*Patrick Boeckx finished a successful season 2013 with the 1st National Ace Speed old pigeons and yearlings.
Vorselaar, Belgium – Vorselaar is situated in the Antwerpse Kempen and was of old known as a thriving diamond cutting town, also with a thriving pigeon sport. But here too, the number of pigeon fanciers has diminished greatly. Although, with still some 50 fanciers, they can count themselves relatively prosperous in the pigeon sport.
A ‘pigeon club without a name’ has the pigeon clubhouse under their own management, and volunteers have recently painted the ceiling… the walls… and the office. Many hands make light work!
In the National Championships of 2013 Patrick Boeckx kept the flag flying for the village by winning the title of 1st National Ace Speed Old Pigeons and Yearlings KBDB with the ‘Sagan’! A fantastic achievement for a fancier, who clearly values quality more than quantity, and who manages to keep everyone at arm’s length with his small colony.
Patrick Boeckx was born in the village of Herselt where he and his father Achiel used to race with pigeons together. When Patrick moved to Westerlo, he continued racing, but in 2004 he stopped with the pigeon sport altogether.
His best pigeons moved to his father’s loft … one of these was the grandfather of the National Ace pigeon ‘Sagan’. Even then, Patrick recognised the quality of the pigeon as a breeder. Out of this line… and in combination with pigeons from Dirk Van den Bulck… the wonder cock ‘Sagan’ was born.
In 2007, Patrick started anew with a few pigeons from his father. In 2008 he obtained a pigeon from Leo Heremans from Vorselaar (son of the ‘Power’). And later, he acquired pigeons from Francois Stuyck from Grobbendonk. From 2010 on, he regularly bought pigeons from Dirk Van den Bulck from Grobbendonk.
Patrick Boeckx started the 2013 season with 8 widowers (2 old pigeons + 6 yearlings)… 50 young pigeons (ringed from 31/12 to 15/7)… and 6 breeding pairs. Four of the six yearlings were born as late as 1st June, and were only entered in the races to gain experience. In November, the pigeons were allowed to rear a late young to ensure nest box stability. During the moult they were fed with a moulting mixture… a mineral mixture… and pure water. With good weather, they were released regularly for exercise. The first pairing was on 25th November, and they reared a couple of young. There was no second pairing, and in the middle of March they started training. They were taken away 6 times up to 27 kilometers… even with a cold north easterly wind… Patrick had no compassion. After that, they flew Quievrain twice and after that they were basketed for Noyon. The ‘Sagan’ was withdrawn from racing on 30th June… by then he already had six good results… and Patrick was afraid to race with him any further. The widowers were entered every week, and on the Sunday upon returning they were fed with a full tray of sport mixture. On Monday and Tuesday they got 100% Zoontjens mixture… a light mixture but in enough quantity. On Wednesday, 50% Zoontjens mixture + 25% maize + 25% sport mixture… on Thursday 25% Zoontjens mixture + 25% maize + 50% sport mixture… on Friday 25% Zoontjens mixture +75% sport mixture. On Saturday, they were fed in the morning and in the afternoon… each time 50% Zoontjens mixture + 50% sport mixture.
The pigeons didn’t get any candy seeds… and only minerals over the feed.
Better to observe than to clean!
Observing the pigeons is very important! It is more important for a fancier to observe his pigeons, than manically cleaning out his lofts. He has to do this 365 days a year, which ensures that he can react immediately to changes. Of each of his pigeons, Patrick knows the individual behaviour and their peculiarities. He notices in the loft when they are ready for pairing… he knows their behaviour in the air when the form nears its climax… he sees where they get their motivation from… he recognizes when something is wrong, and he can intervene accordingly. But this is only possible when a fancier has just a few pigeons! The fancier has to recognize the spontaneous desire to train… the liveliness and vitality of his pigeons.
Widowers have to fly away… return to the loft and in a rush, fly back up again. The ‘Sagan’ used to exercise for one and a half hours continuously, without touching the flap… for a moment landing on the ridge of the house and then with a lot of noise back into the air. It happened more than once that, when Patrick had to go to work and the ‘Sagan’ was still merrily flying around, that he had to place a widow hen in the sputnik to entice him to enter the loft.
Sometimes, to motivate the widowers, a nesting box was opened, but this was more exception than the rule… putting a different cock in the loft could sometimes have the opposite effect. Besides, a widower finds his motivation more in his territory than through his hen. ‘Sagan’s hen escaped during the season (she wasn’t a stayer). He got a different hen (not with the same colour), but it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference to his performance.
On the second race from Noyon against 1,411 pigeons, with a north easterly wind blowing, the ‘Sagan’ won the 2nd prize (1st nominated) and the 2nd signed pigeon won the 3rd prize! If everything goes smoothly, you mustn’t interfere too much… it all just goes naturally. Patrick Boeckx: “I take my chances with the natural resistance of my pigeons. No rigorous hygiene… not much medication… and a strong selection are the ground rules here! Head illnesses and adeno are two ailments that require a specific approach. Adeno is countered with a light feed. When the first symptoms show themselves (undigested food in the crop), I do not feed them for two days… and then I start them slowly with light feed again. The pigeon that suffers twice from ‘head illness’ is mercilessly disposed of!
I breed young out of racers and breeders. The breeding pigeons rear youngsters until July… and all young pigeons are tried in the races. When they are 10 weeks old in summer, they are flying from Quievrain. The early breeding round is weaned when the youngsters are 24 days old and are then moved to a separate loft. The genders stay together until 1st May, after which they are raced on the sliding door method. The second breeding round also goes into a separate loft… but from the third round, all young go together into the same very small loft. The young of the various breeding rounds all get a coloured pinch ring on the leg… and every round of young is trained separately. In short… all young pigeons are taken to Quievrain in the year of their birth, and are tested as thoroughly as possible. The first and second rounds are darkened from the beginning of March until 1st June. After that, they are not given extra light. The later rounds are not darkened at all. The darkened young have lost some 4 flights by the end of the season. Young pigeons that easily fly a distance need to be trained a lot less… but the squeakers are nevertheless taken some 8 to 10 times to Mechelen. Then twice to Quievrain… a part of the young keep on flying from Quievrain… the other part of the racing team goes to Noyon. Just for fun, once in a while, a few pigeons are basketed for the middle-distance. After training is completed, the young birds are not taken for extra training anymore in between the races. When the sliding door method comes into being, dark corners are created on the floor of the loft, where the young birds can play all they want. In the beginning of the season, young cocks and hens come together from Saturday morning. As the season progresses, the sliding door is only opened from Saturday afternoon.
When the young are weaned, they are fed with breeding mixture. And as soon as they have been weaned for two weeks, this is blended with Zoontjens mixture, and this mixture is made lighter and lighter.
He has not yet taken the step, but Patrick would like to race with young pigeons on classic widowhood. In any case, the compartment for a team of six birds is ready when needed.
Not much medically
Once or twice a year, Patrick goes to the vet with his pigeons. This is not a set rule, but when he suspects something is wrong, he goes for advice to the man of science. At the end of October, there is a ten-day treatment with Baytril. During breeding, the pigeons are given 1/4 tablet of Flagyl… and in 2013, this was the only time that something was given against trichomonas.
Our national champion does not set any store by the infamous ‘head illnesses’… pigeons that suffer from this ailment, are disposed of. In 2013, Patrick had to deal with a slight case of ‘one-eye cold’. On the advice of the vet, Clinagel eye drops were given. His opinion is… when you interfere medically; it takes seven days before the pigeons are cured. When you do nothing at all, it also takes a week.
Loft and hygiene
The pigeons are housed in a self-build loft which has a saddle roof with Boomse roof tiles. The loft is single walled, without any form of insulation. At the front in the ceiling of the lofts, there is a ventilation slit of 1 meter.
Patrick Boeckx: “Almost every loft is a good loft… there are no really bad lofts. But a good loft becomes a bad loft when there is an over population. At the miniscule loft with aviary in front, where the young of the 3rd and 4th breeding rounds are housed, a window (with mesh) is open day and night, and this ensures an effective ventilation. For me, hygiene in the lofts is foremost keeping the lofts dry. In the summer, I clean less than in the winter. In summer, pigeons come into contact with bacteria and viruses in the baskets more often. It is true; I am not a fanatical cleaner of the lofts. The drinking container is also never cleaned thoroughly… just a quick wipe out… fresh water in… and that is it!”
10 Commandments of a sprinter!
1. The biggest secret in the pigeon sport is the fact that there is no secret! It has to be done with top quality pigeons!
2. No vet can compete with a sharp knife!
3. The selection is never ruthless enough!
4. The loss of young pigeons is almost always the result of poor health or a lack of quality.
5. Natural health… a basic must for success in the pigeon sport!
6. Observing your pigeons is more important than manically cleaning the loft!
7. Less is more… in other words, for a small fancier, fewer pigeon’s means achieving better results!
8. Everything you need to know about your pigeons is in the weekly results!
9. Water… grain… and minerals for your pigeons. Everything else is unnecessary!
10. A farmer needs good planting material… a pigeon fancier needs a good breeding loft!
“I choose for a ruthless selection… only the results count… they tell you everything you need to know about your pigeons. A young pigeon that is healthy… that easily flies distances… will get three chances in good weather. If the bird does not use these chances, it is end of the story.
At the end of this season, out of the eight old pigeons and yearlings, only four remained. Of the early breeding round, only two youngsters stayed… of the second round, just one bird remained. The rest are young of the third round and later. It is indeed all about the results! I demand of my pigeons two prizes per hundred and not many mistakes. But I’d rather have two lead prizes than 10 prizes without stars.
What kind of pigeon do I like to see? Besides a good track record, I like a pigeon with a soft plumage… volume without weight… and with a natural desire to fly. Eyes… throat… wing… muscles… I wouldn’t know the first thing about them!”
“The breeding loft houses 6 breeding couples. I did couple the ‘Sagan’ with his grandmother, but for the rest they are mostly crossings. The ‘Zwartje’ (B08/6124710) is mother of two 1st prize winners in the Tienverbond.
My top couple is of course ‘Zoon Blauwe Leo’ x ‘Blauw Luna’… or the parents of the ‘Sagan’. I have four young out of this couple with one or more prizes per hundred. I have also bred 13 young out of the parents of the ‘Sagan’, all of whom have flown Quievrain, and only one of these was lost.
You have to command your luck… breeding a lot… racing a lot… and ruthlessly selecting is the message. Or in other words… you must breed a lot with just a few pigeons instead of not breeding much with a lot of pigeons!”
The ‘Sagan’ is a natural born sprinter, who managed to crown himself 1st National Ace Speed Old Pigeons and Yearlings KBDB. Over 6 races from Noyon, he had a total coefficient of 1,87 and with that he became the best of the country! He is a blue cock, who meets all the requirements of his master. He has a soft plume… volume without weight… and a track record to be proud of!