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The widowers loft
Inside the widowers
Halle Booienhoven: For the second year in a row we could ring the doorbell of the famous Herbots family to congratulate them on winning the national championship. Last year they won the national title in year birds, and this year they’re the best in the small middle distance category. They also won the national ace in this category with “Yvan”. It all seems like a fairytale, with top pigeons like “Yvan”, “Magnum” and “Power” as sublime title characters.
Fanciers who have ever visited the “Herbotsen” know that it is always a very busy day over there in Halle Booienhoven. The business in pigeons goes very well and the number of moments that the telephone is not ringing can be counted on one hand. It is at the same time impressive and beautiful to watch such a busy family. But…and that I appreciate a lot… everybody who comes for a visit is welcomed with a smile. Also when we went to make this report there were a lot of visitors. Belgian fanciers had to bring some pigeons for shipping to China, and a small group of English fanciers were there to buy some birds. Luckily, father Filip was able to make some free time to answer our questions.
Let’s go back to the national titles. To become national champion middle distance, you need to take the best five results with your 1st and 2nd nominated old birds (no doubled year birds) on races between 250km and 450 km with a total minimum distance of 1.300km for the five races. Herbots Jo and Raf won with a coefficient of 12.5322% and beat Melard-Frederick (Valmeer – 14.4121%) and Thibaut-Boons (Sombreffe – 17.3188%).
National ace small middle distance becomes the bird with the best five results on races between 250km and 450km with a minimum total distance of 1.300km for the five races. In this category Herbots Jo and Raf won with a coefficient of 1.5695%, edging out Van Elsacker-Jepsen (Schilde – 1.9206%) and Van Genechten Theo (Vorselaar – 2.4317%).
Filip…congratulations…how does it feel to become national champion two years in a row?
Very nice of course…this is the result of a good team. Next to loft manager Francois Jamar, there is also my son Jo and my wife Jacqueline who do a lot of work in the lofts. Personally, I like to do the observation in the lofts. How do the birds train, how do they react under certain circumstances, and so on. Next to this there is my son Raf. Raf is a specialized pigeon vet and his advice is law. Every body knows what to do and every day we have a little meeting in which we all say what we think. If necessary the system will be adapted.
On the other side, I’m afraid of the coming season. You have to say it like it is. The title of last year and the titles of this year are all won by superior top birds like “Yvan”, “Power”, “Magnum”, “De Jules” and “Dallas”. But now it comes…all these top birds went to the breeding loft and next year we have to start with a totally new team. You understand what I want to say. Not that I don’t have confidence in our widowers, but we have to wait. My favorites for the season 2010 are “Son Olympic Hope” (2169248/08) and “Son Junior 155” (2169207/08).
With all those new top pigeons on your breeding loft…I suppose you didn’t invest anymore in new birds?
Stefan, what are you thinking? Of course we’re always looking for better! Maybe you’re going to laugh, but I’m not lying awake about a national title. I’m lying awake thinking about ace birds. If it is sprint, middle distance or long distance—when we know that somewhere there is a top bird we immediately go there to visit the fancier and try to buy the bird. Last winter season we bought “Ivo” (national ace young birds – sprint) and “Rossi” (national ace great middle distance).
The super year 2009
For the season of 2009, the Herbots-team started with a group of 64 widowers, 24 hens on widowhood and about 200 youngsters.
After the season of 2008, the widowers got to breed twice for about 7 days. They didn’t get any youngsters because breeding means a stop to the moulting. During the moulting period, they feed a moulting mixture with regularly some “4 Oils” and Methioforte (Methionine) on the food.
Then the widowers go to the loft of the youngsters (with an aviary), their boxes on the widowers loft are closed and the new widowers get their hens, which are used to the boxes, and they can breed for five days. By this way, they soon get used to the loft. Afterwards the boxes are closed, the little shelves are hung up, and the old and the yearlings get in the loft again.
Around October 1st, the cocks and hens are separated, and once the cocks have moulted well, they go to the aviary to get their oxygen cure. Because of the birds of prey, not one pigeon got free during the winter, but the last few years it changed. Nowadays about 200 crows visit them during winter and they live in the trees and these birds are very good friends with the birds of prey.
So when the weather is good in January and February, the birds get out, which is a real advantage because pigeons that can’t get out for several months could get problems with their rhythm. Every year again they had one or two which didn’t fly “straight”, probably because of them being locked inside for some time. This year, till now, we didn’t have that problem.
At the beginning of December, the widowers get paired and they get to raise two youngsters. When these little ones reach the age of 14 days, the hens move to the loft of the youngsters with one youngster. The other one is raised by the cock himself. The second pairing happens March 25th and after four days of breeding, everything is taken away and they are on widowhood.
The learning starts as soon as the hens come together with their cocks and this of course is when the weather is good. They try to teach their birds as much as possible before they leave with the club. Usually for about six or seven times from 10 till 60 kilometers and always released per basket. They don’t release them individually because there’s more struggle when they are in groups.
After the learning period, they leave for Momignies, Soissons and then the middle distance. The Herbots family prefers the races from 300 to 600 kilometers. Nevertheless specialization becomes more and more necessary, and that’s why they play the long distance with Deno-Herbots and the overnight flights with Heller-Herbots. The widowers get to race about 18 to 20 races per year from 370 till 574 km.
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Special boxes for
The wing of "Magnum"
Hens on widowhood
“The hens get paired at the beginning of December. Then they get to raise two youngsters till the age of 14 days. Next one of these little ones moves to the loft of the youngsters where they get fed by the hens of the widowers. The other youngster can stay with the hen in the nest-bowl. Up to the next racing season, a second pairing will take place, four days breeding, so on April 15th they can leave on widowhood.
Hens have less stress during transport and they recover better after a race. In big lines, they follow the same feeding schedule as the widowers but only during the three meals before basketing, they get 100% sports-mixture, to keep their excess energy limited. On the day of basketing, they also get some food at noon.
During the week, they can stay on the “resting section” where they sit on little shelves with a roster in front of them. One hour before basketing, cocks and hens get together in their boxes with a nest-bowl and later on during the season they also get some straw.
After the arrival of the hens, the cocks are locked in half-box before they can start to “love” their partner. Hereby the hens can get some rest first because of their work. At that moment the cocks are full of energy and he wants to make love immediately which is not always very much wanted by the hens. On Sunday after the race, all birds that raced get a relaxing warm bath. Then the warming installation is put on and they relax for as much as they want.
The wing of "Yvan"
The wing of "Power"
A family of champions
“The youngsters get weaned when they reach the age of 25 days and then they get a Spartrix and an Appertex. When the young ones are two months old, they get their Paramyxo vaccination and 10 days later a treatment of 10 days with antibiotics and their vaccination against Parathyphus.
These little ones are darkened from 4 p.m., and when it gets dark, the curtains are opened so they automatically wake up with sunlight. By this method, there are less lost and we hold on to this darkening from one month after weaning till the middle of June.
We don’t use the same method with all youngsters. On one section, 25 young cocks get paired to old hens and played on widowhood. On two sections, cocks and hens stay together till mid- June and then they are played by the sliding door. Eighty youngsters aren’t darkened at all and these can stay in an open aviary. These youngsters come into condition earlier than the darkened ones, so they have to score on the first races to keep the flag high.
At the beginning of April, we already leave with the young ones at a distance of about seven kilometers. When the weather is good, we even teach them further before they leave with the club. The sooner they are taught, the better.
Once the youngsters leave with the club, they still get some private training flights during the week for about three or four times at a distance of 40 to 50 km. The most important aspect of this method is to improve their orientation and the fast start.
Throughout the season, the youngsters have to race about 20 flights, among which is the nationals for the youngsters. Every feathered bird has to leave, and this means to select them severely. Sometimes only 80 are left of the 200 beginners or even less, but that’s no problem. Those that score well are treated very well.
A good piece of advice is that the best youngsters are mostly the best yearlings. We’re more afraid of the “pressed out” yearlings than of a youngster that went into red. A good yearling which doesn’t start well as an old bird mostly needs a year of rest, otherwise there is a chance that his career as a widower is over.”
People ask if a system in the medical sense is necessary.
That’s a fact and we leave nothing up to coincidence. During winter, all Herbots pigeons get a treatment of five days against canker on the first day of the month. Canker is the mother of all diseases!
The breeders get this monthly treatment throughout the year. The widowers are treated if necessary after each examination (every 14 days) and this in turn with a tablet or in the drinking water. Eventual treatments against coccidiosis and worms are only done by the advice of the vet, but mostly there aren’t that many problems. At the beginning of April there is a five-day treatment against the head-diseases.
Concerning the by-products, here it’s important that you start to build up slowly from the beginning of the season to the end of the races. Further into the season, the organism needs more by-products to keep on scoring at the same level.
When the races of 370 – 500 km are on the program, we mix some “Omega” (sheep-fat) with the food and all pigeons individually get a Top-pill, so they produce more red blood cells.
On Monday and Wednesday we give Optimix and Zell Oxygen, on Tuesday vitamins and 4 Oils, on Wednesday vitamins (Aminovit), on Thursday basketing and on Saturday they arrive back home. When it’s a heavy flight, we put some electrolytes in the drinking water two hours after they’ve returned. With a light flight, we give tea.
Theory and practice can be contradictory when it comes down to give them drops although we believe in it. These eye-drops clear the bronchial tubes. When they disappear easily it means that everything is clear. Besides when you put some drops in their eyes, you can easily control their general condition.
We use disinfectant eye-drops. They are given at the beginning of the season on Saturday and Sunday, after 6 or 7 flights on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday, after 12 flights on Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday and the last 4 flights every day.”
Filip…thanks for making some time free and who knows? We may see each other again for the third national title in a row !
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