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  News > Engels - Part 1
  Jos and Jules Engels:
Nothing Better,
Part 1

by Stefan Mertens

To go directly to Part 2 of this report, which focuses on stars of the Engels breeding loft,
click here.


Click on any photo
  for larger version

Jos and
Jules Engels

The Engels family
greenhouses in
which they made
their living

Breeding lofts
with aviaries





A close-up look
at the aviaries







Sand floor in
the breeding loft

Putte: A man can certainly ask this question: Is there something better to find than the pigeons of Jos and Jules Engels? When you ask me, I think I must answer "no." Personally, I'm very impressed with the Engels pigeons. They look "perfect" and the fact that thousands of fanciers have been already more than successful with the Engels pigeons is a sign that there is quality to be found in Putte. But also in their own loft, the results are "from another planet." This brother combination (father Flor died almost 2 years ago) is not standing still. They are always looking for better pigeons and better systems. Here, we can learn something.

With Ed Minvielle, I visited this loft in July 2003, and from the moment that Ed got the first Engels pigeons in the hand he was also immediately in love. The Engels pigeons are very nicely built, are strong feathered and have "bulls-eyes." No wonder that Ed bought some youngsters from the best birds.

When we asked Jos Engels for some information about his birds and results, we got a lot of papers in the hand. Here is a list with the national prizes one out of a hundred (so in the top 1%). Believe it or not, but I received seven pages with results like 1st Guerret 10,203b. - 1st Bourges 10401b. - 1st Chateauroux 13,285b. - 2nd Bourges 18,028b. - 2nd La Souterraine 13,988b. - 3rd Chateauroux 14,002b. - 4th La Souterraine 17,343b. - 4th Limoges 12,175b. - 4th Limoges 12,221b. - 5th Bourges 16,813b. - 5th Bourges 17,048b. - 5th La Souterraine 16,897b. - 5th Bourges 12,529b. I want to mention again here that we are talking about national prizes.

On the provincial scene, the list is even more impressive. Here we got seven pages with prizes in the first 10 of a provincial race. When we counted well, we got 67 times 1st provincial or interprovincial. Results like 1st Orleans 12,961b. (in 2003) - 1st Bourges 3350b. - 1st Argenton 4538b. - 1st Bourges 5719b. - 1st Bourges 3656b. - 1st La Souterraine 3895b. - 1st Argenton 3266b. - 1st Chateauroux 4852b. - 1st Bourges 3581b. - 1st Chateauroux 4134b. Most of the belgian fanciers can only dream of such results.


Racing with hens--who doesn't do it nowadays? About 20 years ago, people said that you're crazy when you try to beat the widowhood cocks with hens. No way. But now there is a lot of proof that the hens are as good or sometimes better than the cocks. Good hens in combination with a superb system is the key to success. Also with Jos and Jules, it is eight times out of ten the hens who are winning. The man who is managing the hens is Jules, and we just asked him what we wanted to know.

Jules says, "I'm convinced that in a successful hen-system, you have to follow very strictly certain rules, rules which, with a little bending, can cause big problems. The first thing is having a good, especially-adapted loft for racing hens. We work with a loft made in two sections. One section has normal, standard boxes. The other section is rather small and has special 'hens boxes' (kind of like youngbird boxes)."

Jos continues, "During the racing season, the hens are sitting closed up in those little boxes the whole day. The boxes are so constructed that the hens cannot see each other. The hens train twice a day for one hour. After their training they enter the 'central loft.' The boxes are closed, and the ladies get the opportunity to eat and to drink for one hour. During that hour, we stay constantly with the hens; otherwise, they'll start pairing with each other, and when that happens you can forget any top result. After that hour, the hens go to the other little loft, and when they have taken a seat they're closed up. The little loft is not darkened. The only thing we have is a ventilation system. Once the temperature goes up to 25 degrees centigrade, the ventilation system starts to work."


Not much room
to drink


The widowhood

Inside the
widowers' loft

The world-famous
"231" in retirement

"The hens are coupled at the end of November," Jules explains. "The best hens are coupled to the best widowers because we still believe in the combination good X good to breed good youngsters. Once the youngsters are 15 days old, the cocks leave the loft and the hens raise their youngsters alone. Once the youngsters are old enough to wean, the hens go to the aviary. In the aviary, the hens get a 'winter menu,' namely 90% barley. They stay in the aviary until March 15th."

"On March 15th," Jules continues, "the hens come again into their loft and are coupled again, but now with their 'cock-for-the-season.' This 'cock-for-the-season' is a cock that is not raced. Now they can breed a couple of youngsters, but before they start to pair again, the cocks are separated."

"In mid-April, the hens go on their first training tosses," Jules details, "and when they come home from their first middle-distance race, the youngsters are away and their cock is sitting in the nest box. From this moment, the widowhood system is begun and now there is no turning back. Before every race, the cocks come for about 15 minutes into the loft and on arrival they can make love for about 30 minutes. The longer the season goes on, the longer the hens stay with the cocks. At the end of the season, they can even stay the whole night with their partner."

"Another fundamental rule," Jules explains, "is that the hens must be basketted every week. Otherwise, they start to pair up with each other and then the party becomes a funeral. As I have already mentioned, they train twice a day from 6:30 until 7:30 a.m. and from 4:00 until 7:00 p.m. Also the feeding system never changes. In the morning they get some Super Diet, and in the evening they get as much as they want of a racing mixture."

"The hens are on widowhood until three weeks before the national Bourges race on the third week-end of July," Jules says. "Then the hens' team is coupled again, and the Sunday before basketting day, they receive a youngster of 10 days old. With that youngster in the nest, they fly two national races-namely Bourges and Argenton on the second week-end of August. A second group is prepared in a 'natural' way and they're basketted for La Souterraine (fourth week-end in August) and Guerret (second week-end September)."

"One thing more to mention," Jules emphasizes, "we do this only with yearbirds and two-year-old hens. Hens that have been raced two years on this system go to the breeding loft."


Just like the racing hens, the widowers are coupled on November 25th. They breed a couple of youngsters, and after that they go to the aviary until March 15th. Then they are coupled again, and after nesting for five days, they go on widowhood. Their last race is Argenton (second week-end in August). When they come home, their hen stays in the loft and they may nest for five days. No breeding is allowed.

Once everything is separated, they get a lot of Taubengold (from Röhnfried), a very good moulting mixture, and when the weather is good they can fly around the loft. Let the moult do its work.

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Inside another
widowerhood loft


A Sputnik to
clock electronically

Boxes in the
central hens' loft

Bean straw on
the floor in winter

Hens stay in these
boxes night and day


The hens' boxes
close with a
simple wire

From mid-October until mid-November, the cocks stay in the aviary again. So if you count all the "aviary days" in February and those at the end of the year, then you have a total of about 100 "aviary-days." Why so many days in an aviary? Jules explains, "Well, first of all, this is a very easy system."

And a fancier must see this as the best "health-cure" in the world. The cocks don't fly out and they receive 75% barley and 25% breeding mixture. On a regular basis a bath with some Ideal bath salts is given, and after a few weeks you don't recognize them anymore.

For the yearbirds, the Engels loft has another system. They stay in the aviary until the end of January, and then they're coupled and breed a couple of youngsters. When you do that the yearbirds adapt very well at their new loft and box. So the chance that an old widower takes, through fighting, several boxes in the loft is zero.

Over five tosses, the widowers are trained to 25 km. The widowers are basketted every week in the beginning of the racing season. This is done until Bourges I (the last week-end of May). After that they see the inside of a basket every two weeks. When the widowers come home from a race, a racing mixture is served. The next two days they receive half Super Diet and half racing mixture. The last days before basketting, 100% racing mixture is given.

Widowers that are basketted every two weeks follow this feeding schedule also. Those that stay home during the days that the other widowers are in the basket get a little bit of Super Diet, and when the others are at home they follow the system again. The Engels brothers have to work like that because widowers of the same loft are raced at different moments.

In the morning when the widowers enter the loft from their training they get a few peanuts and some sneaky mixture in their box. On arrival from a race there are electrolytes in the water. Tuesday is vitamin day, and on Sunday evening there is some brewers' yeast on the mixture.

"From the beginning of April, they train once a day for one hour," Jules continues. "By mid-April there are two training sessions, always with closed windows. The better they train, the more we expect on the week-end. We're not afraid of cold and dry weather in the spring. When it is raining and cold then the heating plates are turned on. Beanaw in the widowers loft is not only comfortable but also cozy. Widowers love to lay on one wing in the straw. In the front of the lofts, there is a lot of glass, and when the other pigeons train we darken the lofts with a curtain, until all other pigeons have trained. Widowers need a lot of rest, and during the day we avoid entering the lofts."

We never show the hen at basketting," Jules explains. "The first time that they see their partner is on arrival from the first short-distance race. The widowers that are not raced during the week-end receive their partner also. This happens when most of the widowers are at home and then they get their hen very briefly." At the Engels loft, the classic way of widowhood is followed. In other words, the widower gets his motivation by defending his territory.


On the medical scene, the Engels brothers keep the medicine chest closed as much as possible. But Engels is honest-without medication it is not possible to win top prizes. In the middle of October, as preparation to the winter breeding, everything is treated for five days against trichomoniasis. At the end of March the same thing happens. They do this to avoid problems during the racing season. It's very important that everything which has feathers is cured. By the middle of April, the widowers and racing hens are treated again for four days with a product against ornithosis. During the racing season, every three or four weeks they're treated for tricho. In this routine, they use different medications (Ridzol, Spartrix, Flagyl, etc.) to avoid the birds' building up resistance. In 2003 their pigeons were not vaccinated against parathyphus. They were treated only 10 days against paratyphoid and E. coli.

To go directly to Part 2 of this report, which focuses on stars of the Engels breeding loft,
click here.

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