How to Gain Maximum Control of Rollers

By: Rick L. Mee

          Over the years, several visitors have commented on how tame and approachable my birds are in and around the loft. This repeated observation got me to thinking how this has come about, and after much thought on the subject, I believe I have come up with an answer. Let me share with you the methods that I use in getting my young birds settled into the kit loft, and how I get the birds to imprint on me. Possibly it may be of some use to you.

          First of all, training begins in the breeding loft. Now that I may have some of you really confused, allow me to explain. What I do is every morning before I feed the birds in the breeding compartment I whistle to them. While the fosters are all down on the floor eating out of the feeders, I am individually handling each youngster in the nest. I check each baby to make sure they are healthy, disease free, and hoping that this may be the next bird that pushes my birds in the direction I want to talk them. Again, this is repeated in the evening when I get home from work. What is happening is that the young birds are associating the whistle with contact from their owner, and shortly there after being fed by their foster parents. I find that by using this method, the young birds become extremely tame before they are moved to the kit loft.

          The first few days that the young rollers are moved to the kit loft, they are given all the feed they want. I whistle before opening the kit box door that they are behind, and I gently pick each one up. This is the only time in their lives that they are allowed to have food in front of them without being whistled to first. In three to five days they should be filling their crops, and at this time I start regulating the amount of fed they get each day to what their ration will be once they will be flying. At this time I only feed them after the whistle. The young rollers readily take to it, because they remember that in the breeding loft they were only fed after the whistle and handling of their owner. After I am sure that the young rollers are eating and drinking on their own, I attach a wire cage that extends out and over the kit loft. The birds are allowed to exit and enter the loft at will for a few days this way. If I feel that they have not been going out on the roof enough on their own, then they will be locked out in the cage for the whole day until I arrive home after work. At this time I will allow the young rollers to renter the loft after sounding the whistle, and then will feed them. As you will notice, I do not use a weaning cage for my young birds, they are weaned in the kit box.

          After the young rollers have been through this routine for about a week, it is time to let them out without the cage. Always refrain from feeding them the day before letting them out for the first time, as you want them very hungry and eager to reenter the loft when you want them to. I always let some other young birds out first that are well on the wing, and then set the young rollers on the roof one at a time. I try to be extra careful to allow them to mingle with the older youngsters who have already been trained, and are also on top of the loft after their flight. I do this for at least 30 minutes, so that the young babies will get used to their surroundings. Next, I give the whistle and put the feed trays down with food. Usually, the young rollers will follow the older young birds in to the kit loft, and will experience their first trapping with the main kit. If they do not immediately trap in, leave the trap open; they will find their way in. In a week or so, they should be taking short flights around the yard, and will eventually join the other birds in the main kit.

          I have found that using this method, I am able to call my kits down to the kit loft roof after I feel they have been up long enough. This method will also eliminate the problem so many fanciers have of their kits circling low the last fifteen to twenty minutes of their flight. Naturally your birds will become much tamer, and you should be able to whistle to them and have them actually hover over your head, even standing clear across your yard. This always adds to the show, as no one likes a wild undisciplined roller.