Total widowhood
Gerard and Bas Verkerk started the 2012 season with a team of 100 couples on widowhood… including the 12 couples that were entered in the extra long-distance races (in 2012 these were Bordeaux and Narbonne). With them came another 200 early and 45 late young… and 45 pairs of breeders.
The old pigeons, with the exception of the ones destined for the extra long-distance- are entered in the middle-distance and the long-distance races… and they are competing from early April until the first week of September.
When the racing season is finished, there is no late breeding round… cocks and hens are moulting… and they stay separated until the first pairing for the following season.

62 meters of lofts… or an efficient accommodation for racing and breeding pigeons.

During this season the ‘new widowers’ (youngsters) are put in the loft also… and these integrate smoothly into the team without breeding. The cocks stay in the widowers loft… and all hens are moved to the loft for young pigeons. During the winter they are not released… and they have their bath in the aviary.
In this period they are fed with a classic moult mixture… with peanuts… candy seed… Tovo-breeding mixture… vitamineral… ‘piksteen’ (a hard cake with minerals and salt)… and Forte Vita (vinegar and herbal drink) in the drinking container.
Also during the quiet period the birds are given treatment against paratyphoid, with in 2011 para-coli (v.d. Sluis) and in February they are inoculated with vaccine of Vincent Schroeder.

The ceiling was lined with plastic bubble foil.

The team of widowers is coupled on 22nd December… the breeders on 23rd December… and the first and second round of eggs of the breeders is moved under the widowers each time.
Two young are put in the bowl… when these are 18 days old, the hens go to the loft for hens… and the cocks look after the youngsters on their own for another week.
Pending the start of the new season, the birds are fed with 2/3 Zoontjens/cleansing mixture + 1/3 breeding mixture… and 1 to 2 times a week they get Forte Vita in the drinking water. For that matter, this is done during the entire year…
At the end of March, training starts… in the morning, first the hens are released from 5 kilometres, while the cocks stay at home… then the cocks are released from 5 kilometres with the hens at home. This is repeated in the afternoon… and now cocks and hens know ‘the course of events’! After this they are basketed for a training flight from 35 kilometres… and then the first race from Strombeek (130 kilometres) is flown. From the fifth week they fly alternately middle-distance (350 kilometres)… and long-distance (600 kilometres)… and this is repeated until Ruffec (750 kilometres). The entire racing team is raced on total widowhood. In principle, the team is not taken for training flights anymore after the first race… unless after a very bad race… to give the pigeons once again the necessary self-confidence. Also for two of the five races during the ‘natoer races’ were they are released from 60 kilometres… because these races are flown over short distances. At basketing, cocks and hens are normally not coming together… unless after ‘that very bad’ race… then they stay together for one hour after the training flight on Wednesday.

There are no problems whatsoever with hens pairing among themselves. They are free in the loft… and on a perch of barely 18 centimetres wide. The ladies are livid with each other… and escapades on the floor of the loft are under no circumstances tolerated!

For 10 years the family Verkerk have been darkening the old pigeons (cocks and hens). In 2012… from early March until the end of April… and from 6 pm until 8 am the lofts were in semi-darkness. From the end of July they got extra light… from 5 am until 10 pm it was light in the lofts. They use ordinary energy saving bulbs… and not bulbs with nitrogen, as sometimes is suggested.
After the last race, the lights are turned off… and at basketing for that last race, most pigeons have cast 4 to 5 flights. Because of the extra light, the flight feathers are changed usually… but the wing coverts are not cast.

“After the end of the season, we give no ‘treatment’ at all… later only against paratyphoid with alternate products… and after that the classic inoculations against paramixo and pox (with a brush)… and before the start of the racing season we go for consultation to one of the vets, v.d. Sluis, De Weerd/Van Wanrooij or Schroeder. Their advice is followed to the letter… and the experience of years show that there is a 50% chance that we have to treat against trichomonas for six days.
During the rest of the season we visit the vet 3 to 4 times… and every four weeks we treat against trichomonas… alternately with BS or Belgamagix from De Weerd… Canker capsules from Vincent Schroeder… or ‘Geel v.d. Sluis’.

For the head illnesses we strictly follow the advice of the vets… and during 2012 we have twice treated for two days with ‘ACG with Orni-rood’ from v.d. Sluis. The young pigeons are treated with Myco-Orni from Travipharma. But my view is… rather once too often for consultation to the vet than giving ‘unneccesary’ and ‘wrong’ medication to the pigeons. In future, also Probac 1000 from Dr. Brockamp will be given.

The pigeons exercise 50 minutes in the morning… and 90 minutes in the evening… Without the use of the flag… and afterwards they are fed. We don’t follow the ‘new method’ because we race in another program. We can’t just stake our chances on the NPO-races… we have to perform from April until September… 23 weeks each season with 8,000 kilometres of racing. The ‘new method’ is not right for that”



This is part 2 of a total of 4 parts of the Verkerk story. Please check back next Wednesday for part 3.