Johan Donckers can look back on a very successful season winning 1st General Champion Region Mechelen… and 2nd General Provincial Champion Antwerp.

Grobbendonk, Belgium – Although the village of Pulderbos is the centre of county Antwerp, there was a time that the duo Grobbendonk-Vorselaar was the center of the diamond trade in Antwerp. Diamonds and pigeons had found one another… where there was money, expensive and good pigeons were bought… and where there were good pigeons, there was serious pooling.

These prosperous times lasted until the sixties, when a lot of the diamond trade was moved to countries with lower wages. But by then the region had evolved to ‘the pigeon area’ par excellence, which it always remained. They are still very proud of the ‘Tienverbond’… one of the largest pigeon concerns of our country where, every week, strong contestants still do battle.

The handsome lofts in Grobbendonk…

He who succeeds in the ‘Tienverbond’… will succeed everywhere in the speed races, is whispered and thought aloud! The middle-distance association ‘Regio Mechelen’ still thrives also, and competition is fierce there.
And it is precisely in these two associations, that Johan Donckers (49) played a leading role last season. In the ‘Regio Mechelen’ he succeeded in becoming 1st General champion middle-distance, and in the ‘Tienverbond’ he won many champions title too! Johan won 2nd General Provincial Champion Antwerp as well.

His heart is still in Pulle!
Although he lives in Grobbendonk, Johan Donckers stays a Pullenaar at heart. There, he played football until he was 48… his children still play football in Pulle… and he races with pigeons in the ‘Koninklijke Eendracht Pulle’. Johan followed his Suzy to Grobbendonk but prefers to drink his pint in the pigeon club in Pulle. For all that, Johan was not a pigeon fancier from origin. He got the pigeon bug from Jules Wouters (one of his father’s uncles) and his neighbour Jos Cools. A year later, another neighbour, René Smolders, fanned the flame a bit more still.
At the home of Johan they had a chicken coop, and the ‘upper floor’ was instantly transformed into a small pigeon loft. Barely a year later, the chickens had to clear the field, and the entire henhouse was converted to pigeon loft. From 1975 (when he was 13 years old) Johan raced with pigeons from this loft, and only a year later he won his first 1st prize. He started of course with pigeons from his three mentors…
In 1977, the chicken coop grew into a pigeon loft of 4 meters… then to 8 meters, and then Johan started to race in earnest. In 1979 he managed to place himself among the champions for the first time, and every year since, he claims his place again. Meanwhile he also became emperor four times!
In 1992 he started… in Grobbendonk… with young pigeons at first. The basis of that time came from Frans Peeters from Viersel and Gommaar Leysen from Pulderbos. This was reinforced with pigeons from Leo Heremans from Vorselaar… Eddy Janssens from Zandhoven… Gust Janssens from Beerse… the Van Hove Brothers from Beerse… Jos Van Olmen from Broechem… and Danny Van Dyck from Pulle.
The current base for the speed races is formed for 50% out of pigeons from Gommaar Leysen and Leo Heremans. The short-distance is raced with birds from Eddy Janssens and Jos Van Olmen.
Johan tries to strengthen his team with acquisitions from the competitors in the region who give him the most difficulties.

Pure widowhood racer
Johan Donckers tackled the 2012 season with 26 widowers… 13 hens… 100 young pigeons and 24 couples of breeders.
Normally, the racing season for the widowers ends at the end of July, but a few birds still flew in the speed races until the 2nd Sunday of August.
After this, cocks and hens stayed together and reared a round of young that were mostly used for coupons. After the young were weaned, cocks and hens went into the aviary for 2,5 months. Mainly because it requires very little work… a feeding container with 25 kilogram of grain and a 3 litre drinking container is all that is needed.
Every day add a little to drink… two days in five Naturaline and Apple vinegar in the drinking water… always and everywhere a clove of garlic in the drinker… and only sporadically cleaning the drinking container. So not much work, but also to let nature take its course a little… and to improve the natural resistance of the pigeons. And when there are many pigeons around the feeding container or the drinker… that is the sign that they need topping up!

The widowers are coupled for the first time around 1 December and they rear a round of young. When these youngsters are 16 days old, they move with the hens to the loft for young pigeons. The cock has to raise the other half of the brood. That way laying is avoided.
The second pairing is in early March… cocks and hens are together for 4 to 5 days… there is no laying… and when they are separated, the cocks are widowers. Training of the widowers team starts as preparation for the first race of the season, which is planned for the first weekend in April. The birds are taken by car to Mechelen (20 kilometer) 3 to 4 times.
The racing team is divided according to the specific types of race. Two old cocks are entered in the races from Quiévrain for the entire season… seven old birds and four yearling widowers fly all the races from Noyon… and three old ones and five yearlings tackle the middle-distance races. Two old pigeons and three yearlings fly a short-distance race every second week, up to Limoges.


This is part 1 of a 2 part article. Check back on Wednesday for part 2.