A Q&A with Warren Foster

A young Warren with his birds

Warren Foster is a writer/photographer. He is the owner of Bluewater Racing Pigeon Lofts in Kent. Over the last few years he has done a lot of travelling around Belgium, Holland and Germany. He has met most of the pigeon ‘Greats’ in these countries including Janssen, De Klak, Van Loon and many others. Warren has a lot of knowledge of the world pigeon scene in general, he is also a very successful pigeon racer in his own right.

How long have you been involved in the pigeon sport and how did you become interested?

I have now been a pigeon fancier for 50 years and became interested through my father. My brother Kevin also races very successfully and is one of the best fanciers in the South East of England.

How long was it before you became successful?

I am not sure what you class as successful, but after racing for a few years with my father and my brother as D Foster & sons, with moderate success, I decided when I was 14 years old to race in partnership with my cousin, Colin who was 12, as Foster & Asbury. We raced to a 50 year old outbuilding at his house, that got soaked every time it rained (see picture on the left). In our very first race we completed in we gained a 3rd Club in the then very strong Northfleet & Dist club. Our very small team of seven or eight YBs went on to win the YB Avs that year.

I also gifted my father that year with a young blue chequer hen, shown in black and white on the right. This little pigeon went on to win the three longest race Av for him, including winning Thurso, 500 miles. We also competed in two Open events that year, sending two pigeons each time. We were 2nd & 3rd Gravesend IPM Open and in the same week, the .same pigeons went back to win 2nd Tilbury Open. We certainly had a very lucky start. Also winning a considerable amount of prize and pool money. Needless to say, most of it went back to our pigeons.

What is your preferred method of breeding top class pigeons? Do you in-breed, line breed or out cross?

In fact I practice all the methods you have mentioned. But I do like to pair a champion top racing or breeding cock to their own daughters. Their offspring are then paired to another in-bred champion line/family. I do not underestimate the value of the hen (female) but feel their breeding time is very limited before they are worn out.

1st Thurso
(3 Longest race ave. winner by herself) 

With Jannsen brother

What is the base of your pigeons?

My world famous White Emperors are my main family. I also have some Janssens Klak Kooopmans x champion Village Lad for the shorter races, and for longer 600 mile races Marsden Flint Grizzles, that I crossed with my Emperor family. I was also extremely lucky to purchase two direct white Jos Thone cocks and they have bred some magnificent pigeons in 2011. I’m looking forward to entering this bloodline in one-loft races around the world.

Can you describe your present loft?

My main racing loft is about 24 ft long with three sections housing 24 widowers and a large section for YB. I have clear plastic sheeting on the front of the loft that allows the sun’s rays to shine through on to the nest boxes. I have sliders in the roof that can darken the loft if required. I believe in a good balance of sun and darkness within a loft – it is very important, and can only be gained by experience on what suits your family of pigeons. I have personally found that darkening my loft in the first part of the week and opening up the sliders for the last day and a half has been beneficial for me. On saying this, I also know one or two top fanciers who do the above in reverse.

How do you feed your widowers?

I make up my own racing mix, but I have also found that mixing 2-3 bags of top Widowhood mix together also works very well. Concentrating on sprint to middle distance racing, I think it is very important to feed your pigeons in their nest boxes so each bird’s food intake can be monitored very closely. For middle to long distance races, I think communal feeding on the floor is quite adequate, but I do attach food pots to certain boxes to increase fat or carbohydrate content for the appropriate race, which is important.

As mentioned earlier, you have met many of the world’s well-known pigeon fanciers. Is there one fancier who has impressed you more than others?

I have certainly been very lucky to meet so many top fanciers and handled so many top pigeons, sitting down and talking about pigeons with many of these fanciers has been very rewarding for me. Louis Van Loon impressed me very much, as did Jos Van Limpt de Klak. But one fancier in particular who I was very taken with was Joop Koop of Eindhoven. He is a working fancier and his team of pigeons and performances are some of the best I have ever seen.

With Van Loon
with De Klak
Walk in Dee Klak's house
Warren with Van Loon pigeon

You have handled many families of pigeons, which family do you rate as the highest?

This is a very difficult question, but I think the Janssen based pigeons are amongst the best and much credit must be given to these fine fanciers in the production of this strain. The Klak Janssens are some of the most perfect pigeons I have ever seen.

I have recently obtained some Brocamp blood lines, which look very promising.

What method do you use when selecting pigeons?

For nearly 20 years I have kept folders on virtually every theory I have come across and have cut out and kept the best articles, including eye, wing, tail and many others. Unfortunately I am not too sure after all these years that any of them are particularly important. The two main things I look for now are to purchase winning pigeons, or if this is not possible, direct children of winning pigeons. The other is natural health – pigeons must always look alert and bright eyed. Obviously it is then down to the fancier to motivate the pigeons. I have also come to the conclusion that most pigeon Aces have an extra special sense that, when a pigeon is passed to them they can judge in a few seconds if the pigeon is good. But this is really an intuition that very few fanciers possess, and even fewer could explain. I have handled too many Combine and National winners that so-called pigeon experts would not give the time of day to. The only thing I have noticed is that a high percentage of Ace breeding hens do tend to possess many of the qualities that some experts look for, especially the eye!

How do you see the future for pigeon racing?

If I had answered this question two or three years ago, I think I would have said the outlook was gloomy. I now think a major change is taking place for the good. Most club racing will soon disappear and the majority of fanciers will participate in Open, Combine and Classic levels. I also predict a massive interest in International Futurity races where some specialist fanciers in this country will specialise in this alone. I would love to see an international event to include only the top four or five fanciers’ pigeons from each country around the World and this to be subsidised by the Nations’ pigeon unions. You would then see a race to produce the ultimate World Champion pigeons and breeder.

To finish, what advice do you give new starters in the sport and those who would like to be more successful?

First of all, obtain the best birds you can afford – do not be drawn in by all the different tonics and vitamins etc, even though some of these may be very good, it can become very expensive. Most of these things can be found in your own kitchen, ie garlic, onions, carrots and all vegetable water from cooking. I also add Ribena to these items and add one cupful to two gallons of water every day. Use antibiotics sparingly, if at all, and eliminate pigeons from your loft that don’t look right. Always remember healthy pigeons are winning pigeons.

Warren with Japanese White Emperor breeder
With Japanese magazine publisher