Road Combine Amalgmation Thurso, 12th Open North Road North Thames Combine Alnwick, 28th London North Road Combine Stonehaven, 39th London North Road Combine Thurso, 43rd North Road North Thames Combine Stonehaven, 69th Open London North Road Combine Berwick, as well as being a winner of 5 x 1st club. Both Olivia and Denise could call themselves solely responsible for Dennis' fantastic London North Road Combine Tommy Long Trophy win. 'Champion Blue Nunn' another fantastic hen winner of 1st Open London North Road Combine Berwick Yearling, 2nd Open London North Road Combine Berwick(beaten by Olivia), and a winner of 3 x 1st club. Blue Nunn's sire is also a rather special pigeon in the Nunn lofts, and he is known as 'Champion Jack', he himself is a winner of 6 x 1st Club, 11th Open London North Road Combine and Sire of Blue Nunn and many other winners.


If Dennis could offer any advice to novices just entering the sport, it would be that they must be ruthless, do not keep to many pigeons, keep things simple and buy pigeons that are winning locally in your area. Dennis admires many people in the sport, especially people like Mark Gilbert as his results are phenomenal, Micky Connolly and Son for their performances at club, federation and combine as well as breeding winners for different fanciers, Mark Bulled is someone that Dennis rates as one of the best fanciers the country has seen North or South road.


Unfortunately due to problems with his legs Dennis has to completely finish in the pigeon sport as he is finding mobility difficult, he had a very successful entire clearance, where many people had success with their purchases. I would like to thank Terry Peart for allowing me to use his fantastic photographs for this article.


Dennis is currently unwell and has spent many weeks in hospital myself and my father send all our best wishes to him and a speedy recovery.












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