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  News > Gaston Van De Wouwer

Gaston Van De Wouwer
1st National Champion
K.B.D.B. Youngbirds

by Stefan Mertens


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Van De Wouwer



The loft view

Youngbirds and



Inside the
breeding loft



Large boxes for
the breeders


Enough places

Berlaar: Being national champion young birds is a wish of a great many fanciers. This national title is maybe one of the most wanted! The criteria to win this national championship sound very easy. You just have to clock three times your 1st and 2nd nominated young bird on four national races (Bourges, Argenton, La Souterraine and Gueret) for young birds. In 2006 everybody spoke about the winning coefficient (10%) of Jos Thoné, but last season (2007) Gaston Van De Wouwer did much better, actually 8.8299%! Unbelievable, but true! We were curious to visit this top loft because for years Gaston has been an outstanding fancier...


The street where Gaston lives is called "Melkouwen" and this street connects two world renown "pigeon villages," namely Berlaar and Itegem. Short distance has been and remains the favourite game of a lot of fanciers. Until eight years ago, we could count also Gaston in this group of fanciers. Gaston explains, "For years and years I basketted birds for Quievrain, and I can say that I won everything that could be won on a local level. Once I reached this level I basketted for Noyon, which is 100km further, and again I won a lot of first prizes and championships. The competitors didn't like this and said to me that I have to try it once on the races south from Paris. They were convinced that it would not be so easy to clock top birds in this discipline. And look now! Eight years later I have already won some provincial races, and I'm already national champion. To be honest, I never thought that my same strain of short-distance birds would be so successful in the races from 300 to 600km."

"What are the base birds of my colony?" Gaston muses. "That's a good question, but my answer will be not that glamorous. Listen, I have already raced for 35 years from this address and my first pigeons were delivered by my father. Believe it or not, but this old strain is still present in all my birds. Of course, I brought some new birds into my loft, but don't expect big names. No, when I have invested something, I always went to fanciers for which I could weekly follow the results. I had to know very well how strong they are. And for the rest, a man needs a lot of luck. One of my base cocks is without any doubt my 'Oude Kaasboer' from breeder Jozef Goovaerts. Jozef once asked to buy a cock from me but instead of selling him one, we each exchanged one bird and so the 'Oude Kaasboer' came into my loft. He was crossed with pigeons from my old strain and it was immediately bingo. At this moment I have 24 breeding couples and 50% of them have the blood of the 'Oude Kaasboer.'"

Another nice story of Gaston's is that of the pigeons of Hendrickx Bart. He explains, "Bart was a very good school friend of my son, Kurt. My son asked if Bart could have some pigeons, and a few days later Bart left our house with a basket full of youngsters. He started to race and from his first season on he was one of the champions. But Bart's mother, who had helped a lot, died suddenly and Bart stopped racing the pigeons. Bart gave all the birds back and again my colony got a new punch."

Gaston follows this with another story: "One of my neighbours is Jules Van Der Putten. Jules races only young birds and at the end of one of his best seasons, he stood here with a very nice cock in his hands. He said to me, 'Gaston, I had never had such a superb cock in my loft. It would be a pity to put him in the breeding loft. Would it not be better that you put him in your widowers' loft and race him for the next few years?' 'Why not?' I answered, and I raced this cock as a year bird. But the results were not that good. But now it comes! Before the racing season started, this cock brought a couple of youngsters into the world, and those knew perfectly the art of winning top prizes and first prizes. My stock loft was suddenly enriched with a new top breeder."


widower loft



Ventilation in
the widowers'


"I always say that it is not the pedigree that counts, but the pigeon," Gaston advises. "To be honest, I never look at the pedigrees. It is my first feeling that tells me if a pigeon may stay, yes or no. This is all hard to explain, almost impossible to explain."

"One thing more about the breeders," Gaston continues. "Just like in a lot of other lofts, the breeders are coupled at the end of November. At the same time 24 other couples, which are worth nothing, are paired up. When the hen of the real breeding couple has laid her second egg, the eggs are immediately put under the other couples and the breeding pair can start directly a second nest. When the other couples have brought up the youngsters, they're separated and go to the aviary. Later on they will be coupled again with the young birds because the young birds come on the same loft as the one in which the 'other couples' had bred the youngsters of the breeders, so they already know the boxes very well."


In Gaston's loft, there are 20 boxes in the widowers' loft and each box is filled up. These 20 widowers are a team of eight old cocks and 12 year birds. Around the 1st of December they are coupled and breed a couple of youngsters, and when the hen has the intention to lay for the second time, the widower goes in the direction of the aviary. There in the aviary, the cocks get a kind of winter regime, which means that they're very lightly fed and that they get every day natural products like Colombine Tea, apple cider vinegar, Naturaline, garlic, and so on.

"Around the 15th of March," Gaston explains, "the widowers come again into the lofts. They are coupled again, and after a five-day brood they're put on widowhood. This team is divided into two groups-one group for the middle-distance races (between 300 and 450km) and another group for the great-middle-distance races (between 450km and 600km). The first group is basketted weekly, and the second group only every two weeks. "Concerning feeding, training, etc., this is not always the easiest thing to do. It would be better if I had two lofts, but I don't, and I'm too old to invest in another widowers' loft."

"A week during the racing season is filled up this way," Gaston continues. "When the widowers come home from a race, their ladies are always ready to give them a warm welcome. How long can they stay together? Well I don't have a fixed rule for that. Normally, when I come back from the club I take the hen away. How long I stay in the club depends on a lot of circumstances, so there is no fixed time. As a feeding, they get only some Super Diet. In the evening again some Super Diet on which Colombine Form-Oil in 1 is mixed together with some Vita. On Sunday, we have the same feed on the menu. Once Monday comes, I am already thinking about feeding up, but be careful! This happens little by little. As a mixture, I use a mix of five different racing mixtures of five different brands. Several times a week, I mix some Colombine Form Oil in 1 (a mix of 10 different oils) and some Form- Mix in 1 (conditioning powder) into the mixtures. Also twice a week I put liquid vitamins (Aminovital or Omniform) in the drinker. Is it all necessary to do? I don't know, but a fancier sleeps better when he knows that he did everything to create the top condition on his loft."

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from the outside

Regarding the medical scene, Gaston confides, "I follow everything very well, but I will never treat my pigeons just according to my own ideas. No, on regular basis I visit a specialized vet and on his advice I treat the pigeons. When I see that something is going wrong, I will be very quick to visit the vet. To give you an example, last season I had (and this was after some races) some big problems with my widowers. They had a good race on Saturday and on Monday, after I fed them, they all started to throw up. First I thought they had eaten something wrong, but to be sure I went to the vet. This man took all his time and concluded that my old birds had adeno virus. Adeno in my old birds! I couldn't believe my ears, but I trusted him. The vet gave me the best antibiotic, and I had to treat my widowers for a whole week. Afterwards they had to rest a week and then I could start racing again. It was more than a pity that, due to the bird flu, the borders were closed with France, and therefore I stopped racing them. The season with the widowers was suddenly finished."

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Entrance to a
youngbird loft

Inside the
youngbird loft

Corn is stored
in this bin

Winter cleaning

Raised drinkers

In winter, drinkers
are not refreshed
each day


Every year Gaston bands around 80 youngsters for his own use. From the moment they're weaned the sexes are separated and the cocks and hens are each placed in a different loft. Gaston shares the details: "The first days that they're weaned they receive only big grains (like maize, peas) to eat and they're treated with Spartrix. Once all the youngsters eat well, they get a breeding mixture, and after some weeks this breeding mixture is replaced by a racing mixture (again a mix of 5 different brands). It is strange, but every year I have problems with the young bird disease. From the moment that I see something, I treat all the youngsters with a product from the vet. Normally after some time, the symptoms go away and I'm safe for the rest of the season."

"The art is to make the youngsters as healthy as possible at the start of the first training races" Gaston believes. "When this happens then you have normally seen no problem with big losses. I don't know what it is, but from the first young bird race which is scheduled on the program I want to be present. When the weather is very good, I am already basketing the youngsters together with the old birds. I always say, 'Young learned is old done,' and in five steps the young birds are already 60km away from home. Afterwards, they go two times 100km, then 250km, and then already the direction of middle distance."

"When the youngsters have flown their second 100km race," Gaston continues, "I promote myself as a person who knows everything about pigeons, and I select out 20 young hens and 20 young cocks to finish the season. Those who are not selected go in the direction of the aviary and come, when the old bird season is finished, later in the year into the widowers' loft. These are then raced in nest position on the last short-distance races of the season. The other 20 cocks and 20 hens stay in their young bird loft and are coupled with an old partner. The old partner is once closed up in the box of the young bird and normally the youngsters are quickly in love. Once well paired up, the youngsters are (and this for the rest of the season) raced on widowhood, which is 16 weeks."

"I must say that this year the youngsters came from their first race on, very good at home," Gaston says with pride in his voice. "The young hens are raced on the provincial and national races and the young cocks on the middle-distance races. On the Bourges national I basketted 12 hens and 12 cocks and I won 17 prizes. A week later the 12 hens went in the direction of Le Mans (550km). This race was a real catastrophic race, and it took a lot of time to have them safely at home. A week later we had the national race from Argenton, and only six hens were recuperated enough to basket. They all won prizes. On Thursday we could basket for Salbris (provincial level - 470km) and again I basketted those six hens. They won the 5th and 7th provincial. The top condition was more than present, and a week later they went in the direction of La Souterraine.

This national race was not my best race. They won only four prizes. After La Soutteraine, we didn't have another provincial race, and therefore I basketted my youngsters for a short-distance race. And then the last national race from Gueret. Friends told me that I had already a very good coefficient with two times 1st and 2nd nominated young birds. If I could do this again with the Gueret race then I would certainly be national champion. To clock on a national race, in the top prizes, your first and second nominated young bird is easier said than done, but I was extremely well motivated. I concentrated myself on two hens, namely the '149' and the '166.' Both were well motivated, and they didn't disappoint me because they won the 18th and the 120th national against 12,586 birds.

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The watching

Perfect condition


Race Participating pigeons 1st nominated 2nd nominated
Bourges 31,824 263rd 853rd
Argenton 20,844 146th 735th
Gueret 12,586 18th 120th




1069th national
31,824 birds
44th national
20,844 birds
1331st national
18,793 birds
120th national
12,586 birds



263rd national
31,824 birds
136th national
20,844 birds
18th national
12,586 birds


06-10 Quievrain 69/209
06-23 Melun 371/1323
07-07 Melun 212/938
07-14 Heidelberg 103/1094
07-22 Arlon 41/348
07-28 Bourges 853rd national
31,824 birds
08-04 LeMans 551/2091
08-11 Argenton 735th national
20,844 birds
08-18 Salbris 7/1337


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Charles Siegel and Son Inc.

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