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  News > Etienne Meirlaen

Etienne Meirlaen:
1st National Ace
Very Long Distance 2009

by Stefan Mertens


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The loft


Deurle:  In one of her hits Queen of pop Madonna  sings, “give me a record…and I'll break it!”  This can also be used to describe the top performances of fancier Etienne Meirlaen...

At 57 years old, Etienne  knows perfectly well which way he’s going in the pigeon sport. Together with his wife Yvette (who does the administration and tosses the birds) and Aline (who has already worked for more than 30 years with Etienne) they perform at a very high level! We’re convinced that Etienne has lain awake more than one night  to find a solution for one  problem or another in the pigeon loft. This proves that Etienne is a very fanatical guy.

What comprises  “breaking a record”?   In 2008 our friend in the sport won the 1st and 3rd national ace bird KBDB very long distance. It was his widower “Cor” who was the 1st national ace with an extremely low coefficient of 0.25%. Now one racing season later, Etienne has won again the 1st national ace, but now with a hen. This hen is named “Lady Perpignan” (B05-4344670) and she won with a lower coefficient than “Cor” – namely with a coefficient of 0.24488%. It’s more than time for a serious talk with Etienne!

Etienne…was this racing season your best racing season ever?

“Surely…it would be a big lie if I answered no. The 2008 racing season  was fantastic but the season 2009 was again a level higher.  Listen…to have two years in a row the best very long-distance bird in your loft is not such an easy job! I know that some fanciers laugh about this ace bird title because you need only two prizes to win this ace bird competition. Well, to such reactions I always answer, ‘if it is so easy to win this competition, why don’t you win it?”

I know that some people have made the proposition that an ace bird on the very long distance needs three prizes to become an ace.  Well, the fancier who proposes this knows nothing about racing on the very long distance. First of all, the birds that fly Barcelona can never become national ace, because it is impossible to fly Barcelona and two other very long distance races in one racing season. Secondly, if you do this you will have a national ace with only ‘normal’ three prizes, and the fanciers abroad will laugh that the best very long-distance bird of Belgium has only those performances. Stop…another question!”

How do you explain that your colony becomes stronger and stronger?

This is the result of very severe selection. Together with my good friend Cor de Heijde (Made – Holland) we selected all the pigeons for two years in a row. The rule which we followed was easy:  A very long distance bird doesn’t have any defects . Following our opinion, a very good long-distance bird has fine long muscles and a lot of feathers.

It all starts with the young birds. If they don’t feel soft and are not closed at the back they’re selected out.  Do I look in the throat? No…a pigeon which is in very good condition has on her own a very good pink throat. Of course we judge on performances, but a year bird that has everything but didn’t perform well will certainly get a second chance. It would not be the first time that a year bird that didn’t perform well became a very good old bird. Be careful…I’m talking about the very long distance…and not about middle distance or short distance birds!

If we understand it well …experience is very important for a young- and a year bird?

“Yes and no! My young birds are not darkened, and they are raced without any motivation or other tricks. The young birds who want to start a nest…no problem…those who want to stay single…also no problem! Young birds need experience and all the youngsters from the first round (weaned at the end of January) are basketed for the Bourges national (450km and raced last weekend of July).

The fact that the young birds experienced a national liberation has more advantages than disadvantages.  Young birds (second and third round) which are not basketed for a national race, are basketed a few times for 300km races.

Concerning the year birds…well my 45 year birds are divided into two groups. One group has Libourne (650km) as the last race, and the others fly Argenton and Limoges (600km). That fact that I divide my year birds into two groups is so that I will never put all my eggs in one basket. You always need to be careful because a bad race is never announced, and if your year birds are broken then you move one step forward instead of two steps back.

If you have to choose tomorrow between the game with the widowers and the game with the hens on nest position, what do you choose?

That would be a very hard choice! In my heart, I prefer the game with the widowers, but thanks to the game with the hens you can make a much better selection. You understand what I mean?  To stay at the top of the pigeon sport, you need to have a very good and strong  breeding loft.  As far as I know, because a breeding couple is made up of a hen and a cock, if you only select the cocks on a high level then you do only half a job! By racing hens, you can also select that other part of the breeding couple, and that is very important.

If I never raced with hens in nest position I would have never discovered the superb line of the “Marathon Lady” and the “Lady Perpignan.” Just for your information. I coupled “Marathon Lady” to my “Gouden Vleugel” and they ‘re already parents of two different top birds. Would it be true what they say: good birds come out of good birds!


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Boxes for

Drinkers are
high and dry

Can you give more information concerning your system with the hens?

In total I have a team of 20 old and 20 year bird hens. They are all housed in one big loft. One loft is not the right thing to say, because I can easily divide in this loft into four compartments. Hens are always raced in nest position, and the general rule is that when a hen is basketed for an important race, she always has a youngster of a few days old in her nest. Here in Belgium we have only three weeks between two very important marathon races, so it is almost a “mission impossible” to have the hens in a good nest position again. But with some tricks, everything is possible. I work as follows:

For the first race, it is never a problem to have the hens in an ideal nest position. You take a calendar and start to calculate… it is so simple. But then it comes. When the hens  are just basketed for their first very long distance race, all nests are stopped and the cocks are sitting alone. At the same time some other couples are coupled. When the hens return from their race they don’t find their nest but just a cock who’s already a whole week on widowhood. 

After five days I put a first egg under the racing hen. This is not so easy, and it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience before the hen accepts the egg. Typically, after five days of nesting the hens lay again. These eggs are not thrown away but stay under the hen.  About three days before the basketing day of their second important race, the eggs from the other couple start to hatch, and at that moment one egg is put under the racing hen. They other egg stays with the other couple. The youngster is born…but the racing hen doesn’t have enough feed in the crop. Therefore, I rotate the youngsters several times a day so that both youngsters are well  fed.



Ace bird

Asduiven -
"Ace" bird

Wing of the
1st national ace
"Lady Perpignan"

Vleugel 2006


A Belgian


What do you do after the season?

When the hens are home from their second very long distance race, they can breed their youngsters, may lay again and brood till they leave the eggs. So no youngsters anymore.  After this, they get a ticket to the aviary. As a feeding they get 50% Mutine Plus I.C. (a moulting mix enriched with an extruded pellet) and 50% barley. They stay in the aviary till the second week of March.

If I’m not wrong, the national ace is “Lady Perpignan”?

Indeed… “Lady Perpignan” is a full sister of the earlier mentioned “Marathon Lady.” “Marathon Lady” was in 2005 one of the best long distance birds of Belgium. She had as a year bird a lower coefficient as the 1st national ace, but because she was a year bird she could not participate in this competition.

But let’s go back to “Lady Perpignan.”  This national ace showed already her qualities when she won in 2007 the 1st prize provincial Perpignan.  She was also good for the 2nd international Perpignan category hens. During the season ’09 “Lady Perpignan” got a separate racing program. The reason was that after she won top on Pau  (106th national against 2,036b. – 324th international against 7,608b.) she went on hatched eggs to Marseille.

On that race she scored the 6th national against 3.586b. I felt that she could win the national ace competition, and by arrival from Marseille she received directly a youngster of five days old in nest and just counted 10 days later she was basketted for Perpignan. Again she scored the 6th national against 7,478b. . Now the title of national ace could not elude her anymore.

Etienne, this is more than impressive. Can you share some racing results of the 2009season?

Important information: all noted prizes are won on national or international level (prizes ¼)

05/30   Brive National 17,456b.: 10e  45e 311e 335e 337e 656e 1096e 1269e 1595e 1836e 2190e   3577e (12/14)
06/13    Cahors National 7.347b.:  9e   20e  203e  247e 278e 442e 953e   (7/ 9)

06/20    Montauban National 7.203b.:  9e 131e 148e 154e  1125e 1145e 1175e    (7/14)

06/20    Pau National 1,984b.:  106e 159e 319e  (3/ 5)

06/20    Pau   International 1,753 hens: 35e - 59e   (3 /5)

06/27 Argenton zone A year birds:  38e 257e 278e 939e 1382e 1528e 1765e 1466e 1932e 2115e  (10/18)

07/03    Limoges  National 11,869b.: 42e 165e 192e 392e 512e 721e 795e 923e 932e 1136e 1649e 2075e 2079e 2531e    (14/ 19)

            Limoges zonal  A year birds:  70e 363e 422e 497e 544e 545e 730e 983e 1195e 1548e 1632e 1739e (12/18)

07/03  Souston year birds  national 9,442b.:  31e  111e  118e 238e 344e 420e 438e 470e 479e 517e 907e 934e 1079e 1151e 1239e 1250e 1352e 1656e 1740e 2018e 2254e 2329e    (22 /34)

Souston International 11,030b.:  32e 119e 126e 262e 382e 467e 488e 523e 534e 580e 1028e 1061e 1236e 1337e 1419e 1430e 1543e 1913e 2013e 2343e 2624e  (21/34)

07/04   Barcelona national 13,503b.:  149e 211e 349e 365e 578e 1048e 1099e 1308e 1429e 1652e 1877e
1982e (18/37)

07/11   Tarbes  National 4,822b.:   57e 87e 92e 95e 214e 290e 359e 444e 497e 919e 954e  (11/14)

07/20   Souillac  National 7,597b.:  18e 113e 126e 556e 671e 683e 723e 739e  1056e   (9/ 13)

07/20   Marseille National 3,586b.:  6e 542e 778e  (3/ 5)  

07/25   Libourne  year birds  National 8,723b.:  25e  73e 216e 275e 331e 453e 460e 480e 574e 645e 779e 790e 818e 824e  830e 904e 914e 935e 1161e 1260e  1320e 1344e 1548e  ( 26/37)

07/25   Narbonne national 7,156b.. 8e 209e 235e 335e 483e 597e 1787e  (7 /12) 
Narbonne International 14,505b.: 9e 259e 292e 431e 666e 831e 2740e

08/01    Perpignan National 7,364b.:  6e 206e 208e 573e 735e 852e 1040e 1126e 1372e 1380e 1537e 1539e 1559e 1613e 1620e 1673e   (16 of the 26 basketted birds home the same day)

International 18,354d.:  7e   357e 359e 995e 1306e 1507e 1823e 1953e 2253e 2364e 2643e 2646e 2676e 2765e 2777e 2905e 

Perpignan  International 3,841 hens: 1e 210e 240e 290e 306e 359e 363e 411e 412e 416e 433e 783e      

08/01   Tulle national 5,176b.:  94e 166e  397e 577e 1037e 1204e   (6/ 8)

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