*Co (to the right) , Marijke and Piet Verbree (to the left) …For many years at the very top of the Dutch Pigeon Sport.
Putten is a village in the province of Gelderland, in the centre of the Netherlands. There, nature is still at its best, there is still a lot of agriculture, and there are many poultry farmers in the area. It is also a heavily forested area, and birds of prey are causing a lot of trouble for the pigeon fanciers. Gelderland still has a number of pigeon fanciers that can easily hold its own with the averages in the other Dutch provinces.
One loft especially is a cut above the rest and that is the combination Co (72) and Piet (37) Verbree from Putten. They are members of the club ‘De Woudvliegers’, a club with 21 racing lofts, and they concentrate mainly on the middle-distance and the long-distance. They had a fantastic 2015 season, with a series of top results… six teletext mentions… 1st NPO Bourges against 5,181 pigeons… and a number of yearlings who were performing magnificently. On that note, their whole career is peppered with fantastic achievements!
A little history
Co Verbree was not born into a pigeon family… but the neighbours kept pigeons, which explains a lot. Co was friends with their son Reind and he went next door regularly to wait for the pigeons to return. By now, Co has been a pigeon fancier for over 62 years…
He started with…’church’ pigeons will you believe … when he was 10 years old. This was in 1954, and in the night and bad weather, they went to catch pigeons from the church tower. He started at his home with a small loft of 1 meter x 1 meter. But his loft grew and grew, and when he was 19 he had a loft on a rented patch of land behind the shop. This was the time that he started to get serious about the pigeon sport and in 1956 he went to the De Wit Bros in Koudekerk a/d Rijn to buy his first pigeons. His father had been born in Koudekerk a/d Rijn and he knew the De Wit Bros well. The pigeons that Co bought were Klak pigeons, which performed very well on the speed races and the middle-distance. Already in 1967, Harry Schouenberg came to the house to make a film about his pigeons. In 1972, Co started with pigeons at the present address, mainly from the lofts that stood behind the shop, and mostly with pigeons from the De Wit Bros and later with the ‘De Wit’ by way of W.A. de Bruijn from Reeuwijk. In the winter of 1983-1984, the first theft occurred, and during a period of 6 to 7 years, the pigeon sport was scaled down considerably.
It was in this period that Piet started with pigeons. He raced independently and was very successful. In 1996, Co and Piet started racing together. The base pigeons then were the NL88/1876232 ‘Moeder Kweekduifje’, who was a daughter of the stock couple of the De Wit Bros. Also the NL93/2334466 ‘Ultra Doffer’, and the NL93/2105598 ‘Vak 9 Doffer’ by way of Mees Doornekamp from Amersfoort were birds of the same caliber. As was the incomparable breeding hen, the B97/6270352 ‘Witpen Van Loon Duivin’.
Further stock building was done with sons and daughters from these famous base pigeons. The ‘Olympic Zigo’ and the ‘Olympic Orlando’, two Olympiad pigeons in South-Africa, were born out of the ‘Ultrakoppel’. The ‘Ultrakoppel’ also gave the ‘Tonia’… the ‘Ultra 31’ (nest brother of ‘Orlando’)… and the toppers ‘Vito’ and ‘Trento’. The ‘Witpen Van Loon Duivin’ became mother of the Olympiad pigeon ‘Olympic Shinya’.
Successful acquisitions that were also incorporated in the colony were a daughter of the ‘Kleine Dirk’ and a daughter of the ‘Fiero’ (sister of ‘Kleine Dirk’) from Gerard Koopman from Ermerveen. And a daughter of the ‘Olympic Ronaldo’ and ‘Miss Saigon’ from Gerard and Bas Verkerk from Alphen a/d Rijn were also a success.
Further successful input was bought from Ad Schaerlaeckens from Baarle-Nassau, out of the ‘Orleans Doffertje’ (a direct son of ‘Sissi’)… and out of a brother of ‘Ace-Four’… from Steven van Bremen from Hilversum out of the ‘Kleine Grijze’… from Jan van de Pasch from Grubbenvorst out of the ‘Lowieke’… ‘Robinneke’… and the ‘Asdoffer 60’… and from Jan Ouwerkerk from Lekkerkerk a grandson of the ‘Oude 05’.
The latest acquisitions come from Rik Hermans from Pulle, with a full brother of the ‘Beautyfly’… from Jan Hooymans from Kerkdriel out of ‘James Bond’, who is a full brother of ‘Harry’… from Koen Minderhoud from Koudekerke as an exchange… and a hen out of the ‘Di Caprio’ from Dirk Van Dyck from Zandhoven, which turned out to be a real super breeding hen.
Co muses a moment about the past… “Pretty much the best period in my career as a fancier were the years around 2000, when we worked almost daily in cooperation with especially Willem de Bruijn with darkening, providing extra light, working with coloured lights and other things that have had an influence on the present pigeon sport.”
… and son Piet
In all of this, son Piet has an important part to play. Piet has a job as a plumber and before going to work, from 6.30 to 7.30, he comes to look after the widowers. In the evening he is back again from 16.30 to 18.30 to do the same. He also takes care of basketing. The father-son combination works perfect, and Piet is indispensable. “Without Piet, pigeon sport would be very difficult indeed for me”, says Co Verbree.
A fantastic season 2015
The 2015 season can be seen as one of the best in their career. Co and Piet achieved a number of fantastic results, and they were featuring in almost all the teletext mentions. From Pont-St-Maxence they finished 7th (‘Diego’) and 8th (‘Samanta’) against 15,083 pigeons… from Bourges they were number one with ‘Milo’ against 5,181 pigeons… from Melun they won 10th (‘Valita’) against 8,082 pigeons… from Argenton they finished as 4th (‘Vanilla’) against 1,728 pigeons and they also became 4th fastest of the entire field of 2,916 birds.
The 1st NPO Bourges ’15 is unique. It was the 6th NPO victory with teletext mention from 2010:
2010 1st NPO Breteuil against 5,888 pigeons
2011 1st NPO Salbris against 8,890 pigeons
2012 1st NPO Blois against 5,330 pigeons
2013 1st NPO Sens against 5,989 pigeons
2014 1st NPO Troyes against 6,390 pigeons
2015 1st NPO Bourges against 5,181 pigeons.
The top team yearlings was led by ‘Valita’… ‘Platino’… ‘Vimara’… ‘Delano’… and last but not least the top hen ‘Samanta’, who won almost all there was to win.
Also in the ‘Pipa Ranking’, Co and Piet were formidable. On the ‘middle-distance’ and the ‘speed/middle-distance’, the ‘Samanta’ was number one. In the series ‘yearlings all round’ and ‘old pigeons all round’, the ‘Platino’ finished 8th and 11th respectively.
In the national competition WHZB/BOTB, the ‘Samanta’ put down another fantastic performance. She became the 2nd best pigeon on the ‘middle-distance’… the 2nd best pigeon on the ‘speed/middle-distance’… the 1st ace pigeon in the series ‘ace hen’… and the 2nd ace pigeon in the series ‘ace hen 3,500 kilometers’.
The fairy tale
In the years after the NL97/5774230, ‘Orlando’ became the 1st Olympiad pigeon all-round in South-Africa, the results just kept getting better and better. The top rankings of the last five years have evolved into a real fairy tale… especially for a fancier who has a taste for winning!
– 2011: 1st Best Hen of the Netherlands in the National competition WHZB with the ‘Anita’.
– 2011: 1st Best Cock of the Netherlands in the National competition WHZB with the ‘Marchino’.
– 2011/2012: 1st Best Hen of the Netherlands over two years WHZB with the ‘Anita’.
– 2015: In the Pipa Ranking: the 1st Best Pigeon of the Netherlands Middle Distance with the ‘Samanta’.
– 2015: In the Pipa Ranking: the 1st Best Pigeon of the Netherlands Speed/Middle Distance with the ‘Samanta’.
– 2015: 1st Best Ace hen in the competition WHZB/TBOTB with the ‘Samanta’.
– 2015: 1st National Champion ‘Natoer Totaal’.
On total widowhood
Co and Piet Verbree started the 2015 season with 30 couples old pigeons on total widowhood… 100 young pigeons… and 26 couples of breeders.
The old pigeons flew their last race in the ‘natoer’, which is raced from mid August to mid September. The ‘natoer’ was raced from a nest and the young were weaned after the last race. Cocks and hens were then separated and stayed in the loft for the young pigeons, which has an aviary in front. During the day they were outside… at night they were kept in the loft.
During the moult period, cocks and hens get condition powder (fish meal) from Dr. Marien once a week. They also have a three-week ‘treatment’ with Prange Suppe… and a varied moult mixture from Natural/Beyers. No medication at all is given during the moult. The first coupling is done in the week between Christmas and New Year. The hens are taken away as soon as the young are 2,5 weeks old. From then on, the cocks have to look after the offspring on their own. The second coupling is 14 days before the first trainings flight.
In 5 to 6 times, the pigeons are trained to a distance of 50 kilometer. They are flying on the middle line, and during the racing season they go from Minderhout to Argenton (700 kilometers). The hens will then be basketed each week until the middle of September, without rest. Over the 500 kilometers, the cocks can sometimes have a weeks rest when they are not training very well.
The racing team is darkened for the first five races of the season. Then, from the middle of July, extra light is given, which is done in two stages. From mid July from 6 am until 10 pm. From the middle of August until the end of the season from 5 am until 11 pm.
At basketing, cocks and hens don’t come together. With two nights in the basket, they are released from 50 kilometers on the Wednesday. Cocks and hens return home at the same time and stay together for one hour, after which, on the Thursday, they are just put in the basket without seeing each other again.
Until the week before the first long-distance race, the pigeons exercise once a day. After this race until the last long-distance race, they exercise twice a day. Cocks and hens are expected to exercise 3/4 hour in the morning and a full hour in the evening. When they exercise twice a day, they have a free training in the morning. For the last four races, training time is shortened… ‘recalled’ in sporting terms. And of course, the release from 50 kilometers on Wednesday when they are going into the basket for two nights.
After returning from a race, cocks and hens stay together until the evening. When they return late in the evening, they may stay with their hen for one hour, and another five hours on Sunday. On arrival home, there are always a few pigeons in the racing loft (usually injured pigeons) who form the welcoming committee. Also, priority is always given to the hens! When a hen performs extremely well, the cock isn’t raced at all anymore. This way, the hen will always find her cock in the nest box when she comes home from a race.
100 young pigeons
In two breeding rounds, 100 young are bred out of breeders and racers. The young are weaned when the feathers under the wings are closed (about 27 days).
Cocks and hens are staying in the same loft, and are only separated after the third race, after which they are raced on the sliding-door method. In recent years, the young pigeons have always suffered with coli, and the last two years also with ‘one eye cold’. And it has to be said, racing with the old pigeons has priority and the young pigeons are a little bit ‘forgotten’. The young are darkened from the third week in March until the middle of May. They get extra light from mid July until the last race.
The young pigeons are trained in 15 sessions, from 2 kilometers up to 25 kilometers. Then they have a trainings flight of 70 kilometers with the club. After this, they fly from Minderhout and further until 450 kilometers.
The motivation among the young pigeons is stimulated with the sliding door method… hiding bowls… and carton boxes that are placed in the loft. The youngsters are also released from 50 kilometers on Wednesday. At basketing, the sliding door is opened and cocks and hens come together for one hour. They exercise in the afternoon and the intention is to make this a full hour.
On returning from a race, the pigeons get a full tray sports mixture for the whole Saturday. Sunday morning this is changed to super diet… Sunday afternoon a mixture of cheese + peanuts + protein granules… Sunday evening a light mixture, supplemented with a bit of maize. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they get super diet in the morning… the ‘cheese mixture’ in the afternoon… and in the evening a mixture that gets progressively heavier closer to basketing day.
Thursday is basketing day and the pigeons are fed four to five times a day. In the morning they get super diet energy and the feeding bowl is removed after one hour. At noon, the mixture of cheese + peanuts + protein granules is put in the loft… at 2 pm a full tray sports mixture… and a few more peanuts. At 3 pm they get ‘candy seed’… and at 4 pm some more peanuts.
For the shorter races (basketing on Friday), they get the same feed on the Thursday as they do on Wednesday. On Friday morning, they get full tray sports mixture until 12.00 noon, with at 4 pm a portion candy seed. For the feeding supplements they also use the products from Dr. Marien. Sunday evening they get ‘fish meal’ with oregano oil over the feed. Once every four weeks they get ‘syrup’ over the feed.
Some Super Results from 2015... Duffel (151 km.) 1560 d. : 3-4-5-12-14-20-23-27-28-38-39-42-44-50... 55/29 pr. 1:4 Feluy (215 km.) 2998 d. : 4-5-6-14-19-26-34-36-37-38-39-47-62-63-64... 56/34 pr. NPO Melun (452 km.) 8082 d. : 10*-11-13-14-17-18 enz. 35/24 pr. 1:4 (6 duiven in 26 sec.) + * teletekst notering !! Pont St. Max (393 km.) 2399 d. : 4-5-9-11-41-42-48-73-85-86-100-101... 24/19 pr. 1:4 St. Quentin (315 km.) 8335 d. : 3-13-14-15-20-39-54... 17/15 pr. 1:4 Feluy (215 km.) 1682 d. : 3-4-5-6-7-8-10-14-24-25-29-58-68-73-75-77-81... 26/21 pr. 1:4 N.U. Argenton (697 km.) 1728 d. : 4*-103-110-157 6/4 pr. 1:4 1e zone 2531 d. + 4e snelste 2916 p.) * teletekst notering !! Duffel (151 km.) 1363 d. : 3-5-7-9-21-22-29-54-57... 23/18 pr. 1:4 Feluy (215 km.) 1279 d. : 1-2-4-15-16-18-23-66-67-69-73... 27/19 pr. 1:4
For all medical attention, they put their trust again in Dr. Marien, who comes once every six weeks to inspect the pigeons. It is by now two years ago that they treated against trichomonas. In 2015 they did nothing against bronchial infections. When it becomes absolutely necessary, they will use medication again, but in 2015, there was no need at all. And this winter nothing has been given yet, Co and Piet tell us.
With the young pigeons, it is a different story. Against coli, the young pigeons were treated with a antibiotic from Dr. Marien and Dr. de Weerd. Against the one-eye cold, they used eye drops from Dr. Marien. Sometimes, these drops are administered when the pigeons return home (Dr. de Weerd). On Monday, they get ‘Forte Vita’ (herbal elixir) in the drinking water.
Loft construction and hygiene
The pigeons are raced from a loft of 12 meters, with three compartments for the cocks and three compartments for widowhood with hens. The loft for the young pigeons is 6,60 meters long and consists of three compartments. There is a narrow aviary of 80 centimeters along the entire length of the loft, which is for three quarters sheltered with Plexiglas.
There has never been a problem with the lofts, although they do not get very much sun because of the surrounding trees. The lofts have a roof of ‘Boomse’ tiles, through which the ventilation comes. For the pigeons there is a ventilation slit of 50 cm in the ceiling, which can be controlled by panels. When widowhood starts, these are actually closed a bit further. The lofts get a lot of light through the roof (50 centimeters of glass at the front of the roof), and it is the intention to catch every sunbeam. In former years, they had controlled ventilation in the lofts, but that didn’t work out… and was discarded. The lofts also have underfloor heating, but this is only switched on in damp weather. The hygrometer is tuned to a humidity of 75%. All compartments have a wooden floor, clad with birch plywood (odourless)… which seems best for pigeons.
Every breeding box is 60 centimeters wide and has a ‘breeding cave’ of 20 centimeters. This is screened and pitch black… and ideal to heighten the motivation.
The boxes are scraped twice a day, and after basketing they are vacuumed once a week (in summer). The drinking bowl (an old fashioned earthenware pot), is each day scrubbed out with boiling water and this helps to control trichomonas. The lofts were built in 1964… have always been well maintained… and are still in top condition even today.
The breeding loft houses 26 breeding couples, and as ever, Co and Piet are looking for top quality. Cocks or hens… that doesn’t make any difference.
The top line in the loft is undoubtedly the line of the ‘Ultrakoppel’ from Mees Doornekamp x De Wit Bros. They became the parents of the Olympiad pigeons ‘Olympic Zigo’… the ‘Olympic Orlando’, and several national ace pigeons and NPO winners. One top hen is certainly the ‘Geralda’… a direct Gerard Koopman from Ermerveen, out of ‘Kleine Dirk’ x ‘Miss Ermerveen’.
Also the ‘Limo’ (Ad Schaerlaeckens), out of a full brother of the ‘Ace Four’, of the stock father of the loft in Baarle-Nassau, is a real top breeder. A few pearls out of his offspring are:
– NL05/2170384, ‘Zoon Tonia’ (‘Limo’ x ‘Tonia’) and father of among others several toppers with Andre Roodhooft from Pulderbos.
– NL08/1158499, ‘Marchino’ (‘Limo’ x ‘Cornella’) became 1st Best Cock of the Netherlands WHZB 2011!
– NL10/1326498, ‘Anita’ (‘Limo’ x ‘Cora’) became 1st Best Hen of the Netherlands WHZB 2011! She also won 1st General Best Pigeon against some 200,000 birds. And she was Best Hen of the Netherlands for two years (2011 + 2012).
– NL08/1178747, ‘Zoon Limo’ (‘Limo’ x ‘Cornella’) became a top breeder in the loft of Koen Minderhoud.
– NL14/1651219, ‘Hachico’ (‘Limo’ x ‘Yanina’ (‘Zigo’ x ‘Fortuna’)) with the 1st Minderhout against 2,804 pigeons (fastest against 11,052 pigeons).
– NL14/1651289, ‘Vimera’ (‘Limo’ x ‘Yanina’ (‘Zigo’ x ‘Fortuna’)) with among others 3rd St. Quentin against 8,335 pigeons… 5th Feluy against 2,978 pigeons and more. Top class is also the ‘Rico’, brother of the ‘Beautifly’ (Rik Hermans), who became father of ‘Platino’ with 1st NPO Troyes against 6,372 pigeons.
And the hen ‘Svetlana’ (Jan Hooymans) and ‘Caprina’ of the daughter of ‘Di Caprio’ (Dirk Van Dyck) are having excellent results in the breeding loft.
Co and Piet are coupling good x good in the breeding loft, and they also make sure of compensation breeding. Every year, the breeders are re-coupled to ensure variation in the offspring. The breeders raise the young themselves and there are no nursing couples.
The good pigeon
Co Verbree: “A pigeon has to sit good in the hand… her back end must be firmly closed… but especially, she must have a good pedigree. I prefer a pigeon of average performance, with a solid body shape. For the rest I have no idea what to look for. Assessing a pigeon takes about 10 seconds with me… and then I’m lost. I do like a pigeon that is not too tame and not too wild in the loft. I also like clever pigeons… alert pigeons… attached to their nesting box and to their young.”
Co Verbree: “We only select on health and performance. A lot of prizes and prizes per ten are not enough for us. Every pigeon that wants to stay in the loft has to fly in the lead! After five races we have usually already lost some 15 of the 50 pigeons through birds of prey… injuries of the wing… and achievements that are not good enough. At the end of the season, I end up with 1/3 of the racing team of old pigeons, which is then supplemented with 2/3 yearlings.
The old pigeons in our loft always have white eye rims and chalk white noses. This is because years of selecting have eradicated all negative characteristics. By the way, I’m very skeptical about so-called important issues that are not so important at all when you look at them realistically.
On Sunday evening, after the race on Saturday, the pigeons have to exercise… for at least half an hour. The pigeons that can’t cope with this regime are eliminated… and have to leave the team. Such a strategy costs a lot of pigeons. In other words, it’s a race and you participate to win!
The biggest obstacles are my age and my lungs. And the birds of prey are regularly causing problems. In 2016, we have already lost six young and two old pigeons to birds of prey, and they are a great danger when the pigeons come home after the race as well.”