Graham Dexter & Clay Hoyle

Receiving this interview from Clay was a special treat for your webmaster (Mark Fields).  You see, I go way back with Clay even though we’ve never met in person.   Long before Facebook groups we were both on the old pigeon forums such as Roller World & Earl’s List.   There were some really lively discussions back in those days and I quickly gained an appreciation for Clay’s wit and no-nonsense approach to rollers.  He helped me steer clear of many of the myths and old-wives-tales that guide so many in this hobby.  In short, he helped me become a better steward of the breed. 


I know Clay is too much the gentleman to dig into those old details about the yellow birds, but I clearly recall the many “color rants” that went on back in those days and Clay set out to disprove those myths.   No one can refute Clay’s ability to put up good birds whether they are red, blue, yellow or any other color or pattern.

Without further ado, I give you Clay’s interview in his own words:

Clay Hoyle



1.       What is your full name, age range and location?

Henry Clay Hoyle, Icard, North Carolina

2.       How many pairs do you typically own and breed from a season?

I have a loft that is set up for as many as 16 pair but usually about 12 pair. 

3.       How many kits do you usually fly a season?

I usually raise about one hundred a year.  BOP bad here.

4.       When did you begin with rollers & why?

I got into rollers by accident.  I was a bird hunter (grouse and quail) and a friend had me to get some pigeons to use in training dogs.  That was in 1989.  

5.       What has influenced you the most?

Rollers are about as good as one can get for a hobby.  Stay at home and have fun.

6.       What is the make up of your birds (what family?)

In the 1990’s I got birds from about everyone in the Southeast except one guy and he never would sell me any of his.  I have had my birds stolen twice and the third time we caught the thief in the process.  Most of that oldest blood was stolen and I had to keep starting over.  Thankfully, there are great friends. 

The birds I am flying now are truly a mix, if I tried to list everyone I know I would miss someone, aw heck try anyway, A bit of Danny Horner from the 90’s, a little Monty from Rick Schoening, The ee (recessive red) cock from the 2001 convention, and the brown bar hen from the convention here, They were both bought at auction by Randy Gibson and I ended up with them.  Long story but if there is interest I will tell it.  A black grizzle cock from JoeBob out of his Frank Lavin stuff.  I dun South Carolina hen someone gave Rick Mee  and I used her during one of his deployment moves.  (she could be where the dilute came from), A blue lace cock loaned to me by Jay Yandle.  A reduced bird from Cliff Ball.  A good cock from Don Greene after a theft.  Two pair from James Turner.  And last and least A bunch of birds I have bought.  

7.       Name and describe the one roller that has influenced your family the most or ‘the best’ you have ever owned.

I raised a red bar hen way back when that was as good as they get. (long story about her and I’m not telling it but she was used)  I bred her one year,  From her I raised a red bar grizzle cock.  He carried dilute and I would get a yellow or two every year, only hens.  In 2002 i raised a red bar grizzle cock from him that was in my A kit and I let a guy pick a pair from the kit.  He took the red bar G cock and a black hen.  He raised a kit from the pair and Dennis White bought all his birds to get the pair.  When Dennis got out in 14 he gave me the 12 year old cock.  I raised a sweet yellow grizzle hen from him.  I mated him to the sweet hen and got two yellow cocks.  Both good ones and the first yellow cocks on the place, ever.   

8.       What do you look for in a roller in the AIR when you are looking to stock?

“The secret to flying a good kit of rollers is to fly them often and watch them.”  Don’t raise more than you can fly.  If you fly them a lot you will notice the ones that are good ones and it is just simple to breed from those.

9.       What do you look for in a bird on the GROUND when you are looking to stock?

I pay less to the “on the ground” than anyone I know.  I just don’t pick them for the way they feel.  I know most can do it but I am not good at it. 

10.   If you had to choose, what color/pattern would you prefer: blue check self, blue check WF, blue check badge, blue check grizzle, blue check bald, blue check bronze, recessive red self

I did mate the old cock to his daughter to get a yellow cock.  She gave them to me and they are good breeders.  But I like a lot of different colors.  Makes it easier to tell them apart and it is free. 

11.   How does color and the colors in the background of the roller (parents, grandparents, etc.) affect their abilities to perform?  

I had always heard that dilute birds were weaker.  So, OK, I always had problems with birds that flew too high and too long.  I have had good luck with the dilute.  they stay down unless something gets after them.  I get lots of expressions, silver, silver G, dun, dun G,  yellow, yellow G, and and double G, almost white.  And I do think it helps keep them down.  I end up with about 25% dilutes and some cocks carrying dilute.  I know that I will have to watch that I don’t get too many dilutes 

12.   What do you think the most important quality of a roller is?

Too many birds will get stiff as they age.  I am raising now so the birds will be the age I want them for the competitions.  All you guys tell me what age is the best age for the best performance?  I never considered this until I started the dilute influence. 

13.   Is there a motto that you use or keep in mind that influences the way you breed / fly?

Not really 

14.   What has been the most disappointing thing that has happened while in the hobby?

Bad judging.  I said when I started that I would not complain about the judges and with that in mind I will keep quiet. 

15.   List the top 3 items that would automatically categorize a roller as a ‘cull’?

Poor kitting.  Keep in mind that a lot of birds will fly above the kit when the spin gene starts acting on them but if they keep it up….  I don’t let my birds on the ground.  I will scare them up a few times but if they keep it up……….Land and fly again, I had a famous family of birds that would land and spook off the loft several times before they trapped, keep it up and………… 

16.   Do you compete either locally, nationally, globally?

I compete in every competition that is offered.  With whatever birds I have, good or bad.

17.   If you do complete, share your process or a few tips in getting your kit ready for the fly day?

Send me $1000, in a plain envelope…….I just fly them every day for 6 or 8 days and give them two days off before fly day.   

18.   What advice would you give to new fanciers who is main purpose is to breed champion rollers?

It is so simple, fly them often and watch them fly.  I’m having a hard time doing that right now as I have a dislocated shoulder.  I have 25 birds here right now that have not been flown as they REQUIRE if they are to live up to their breeding.   

19.   Any other topics that you feel should be covered?

I want to thank all you guys that I fly with.  great bunch of guys.  I’m sorry that I have not been able to make the rounds but I guess I should be thankful that I can still compete.


Above Clay had eluded to a “longer story” on a bird.  I asked him to share and here is the story.

Long story…Randy Gibson went to some NBRC conventions and when they auctioned off the pigeons. And when the bidding got high he would buy a pigeon and make a present of the bird to someone.  In 2001 at the convention in Spokane there was an (e//e) in Dennis Hayes kit that was deep and good Q.  Dennis put the bird in the auction.  Randy Gibson bid it off and got the bird in hand and came to me and said “do you want this pigeon”.  I asked if he was kidding and he said no and I said sure and he handed me the pigeon.  I hunted up one of the guys that was sponsoring the convention and gave the guy $50.00 to mail me the pigeon.  Forward to the convention in North Carolina (in 2005?).  Cliff Ball had gathered up a kit of birds from local guys and flew the kit at the auction.  There was in the kit a bird that was listed as a dun bar.  I said it was a brown bird but no-one agreed.  When she came up for auction I opened the bid at $50,00 and Cliff said $75 and Randy seeing that this was going to be the highest price bird bought it for around $200.00.  When Cliff was checking after the auction, this bird was missing.  When we all went to the banquet Cliff was big time upset that someone had stolen the bird.  He took the mike and started in and JoeBob Stuka went up carrying the bird and gave her to Cliff.  Cliff took the bird and gave it to Randy and Randy got up  and brought the bird and handed her to me.  I raise a few brown pigeons every year to keep the family going.  They are rollers but I have not raised a kit full of them.  Some of them will roll the very first time in the air.
Thank you Randy Gibson!