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  News > Petra Van Den Broeck and Willy Van Houtte

Petra Van Den Broeck
and Willy Van Houtte:
A Roundtable Discussion
with Two Belgian Champions

by Stefan Mertens


Click on any photo
  for larger version

Petra Van Den
Broeck and
Geert Minner

Willy Van Houtte
with his wife

The loft of
Petra and Geert

Inside Petra and
Geert's breeding

Petra and Geert's
breeding loft from
another angle

Birds may nest
anywhere in
Petra and Geert's

An aviary for
Petra and Geert's

For this report we have done a double interview. This time we sat around the table with Petra Van Den Broeck (Denderleeuw) and Willy Van Houtte (Wevelgem). Petra Van Den Broeck was in 2006 first general provincial champion KBDB East-Flanders. Willy Van Houtte was named first general provincial champion KBDB 2006 West-Flanders. Both titles are not so easy to win because East-Flanders counts 10,000 fanciers and West-Flanders about 7000 fanciers. This is combined with the fact that you have to classify yourself in different categories starting from the short to the long distance, and this with old-, year- and old birds. This is easier said than done and as we're always looking for the best racers we were curious to know these two fanciers better.

The first fancier we spoke with is Willy Van Houtte. Willy is a well-known name in Belgium. He's been a top fancier for years-in the last seven years he was five times general provincial champion. We must say that a lot of fanciers have already been very successful with the pigeons from Willy. The other name-Petra Van Den Broeck-is a new name for us. When we went to Denderleeuw we thought we would have a discussion with a very nice lady, but we were wrong. I'm not saying that Petra isn't a nice woman, but we didn't have a pigeon discussion. We spoke with her husband Geert Minner. For this reason, we will mention the name of Geert Minner further in this report and not that of his wife Petra.

Question : Can you introduce yourself? How and when did you start in our favourite sport? Can you name the strains of pigeons with which you're successful?

Geert Minner: "Although I have a very busy job and don't have a lot of free time for the birds, I can say that I'm a very fanatical fancier. Since my 19th year, I have raced pigeons. Nobody in the family had pigeons, and on a certain day I came home with two pigeons which I got as a present from Andre Van De Velde. The two youngsters were put into a little loft, and the first time that I basketted the two youngsters they both won prizes. Immediately, I was hooked on the pigeon sport. But as a young fellow, I also liked the discothèques with the result that pigeon sport came in second place. No panic, though. My father Albert decided to race pigeons, and so the contact with my favourite hobby continued. After a few years, I started with pigeons again, this time together with my brother. But a few years later, I moved to this house, and I started under the name of Petra Van Den Broeck. The biggest part of my colony is based on pigeons from local fanciers, and these are my father Albert Minner (30%), Coosemans Raymond (10%), Willy De Cremer (30%) and the rest is a mix of pigeons from Geerinckx Luc and Bart and my friend Cortvriendt Bruno."

Willy Van Houtte: "I'm 70 years old and have been a pigeon fancier for 40 years. I was a postman, and on my tour I had a lot of pigeon fanciers. One was a real top fancier and that was Roger Van Neste. To be honest, Roger is the best fancier I ever met. Roger was prepared to launch me as a new fancier but before he would give me my first pigeons I had to be his loft manager for one year. I had to learn handling pigeons and from Roger I learned that racing pigeons was not just basketting pigeons, but there's a lot more. Still today I'm grateful to my late friend."

"The first year that I raced youngsters, I immediately became the local champion (in those days a club with 400 fanciers)," Willy continues. "The pigeons from Roger Van Neste were based on crossings from pigeons from Desmet-Matthijs (Nokere), Maurice Verheye, Andre Vanbruaene (Lauwe), Stael-Van Daele (Ostend) and Bekaert-Ghijsen (Aalbeke). The second year that I was a fancier, without realizing it, I made a golden deal by purchasing pigeons by Martha De Simpelaere (Wevelgem). Other successful purchases were from Decroix Brothers (Rumbeke), Maurice Verheye, Verfaillieagier (Wevelgem), Remy De Mey (Booischot), Marcel De Meester (Ingelmunster), Hilde and Antoon Reynaert (Passendale) and Dedeyne Andre (Halluin). One thing that I want to mention is that I was always lucky to have one or more very good breeding pairs."

Question : Can you tell something more about your system with old bird? How do you feed, when do you give medication, etc.?


Petra and Geert's
youngbird section

Sputnik at Petra
and Geert's has
special drinkers


The widowers'
section at Petra
and Geert's loft

Petra and Geert's
set-up for bathing
the birds

A total view of
Willy Van Houtte's

breeding loft

Top prizes at
this little loft

Inside Willy's
youngbird section

Willy Van Houtte: "I prefer to race with widowers. Every year I have 28 cocks and beginning on the first weekend of April, they see the inside of a basket. Once May comes, they go to races further than Paris. Widowers are basketted weekly. If you want to be successful with widowers, then you need to be punctual. Punctual in feeding, punctual in training, punctual in everything! I have a fixed feeding schedule. The feeding goes from light to heavy and from less to more. Personally, I like to work with a Super Diet and a widowers' mixture. I prefer the mixtures from Versele-Laga. For supplements, I give on Tuesday Colombine Garlic Oil with Colombine B-Pure (brewer's yeast), on Wednesday Omniform Oropharma (liquid vitamins) and the day before basketting Dextrotonic Oropharma (liquid electrolytes). On basketting day there is pure water in the drinker."

"On the medical scene," Willy continues, "I have a four-week programme. Week 1 is a treatment for trichomoniasis with Tricho Plus (Oropharma). Week 2 is a treatment for ornithosis with Orni-Cure (Oropharma). The third week, I give Amoxicure (Oropharma), and the fourth week I combine the antibiotics Tylan and Soludox."

Geert Minner: "Concerning the old bird system, I race with cocks and hens. I have 10 widowers and 10 racing hens. In 2006 I raced following the total widowhood system but in 2007 I stopped using this system. The reason is easy to explain. I'm convinced that when a top bird comes home it is more than preferable that the partner is already at home. You understand what I mean. It is only a question of motivation. When the winning cock or hen has to wait for some time for his or her partner, that is more 'un-motivating' than 'super-motivating.' The cocks are raced on the short- and middle-distance, and the hens on the races from 400 to 550km. All the racing birds breed early, coupling at the end of November. At the beginning of April, they are coupled for the second time, and then they also make their first tosses. Normally every week the birds are basketted."

"As for feeding," Geert continues, " I like to work with Super Diet. When the birds come home I mix some peas (for supplement of proteins) with the Super Diet. Later in the week, the peas are replaced by maize (corn) and peanuts. It is hard to say how much I feed. Everything depends on the weather conditions, how hard the races were, etc. Do the pigeons have a good appetite?"

"I give a lot of supplements," Geert says. "Believe it or not, I feed twice a day, and on one of these there is certainly some Form-Oil in 1 (Colombine) or Dynergon Q10 (Oropharma) on the mixture. The oil is dried with several products. In the beginning of the week I put on the mixture some Recup-Lyt (electrolytes) with Digestal and Glucose + vitamins (Colombine). In the middle of the week these products are replaced by B-Pure (brewer's yeast), Vita, milk powder. Every day they receive a fresh portion of grit with redstone. Be careful, though. If your pigeons are not used to having oil and supplements on their mixture, don't follow this system, because otherwise they will not eat anymore, and that is certainly not the purpose. Therefore, I mix throughout the winter and during the summertime those oils and supplements on the mixtures. In wintertime I replace the Form-Oil in 1 with a garlic oil."

"On the medical scene," Geert explains, "I follow everything very closely. Every two weeks I treat against trichomoniasis. I give the birds either a Spartrix or ¼ Flagyl. When I treat against ornithosis, I always administer through the mixture, and this with different products. Before I forget, before the racing season starts, every bird in my loft is treated with Soludox for 5 days. It is important to mention that every day, and I mean every day I put some Propolis in the drinking water. The Propolis is enriched with Biochol or Aviol."

Question : How do you race your youngsters?

Geert Minner: "For my own use, every year I breed around 100 youngsters. Normally cocks and hens stay together until they have finished their first short-distance race and then they're separated. But in 2006 they stayed all together. They could do what they want, and I must say I couldn't complain about the racing results. In 2007 they will again be raced on the widowhood system. Young hens will be coupled with old cocks and young cocks with old hens. Once August arrives, the young hens may come in the nest and may fly the last national races for youngbirds in nest position. I think that a young hen who has her first youngsters in the nest is always super-motivated. The young cocks will be raced on widowhood until the end of the season. The youngsters are darkened from March until the middle of June.

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In the loft for
Willy's hens

Winter cleaning
at Willy's loft



Willy Van Houtte: "Every year I breed around 100 youngsters. The youngsters are raced following two systems. The first group is a team of 12 young cocks. These are coupled at the beginning of May with old hens, and after five days of nesting they are raced on widowhood. These 12 cocks are darkened from the end of March until the end of May from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. They're raced on widowhood until the end of July. The other youngsters stay together and can do what they want. Those youngsters are not darkened, and of course they moult quicker than the darkened youngsters. For the nestbirds, I have one rule. They may nest, but I don't allow them to have youngsters before July 1st .

Question: Do you do something special during the moulting season?

Geert Minner: "The moulting period is a very important period. Here, fanciers say that during the moulting period the prizes for the next year are won. This sounds ridiculous but there's a certain truth to this. First of all, I make sure that the pigeons are 100% healthy. In the first place, they have to be free of trichomoniasis. Second, I give a five-day treatment with Parastop (Dr De Weerd). I also give a lot of Colombine Tea and Colombine Moulting Seeds, which I enrich with honey. Now and then I change the tea, substituting Biochol in the drinker. And then something special-I am very satisfied with this mixture, and is the following. When I give the Colombine Tea, I put some buttermilk on the mixture. You've read it correctly-buttermilk. The normal commercial buttermilk is what I put on the mixture. I leave it for 30 minutes, and then I feed it to the birds. Of course they must get used to eating that."

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A clean loft
free of birds

Willy Van Houtte: "After the racing season, I let the widowers come into the nest, and they may breed a couple of youngsters. This is good to stimulate the moult but also good to relax after a very stressful season. After this breeding, the widowers go in the direction of the aviary. There they get a moulting mix and each day freshly made Colombine Tea with Colombine Moulting Seeds. When they're in the aviary, the lofts are cleaned very well and disinfected with the product called Dettol."

So this was a double interview with names perhaps unknown to the fanciers in America but fanciers with top birds and top results in Belgium.

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