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The loft of
Racing hens on
A racing hen
during the season
Everybody works to achieve it: that one superb racing result. A result
everybody speaks about. A result of which everybody says that it is
almost impossible to do better. To make such a result is for most fanciers
only possible in "dreamland," but for some of us this dream comes
true once in a lifetime. A fancier who made this dream come true is
without any doubt the partnership of DeSchepper-De Temmerman from Merelbeke.
On the national race from MontÚlimar, in which 10,195 old birds participated,
this husband-wife combination won the 8th and 10th prizes, with only
three pigeons in the race!
Combine this with the fact that results like a 1st national La Souterraine
youngbirds (1996), 1st general champion KBDB Province East-Flanders
(against 11,000 fanciers - 2000), 1st provincial Bourges yearbirds (2003),
2nd national Bourges old birds (1997), 1st provincial Vichy old birds
(2004), 3rd national La Souterraine young birds (2005) are also on the
result list. And so we know that we're not speaking about just any fancier.
We wanted to know more about these fanciers, so we turned the car in
the direction of Merelbeke.
ONE BIG FAMILY
The power of this loft comes from Herman De Schepper and his wife Marietta
De Temmerman. Herman is an industrial engineer and works for the National
Railway. But this job demands a lot of his time, and so he hasn't enough
time to look after the birds. Luckily, he has the help of his lovely
wife Marietta (who's a housewife), and thanks to this they make the
Herman raced until 1985 with his father, Leon. The move to their new
house ended the partnership, and Herman went his own way in the pigeon
sport. It's normal that the first birds came from father Leon, but Herman
saw that he could upgrade the quality of the birds. He analysed throughout
one season all of the racing results of several clubs. At the end, he
concluded that Jozef De Lodder (Zulte) and Rene Vandenheede (Zingem
- now represented by his son Freddy) were the best. Herman took his
savings and went to those two fanciers to invest. The crossing of those
two strains was immediately successful, and the pigeons of father Leon
had to make room. The results were suddenly better, and Herman wanted
to invest again. Now he didn't have to look a long time for a good loft.
No, the name Gaby Vandenabeele was hot, and eggs from his breeders went
to Merelbeke. Herman says, "Every year I buy some birds, but it will
always be from Vandenabeele or from Vandenheede. I can say that the
base of my colony is De Lodder, and the rest is formed with 25% Vandenabeele
and 75% Vandenheede."
Is this the new trend in Belgium? The fact is that little by little
more fanciers choose this system. Herman explains, "In the early days,
I always had 28 widowers, and every year I put, (with pain in the heart)
all those good youngbird hens in the aviary. In 2000 I had a talk with
Freddy Vandenheede, who races very well with hens, and after this conversation
I decided to race seven hens on widowhood. These seven hens flew so
well that one season later I already had 20 ladies on this racing method.
Now the lady-team is 28 ladies strong.
The reason why we choose total widowhood all had to do with a shortage
of space. As you can see, we don't have that much space to build lofts
and didn't want to search for an extra place in the garden to build
an aviary for "nothing-doing-cocks" to pair with the widowhood hens.
So I have chosen the total widowhood system. This system is very easy.
At the end of November, the birds are coupled, and after breeding a
couple of youngsters they're separated. On March 15th, it is again a
"big party." When the hen has laid her second egg, she goes directly
to the hens' loft. So there is no second brood."
Herman continues, "Once widowhood is established, we follow a strict
schedule. With the exception of a few things, we can say that everything
is done as at a lot of other lofts. Fanciers say that hens have to be
basketted weekly, but this is not a fixed rule here. It is possible
that in the beginning of the season the hens are basketted several times
every week, but as of June the hens are basketted every two weeks. Between
the two races, they stay home and I mean really home. It is possible
that the hen stays home and the cock is basketted, or the opposite can
be done, but for the same money both are basketted or are at home. Here,
it is each bird's condition that decides if the birds are basketted,
yes or no! The pigeons that stayed home are, on the arrival day of the
other birds, closed up in half of the widowhood box. When the pigeons
come, home they can choose next to which cock or hen they want to sit.
Only when around two-thirds of the birds are home do I go to the loft
to close up the pigeons couple by couple."
Herman explains, "we work directly at the recuperation, and this starts
with a good meal. Concerning feeding we've got our own system. This
means I buy the best mixtures of several brands and on my own opinion
I mix 50% racing mixture + 25% ma´s (corn) + 25% Super Diet. I give
this mixture on arrival (Saturday), and the quantity is as much as they
want. Also, the morning after they get this mixture. On the Sunday evening
the mixture is already changed to 2/3 Super Diet + 1/3 ma´s. This mixture
is given until Tuesday morning. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday, a
racing mixture is on the menu. Thursday is basketting day, and I always
like to basket birds for a 'two-night basket' with a little bit of food
in the crop. Therefore, I feed on Thursday morning only 10g/bird a mix
of Super Diet and ma´s. In the afternoon (around 2:00 p.m.) again Super
Diet + ma´s is fed. After this last meal they have about three hours
to drink and then they're basketted. As you can see, we always feed
the birds twice a day and we take our time in feeding them. Normally,
the birds get around 15 minutes to eat what they want, but we can say
that the pigeons get approximately 35 to 40grams of feed a day.
Breeder on nest
Aviary for bathing
Herman confides, "We don't need to keep secrets from each other. Without
medication, it is not possible to put good results on paper. A good
season starts with a good winter breeding. When it already goes wrong
during that period, then it will be hard to put the birds on the road
to top condition again. I treat all the birds against paratyphus at
the end November. This is done with a cure in the drinking water. There's
no vaccination afterwards. Once this treatment is finished, we go to
the specialized vet and let the him dictate what the pigeons need."
"Once the youngsters from the early breeding have been weaned for a
few days," Herman continues, "the old birds are treated against tricho
with a ronidazole product. This tricho cure is repeated when the racing
birds are coupled for the second time. Before they have their first
training tosses, they're treated with Soludox against ornithosis. During
the season, we follow a strict medical routine. In 2005 I treated every
three weeks with Soludox. Only the youngbirds were treated more often.
Everything depends on how good or bad the results are. I can say that
during my best racing seasons, I treated not that much."
"Every year we
have a visit from the youngbird disease," Herman says. "The earlier
it comes, the better. As soon as one youngbird turns his crop upside
down I have already mixed some antibiotic in the drinker. Last season,
I thought to be clever that I wouldn't treat at the first signs of the
disease. No, I waited until three-fourths of the youngbird team became
ill, and that was a mistake because it took me a great deal longer to
kill the virus."
"For the rest, it is the same as with a lot of other fanciers," Herman
goes on to say. "Electrolytes upon arrival and on regular basis brewer's
yeast and vitamins on the mixture. Tea is administered several times
a week. I also use a lot of Biochol. What we like to do is to use drops
in the eyes of the racing birds. If we had the time, we would do it
daily but now we drop twice a week. We use the eye gel Clinagel." [Editor's
note: Two similar products that are available from Siegel's are Lysocur
eye drops by Comed or Golden Eye drops from Herbots.]
"Every year we breed between 100 and 110 youngbirds for our own use,
Herman continues. "This group is composed of 80 youngsters from the
first round and 20 of the second. The purpose is to be top on the national
races with the youngbirds, and therefore they stay together until two
weeks before the first national race. Afterwards, they're separated
and raced following the open door system. In earlier years, the youngbirds
were separated earlier and came together two weeks before Bourges. The
nationals were then raced on nest position. It may sound strange, but
sometimes I think it's better to basket youngbirds for the nationals
in nest position than on widowhood. Certainly for the last two races
it is better. Why don't I act on that? Well, I guess I'm doing it the
easy way! If you race pigeons on nest position, then you have to sleep
in your loft, so to speak. It is easier to keep pigeons healthy when
they're on widowhood than when they're on nest position. And pigeons
on nest position hardly train, while youngbirds raced on the open door
system train without any problem one or two hours a day."
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"Since 1996 we have darkened our youngbirds, from March 15 until June
15. Before, when we raced on nest position, we stopped darkening at
the end of May but youngbirds which are not in nest position throw their
wing feathers more quickly. If you stop darkening at the end of May
then you have moulting problems for the last two national races. Youngbirds
need to see the inside of a basket weekly. Even between two national
races I basket them for a 300 km race. Before I forget, the national
races are only reserved for the young hens, the young cocks stay at
RACING RESULTS 2005
05/15 Toury 635d.: 1-11-43-44-48-76-78-83-90-93, etc. (33)
05/21 Dourdan 315jl.: 8-9-12-13-18-19-20-21-29-48, etc.(32)
05/28 Bourges zonal 6831 old birds: 45-52-382-444-1210 (9)
6507 yearlings: 18-20-174-214-221-356-732, etc. (20)
06/11 Tours 409 old birds: 1-10-13-22-32-37-39-49-71, etc. (27)
Provincial:1372 old birds: 6-18-21-47-62-69-74-93-167, etc. (27)
Tours provincial: 883 jl.: 2-10-13-40-44-47-60-104, etc. (26)
MontÚlimar national 10,195d.: 8-10 (3)
Zonal 1380 d.: 1-2 (3)
National duivinnen: 781d.: 1-2 (2)
06/18 Chateauroux provincial 1387 old birds: 4-6-8-20-36-37-67-86-88-91-103-109,
Provincial 784 yearlings: 4-6-7-21-38-39-75-76-99. etc. (26)
provincial 1595 old birds: 5-11-22-34-38-40-43-51-62-67-78-91-93-105-139,
provincial 1057 yearlings: 3-7-14-18-21-22-25-31-38-39-46-54-56-64,
Orange national 7600 old birds: 24 (2)
Barcelona provincial 2315 old birds: 105-213-365 (4)
07/16 Dourdan 806 young birds: 1-9-10-11-13-14-16-28-29-40-49-58-60-61,
Blois 360 jl.: 3-5-10-46-49-64-75-78, etc. (18)
07/30 Bourges zonal 2316 yearlings: 18-29-53-91-147-166-283-286-288,
Zonaal 9042 young birds: 12-83-84-176-292-810-841, etc. (16)
08/13 Argenton zonal 6570 young birds: 30-76-119-134-153-290-315-787,
Dourdan 334 young birds: 6-7-8-11-12-14-30, etc. (43)
08/27 La Souterraine
national 15,406 young birds: 3-26-66-154-494-739-753-1566, etc. (38)
09/10 Vichy 11,022 young birds: 86-337-613-632-819-839-1165,
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