Birds of a feather: grandfather and grandson pigeon racers
PIGEON racing isn’t a sport most 12-year-olds are drawn to but it’s something that runs in the blood for Lachlan Hodgson.
His grandfather has kept and raced pigeons for almost 40 years and is a former four-time Queensland Racing Pigeon Federation champion.
It is a feat he hopes to match.
Lachlan has spent the past two years learning the craft and has about 20 birds at a loft in the family home at Camira, first dipping his toes in the water of racing last year.
While it is early days, the youngster has made a flying start to his pigeon racing career and can reflect on a successful first season which ended in October.
His birds competed most weekends during the season, flying distances of up to 1000km.
He said there was no better feeling than watching his birds return home; their race time is recorded electronically the moment they fly into the loft via a trapdoor.
Lachlan competes against his grandfather Joe Caruana, who lives just a short distance away, in official competition.
“He’s found that he likes to win like everybody else,” Joe said.
“He’s kicked a few of other blokes’ arses on occasion. He’s kicked mine too.”
It’s more about just that winning feeling; there’s some serious money on the line.
The Gold Coast 50,000 this year was won by a 10-year-old boy who took home $62,000.
At the same event, Lachlan’s bird String Line placed 11th out of 663 entrants and he also claimed ninth in the ‘Ace Bird’ competition, taking home $2000.
In federation competition this year, he snagged fourth in Quilpie and third in Chinchilla.
By the start of the next race season in May, Lachlan hopes to have over 100 birds under his wing.
He said success in the sport was down to the “one percenters”.
The birds are trained by gradually increasing the distance from the loft but there is always the danger hawks and falcons will pick them off.
“It’s the little things like having clean water, it all helps,’ he said.
“The feed has to be right. The training has to be right.
“I like being here when the birds are coming in. When you put all the effort in during the week to get the birds ready and training them … on race day when you see the birds hit the board, then it’s just hard to explain what it feels like.”
Proud grandfather Joe, 64, said it was a much better hobby than being stuck inside staring at a screen and it taught valuable lessons about responsibility and commitment.
His love of pigeons started as a young boy after he started training pigeons that found a home in the family’s chook pen.
“After you get married and have a couple of kids, you look for something to do as a hobby,” he said.
“Some people play golf. I drove speedway for eight years and that was getting a bit expensive to run those cars.
“So I sold the cars, bought a house and built a loft.
“I’ve been competing for nearly 40 years. We’ve had all sorts of people in the pigeon game. Dentists, doctors, even a QC. You can be a plumber, or a carpenter or whatever, it doesn’t matter.”
He said the number of people racing pigeons in Australia had declined and Lachlan is the only young person in the south east competing in the Queensland federation.
“They play on those stupid Xboxes all the time and you can’t get them off it,” Joe said.
“He’s got to care for them, he’s the boss. He’s trained them to a whistle. He lets them out and when he wants to come in he whistles and rattles the feed tin and they’re straight in.
“Everything’s got to be consistent.
“They hate not having a routine. Everything you do has to be spot on, the feed has to be good, you’ve got to give them nice clean water every day.
“It takes dedication.”