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  News > Filip Norman

Filip Norman:
Winner One-Million-Dollar
Race - South Africa &
2nd National Champion
Long Distance K.B.D.B. 2007

by Stefan Mertens


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  for larger version

Filip at center
with his two loft

Breeders' &
widowers' loft

South Africa
winner's parents

widowers' loft

Inside a
widowers' loft

Every widower
listed on
white board

Norbert Norman


Breeding loft

Breeding couple


Westkapelle: We couldn't have chosen a better moment to plan a visit to this internationally known loft. Filip Norman had not made only a very good racing season in 2007, but at the top of the bill his "Abraham" wins the one-million-dollar race in Sun City (South Africa). Filip explains, "This victory was totally unexpected, but on the morning of the final race (there's only one hour's time difference between Belgium and South Africa) I had a certain good feeling. A feeling of … today could be my day..."

"Not that I thought to win," Filip says, "but I expected a very good racing result. You see my dream came true. It was Dr. Henk De Weerd, who was present in Sun City, who phoned me and said that I won this big race. Such calls are always more than a surprise, unbelievable! And to be honest, I had to sit down. A few hours later, all hell broke loose. Fanciers from whom I hadn't heard for years phoned me now to congratulate me for this big win. I received a lot of mail, and even the national television and the national newspapers came here to report what happened. In 1970 we won international Barcelona but we didn't get that much attention then as now."

The one-million-dollar race was a very hard race because "Abraham" flew at a velocity of 1060 m/m. Together with a pigeon from Gerard Koopman, they dived in the direction of the loft entrance, but Gerard's pigeon needed more time to enter. Filip says, "Now I have to say that the weather conditions were in my advantage. The harder the race, the more the Norman pigeons like it!"


Norman is a very big name in the pigeon sport… that's beyond discussion! Everything started when Filip's grand father started to race pigeons in 1902. Afterwards, his son Norbert took over, and when Filip joined him at the lofts the performances of this loft became much better. Not only with local and provincial races, but also at the national and international levels, this colony classified itself among the top fanciers.

Their impressive racing results list includes victories like 1st national Perigieux 1963, 1st national and international Barcelona 1970, 1st national Limoges old birds 1971, 1st national Limoges 2-years 1970, 1st national and international Pau hens 1973, 1st, 2nd , and 3rd national Limoges year birds 1977, 1st national Limoges old birds 1984, 1st national Argenton 1986, 1st national Argenton 1991, 1st national (2nd international Pau) 2004, and 2nd national Limoges 2005. Combine this with 1st national ace bird very long distance 1982, 1st national champion long distance 1984, 1st national champion young birds 1989, 4th national champion long distance 2006 and 2nd national champion long distance 2007!

Filip explains, "I know that in the last years the results have been better and better. When my father died, I didn't only lose my father but also my best friend. And that is something which is not easily overcome. Can you believe that, when my father was dying, he asked me to promise to continue to race the pigeons? About the future of our business (we have a printing works with a turnover of 25 million Euro) my father didn't say a word."


If you're ever in Belgium and you're in the vicinity of Knokke Heist, then you will certainly pass the impressive white pigeons lofts of the Norman family. It is an installation of which Filip is very proud. A fancier who has a lot of space will of course keep more birds in the winter time, but that doesn't mean that all the lofts are overpopulated. All lofts are built in the same way, and all lofts are built following the principle of a loft within a loft. They are all very spacious lofts, and they all have central ventilation. Filip says, "Because we live very close to the sea, we have to be careful with too much ventilation. The sea wind blows sometimes harder than you might think, and then you have to make sure that the lofts are not too open."

Our widowers' team consists of 130 birds, including 70 year birds," Filip continues. "This sounds like a lot, but every year we keep some summer birds. You know, pigeons that as a young bird hardly saw the inside of a basket. As a year bird, they don't have that experience. But in spite of this handicap, they have to go to a 600km race or they are put into nest position and at the end of the season they're basketted for some 550km races. They are selected on the basis of these races!"


youngbird loft

Inside the
youngbird loft

Hens' aviary

Aviary for the

Loft manager

When the season is finished at the Norman lofts, all widowers may breed a couple of youngsters. After this breeding they nest once more but no youngsters are allowed. During this period a high-class moulting mixture is fed and every day Colombine tea or Naturaline is given. When the weather is good, they can fly out every day and of course get the opportunity to take a bath in which some Ideal bath salts is mixed. During their first nesting all birds are treated against trichomoniasis, and then the medication closet is closed till the start of the next season.

When the second nesting is finished, the hens are separated and the cocks are put on widowhood until the beginning of April. Only some year birds are coupled for winter breeding, but Filip explains that this is only done to make the birds feel better, stronger in their box. As already mentioned, the old widowers have to wait until April to meet their hen again. An exact coupling day can not be planned because it all depends on the weather conditions. "Once the end of March or beginning of April has come, and the weather forecast has a few days of very good weather in it," Filip says, "then we put the hens in the lofts because we like to toss the widowers when they are chasing hens. The widowers may only nest for a maximum of four days, and then they're placed on widowhood."

Pigeons for the very long distance are basketted every three weeks, and all the other widowers see the inside of a basket every two weeks. Concerning feeding, motivation, etc., Filip says, "I discuss everything with my loft manager, Gilbert Van Parijs. We also discuss the birds which will be nominated 1st and 2nd . To be honest, such 'discussions' can be hard, very hard but after two beers everything is good again.

It was also this way in 2007. For the national race from Brive, I would nominate our widower 'V2' as the second one, but Gilbert didn't agree. You have to know that this bird failed on an earlier race, and I always say that a superb bird never misses his top prize twice, but Gilbert was convinced that this bird was not recuperated enough. After some time, we came to an agreement. The 'V2' became 3rd nominated. Believe it or not, but the 'V2' won the 187th national prize, and our second nominated bird won a prize at the tail end of the results. Here we lost the national championship. There was nothing to do about it… what happened happened!"

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Youngbirds at
a sputnik

Pigeons are
clocked here

Kitchen in
each loft

Cock coupled
with different


"I don't have a fixed treatment schedule, but there's a certain pattern in it," Filip continues. "When the pigeons come home from a race, they can stay for about 30 minutes with their hen. Everything depends on the race. If it was a very hard race, then the hen can stay longer with the widower. We give electrolytes (Fortalyt Oropharma) in the drinking water, and for their feeding they get as much as they want of a protein-poor mixture. To this mixture we add a big percentage of French cribs maize.

Although we can heat the lofts we don't turn the heating plates on every week. Only when the pigeons have had to fly in cold and rainy weather do we use these heating plates. We turn these plates on for about one hour before the pigeons arrive, and when the pigeons have come home the plates are turned off. This is only done to create a nice climate in the lofts. Another reason why we don't use the heating system is that we want to create the top condition in the months of June and July and not in April or May."

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Norman gives the same protein poor-mixture. Afterwards the protein-poor mixture is replaced by a racing mixture. The widowers are fed this way up to the race. The widowers are always fed in a feeder, being allowed to what they want for about half an hour and then the feeder is put away. During the winter months, the pigeons are fed once a day. During the racing season they are fed twice a day.

"One thing we care about," Filip says, "is that the widowers keep on eating until basketting day. We like to basket the pigeons with a little bit of feed in the crop. The pigeons which are going to the long- and very long-distance races are not fed up to the limit. The reason is that we want the birds to eat during their stay in the basket. If they are really fed up to the limit, they will not eat anymore in the basket, and then they will start with empty batteries instead off fully loaded batteries."

Best breeder

National winners

Beer to celebrate

Concerning feeding, Filip continues, "We have already tried several methods, but in the end we have to conclude that a lot of good methods could be followed. The only thing we care about is that we feed very healthy grains to the birds, and therefore we have put our full trust in mixtures from famous brands like Beyers, Versele-Laga and Mariman. One thing I'm convinced about is that once you have a successful method, you don't have to change it. Even when the results are not that good you have to stick to your method. If you want to try something new, then you have to start this at the beginning of the season and not in the middle of the game."

It's Filip's opinion that motivation is very important but that it can also be so dangerous. "We already put some superb results on paper with a group of pigeons which were super motivated," he explains. "We also have won no at all prize with a group of birds which were super motivated. My conclusion from this story is that maybe we are not masters enough to motivate pigeons in the right way, so therefore we don't do anything special anymore. Only for the last races will we do something extra. The hen can stay longer with the cock or we give them some straw, for example. Let's just say that for us the normal ways of the widowhood approach seem like motivation enough."

"On the medical scene," Filip says, "we have full trust in vet Dr. Wim Boddaert. Every Monday he comes to us to examine some pigeons from each loft. We treat only based on his advice. In 2007 we gave for every important race a treatment against ornithosis and of course we also treat for trichomoniasis."

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"Although we have a very large racing team, the number of stock birds is limited," Filip explains. "For years we have had only 24 breeding couples, and I'm convinced that it will stay this way for years to come. In the breeding loft everything happens normally. Every couple breeds its own youngsters. Only the top breeder 'Zorro' is coupled to several hens."

"Zorro" (B94-3160128) is a very nice chequer cock that won the 11th national Limoges against 16,854 birds and the 14th national Cahors against 11,090 birds. After his racing period, he got a ticket to the breeding loft, and there he became father and grand-father of a lot of top birds. Also the winner of the one-million-dollar race is a grandchild of "Zorro." "Zorro" is coupled to four different hens. His box is constructed so that he can walk in front of all the boxes in which the hens are kept and every hour he gets together with a different hen. The eggs go under foster couples and they breed the youngsters. Those youngsters go then to the breeding loft and there they are coupled with each other.

To be honest I was very impressed by this loft-not only the impressive lofts themselves, but certainly the qualities of the birds are of a very high level. I'm convinced that this loft will do some impressive things in the near future.

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Charles Siegel and Son Inc.

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