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  News > DeRijck_Meirlaen_D'Hondt_Leon

Etienne Meirlaen,
Leon Henry,
DeRijck-Duym, and
Germain D'Hondt --
Belgian Champions of 2011:
Narbonne, Souillac &

by Stefan Mertens


Click on any photo for larger version 

Hans and Petra

BE 10-4020268

Eye of
BE 10-4020268

Wing of
BE 10-4020268

Lofts of


: We met a very happy couple--Hans De Rijck and Petra Duym. Some of us chould be happy for less than this.  During winter of 2007-2008, they had their first plans for the heavy long-distance and now, some seasons later, their international victory is already a fact. Their chequered cock, the B10-4020268, was clocked at 20h51 for a distance of 859km at a speed of 1033.70m/m. He didn’t only beat all other yearlings, but he was also the fastest of all 22,685 Narbonne racers. Such a unique result!


Hans still can’t get it. The phone doesn’t stop, friends are passing by to bring their congratulations, and those who know Hans, also know that he wants to pay attention to each and every one.  But also strong guys like Hans, bend after the stress and no sleep. It’s Sunday afternoon when we sit at the table with Hans and Petra to write down their story. We soon noticed that these two people need a lot of sleep.

Hans explains, “All my life, I’ve been a fanatic fancier. I used to play the short and the middle distance, but I always dreamed of racing the long distance. My friends always told me that this was for the rich people, but I couldn’t forget about it.  Every week again I went to watch the pigeons with my friend and long-distance lover, Jo Ronsijn. When I saw his pigeons arrive, I got a bigger kick than when my own middle-distance racers arrived. After a while, I made the decision that this heavy long-distance was what I wanted. During winter of 2008, I divided 80% of my birds among friends, and with the other 20%, I tried to do the heavy long-distance. I soon found out that this wasn’t possible. Heavy long distance races require heavy long-distance racers, and my middle-distance pigeons ‘collapsed’ one by one. So I searched for the right pigeons, and I couldn’t get any better than with my friend Jo Ronsijn (Appelterre). Besides the pigeons of Jo, which are mainly Luc Van Coppenolle birds, I also invested in some of Van De Bulcke Guido, Joosen Jos, Devos Etienne, Jos Van Olmen and Rufin and Luc Buyl. I must say that I became good friends with this last one and at the moment we try to become stronger-- Luc, Jo and I. We exchange pigeons, experiences and tips.”


“At the moment,” Hans continues, “I own 14 old and 17 yearling widowers, which are assisted by 16 yearling hens. I paired in the middle of December, and after they raised a couple of youngsters, they were separated and widowhood started.”

“Spring was fabulous and so I soon started to train them,” Hans explains.  “My international winner flew 2 x Noyon (34 against 241 p.), Ecouen, 2 x Angerville (25 against 474 p.), Chateauroux (192 against 659 p.), La Chatre (158 against 561 p.), Argenton (68 against 606 p.) Limoges and Narbonne (1 international).”

“This pigeon left rather motivated to Narbonne,” Hans says. “He was paired to a hen of ’03 but she didn’t show that much interest in him. I noticed and instead of showing his old hen, I gave him eight hens of his loft-mates. I let him do what he wanted, and some time later he was sitting in a corner of the loft with one of the other hens. This was a new love, which probably was an extra motivation to leave all 22,000 Narbonne racers behind. I’ll never forget the image of him arriving—not an inch off course, straight from the right direction!”

Hans continues, “My international winner was banded in the loft of Jo Ronsijn.  Every year, Jo bands for me about 30 youngsters and ‘Vikor’ was one of them.”

The system

Before the season starts, Hans and Petra visit their vet Raf Herbots, and during the season they use the products of Herbots, such as Sedochol, Zell Oxygen and Optimix. Also the racing vitamins and the amino acids are those of Herbots.  During the winter, they get apple vinegar almost every day.
The foods they use are widowhood (Versele), Sport (Mariman) and Omega Fond (Matador), which get mixed. Every day they give two soupspoons in a little pot and after two days, they empty the pot. The last two days before basketing, they use the Turbo mixture from Matador.
On a medical level, they work with the products of Belga Magic.  Against canker and after each long distance race, they treat the heads for about three days with Ornispecial or Soludox. Before the basketing for Narbonne, they treated for four days with Soludox.

Hans and Petra, congratulations!

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Meirlaen with
his loft pal


Head of

Eye of



Deurle: “Finally”…these were the first words of Etienne and Yvette Meirlaen and the loft manager, Aline.  ”We’ve got it!” They’re talking about the first national and even international victory that this colony can write down on its prize-list. They have often been close, but they have never succeeded until now. Etienne says, “Once we were very close, three seasons ago on the flight from Tarbes, but the bird was frightened by the smoke from the barbecue and lost some valuable minutes on the roof. This year, we also had a barbecue but this time we made sure that there wasn’t too much smoke. ‘Monar’ was clocked at 21h08m55sec, and everybody had the feeling that this could be it. Some hours later, we were sure about the national victory, and the next day, we received a phone call from the organiser that we also won the international victory. You won’t be surprised when I tell that we opened many bottles of champagne!”


We already talked about the base of the colony and the system in previous articles and I’m sure you will read more about it in winter.  That’s the reason why we’ll only talk about the international victory now. There were 13,779 old birds at the international level and the stage was ocupied by Garré-Vandenberghe (Vichte – 1012m) and De Smeyter-Restiaen (1010m).

The international winner is “Monar” (B08-4298283), a son of the super breeding hen “Yelena” (B06-4288297 – first name of the granddaughter of Etienne and Yvette) x “Father Marseille” (B00-3127222 – Van Damme-Boddaert).
“Father Marseille” is father and grandfather of several cracks like 9th international Narbonne 14,457 p., 9th national Cahors 7,347 p., 10th national Brive 17,456 p., 21st national Marseille 3,911 p., 32nd international Soustons 11,030 p., 46th national Marseille 4,398 p., 72nd national Marseille 5,738 p.

“Yelena” is also mother of “Montali” (B08-4298110 – 12th national Montauban ’10  6,654 p. – 4th national Montauban ’11  9,091 p.) and “Montauban” (B08-4298059 – 5th national Montauban ’10  6,654 p. – 13th national Montauban ’11  9,091 p. – 175th national Limoges ’11  19,373 p.). So as always, the good ones come out of the good ones.

“Monar” is a fabulous international winner, and he isn’t a nine days’ wonder because he already won  13th international Narbonne ’10  13,335 p., 52nd national Montauban ’11  9,091 p. and 571st national Montauban  6654 p. “Monar” is a very calm pigeon. He’s pleased with one of the boxes on the floor, next to his brother. Etienne likes two brothers to sit next to each other because this gives more rivalry. “Monar” was put in as second because he already was on six pinions.


The national program was done with 35 widowers. After a race of 600 to 700km, they get two weeks of rest.  When the races get further, they get three weeks of rest. It’s important to mention that the widowers get their hens during the weekend they don’t race.

The food they use are the mixtures of Versele-Laga, and the by-products of Oropharma.  They follow the medical advice of Dr. Wim Boddaert. The week after Limoges, the birds get treated for four days with Soludox and this treatment is repeated the week after Montauban.

The result from Narbonne was very good.  On the local level, 11 prizes of 20. Of the 23 yearlings, 15 scored, and the first arrivals are: 21h08 (1st international), 6h22 (yrl.), 6h30, 7h21, 7h54, 8h03, 8h22 (yrl.), 8h23 (yrl.), 8h36 (yrl.) etc….

Etienne, Yvette and Aline, congratulations!

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Germain D'Hondt

Perpignan winner

"The Perpignan"

Wing of
the Perpignan

D'Hondt's Loft


Anzegem:  Perpignan was the very last international race of the 2011 season. And as we all know; the last ones are mostly the heaviest.  Even this international race wasn’t an easy one.  The weather throughout the racing line wasn’t ideal, and so the first pigeons from Perpignan stayed away longer than anyone thought they would. The international victory was for Holland, but here in Belgium we had to visit D’Hondt Germain (68) from Anzegem.

Germain clocked his bird at 20h44 for a distance of 893 km, at a speed of 1147.03 m/m. The other places on the stage were for Hok Slots Daisy (Lede – 1098.11 m/m) and Vermander Lionel (Oekene – 1088.84 m/m).


Germain explains, “I have lived here for 14 years now, and as with most fanciers, the loft was built before the house. I got in contact with the pigeon sport through my father, but when I started to play on my own name, I preferred to do the hard work. Throughout the years, I created my own base with pigeons of  Desseyn-Vandemeulebroecke, Maurice Vandevelde (Oostende), Claus Armand and Hans (Wortegem), Degraeve-Van Geert (Smetlede) and Wilson Degens (Zingem).”

Germain started the 2011season with 45 widowers. Together with the breeders, they all did early winter breeding, and once they got separated with their little ones, there was a kind of winter period. They got paired for the second time on March 20th and after a few days of breeding, widowhood started.

The widowers are staying in six compartments--three lofts of stone above the garage and three of wood in the garden. The national winner is staying in one of the stone lofts.
Germain emphasizes, “I don’t have any secrets. I mostly use food with less proteins (Vandenabeele) and only during the last three days, they get a sports mixture. Besides, I also like to use beer yeast and apple vinegar during winter.  During the season, I sometimes give some vitamins in the drinking pot. Every two days, I give fresh little stones. On a medical level, the vet only comes around to vaccinate. During the season, I’m my own vet, and I treat against cancer, coccidiosis or ornithosis if necessary. Fourteen days before Perpignan, I treated for four days with Soludox.  Those that had to go to Perpignan received a tablet for canker.”


Germain continues, “My national winner was classified in the middle of the result from Montauban and since that day, he was sitting at home. We expected the pigeons from Perpignan between 18h30 and 19h00, but we had to wait till 20h44 when he arrived like an arrow, straight on to the shelf. I went upstairs but he wasn’t sitting in his box.  No, he was sitting on his little shelf, right in front of his box. It seems that this little shelf must have been his special motivation; otherwise he wouldn’t have been sitting there.”
Germain, congratulations!

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Wing of "Souillac"





Head of



The Henrys' loft


Nandrin: The number of participating birds didn’t reach the same level as in years before. In 2010 we had 7,045 participants for this national race and this season, 2011, the organizers could only count 5,659 birds. If you ask me, there are two reasons for this. First of all, the weather forecast was not good. A lot of rain was forecast, and fanciers don’t like to take any risks. Secondly, two weeks ago there was the national race from Brive. That national race was not an easy one.  Brive took a lot of power out of the pigeons. A lot of birds were not yet recuperated from Brive and stayed home a week longer. This was of course not good for Souillac.
But all of this did nothing negative to the top performance that was made by top bird “Souillac” from Leon Henry (Nandrin).

The name Leon Henry is not an unknown name in the Belgian pigeon sport. In 1992 these fanciers (father, son and grandson) won 1st international Perpignan, and in 1999 they won national Argenton old birds. So with thisi Souillac race these fanciers won their 3rd national victory!  


When we arrived in the street “Rue Baimont” we were welcomed by Alain Henry. “We live here with three generations of pigeon fanciers,“ begins Alain.   “We have first of all my father Leon (81 years old), then you have me (50 years old) and last my son Maxime (24 years old). Maxime is perhaps the most fanatical one, but he’s out to work. He knows all the pigeons by ring number and knows perfectly what happens in each loft.”

“Our base of pigeons is built up with two names,” he continues, “namely Jozef Van Den Broucke (Wielsbeke – line ‘Didi’) and Roger Vereecke (Deerlijk). At the end of the 1980s and beginning of 1990, we were standing at the door of those two fanciers and afterwards seen.  We must say that we were very lucky that we were so successful with those two strains. Also the cross of those two strains was very good.”

Alain says, “Maybe you will not believe it, but the friendship was so good that when we won international Perpignan, we did not sell the pigeon but gave it back totally free to Roger Vereecke. Our international winner was moved to Deerlijk to become a very good breeder. But I must say that we received also everything that we want free from Roger. In 2005 we could choose out of all his young birds. I was looking very closely and a nice young hen caught my eye. That nice young hen (B05-3006069), a granddaughter of Roger’s ‘Baron’, moved to Nandrin and became here the mother of our national winner from Souillac.”



The racing season 2011 was started with 50 widowers (50% old birds and 50% year birds). These are housed in five different lofts. In one loft there are only four widowers housed, and it is in that loft that the best results are made.

 Alain explains, “I don’t know what happened, but during the wintertime there were a lot of fights in this loft. They fight till they saw blood. Unbelievable and this anger is still present between those four widowers. It is nice to see how mad they are at each other. Nobody trusts anybody. This anger results in very good top performances. Before his result on Souillac, our national winner won also the 17th National from Brive, and another widower won in the same loft the 4th national Cahors and the 11th national Souillac.”

“We have to say that our widowers have without any doubt the top condition,” Alain continues. “Also the widowers that are basketted for the very long distance performed extremely well. They scored very high points for the national championship.”


A pigeon born in the lofts of family Henry may not expect a “nothing-to-do-life.” Performing is the message and this rule is for old and young birds. Each year family Henry breeds 150 youngsters, and most of them have to fly the four national races for the young birds. Between two national races they are basketed for a short- or middle-distance race.
Also the year- and old birds have to perform. Until Sezanne (232km) the widowers were basketed weekly. Afterwards, they were divided into groups and were basketed every two or three weeks.

The feeding method is very simple. Every day the widowers receive 40 grams of racing mixture. This is 20 grams in the morning and 20 grams in the evening. Regarding supplementary product (oils, condition powder, amino acids, etc.) the program of specialized vet Vincent Schroeder is followed. Also antibiotics are given only on his advice.
For the rest, a lot of breeding, a lot of racing, and coupling the best against the best. This system has been followed for more than 20 years, and now they harvest very good results.


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