The history of the Belgian pigeon sport, "101 Methods" Vanhee Michel & Gerard Wervik (BE) The game with the youngsters

When are youngsters weaned? – What food is given to the freshly weaned youngsters? – When are youngsters trained? ... etc ...

When are youngsters weaned?

The youngsters are removed from their parents at the ripe old age of 22 to 24 days. The same applies to both the winter youngsters as the youngsters that are born at a later date.
The winter youngsters are transferred to a separate loft where there is always, especially during the cold days and nights, a temperature of 12° C, by means of an electrical fire.
The first eight to ten days the floor of the loft is covered with a thick layer of wheat straw.
Directly after weaning all the weaned youngsters are given a cure in order to make their stomachs start to work and to quickly strengthen and develop their bodies.
—This cure consists of giving 1 coffee spoon Terramycine-EGH formula in 5 litres of water.
On the day that the youngsters are weaned, the sexes are also separated. Up tot 50 already clearly visible cocks are put into a separate loft with the intent of later racing them in widowhood. The rest of the youngsters, being the hens and the less recognisable cocks, move to a different loft.

What food is given to the freshly weaned youngsters?
For the first ten days after weaning the youngsters are served the following:                    
— A mixture consisting of :
50 % depurative and 50 % breeding mixture.
The youngsters are given more than enough of this mixture during the quoted period,
meaning that there is always food left over so that the youngsters that haven’t eaten straight away still have some food available to them.
The feed is refreshed twice a day

Particular attention is paid to the grit dish and the vitamins. Youngsters and especially freshly weaned youngsters have a great need for grit. It is therefore highly recommended that the grit dish is given fresh grit twice a day. After the prescribed period of ten or even fourteen days, if this is considered necessary, a switch is made to the normal feeding regime of the older pigeons, in other words depurative in the morning and breeding mixture in the evening, each time, until they are full. The feeding dishes are always removed from the lofts. No feed is left in the loft between feedings. After the ten day period of adjustment in the weaning loft, all the youngsters who have already begun to beat their wings are firstly given their morning feed and then locked outside until the next feed. Weather permitting, from this period onwards a bath is available to the youngsters every day. This bath is cleaned every two days and provided with fresh water, to which the famous bath salt for pigeons is added.
From the time that the youngsters chose to take to the skies, they are given an open loft every day so that they can fly in and out of their loft until it is time for the evening feed.
When the youngsters decide to fly from the loft in a group, a start is made on the trainings races. This also applies to the young cocks, who as previously stated, reside in a separate loft, a loft that is not adjacent to the loft for the other youngsters.

When are youngsters trained?
The trainings races start when the youngsters tend to leave the loft in a group.
'In the mornings, after cleaning the lofts, but before they are fed, the youngsters are given their first introduction to the basket. The training system by father and son Vanhee is as follows:
Fifty old hens accompany the youngsters to their first liberation place of about 3 km ; then they go to 5 and 10 km, but the old hens always go with them, as they have to teach the youngsters how to find their way home.
At 10 km the youngsters are trained from this distance every day for a period of 14 days to three weeks. There then follows a practice race from Douai, 40 km, and from this distance they go to 135 km and 160 km.
After the youngsters have raced 160 km, they show their first instinct for mating. This moment is then also chosen to pair the young cocks with old hens. Hens that are specially kept for this purpose and prepared for the chosen day. Before the young cocks are paired, and when there is a sunny day, they are placed in the basket directly after being given their morning feed. They are not given any water in the loft and are so taught how to drink from the basket. The pigeons are left in the basket for a day in a well lighted place, until an hour before the evening feed. This course of action is repeated twice, so that the young cocks, who will later have to work long and hard in the races for youngsters, and will sometimes have to stay in the basket for two or three days, will not be thirsty and will be able to find water easily.

Youngsters with eggs
The time is long past that pigeon fanciers were afraid to let young hens produce eggs in the year they were born. At the time, the game with the youngsters was not so evolved. The start date for racing with the youngsters has also seen great changes, so much so that now the youngsters are raced in June everywhere. The majority of the youngsters are then six months old and we can safely say that 80 youngsters already have a nest. The competitions for the youngsters have become so nice and attractive that it is difficult to resist this game. It goes without saying that a lot of young hens don’t yet lay fertilized eggs at that age. Either they have been weakened by the chasing of the cock, or when the period of laying is due to arrive, there can be another cause so that there is an inflammation of the tubes. Father and son Vanhee have won their stripes in the game with the youngsters. They won several first and top prizes from Clermont, Dourdan, Orléans, Tours, Poitiers, Angoulême and Bordeaux. They even have developed their own method with which they race successfully with the youngsters, something which we will discuss further. There is no objection to the young hens laying eggs, that is normal.

It speaks for itself that the young hens deserve special care when it is obvious that they will soon pair and have a nest after the trainings races.
In the Vanhee lofts the necessary precautions have been taken . The youngsters are given exactly the same food as the old birds. They are given fresh grit and even a mixture of various sorts, including the not to be sneezed at red stone which is reduced to small  grains. Before a trainings period they are cured and given the necessary vitamins and supplements (minerals) so that the young hens can develop strongly. All this helps their drift and degree of maturity. It does not mean therefore not mean that all young females suddenly come to maturity fand are ready to take a partner, but the fact is that young hens dealt with properly lay eggs for the first time without difficulty.
Their further career after good performances is not compromised, since dozens of hens move to the breeding loft after their first year as a racing pigeon. The proof of this lies at the fingertips when you look at the number of young hens residing in the Vanhee breeding loft. Like all the other Vanhee lofts the young hens are given an abundance of vitaminised minerals mixed with Stop Santos, which has the effect of that the droppings are ball shaped and dry. We must therefore accept: the rule that used to exist, that a young hen is only mature when she is nine months old, is nowadays completely out of date. It is, in fact, in June, July and August, that a mass of money can be earned with the youngsters. It is then normal that young hens are now “rijper” much sooner. Besides, which specialist in the game with the youngsters would dare to claim that their youngsters only race for their “plank” ?

Youngsters in widowhood in their birth year
In our book « 101 Methods - Part II » deals with the game with the youngsters, in their birth year, to which the method that was first used in 1970 by Gerard and Michel Vanhee is applied.
That experience in this domain is the best school, was confirmed by some results that have found deep resonance. Because precisely in 1972 they both became even more serious in the game with the youngster.
The results that were achieved, were fantastic.
We quote a few :
30-7 Blois (380 km) Interprovincial 1039 pigeons Ist, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th etc.
12-8 Blois (420 km) Interprovincial 1051 pigeons Ist, 2nd etc.
1973 ;
29-7 Blois Interprovincial 2048 pigeons Ist, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 16th, 24th, 52nd,60th etc.
Blois Interprovincial doubling against 364 old birds Ist, 2nd,3rd, 10th, 15th, 22nd, 32nd, 35th etc.
Such results speak to the imagination of every pigeon fancier who tries everything to belong to the stars in this type of game. By the dynamic Vanhee’s they kept going. The method of leading and caring for the youngsters was revised and improved. The practical treatment of the youngsters before they were basketted was improved beyond all notice. In short, nothing was left to chance in order to bring the pigeons to the start in top condition every week. Of course, this is about taking advantage of youngsters that were born during the winter. They are ringed according to the general rule for winter youngsters on the 31st of December, meaning that the breeding pigeons were coupled around the 26th of November. The method that we come to explain, is determined by means of so-called early or winter youngsters, born around the 24th of December and ringed on the 31st of December.

A special loft for youngsters
The moment that the youngsters are weaned around the 20th to 25th of January, as many as possible, and in so far as this is already visible, cocks put into a separate widower loft. The choice goes to 60 or 70 cocks although there is only room for 48. It is therefore a loft containing 48 widow boxes. As the youngsters get older, and after strict supervision, the hidden remaining hens are removed, whilst the cocks that were first thought to be hens also have to change lofts. Their first introduction to the open air takes place a few days after weaning. They remain in the trap for a few days and a few days later they are already flying on to the roof. Once they begin flying around they are given freedom for the entire day.
At the end of March, beginning of April the old widowers are ready to start their first training race.
When the young cocks are three months old they are trained together with the old cocks. And because the Vanhee’s live near the border, they train their pigeons from different directions up to a distance of 15 to 20 km. After these short training flights the young cocks go twice with the old widowers to Clermont, 160 km. Once they have these France trainings races in their wings they start showing signs of pairing. At that moment they are fed well for a few days and they are each given a widowers box, unless they have already chosen a nest box themselves. On the 15th of May for a first team of youngsters and on the 15th of June for a second team of youngsters, placed in two different lofts, the old hens come to keep the young cocks company. Old hens who are used to this loft and know their nest box well.
They are closed in the nest box couple for couple until they are all well paired. Sometimes when the nest boxes are opened there are some fights or exchanging of nest boxes, but the carer keeps a close eye on everything to make sure everything goes well. Hens are locked in their reserved place in the nest box and once the youngsters know their box they are given every freedom in the loft and outside so that they can indulge themselves in their first feelings for their hens to the full..

They emphasise that it is advisable to pair old hens from 2 years and older with the young cocks. The nest chase is shortened since older hens already have eggs in their nests after being paired for 8 or 9 days. During the pairing period until the laying, the pigeons are given plenty of breeding mixture and enough grit in the nest box.
During the brooding period the young cocks are not raced. They are fed twice a day: in the morning a soup spoon depurative per pigeon and in the evening a soup spoon breeding mixture per pigeon. This is enough because otherwise the young cocks will get too fat through just sitting all day.
During the brooding they are given their freedom twice a day, always at the time that the hen has taken her place in the nest. Towards the end of the brooding period the young cocks are trained once again up to 160 km. And when they have a youngster in the nest of about 14 days old, they have to be ready for the first competition, in other words their first race from Dourdan of 260 km.

Food for youngsters in preparation for the sprint and middle distance races
In order to belong to the shiners or champions in these type of races it is very important to give the youngsters the right feed so that they are in the best condition every week. By the Vanhee’s the 3rd and 4th round of youngsters are usually entered for the shorter races : 160 to 260 km.
Of course, these are youngsters in community life and because of their age are not given the chance to take part in the grand middle distance and long distance races.
For those who only race the sprint and small middle distance, father and son Vanhee can recommend the following feeding method, which has led them to good results.
After a series of trainings races, in other words that the youngsters have been trained enough, the following feeding system is strictly followed :

l) In the mornings, 1 hour before they are given their freedom :
a mixture consisting of toasted bread. The fresh bread is firstly ground into breadcrumbs and then dried in the oven.
To this is added, 7 sorts of small grain : canary seed (round or flat), red rape seed, plain black rape seed, rape seed, hemp, linseed and rice. This mixture consists equal mixtures, in other words l kg of each ingredient, including the toasted bread.
The youngsters are given 1 soup spoon of this mixture every morning. This mixture never gives the youngsters a swollen crop during the day and is easily digested.
2) Evenings :
the normal mixture is given, in other words the same as all teh old birds. They are fed slowly until the first pigeon goes to drink. A few days before basketting the prigeons that are still hungry are geiven extra. On the day of basketting they are given only light food from the morning in the morning.
Father and son Vanhee focus on the art of feeding the pigeons with a strict hand, so that they shine in the races up to 250 km every week. The weaned youngsters are certainly not given an abundance of food. Rather they are even kept a bit hungry, especially in the mornings, but in the evening they have to have a good mixture, necessary for their futher development and strength for the following race. It goes without saying that this category of youngsters is also given the necessary vitamins in the drinking water, usually on monday and thursday.
Youngsters that only race sprint and small middle distance, and sometimes for weeks on end, are not fed for energy , but have to have enouugh strength to complete the distance successfully and go into the trap as soon as they come home.