Feeding and motivation
During the racing season, the racing team of old pigeons is fed according to the Matador system. They get ‘Turbo’ on the day of return… then two days ‘Start’… after that two days ‘Vlieg’… and they finish with two days ‘Turbo’ again.
The long-distance pigeons that only fly every two weeks, get seven days ‘Vlieg’ extra. The last two days before basketing, every widower also gets a teaspoon ‘Energy’ from Beyers. On returning from a training flight, there is always a little candy seed waiting for them in the nestbox. Before every training flight they are fed as well, because a pigeon will not train very well on an empty stomach… especially in the first few days after coming home from a race.
At basketing for long-distance and middle-distance, neither bowl nor hen is shown. The pigeons go straight from the loft into the basket!
On Saturday mornings, all widow hens are released from the aviary and they’ll rush into their nestbox immediately. The hens of the middle-distance and short-distance pigeons are put ready for the partners that are on their way from a race. But peace and order in the loft are disturbed by this, and in the morning the widowers for the speed-races also get a bowl and hen in their nestbox… they are already put in the basket in the morning, and held over in the basket until the evening.
It is not necessary to look specifically for extra motivation in the widowers loft… because a widower knows early on how things work. Only when a widower loses his motivation after about five weeks and starts to perform less, he gets a different hen in his nesting box, in the hope that this will fan the flame of his passion again.
From May onwards, the pigeons exercise twice a day for one hour (free exercise) with closed windows. Johan is usually present during this, because a lot can be learned from watching the training behaviour of the birds.
After the last race, the medicine box is locked and all pigeons overwinter without medical interference in the aviary. Johan uses the principle of ‘looking’ much and ‘doing’ little… or in other words, he takes his pigeons to the vet regularly for a check-up but tries to give them as little medication as possible.
Before the first pairing of the season, they go for a check-up to his regular vet Stijn Gijsbreghts. In 2012 this was a bit different because Gijsbreghts had a bad accident, and vet Marien took over. They went for an examination before the first coupling and before the racing season… but both times, there was no need for treatment.
During the racing season, Johan goes visits the vet every first Monday of the month for a check-up. In 2012 this resulted in a tricho treatment with a 1/4 tablet Flagyl. Against bronchial infections, nothing was done at all in 2012. The pigeons were only given condition powder… condition syrup… and vitamineral from dr. Maren, in addition to the earlier mentioned apple vinegar… Naturaline… and the clove of garlic.
Hens on widowhood
2012 was the first year that Johan tried to race with hens on widowhood. They were only first coupled around mid February (because the loft was not ready) and were allowed to raise one young. When these young were weaned, widowhood began for the hens. The nesting boxes in the loft where they had been breeding were locked and the 13 ladies were given a place on 16 perches in front of the boxes. On the ground, Johan installed a frame work with rotating sticks, so that the hens couldn’t huddle together on the floor. Twice a day, the hens were released for exercise, and after landing on the roof they were immediately called inside. Then they had 10 to 15 minutes to eat and drink in the corridor in front of their loft. The hens and the young pigeons were darkened until mid May.
There were no real problems with pairing among themselves… just one hen had to be removed from the loft because of this. In total, Johan lost only two of these hens… one went into the breeding loft because of the breeding results… and two hens were just not satisfactory. The remaining hens were entered in a race on the middle-distance 96 times… they won 68 prizes… of which 23 per ten… and three hens flew 12 on 12.
Medical care for them followed the same method as the cocks, which meant that they didn’t get any treatment at all against tricho.
With two breeding rounds, Johan came to the start of the 2012 season with a team of 100 young pigeons. They were weaned when they were 25 days old, and the two rounds were housed in separate lofts. The sexes stayed together until the first race from Quiévrain. The youngsters were darkened from the beginning of March until mid May… from 6.30 pm to 8.30 am. After that, they weren’t given any extra light. At the end of the season, most of the young had cast 3 to 4 flights.
At the end of April, training was started… 7 times they were taken out by car up to 35 kilometer. At first they were raced on the sliding door method, but mid July the cocks were allowed to start a nest; the hens after the race from Bourges. During the period that the young pigeons were raced on a nest, they were released for a training flight twice a week… because they didn’t exercise from home anymore.
But next year Johan will not race his young pigeons from a nest anymore because of two major drawbacks. The first drawback is that the young hens are ‘worked to pieces’ during the week… the second that they can’t race in warm weather when the young are not yet weaned. That is why the sliding door method is better… but using this method means darkening for a longer period.
A choice has to be made… middle-distance or short-distance… because when you darken until mid May you can’t keep racing till the end of August.
The youngsters were fed with sport mixture from returning home till leaving again for the next race… at the beginning of the week, they were given less food.
The last two days the pigeons were fed with a larger portion and they got ‘Energy’ from Beyers as an extra. During the season, they were treated against trichomonas twice (with 1/4 tablet Flagyl)… and not at all against bronchial infections. But they were given the earlier mentioned condition powder… condition syrup… and vitamineral.
The breeding loft
The best breeders can raise up to five rounds of young… but Johan doesn’t choose for too close a family connection in breeding couples. At the end of the season it can happen that an excellent widower is paired with his mother… but niece x cousin are no problem. In 2012, breeding pigeons and widowers were free to pair.
A first excellent breeding couple is the B05/6329999 ‘Blauwe 999’ (Leo Heremans) x the B06/6370932 ‘Geschelpt 932’ (old bloodline). Together, they became the parents of the 1st Provincial Salbris 2007 and of not less than five 1st prize winners.
The cock B06/6370972 ‘Asduif’ (Heremans-Leysen) was first coupled to the B06/6370988 ‘Blauw 988’ (sister ‘Blauwe 999’) and afterwards with the B08/6297184 (Danny Van Dyck). They are almost equal to the first couple and have brought no less than seven 1st prize winners into the world.