Dordrecht is called the capital of pigeon-loving Holland by many which is not really a surprise considering all the great champions that live in the region. Carrying on this comparison we could call the “Noordendijk” the “Kalverstraat” because that’s where it all happens (at Kees Bosua’s and Van de Merwe’s). The winner of the NPO competition young pigeons of Chantilly on 5 August 2006 -Peter van de Merwe- lives at the embankment “Noordendijk” in a splendid house built by himself. We must of course not forget to mention his father Arie as well because he is a vital link in the story. Due to Peter’s physical discomfort, most of the work has to be done by dad. Peter’s wife Nathalie also steps in regularly.
One week before this Chantilly race took place, the pigeons did Peronne. Not really a difficult race but Peter noticed that the pigeons were extremely thirsty upon their return. However, they were not hungry at all. Peter didn’t like the look of that and got up Sunday morning at 6:00 PM to examine what was wrong: it was coli. Some of the young pigeons were vomiting and had slimy green droppings. He immediately isolated the biggest wrongdoers and put the rest on “4 in 1” of De Weerd until Wednesday morning. He didn’t dare to give this mix any longer because the pigeons were to be basketed on Thursday evening. Looking back this appeared to be the right approach. However, don’t think that you can win a NPO race just by curing for 3,5 days because that’s not how it works at all. Peter does not like to give his birds all kinds of treatments. When his pigeons spend 1 night in the basket there is usually nothing added to the water when they return. When they have to spend 2 nights in the basket, he adds something to the water every couple of weeks for a few days. The team of van de Merwe does not believe in 1-day-treatments and their excellent results of the last few years have proved that they are right.
How do they do it?
They manage to brush aside the whole of South Holland in some races which has a common pigeon reporter naturally wondering: how do they do that? Because I arrived a little earlier than we had agreed, I had the opportunity to take a good look at the lofts. No palaces, that’s for sure. Later-on that day, Peter’s father told me that they even have lofts of approximately 50 years old. Apparently, they are efficiently populated by extremely good pigeons.
If the lofts are not of exceptional quality, surely the pigeons are. They started in the early nineties with a fantastic main couple they had acquired from an uncle: Piet van de Merwe. The children and grandchildren of this couple have won many first prizes in large region races. They got some reinforcement from: de Wit Bros., Van Loon Belgium, B and W Hendrik Ido Ambacht and C. van der Poel. They have actually built an own pigeon breed with these pigeons. These last few years, the colony was reinforced with pigeons of, a.o., Ad Schaerlaeckens, Joop Alberts from Zwijndrecht, Marcel Sangers and, once more in Belgium, Van Loon. In short, Peter is continuously looking for pigeons to improve his breed.
Method young pigeons
About 120 young pigeons are bred, mainly from the breeding pigeons. The breeders are housed in spacious lofts that have a large aviary placed in front. They are darkened as from the end of February until the longest day: 21 June. They are not lit afterwards. Experience taught that by darkening the young pigeons for a long time, they keep their feathers until the end of the after races. They are flying about seven training races, from 5 to 30 km. After a couple of races, the birds are separated and raced with open door. In between the races, the pigeons are taken away to train just once, this year maybe twice. The team of van de Merwe doesn’t think this to be necessary because young pigeons that are separated train better than the ones on the shelf (coupled or not). A nest or a seducing partner are the best motives for a pigeon to return to the loft at full speed. Peter doesn’t do the things he does because others do it, no, he’s really thinking about what he does. They only train once a day and are outside for about one hour. The youngsters are not forced to fly. Peter gives the pigeons a mixture consisting of several kinds of racing feed with approximately 25% of barley. When they return from a race they get a purification mixture. He does not give more solid food for the last young pigeons races but they get plenty so that they leave the barley.
The NPO competition was won by a well-built vital hen, a real wriggler. She was named after the lady of the house as a result of her victory: "Nathalie". Just like the other youngsters she comes from the breeding loft.
Her father was acquired as an egg at Marcel Sangers’ and descends from two direct Koopman pigeons.
Her mother has amply won her spurs as a breeder and comes from the team of B and W in H.I. Ambacht.
This Chantilly was raced with old pigeons as well. An old hen was the first to return to Peter’s loft and just sat there a little dazed. Because there weren’t yet any other pigeons, Peter tried to direct the hen in the direction of the trapdoor. However, she was frightened and flew to another loft. Peter insisted and after a while she flew to the loft where she was staying last year and hopped inside. At least 2 minutes were lost due to all that fuss. Then, it took another 3 minutes for the next pigeon to arrive, a young one this time. It is clear that the team at the “Noordendijk” was not immediately aware of the fact that these pigeons would be two first prize winners in department 5.
But the yearling hen was indeed the fastest of the entire convoy of 43.207 pigeons and she was 3 (actually 5) minutes ahead of her loft mate, who won the NPO young pigeons competition. This was by the way not her first time. She also won the provincial race of Chantilly early July this year so she was the fastest of the whole of South Holland for two times in one month’s time. Peter and Arie are really going to town on it this year: they had the fastest pigeon of South Holland at the end of May and the first of Creil at the end of June as well. So up until now, they’ve had no less than 5 provincial victories in 2006. Did you know how many NPO races they have already won? No less than 8 (eight)! Let’s hope that we will be offered the opportunity to go deeper into the background of these phenomenal performances this winter. That would -without any doubt- be a very informative report.