Birds of a feather stick together - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Birds of a feather stick together

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Putney-- With school, work, televisions and cell phones, it's hard to make family time these days. But a hobby a Putney man learned during World War One has kept his family close for decades. Now, a new generation is turning that hobby into the family business.

The family business for the Giggey's is taking flight. "We had a couple of request to do some funerals, and that's what started it and it just went from there. We have at least 200 white birds."

Susanna Giggey and her mother, Linda, breed and train white homing pigeons to release at weddings, funerals, and other special events. "When they talk about white dove, this is a what they really are, a white pigeon. White doves will not return home, and they don't survive in the wild."

"When they're about four days old, they all get a band. It's registered with the National Pigeon Association. They all have numbers, the year they're born, the town where they're born."

Their training starts at just a few weeks old. The first lesson - coming in and out of the lofts. "That's what these birds are learning how to do. Come out and go in. Once they have that down, I open this and let them fly around the loft."

"It's like learning to fly, they're everywhere. They're going farther than I thought today. See they're not together, they're learning."

Once they start flying as a group and venturing further from the house, it's time for lesson two. "Then I start take them off about five miles in one direction. We'll see how well they do on that day, then we'll jump five or ten miles. Then after 20 miles, we'll go to 40 miles."

And each time the winged travelers make they way back home. "This is their home. This is the only place they know to feed and get food. And, their mates are here also."

Those are good birds. These are loaded and ready to go to Camilla." Today, Susanna is releasing birds in Camilla to condition them for a wedding this weekend.

The birds fly about 40 miles an hour, so their flight home from Mitchell County will only take about 15 minutes. "They can't fly in the dark or when it's overcast. They need the sun to fly back home."

"My grandfather is the one we get all our experience from." Susanna's grandfather Sam Pate started training carrier pigeons nearly 70 years ago. His hobby became his family's love. "All the kids would go swimming and eat a big picnic while granddad release and clocked birds and grandmom would write down their numbers."

Now Susanna and her mother continue the family tradition. "I love it now. I get to work with my mom, my grandfather, and my kids." You might say they're a close flock.

"It's a family thing." And, now Susanna is teaching her children to train. "My daughter loves this. She would do ever job with me, she's a big help." She's not sure if her children will continue the business. Like her birds, she can only hold onto them for so long. "They're like children. Once you let them out of the basket, I can't really tell you what they're going to do, except go home."

But, she knows that birds of a feather stick together, and she hopes the people that train those birds will stick together too. The Giggey's have released birds at hundreds of special events.

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email: kathryn.murchison@walb.com