John Debaene (Knesselare, BE) skyrockets to the top of the league

John developed a passion for pigeon racing at an early age, and keeping pigeons has been a recurring theme throughout his life. Although he was particularly interested in the extreme long distance, which sometimes clashed with the ideas of his father Hubert.

And that explains why John had been watching the pigeon racing action in Beernem from afar since 2010, without being actually involved. But he never lost his passion, and when he was making plans to build a new home in Knesselare, he felt an urge to start over again. His house was yet to be completed in 2016 when he introduced a first group of young birds in his brand new lofts. These young birds came from his father Hubert. His 2019 season has been quite a success, with a 1st International Perpignan and a 2nd National Agen! This is a remarkable feat for pigeons that had only just started racing in the extreme long distance.

Noel Peiren, grandmaster, a great example and supplier of top class birds

John has known Noël for 35 years, and John's vision on pigeon racing is mainly based around Noël's ideas. John has been awaiting pigeons in Zedelgem on numerous occasions, and he would often visit his colleague just to talk about birds. He always returned home with some interesting new ideas or with a valuable piece of advice that he could implement in his own loft. John could not have dreamt of a better master. Pigeons are subjected to a demanding training regimen, and those that cannot cope will be left behind. The pigeons that stay on board have three years' time to develop into full-fledged racing birds. And then comes the big test! Those that fail to deliver are dropped from the team.
The introduction of "Peiren duif" is one of the pigeons that really helped raise the bar in the lofts of Debaene in Knesselare. And then there was "Blauwen Artiest", which was introduced in '89. One of his descendants, "Jari", became 2nd National Ace Pigeon extreme long distance in 1995. And the introduction of "Bonte Barça", "Barça" and "Elona" in 1996 proved even more important for team Debaene. These bloodlines were responsible for a 1st International Perpignan, a 2nd National Agen, a 2nd National St. Vincent, a 4th National Pau, a 5th National Brive, and a 1st PIPA Ranking Limoges (3 prizes) - click here for an overview. Grandmaster Noël Peiren has claimed so many great results with his pigeon family, and any fancier would struggle to even come close to his impressive list of achievements. But who knows; John Debaene might one day be able to match or perhaps even exceed the achievements of his own grandmaster. 

The John Debaene method: as simple as that

As you know, the pigeons of Noël Peiren go through a spartan training regime, and we we were not surprised to see a similar approach in the pigeon lofts of John Debaene.

Some striking quotes from John:

  • I only use summer youngsters that were bred by my father
  • All youngsters are kept in one loft, there is no travelling basket, and no medication. The idea is to separate the wheat from the chaff, to develop resistance, and to let them mature properly.
  • The young birds never get an empty feeding tray
  • Youngsters get no medication; the yearlings get an obligatory paramyxo injection
  • The sexes are kept apart at the age of one; the yearlings race up until Bourges II national, without partners
  • The cocks or hens are taken along every other week - the yearlings can all stay on board.
  • From the age of two, the middle distance pigeons get 1/2 electrolytes added to their drinking water.
  • From the age of two, there is a five-day tricho treatment in early May, and a Belgamix pill after the last build up race towards an international classic. The pigeons also have a pecking stone and grit at all times.
  • We never use eye drops.
  • Vitamins are never used either.

That’s it. It's that simple. If a pigeon fails to deliver with this approach, it has no place in John's team!

This is how it's done

The breeding loft in Beernem is run together with his father and Marijn.
Pigeons are paired in late November, including all pigeons up until the one day long distance. Marijn looks after the youngsters.
On 15th of February the extreme long distance breeders are paired, the first two rounds go to his father in Beernem.
His father only looks after the extreme long distance birds, Marijn does the rest.
Having two captains on a ship is quite difficult, says John, so they gave each captain his own ship. His father does the extreme long distance, Marijn does the rest in Beernem. John races independently in Knesselare.
From 15th of April, around 120 youngsters from 10 to 12 cocks are bred for the team in Knesselare.
All rounds of youngsters are kept in a single loft, no travelling basket, no medication - separate the wheat from the chaff - to develop resistance and to mature (a topped-up feeding tray at all times)
The yearlings are basketed up until Bourges II national without the partner, separate sexes
The cocks or hens are taken along every other week - no medication - 
At the age of two: hens raced from the nest - cocks raced in widowhood with partners at home
Two year old hens do 1 big race, only Narbonne.
Three year old hens: Pau - Narbonne / Agen - Perpignan
Two year old widowers one day long distance
3 year old widowers Agen-Perpignan / St. Vincent-Perpignan
Two year old widowers one day long distance
3 year old widowers Agen-Perpignan / St. Vincent-Perpignan
From the age of three all pigeons have to race two nationals, not always including Barcelona.

For 2021, there will be a dedicated team for Barcelona - Perpignan (both cocks and racing hens, with partners being kept at home).

All pigeons from one and the same loft are basketed in the same weekend.

This team focuses exclusively on the international races; all other races are conisdered build up races.

This team adopts a rather conventional approach:
Developing resistance and maturing comes first, then comes training. 
We never use any medication in case of respiratory diseases.
There is no medication against paratyphus either, which means he is on the same page with Frans Bungeneers.

The widowers brood twice for ten days, starting the week after Perpignan; the moult is the next step.
After their last race, the hens spend one more day with their youngster. The nests are then removed, the sexes are put apart and the moulting season starts.

The pigeons race throughout the winter every other day, all pigeons can spend the entire season in the aviary.

The widowers are paired on 15th of April with ten days of brooding, to prepare for the upcoming season.
The hens start their first nest in late March - early April, and training begins almost right away.

It all begins with planning

I talked to John before the coronacrisis, and I asked him how his pigeons prepare for the different competitions. And I was astounded. He showed me a detailed weekly scheme for each of his pigeons. Of course, the current crisis has heavily impacted his planning but it was still interesting to see the approach of a 'professional' player. Even though team Debaere consists of quite a number of pigeons, and many of them are raced on a regular basis, he still knows exactly how many races each pigeon will be doing before being basketed for an international classic, which is his main goal. He expects his pigeons to be in top form for their international race, this is where they have to show what they are capable of.

Great results never happen overnight!

Hens Pau – Narbonne
Pairing for 2020 on 30th of March - training starts right away
18 April 200km
25 April 200km; nests are taken away on 26 April
2 May: pigeons are at home to lay eggs
9 May 300km
16 May 300km
23 May Bourges National; nest are removed on 24 May
30 Mat: pigeons are at home to lay eggs
6 June 300km
13 June pigeons taken away; released 1 per 1
20 June Argenton national (2 year olds) and 21 Juni nests taken away (3 year olds: Pau - hens, basketing on 15th of June)
11 July 300km
20 July: basketing for Narbonne with small youngster.

Hens Agen – Perpignan or Barcelona
Everything stars a week later, with Issoudun national on 30th of May
6 June: pigeons are at home to lay eggs
13 June 300km
26 June Agen (basketing 22 June); nests taken away on 27th or 28th of June
4 July: at home to lay their eggs
11 July: taken away once
18 July 300km
27 July: basketing for Perpignan with a small youngster

Another option is to have the same day of pairing as the loft for Pau - Narbonne. The week after Bourges, they go into widowhood to race Issoudun, after which they start the Agen - Perpignan program.

For Barcelona, we use the same system as for Agen-Perpignan, with basketing on 28th of June with a small youngster.

The widowers are paired on 15th of April, training starts right away.

All pigeons are basketed for Vierzon provincial on 16th of May, followed by Limoges national on 30th of May.

The next races for the team for St-Vincent – Perpignan:

13 June provincial race
6 July basketing St-Vincent
27 July basketing Perpignan

The next races for the team for Agen – Perpignan:

22 June basketing Agen
18 July 200km or taken away
27 July basketing Perpignan

Magic Agen, 2nd National Agen

This racing bird is a descendant of Elona and De Blauwe Artiest, two stock breeders of the Peiren bloodlines. His achievement was just a lead-up to what was to come next: a 1st International Perpignan. This pigeon clearly set a high bar, having already won a 1st provincial and 2nd national. As a young bird, Magic Agen did not do any training flights. As a yearling, he was only raced up until Argenton National.

He completed Vierzon, Chateauroux, Brive, Jarnac and Angoulême as a two year old, with the following results:

Chateauroux prov.           88. Fondclub 711 p. (first arrival at the loft)
                                    547. Prov. 4283 p. 

Brive national                 26.  Fondclub 428 p. (first basketed, first arrival)
                                     69. Prov. 2043 p.
                                    226. nationaal 9278 p.

If John had been able to clock his gummi ring in time, he would have won a top ten at club level and a national top 100. He was clocked 20 minutes later.

Jarnac national                  61. Fondclub 259 p. ( 5th arrival for the team)
                                      129. Provincial 773 p.
                                      685. National 5371 p.

This bird went missing for months after Angoulême, only to arrive hom on 23nd of November, with 7 old primaries left, and with a gummi ring still attached to his leg. He then went on to have a perfect moult.

He started the new 2020 season with the other widowers.

He arrived late in the national race from Limoges but we saw him regain confidence.

Agen nationaal                 1st Provincial
                                      2nd National

We discussed his 1st International Perpignan in more detail in an earlier report.

Closing words

This is clearly a team of great champions, who know what they want to achieve. Both Hubert, John and Marijn are determined to get things done, and they will succeed. We wish them the best of luck for what's to come next.