Theydon Bois Primary School has been keeping pigeons for about 4 years with valuable support from Richard Chambers, the RPRA development officer. Although our birds competed in a national show and one of our hens was placed 4th, it is really the excitement of training, caring for, and racing birds who can fly free that we find most inspiring. However, we also endeavour to use our pigeons as a fascinating resource to support the curriculum whenever possible. They have featured in lessons on evolution, animals in WW1, prints in the style of Picasso (he kept pigeons from an early age), and newspaper reporting of their training missions. Groups of children are given the opportunity to care for them on a daily basis as part of our wider offer.
Spring 2022 came with the exciting offer of 2 racing pigeons from Her Majesty the Queen, and it has been wonderful to have this living legacy of Queen Elizabeth. The RPRA organised a trip to the Sandringham estate to collect them, and we were able to meet the manager of the royal racing pigeon loft. One of these royal pigeons was included in the jubilee broadcast on GMB, and we were also interviewed by and featured in an article in the jubilee edition of Field magazine
In Autumn 2022, we linked with 3 other schools in our trust to map the pigeons’ journey home from their schools to ours. Small groups of year 3&4 children accompanied the pigeons to each school, delivered presentations, and answered questions from pupils at the host schools. This was an excellent opportunity to try out their public speaking skills!
On Christmas Eve 2022, we were thrilled to be featured in a section of Christmas Carols on ITV dedicated to the memory of Queen Elizabeth. A film crew visited our school to find out how our pigeons enrich the curriculum. We were all very excited!
Our pigeons are a scintillating range of different colours and patterns : blue, mealy / red, yellow, black, dun, indigo with spotted, checked, grizzle, and mosaic / opal markings. They are now registered to the school and we have been trying to find out a bit about their heritage through their family names where possible. We breed the pigeons in late winter to early spring and currently have 11 or more hatched in 2023.
Once the babies are 4-6 weeks old and settled in the training loft, we begin to control the food supply and to associate feeding with the sound of a whistle. You can probably tell if you listen to the videos that we were whistling for a very long time! Then the momentous day arrives when we allow them outside for the first time in the hopes that they will return to the pigeon loft with the lure of food and the sound of the whistle. We are late this year as the prolonged cold seemed to slow down breeding.
If you and your family are interested in occasional volunteering to help look after, train or release pigeons during weekends or holidays, please get in touch via the school office.