Olde Tymer Francis Joseph Billie, Jr.


What comes first the egg or the bird' That question has nally been answered-the egg, of course. Or, in the case of Francis Billie, eggs.

It was 61 years ago 0935) that young Billie acquired two Golden Pheasant eggs (for a sum of $5.00-quite a price in those days) from a Major Smith who had brought several wild caught pairs hack from China when his a1my duty ended. It was eggs from these wild caught hirds that wound up in Billie's hands.

Young Billie put the eggs under a neighbor's Santy hen and just one of

them hatched. It turned out to he a beautiful male.

Billie's enthusiasm was aroused.

Next. he got a pair of Black Masked Lovebirds. They were followed hy some Bantams which he showed at the local fairs and shows.

For several years Billie's Bantams bombed out. No major ribbons or prizes. Then Billie got smart and began taking the names of the breeders whose birds were winners. Later, this charming teenage hoy would drop hy the winners' farms and huy up a few eggs. Pretty soon Billie's Bantams were taking home the prizes and the former

winners were left scratching their heads-too late.

Eventually, Billie acquired more pheasants including a female Golden for the first male he raised from the egg. After that, Billie raised a fair number of pheasants under his prize-winning Bantams and was able to sell them to Mrs. Cohen at the Florence Avenue Bird Exchange.

From Mrs. Cohen, Billie got his first pair of Lady Gould Finches. It was also at the Florence Ave. Bird Exchange that Billie first met Bernard Roer. Roer bought birds in California and took them hack to Phoenix, Arizona.

With his Bantams winning prizes and his pheasants making money, Billie acquired pigeons and Zebra Finches-after all, he had an acre lot to fill up.

When he met an old German Canary breeder in nearby San Gabriel, he hegan breeding Canaries. The Canary cages were home made out of sticks (like matchsticks only longer) and built in a condominium style. The main complex was four breeding cages (attached) with an enclosed porch running across the front of all four cages. Billie kept a female in each cage and had a single male in the porch visiting all the females through the bars. As the females came into breeding condition, Billie would put the male with each female, one at a time, until all four females were bred. The nestling food was made by hand and was a lot of work. Billie raised Canaries for a few years hut finally decided that Canaries were just too much work for the price he got.

So, naturally, Billie started raising Budgies. He specialized in the lutinos and albinos and did quite well. So well, in fact, that he went into business with a Mr. Carlyle. Carlyle put up a pet store hut didn't have enough money left to buy birds, So Billie supplied the birds for an interest in the pet store. This arrangement lasted a number of years and Billie's collection of birds grew to include a variety of finches, lovebirds, waterfowl and doves.

Once a local preacher offered to trade an Amazon parrot for a pair of Golden Pheasants. Billie gave the parrot to his girl friend, Erma, and Erma discovered the parrot's very profane vocabulary. No wonder the preacher wanted to he rid of the nasty bird,

Not long after this, Billie married his girl friend and they've been husband and wife for 51 years at this writing.

Over the years Francis and Erma Billie have kept and tried to raise over 500 species of birds, having great success with most of them.