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  News > Jef Vanwinkel
  Jef Vanwinkel :
Belgium's 1st National Champion Yearbirds 2003

by Stefan Mertens


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  for larger version

Jef Vanwinkel

breeding lofts

The loft with the
racing hens


"Simply the Best"

Movable landing

"De Witten Engels"

The aviaries and lofts

Tielt-Winge: For this report we went to visit Jef Vanwinkel in Tielt-Winge, located in central Belgium. Jef is the national champion in yearbirds for 2003. Vanwinkel is certainly not a fancier who simply got lucky with good points for the national championship. In 2002, he was also 2nd national champion with the youngbirds on the national races. The way other champions refer to Vanwinkel is worth noting. People such as Gommaire Verbruggen and Jos and Jules Engels speak with a lot of respect about Jef's results.


"It is because of my father and my brother Frans that I became a fancier," Jef begins as he tells the story of his love for the sport. "When I was four years old, I went with them to the club to basket the pigeons. When I was 13 years old, I even went alone to the club to basket the pigeons. Every week we raced on the short distance, and I must say we had more bad than good results. After that, it even went from bad to worse, but when we won a first prize in 1989 we felt encouraged again. We even went to Holland to buy pigeons. It was 1990 and we visited Jan de Rooy (Martensdijk) who had pigeons from Janssen-origin. Believe it or not, I bought only three babies and one of them became my top-breeder. That top-breeder, named 'Den Hollander' (NL 2105473/90) was born out of two original Janssen pigeons and was a grandson of the 'Raket' from 1976."

Jef continues, "In that same period, fanciers in our club talked about one man, namely Remi Vandendries. Remi had pigeons from Gust Christiaens (Humbeek) and raced extremely hard. But on a national race from Bourges, all his birds failed and he was so angrey that he sold everything for 1000 Belgian francs (25 ) per pigeon. Of course, I was one of the first to buy birds, and again I bought three pigeons. One of them was the 'Oude Zorro' (2101133/90) and his nest brother. Out of the 'Oude Zorro' I bred 'De Zorro' (NL 1763305/91 - yes, indeed, a Dutch ring, because the rings in Holland are much cheaper). 'De Zorro' won as a youngbird two first prizes and as a yearbird three. Coupled on a daughter of the 'Hollander' I bred my 1st national Bordeaux youngbirds 1993. But also 'Lady Zorro' who won the 1st provincial Poitiers old birds and 1st provincial Argenton hens came from the 'Oude Zorro.' 'Lady Zorro' became grandmother of 'Simply The Best' and then we're talking about the best youngbird on the national races in 2002. From 'Lady Zorro' I bred five different provincial ace-pigeons in the first or second generation."

"The third base-line is my 'Driebander'," Jef explains. "I got his father from Eddy Dehennin from Hoxem. Eddy gave me four youngsters and one of them, a grandson of 'The Ieverige' from Herbots, had paramyxo. Well, that paramyxo-guy became the father of my 'Driebander.' The 'Driebander' was only basketted as a youngbird on three races, and won the first prize three times. He never saw the inside of a basket for the fourth time, but was immediately transferred to the breeding loft."

"In 1994, I had about 70 original Janssen pigeons," Jef says. "Before I sold them, I bred a few rounds out of them, but I can say that nowadays the Janssen pigeons are only 10% of my base. As pure-breds, the Janssen pigeons were good on the short distance, but they were much better when they were crossed and could certainly win on 500-700 km races."

"In 1995 the first Engels pigeons, not bought directly, came into the lofts," Jef continues. "In an auction, I bought the 'Witten Engels' (6396513/98). I thought I bought a hen, but it was a cock. He is a pigeon with bad manners, because as soon as he is without a hen for three days he becomes gay. The ideal hen for the 'Witten Engels' is a daughter of the 'Driebander' (2495412/95). Everything out of this couple can be used. Even in the fifth generation I'm successful with those birds. Meanwhile, 15 Engels pigeons are in the loft, and we even bred together."

Good pigeons in Vanwinkel's loft also come from a hen from Rik Custers (Meeuwen), a cock from Maurice Van De Velde (Schoonderbuken), a cock from the 2nd Olympiad pigeon from the Slovakian fancier Miroslav Vidhold, a hen from Herbots, a cock from Blockx-Slegers (Dessel), a hen from Johny and Yves Jonckers (Linter) and some good white-colored birds from Vos-Jennes (Diest).


Wall of champions


Inside the widow
cocks section

The widow hens


Jeff recalls, "In 1999, I didn't have time to couple my pigeons. I had four lofts with 12 boxes, and I put there 12 cocks and 15 hens. After two days, I put the non-paired hens away, and I never had a better breeding than that one. I bred different good youngbirds. Certainly the coupling of half-brother x half-sister and cousin x niece gave my best youngbirds. In 2000 I put all the cocks of the same family in one loft. Loft One held those out of the 'Hollander,' and Loft Two held those out of the 'Driebander.' Loft Three contained 50% of the 'Driebander' and 50% of Engels. Loft Four held those from different strains. Those cocks were then coupled as follows: Loft One hens--50% 'Driebander' and 50% 'Engels.' Loft Two--50% 'Hollander' and 50% 'Engels.' Loft Three--hens of the three families. And in Loft Four--hens from other families altogether."

"Again I saw that the best youngbirds came from the coupling of halfbrother x halfsister or cousin x niece," Jef explains. "With such inbreeding, a fancier can have some problems with, for example, blind babies. I also saw that some birds got a special color. Here we call it a 'choco-color,' but those birds have an extremely good feather quality. Almost 10% of my birds have now that choco-color."


Winners are always right, and here the hens are have the winning hand. For this reason Jef decided to stop racing widowers. In 2003 there were still 15 widowers, but in 2004 it will be not even 10. When we entered the lofts, a hen team of 30 old and 40 yearbirds was looking in my direction. This is Jef's idea of ladies-power.

The big advantage is that you can basket them every week for 400-500 km races, from the first till the last race. We're talking from the end of May until the end of August. This last race is La Souterraine, and when they are home hens and cocks stay together and may brood for a few days. The eggs of the best hens go under another couple and then the team is separated and the ladies go to the aviary. There they are lightly fed (1/3 breeding mixture, 1/3 super diet, 1/3 barley). During that period the hens are treated for ten days against parathyfus and five days against trichomoniasis. They also get a vitamin B-complex for five days.

On December 1st the hens are coupled with a breeding cock and may breed a couple of youngsters. Jef makes sure that they don't lay a second time. On March 15th they're coupled for the second time but now with a cock that is four years old or older. This is their partner for the rest of the season. The reason that the hens are coupled with such an old cock is that those guys know their job very well. The second coupling is a very short one. As soon the first couple broods for three days, everything is separated.

Once on widowhood, the first tosses are programmed and this goes very quickly, with one toss at 20km, one at 30km, two at 100km, two at 210km and then the middle distance. Normally, the hens are basketted every week for a 400, 500, or 600 km race. If Jef sees on Tuesday that the hens are not recuperated from their last race, then they're not basketted for a 400km race but for a 200km race. Every week they fly.
Before basketting for a short- or middle-distance race, the cocks are with the hens for about 30 minutes. If it is for a national or a 500km race, then we are talking about two hours. After arrival, they stay together till the day after.

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"518 Strijke"

"Dikke Duivin"

View inside a
youngbird section

Vanwinkel's trophy

Pony prize



A question that every hen-racer asks is "How do you solve the problem of two hens pairing with each other?" Jef says, "Look, there are two important things in the game with the hens and that is 'sex' and 'jealousy.' I have the following rules. When they're outside, they may do what they want. When they're inside, they have to defend their territory like no other. During the racing season, I'm constantly watching the hens. My hens are as much paired with me as with their cock. Of course, I have to admit that I also have some problems with hens which pair with each other. If I have this problem, then I act as follows. Look, my hens are not closed up in the boxes, and when two hens go by each other, then I pair one hen with the cock of the other hen. When this goes well, then I close the two hens and the cock in one box. After two minutes, the cock is sitting there and the hens are fighting. I let them fight for a few minutes and the problem is solved."

Jef continues, "Experience has taught me that you have to treat a hen who starts to pair on the day before basketting in another way than I previously mentioned. Such hens go in the aviary and are basketted from there. In most cases this is your first bird clocked. If there is a hen who doesn't want to fit into the system, then she has to be separated."


"I prefer to feed up the hens little by little," Jef explains. "When they come home on Saturday, they get 2/3 racing mixture and 1/3 Super Diet. This means a lot of variation and two hours of eating as much as they want. On Sunday at 10 o'clock, the cocks go to the aviary and the hens get one soupspoon 50% Gerry Plus and 50% Super Diet. I feed the same till Wednesday morning. Then they get 1/5 Super Diet + 4/5 racing mixture (10 minutes as much as they want). On Wednesday evening 8/10 racing mixture and 2/10 Super Diet (for 15 minutes). Thursday morning it's the same as Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening (the evening of basketting) they receive 50% Super Diet + 50% racing mixture. From Tuesday evening on, they receive three to five peanuts every evening."

Jef medicates his birds as little as possible, only treating when necessary. He says, "Believe it or not, but since I built aviaries in front of, beside, or behind the lofts, I don't have any problems anymore. A lot of oxygen was the best medication in my case. Against tricho I treat everything for 18 days. At the end of the week, I mix vitamins (B-complex), wheat germ oil and condition powder on the mixture."


"Every year I breed about 130 youngsters for my own use. They're weaned when they're 23 days old, and 14 days later they're treated for five days against canker. From the first day that they're weaned the cocks are selected out," Jef explains.

Vanwinkel goes on to say, "The young hens are darkened from the beginning of March until the beginning of June. When the young hens come home from their first middle-distance race--in the middle of June--old cocks are sitting in their loft. They stay together for the rest of the week. The first couples are formed. After that week, the cocks come only on basketting day and arrival day into the loft. You can say that after three weeks most young hens have a partner." Jef says, "The youngbirds stay almost constantly in the aviary during the day. For the rest of the birds, the same system as by the old hens is followed."


La Souterraine -- # of participating birds: 7629
1st nominated 23; 2nd nominated 21

Toury -- # of participating birds: 217
1st nominated 3; 2nd nominated 8

Chateauroux -- # of participating birds: 4035
1st nominated 49; 2nd nominated 158

Toury -- # of participating birds: 237
1st nominated 2; 2nd nominated 19

Argenton -- # of participating birds: 6299
1st nominated 118; 2nd nominated 455

Argenton -- # of participating birds: 4448
1st nominated 44; 2nd nominated 689

Soissons -- # of participating birds: 392
1st nominated 4; 2nd nominated 6

06.01.03 Soissons (206km) 392b. : 2-4-6-7-9-12-13-19-20-23-28-33-38 (23/39)
06.07.03 Chateauroux (519km) 6495b. : 25-55-149-223-234-503-706 (9/12)
06.14.03 Toury (373 km) 732b. : 2-5-23-24-28-37-57-68 (12/17)
06.21.03 Argenton (543km) 6299b. : 2-38-45-82-118-253-264-433-455-512 (10/12)
06.28.03 Toury 500b. : 3-4-5-16-18-31 (7/12)
06.28.03 La Souterraine (579km) 7629b. : 9-21-23-111-243-319-392-453-456-465-587-680 (18/22)
07.05.03 Argenton 2305b. : 21-31-42-82-161-313-367-420-452-660 (10/10)
07.12.03 Toury 1004 youngbirds : 1-2-3-21-31-35-41-62-70-73-102 (17/26)
08.09.03 Argenton 4723 youngbirds : 1-3-4-6-23-27-45-100-102-142-207-266-279 (22/39)
08.17.03 Soissons 125b.: 1-3-4-5-6-8 (6/8)

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