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  News > Freddy Vandenheede
  Freddy Vandenheede
1st General Champion

by Stefan Mertens


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Freddy Vandenheede

The breeders' loft
with aviary




The young bird loft


The trapping system
for young birds

Zingem: East-Flanders remains the biggest "pigeon-province" of Belgium. In a recent count there are 11,657 fanciers. The fancier who won the title of general champion is Freddy Vandenheede from Zingem, south of Ghent.

Fanciers who follow the pigeon sport in Belgium have probably heard about "de gouden driehoek" (The Golden Triangle). "De gouden driehoek" is not a place in Belgium where any goldmine is located. No, it is an area, more specifically the towns Zingem-Gavere and Asper, where a lot of top lofts are situated. Of course, our first question was how is it possible that there is such a concentration of top lofts in such a small area? "That's easy to explain," answers Freddy Vandenheede. "Our region is known as a real pigeon nest, and due to the hard racing results we're no longer welcome in a lot of clubs. Now, at this moment we're in a situation such that the various top lofts cannot avoid each other. So each week we race against each other. Due to this, our club has become stronger and stronger. It will not be the first time that in our club the race is finished and that other fanciers can still clock prizes in their club. And now it comes, as the selection is, most of the time, made on the local results, that our 'selection-limit' is set very high. I like to gamble and losing money is not in my plans. I also have to select my birds, and so my birds become stronger and stronger. In fact, thanks to our limits we have become stronger."

But let's go back to our fancier, Freddy Vandenheede, who is most known for his top results with young birds. But when we're honest, we also have to mention that the results with old- and yearbirds are also super. And while we're asking our questions, Freddy's brother, Jacques, comes in. With the same strain of pigeons, he also achieves top results with several national victories, namely Bourges young birds, La Souterraine young birds, and Guerret old birds.


Since 1993, Freddy has raced in his own name. Before that, he raced in combination with his father. Father Rene, who died some years ago, was a top fancier. Rene succeeded very well with pigeons from Mencke-Haelterman (Zandbergen). Out of the couple "Korte" X "Paula" a young cock (ring: 4083886/64 - and full-brother of the world famous "jonge Korte") was bought. But as a youngster, the health of the cock was not always good and therefore he was named "De Zieken" (The Sick One). Lucky for "De Zieken" that he came out of the top couple of Mencke-Haelterman or he would never have lived longer than one year. As a yearbird "De Zieken" achieved a box in the breeding loft and there he put a lot of top birds out into the world.

It all started with "Van Looy" (3 x 1st and 7 x 2nd). In 1971 came "De Kouse" (5 x 1st) and one year later there was the "60,000-hen".(The name says it all--how much prize money she brought home!) In 1973 "Negus" came from an egg (9 x 2nd on middle distance). The "100-000" was again a superb bird. As direct son of "De Zieken" he won several top prizes at the middle distance, namely 5 x 1st, and last but not least there is the "Jonge Zieken". The "Jonge Zieken" (4654895/79) was the new "brick" for the breeding loft of Vandenheede. Certainly his children "De Kilimanjaro" (4021203/87), "Anatool" (4175783/87), and " 'T Krijt" (4426810/88) are important players.


The young bird loft
with sunlight
streaming in


Small young bird perches allow only
one bird at a time

young birds


If we take a close look at the pedigrees of a lot of top birds, we almost always come to the line of "De Zieken".

(1) "Kerry" (4066311/99) goes in 3rd generation to "Den 100.000" (son "Zieken"). "Kerry" won 100 national La Souterraine 9,061b.. - 2nd Tours 767b. - 6th interprovincial Chateauroux 4521b. - 12th interprovincial Vierzon 13,825b. - 13th Blois 700b. - 10th provincial Chateauroux 6,838b. - 49th interprovincial Chateauroux 5,317b.

(2) "Pretty Fly" (4066394/99) goes also in 3rd generation to the "100.000". This blue hen won 86th national La Souterraine 9,061b. - 17th national La Souterraine 14,957b. - 3rd interprovincial Argenton 3,243b. (1st provincial against 2,177b.) - 6th national Bourges 21,593b. - 1st Blois 118b.

(3) "Wadou" (4276759/98) in 2nd generation we have the "Kilimanjaro" (son "Zieken"). "Wadou" has the following results: 36th Bourges 3,334b. - 4th interprovincial Chateauroux 1,022b. - 16th provincial Vierzon 1,388b. - 39th provincial La Souterraine 1,582b. - 95th national Bourges 21,593b. - 65th interprovincial Vierzon 1,582b. - 3rd Bourges 1,870b. - 4th Blois 445b. - 6th interprovincial Vierzon 1,763b. - 2nd Dourdan 657b.

(4) "Joeksel" 4352680/00. By this lady we see through the mother's and father's sides the name from "Jonge Zieken". "Joeksel" won 1st national Bourges against 4,225 hens (3rd national against 16,119b.) - 30th interprovincial Vierzon 5,047b. - 65th Vierzon 2,582b.
(5) And the last wonder in the loft is "Liberty". This young blue cock was the best young bird in the national races in 2002. The father of "Liberty" is a son of "Joeksel".

The line of the "Zieken" has a lot of influence in Freddy's brother Jacques's loft as well.

(1) "Armstrong" (4065772/99) who won the 1st national Bourges (1999) against 44,185 young birds and was the fastest pigeon against 67,798 pigeons, has on his father's side in the 3rd generation the "Kilimanjaro".

(2) "Cora" (4065881/99) wins the 1st national Guerret (2000) against 1,311 birds has in the 3rd generation "Kilimanjaro" and "Anatool".

(3) "Den Blois" (4352565/01) wins 1st national La Souterraine (2001) against 17,323 young birds. Through his father we come in 2nd generation by "Anatool" (son "Zieken").

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The wing of "Liberty"





A view inside the widowhood loft





Vandenheede's widowhood boxes





"The Schitterende"



Wing of
"The Schitterende"



Greens are a regular
part of the diet



"Personally, I don't like to race with widowers," begins Freddy in the story of his racing techniques. "Give me a strong group of hens. Those ladies can be basketted every week on the 400, 500 or 600km races without any problems, and that is my favorite game."

"For the season 2003, there are 35 hens (15 old and 20 yearbirds) ready to make it difficult for the competitors," Freddy continues. "As always, they're coupled early (at the beginning of December), and after they have bred their youngsters, they go to the aviary. In early April they come again into the loft and they can start a second nest. From this nest they get their first tosses, and the preparation for the next racing season starts."

"The biggest problem with hens on widowhood is the pairing up," Vandenheede contends. "Two hens who pair up with each other are immediately selected out and are put into the young bird loft. There they can, if they want, start a nest and then they will be raced from the young bird loft in nest position."

"Two times a day the hens train for about one hour around the loft, and once they have the intention to fall, I call them in immediately," Freddy continues. "The way that the hens train is very important. It is the only occasion to see if the hens are in condition. Yes or no."

"During the day," Vandenheede explains, "the hens stay in the loft and are closed up in their boxes. So they don't go to another special hens' loft. In the beginning of the week the hens are fed very little (Super Diet from Versele-Laga) and as basketting day comes closer they're fed well with a racing-mixture (Mariman/Cerafin). Let's say that they're fed to the maximum in about six meals (fed twice a day)."

"Before basketting, the hens always receive their cock," Freddy emphasizes. "In the beginning of the season it's for one hour and then longer as the season progresses."

"Regarding their medical routine, they receive every week for one or two days a combination product for prevention of canker and ornithosis."


When we enter the young bird loft there are 200 heads looking in our direction. It seems like a lot of young birds for one fancier, but Freddy answers honestly that he chooses for "mass-production". He explains, "If you want your name to be noticed on the national results, then you have to go with a lot of birds to one race. Fanciers with two birds in a race are never noticed."

And what is your young bird system, Freddy? He answers, "I still race my youngsters on nest position. So there is no "open-door" or "widowhood system" on the program. The young bird loft is 14m x 4m and on the ground lays a lot of straw that stays there for the rest of the season. In total there are 400 special boxes. Each is constructed so that only one young bird can sit on it. So they don't have the ability to make a nest in those boxes. If they want to make a nest, then they have to go to the ground and make one there. So, in full season I have about 60 couples in nest position on the ground, so this means about 120 youngsters who want to defend their position. To stimulate the whole thing, I also but create some dark places or in other words 'motivation' with a capital M."

Vandenheede elaborates, "To keep those young birds healthy is easier said than done. The art is to put the right medication at the right moment in the water, and experience helps a lot. Sometimes fanciers ask me to put my treatment scheme on paper, but I cannot do that. Not that I don't want to, but I never do the same thing. During the racing season, I always decide from week to week with what and how long I treat, because you always have to consider the following questions: How were the results on the last race? Did the pigeons come home in good condition?"

"If I can give one bit of advice," he says, "then I can tell you the following: Be thrifty with medication in the beginning of the season and then treat at the right moment with the right antibiotic."

"The secret to racing successfully with youngsters?" Vandenheede ponders. "Well, put a lot of energy into your system. To make myself clear, here's one example. During the racing season all youngsters (more than 100) are dropped two or three times a week with cortisone-free drops. It's a lot of work, and when I advise some fanciers to do that, they step back. You understand what I mean?"




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SOME NATIONAL (ZONAL) TOP RESULTS SINCE 1990 (did not race in 1996)

1st Bourges 4,225 b. (2001)
2nd Bourges 11,851 b. (2000)
2nd Bourges 4,997 b. (2001)
2nd Argenton 964 b. (2002)
3rd Argenton 1,004 b. (2002)
3rd Bourges 16,119 b. (2001)
3rd Bourges 1,870 b. (2000)
3rd Guerret 4,032 b. (2001)
3rd Limoges 6,201 b. (1995)
3rd La Souterraine 6,378 b. (2000)
4th Bourges 4,225 b. (2001)
4th Bourges 49,153 b. (1998)
4th Bourges 5,708 b. (2001)
5th Argenton 1,004 b. (2002)
5th Guerret 1,311 b. (2000)
5th La Souterraine 21,293 b. (1991)
5th Guerret 351 b. (2000)
5th Guerret 4,032 b. (2001)
5th Bourges 49,153 b. (1998)
5th Argenton 964 b. (2002)
6th Argenton 17,933 b. (2000)
6th Bourges 21,593 b. (2001)
6th Guerret 3,432 b. (2000)
6th Argenton 3,642 b. (2002)
6th Argenton 6,673 b. (2000)
6th Guerret 794 b. (2000)
6th Argenton 904 b. (2002)
6th Guerret 9,277 b. (2000)

6th La Souterraine 9,310 b. (1994)
6th Argenton 964 b. (2002)
7th La Souterraine 11,659 b. (1997)
7th Guerret 3,432 b. (2000)
7th La Souterraine 5,251 b. (1999)
7th Argenton 8,283 b. (2001)
7th Guerret 9,277 b. (2000)
8th la Souterraine 15,249 b. (1990)
8th Bourges 31,666 b. (1995)
8th Bourges 38,196 b. (1997)
8th La Souterraine 549 b. (2000)
8th Argenton 8,283 b. (2001)
9th Bourges 13,605 b. (1999)
9th Guerret 3,432 b. (2000)
9th Guerret 351 b. (2000)
9th Bourges 40,401 b. (1994)
9th Argenton 5,681 b. (1998)
9th Guerret 9,277 b. (2000)
10th La Souterraine 5,474 b. (2002)
10th Argenton 8,283 b. (2001)

Actions, not words.


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