Getting Started in Wests

By: Matt Matuska

Okay, so you may have spent some time looking over the beautiful pictures of Wests and have heard that they have very little fertility/production problems, have no problems feeding their own young and are relatively easy to breed. You may have been attracted to them at shows and heard that there is a pretty good camaraderie among that group of fanciers. All thatís got you thinking you may want to get involved in them. Iíd encourage you to just do it, you wonít be disappointed.

Wests were my first breed of pigeons as a kid and were always something I wanted to get back involved in once I ďgrew upĒ and got settled, so in spring of 2003 I was in the position of starting from scratch. However, I had some positive experiences getting started so I wanted to offer some advice on how to get a successful start. My advice is mainly intended for someone who is looking to become a regular exhibitor at major shows. I am competitive by nature so my personal long-term goal was to build and show a winning family of Wests. If your goal is for non-competitive purposes or flying then you will also be well served with Wests as a breed but can be less picky about following the steps Iíve outlined. Most importantly, donít be fooled by the common misconception that this is a ďkidís breedĒ, the competition is serious and breeding a great one is a major challenge. But itís a challenge that can keep you fired up year after year in its pursuit. By following the right course when you get started you can save yourself a lot of time and headache in the attempt to achieve your goals.

First, youíve got to figure out what color you want to breed. This is not an easy task in Wests because there are literally hundreds of options if you consider the colors and patterns among the 4 major categories - Baldheads, Selfs, Mottles and Patterns. It should be noted that color and markings are an extremely important part of the West standard. A bird that does not have rich, deep color and appropriate markings will not get far in a show. For that reason you should probably limit yourself to a short list of colors because itís hard to dabble in too many colors and have the same success of a person who specializes in just a few. Luckily some color combinations are very compatible so even a breeder with limited space or resources can have a little variety. For instance, black selfs are beautiful on their own, but are also usually the best choice to mate to black mottles and andalusians, and with andalusian mottles also a possibility of those matings you would be able to show birds in the Self, Mottle and Pattern group all from those few pairings. In my case I discovered that one of the black self cocks I started with carried brown and bred to a black mottle hen produced the beginnings of a family of brown selfs and mottles so thereís yet another combination that can work well with limited pairs.

Baldheads are bred completely separately from the other categories, so thatís a major decision to make. Breeding a perfectly marked baldhead with good color and station is near impossible and the issues of breeding balds could easily fill several additional pages of this magazine. I was warned of those challenges but my very first pairs of Wests from 25 years ago were all baldheads so Iíve always had a soft spot for them. I can attest to the fact that there will be lots of ups and downs from year to year in regards to markings but those strokes of luck you get every once in a while should balance out the many disappointments along the way.

Once you figure out which color you want to get involved with you need to locate some stock pairs. I began searching by checking show results from big West shows to see the names of the breeders who were actively breeding the colors I wanted. I also joined the national breed club and talked with the Secretary who gave me additional information on breeders who could help me. From there I began contacting breeders and asking what was available. In my dealings with them I learned that they were not only great breeders but also great promoters of the breed and always took time to answer a million questions. Of course it was early summer and a very bad time to be asking for some stock birds, but I was willing to wait several months. In the end, the results were worth the wait.

Being part of the WOE Internet Club website at MyFamily has also been a great benefit, although I jokingly warn you itís addictive because you will be tempted to stay up very late each night looking at pictures and reading postings and if youíre logging on from work your boss will probably notice your lack of sleep and decreased productivity. There are over 150 members on there from novices to master breeders and is a great source of information. The NWOETC also has quite a bit of information online and I now maintain that site while trying to keep the content fresh and interesting for regular visitors. The web address of each of those sites is listed below.

The bottom line is that getting started in Wests should not be too difficult no matter what part of the country youíre in. My advice is to limit yourself to a few related colors, contact the best breeders of that color and be prepared to wait a bit if necessary for a quality stock pair. Waiting even a couple extra months may mean you will have access to much higher quality pair then you would if you grab whatever pairs are available at the exact time youíre looking. Join one of the many regional clubs and/or the National club which will introduce you to breeders in your area and help keep youíre interest going. Most of all, if your goal is to show your birds then attend shows and preferably the largest shows you can. The Pageant of Pigeons in San Bernardino, CA averages 300-500 Wests every year and there are others that regularly draw 100-200 such as the NYBS in Louisville, the NPA National and most of the NWOETC district shows. If competitionís what youíre after then you shouldnít have to travel very far.

Match up the birds you get and breed them for the first season. Show what you raise and even if you donít hear any specific comments on your birds during the judging then politely seek the judge out afterward to see if you can get some constructive comments on a few birds to help you pinpoint what your birds may be lacking. If you get an idea of a specific trait you feel you need to improve in your show birds then you may need to bring in one or two key stock birds the next season that have those qualities youíre lacking. By following that cycle for a few seasons you should be well on your way. Jump on in, itís never too late to get started!

WOE Websites:
National West of England Tumbler Club -
MyFamily WOE Internet Club -
*This site requires a name and password to be sent to you.

WOE Clubs:
*For info on joining the National West of England Tumbler Club (NWOETC): contact Matt Matuska, (925) 681-1899
*For info on joining the Southern West of England Tumbler Club (SWOETC): contact Rick Stokes, (256) 457-4288
*For info on joining the Central West of England Tumbler Club (CWC): contact Gary Severe, (479) 631-5922
*For info on joining the Albuquerque West of England Tumbler Club (AWOETC): contact David Garcia, (505) 899-6494
*For info on joining the Southern Calif. West of England Tumbler Club (SCWOETC): contact Chuck Zeller, (951) 778-9547
*For info on joining the Central Calif. West of England Tumbler Club (CCWOETC): contact Matt Matuska, (925) 681-1899

 Matt Matuska
Getting Started in Wests

© 2006 - National West of England Tumbler Club