Raoul & Xavier Verstraete
Raoul Verstraete started racing pigeons in 1968 and within 5 years his loft was called: The loft of Miracles. His performances were so fantastic in races from 100 to 600 Km. that they were headlines in the newspapers.
Nobody in Belgium had better results from the above named distances. In a very short time Raoul Verstraete became a great celebrity in the pigeon sport.
The method of Raoul Verstraete, we will write about underneath, is worth to study attentively. Everybody who reads this will find something he can put into practice in his own loft.
Underneath we will write down our questions and the answers Raoul Verstraete gave us.
Q. How do you prepare your stock- and racing-birds?
A. Because we breed from all our birds in the winter, they are all given, 14 days before we pair them up, a cure against trichomoniasis (canker). The birds are paired up on 25 November so that we can ring them the 1st of January.
After the race-birds have brought up two youngsters, we separate the sexes again. We put them together again on 1 April. After they have been on eggs for 10 days, the eggs and hens are taken away, the nest pans are turned over and we start the widowhood game with the cocks. They fly their first race as a widower the first Sunday in May.
On the day of basketting each widow cock is given its hen. This is not necessary with the old birds they know the game but this is only done with the yearlings who has to learn the game.
The widowers are flown every week till they have reached the 625 Km. For an example: When they have flown a Châteauroux race (500 Km.) they fly the next week a 300 Km. race.
When a cock don’t race on the widowhood method, it is taken away from the widowhood loft and placed in the young bird loft and he pairs up with a young hen after which it is flown on the natural method. As an example: in 1973, when the racing season was finished, we were left with 15 widowers in the widowhood loft. 12 classified at the top of the championships middle distances to 500 Km. The other 3 did not perform so good but managed to win a first prize. Through treating them that way only the strongest Survived. Among them was the “Patron” which took three first prizes and “De Brave” with two first prizes to his credit. All were won in the most important middle distance races in East Flandres.
Both pigeons that everybody was afraid of became fantastic stock-birds also the many other good pigeons.
Raoul Verstraete is convinced that with pigeons from good origin and quality, in good health and well managed, one can earn much money.
Q. What method do you use to make your birds perform so well?
A. To play an important roll in young bird races, it is absolutely not necessary to race paired up youngsters or race youngsters that are in a good nest position. if this was the case there would be no place for the un-paired youngsters on the results lists.
I will give you a good example: “De Meteor,” born in 1974, was never paired up and had a lot of trouble to get a perche in the loft. Each rime I came into the loft, it was afraid of me and would fly from one side to the other side of the loft.
It received its name at the end of the racing season in 1974.
It had won that season the following prizes:
Breteuil 200 Km. - 1,322 birds - 24th. It arrived first, but would not come into the loft. I won that day the first four prizes. “De Meteor” was docked after I had already 8 birds in the dock.
Breteuil 200 Km., 1,120 birds, 2nd, sat for two minutes on the roof before it came in.
Dourdan, 310 Km., 1,552 birds, 39th after 4 min, on the roof.
Dourdan 101st from 4,425 birds again after 4 min. on the roof.
Orléans 380 Km., 2,098 birds, 1st, 5 min, in front.
Orléans, 8,834 birds, 4th after 5 min. on the roof.
“De Meteor” flew all races un-paired, it was either to afraid or too clever to pair up, but in 1975 it showed that it was an outstanding bird. It won among other prizes:
Breteuil, 358 birds, 3rd prize.
Breteuil, 202 birds, 4th prize.
After this it finished the 1975 season as 1st Provincial middle distance champion. It won 2 x 1st, 3 x 2nd, etc., and won also the 11th prize La Souterraine National 575 Km.
An other example was the “Ijzeren,” born in 1971. As an un-paired youngster it won the following prizes:
Breteuil, 1st prize from 1,000 birds, 4 min, in front.
Dourdan, 1st prize from 1,100 birds.
The following year, “De Ijzeren” finished the season as 5th in the Provincial Championships. “De Bol” was also a champion as a young bird. It was never paired up as a young bird. As a two year old it classified in the Olympic sport class section.
“De Mirage” won as an un-paired youngster 3 top prizes up to 450 Km. and finished the following season as the best bird in the section yearlings and old birds. A prize awarded, every year by the Belgium Pigeon Sport.
To finish this example I can honestly say that youngsters that performed well when un-paired were also good yearlings the following year.
In the following article I will explain how I manage my birds.
When the youngsters are 18 to 20 days old, they are, together with the hens taken away from the loft and placed into the young bird loft. The bottom of this loft is covered with a thick layer of straw. When they are 35 days old and have taken their own perch in the loft, the cocks are separated from the hens. Although, cocks and hens are let out together, they always go to their own section when they are called in.
The training of the youngsters starts when they are 5 months old. Between the 5th and 6th month, they are practically trained every day either with my own car or with the birds from the dub. When they are trained up to 110 Km., they are sent to Breteuil, 200 Km. At that time the youngsters show a great inclination of pairing up.
The day they are sent to a race from 200 Km., cocks and hens are left together. The ones that are the quickest to find a partner are normally the first ones to arrive from a race. When they come back from a race, they are left together for about two hours. In short races this system works extremely well.
I will give you one result: 16.6.1974, Breteuil 200 Km., 1,322 birds, velocity 1,150 Meter, results: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 16th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st, 39th, 41st prize, etc... Out of 69 youngsters sent, 67 won their prize. This performance was 3 times repeated and surprised all opponents.
Q. Do you think that it will have a prejudicial effect on a pigeon when it bas been raced bard as a youngster?
A. I don’t think it makes any difference when a youngster has been races hard in the year of its bird. To prove this, I will give you the performances of my “Poitiers,” born in 1974.
It won as a young bird:
Breteuil, 610 birds, 32nd.
Dourdan, 942 birds, 8th.
Dourdan, 1,552 birds, 13th.
Dourdan, 4,425 birds, 31st.
Orléans, 2,098 birds, 2nd (after my other bird which won the race).
Orléans, 8,825 birds, 10th.
Dourdan, 947 birds, 104th.
Dourdan, 841 birds, 123rd.
Dourdan, 427 birds, 24th.
Poitiers, Club, 260 birds, 1st.
Poitiers, Prov., 560 birds, 1st.
La Souterraine, Club, 427 birds, 24th.
La Souterraine, Prov., 783 birds, 83rd.
La Souterraine, Nat., 6,044 birds, 180th.
It was given the name of “Poitiers,” after it won the race from Poitiers 575 Km.
In fact it was raced every week. Firstly because it did not look very nice, at least not in my eyes; secondly it kept coming every week.
As a yearling “Poitiers” was raced every week and won with success, week after week, top prizes.
The first week of July it was sent to Limoges 635 Km. It won in that race the 23rd prize National against 4,504 birds, and 4 days later my son sent it, by mistake, to Limoges again and it won the 79th prize National against 3,149 birds. From this second Limoges race, it was sitting on top of the loft. When it was noticed it could have been there for a few minutes.
The performances of my “Poitiers” is no exception, but it proved for the umpteenth time in my short carrier as a pigeon fancier, that a healthy pigeon in good condition is capable to perform well each week.
Q. Do you attach much value to the state of your pigeons?
A. Yes I do, I think it is very important. The feathers of my birds must feel soft. In a damp climate, with rain so now and then during the racing period, it is very important.
The first impression of soft feathers notice when the youngsters are a few weeks old and take a bath in front of the loft. Those that have a soft feathering can, when they come out of the bath, fly straight into the loft and fly up to their perches. Those with a hard feathering sit on the floor because the water is gone right through their feather and they have to wait till they are dry before they can fly up to their perch.
To everybody who has read this article I like to impress upon them that success in races, no matter in which part of the world he lives, is only possible:
1) Through the up building of a good pigeon family brought together from the most well known lofts.
2) That they must be healthy and have a soft feathering.
3) That pigeons that are intended for racing don’t show any signs of Canker, Ornithose or other diseases.
4) That through giving them preventive cures against the highly contagious canker disease, that affects both young and old birds, the birds are always in top condition.
5) By giving them the exact feeding for the work it has to do and to prevent that they get too fat.
He who observes those points will reap success in the pigeon sport.