Emiel Deweerdt and his two handsome sons Bernard and Fred
The second artide contains an interview with the sympathetic West District Municipal official of the Municipality Veurne, by the name of: Emiel Deweerdt from Kortemark.
We don’t have to introduce him to many of our readers, he is well known. For many years, there appeared many articles from him in our paper, giving a description of the technique used in the pigeon sport. He was a well liked chronicler and showed in the course of the years that he also was a great champion. In all kinds of flying he was a master.
He always performed well with the youngsters and in the last few years he had fantastic success with old birds in the National races through which he captured the title of “Long distance Champion of the Entente Belge.” It is our hope that the method of Emiel Deweerdt will help you in many ways.
Q. How do you prepare your race- and stockbirds that are intended for early breeding? Are the future breeding pairs given a cure? What cure and when?
A. A few weeks before the birds are paired up, we gradually take the Barley out of the mixture and switch over to the breeding mixture. We let out the cocks and hens, which have been parted for several weeks, as much as possible.
The experience has proved that birds which have had their liberty, before they were paired up, were in a better condition thin the ones that had little or no liberty at all.
The last 5 years we have given our birds, before we pair up a cure against Trichomoniasis. In former days it sometimes happened that nest youngsters had yellow scabs in the mouth, canker), but this evil is practically eliminated.
Q. When do you pair up the birds that are intended for early breeding? Give the exact date. How long does each pair stay locked up in their nest box?
A. The breeding pairs intended for early breeding are paired up between 1st and 8th December. Sometimes a few days later, because we always do it when it is a sunny day. Cold does not matter. We prefer a frosty - before a damp day. Some pair their birds up around 25 November as if those few days earlier will make much difference. We never pair them up so early because we don’t like waiting in a queue on New Years day in front of the Union building for metal rings.
In the evening, after we have finished work the hen is placed in one half of the nest box. The cock can go in and out of the other half of the nest box but can not reach her because a partition is placed in the middle of the nest box.
Mostly they are paired up the next morning, if not the nest box is completely dosed. If they are paired up they are given a nest bowl filled with nesting material and the partion is taken away and the nest box left open.
A stubborn pair is sometimes placed in an empty loft on their own till they are paired up, usually they are paired in a few hours.
Q. Do you also use your race birds for early breeding?
A. We have obtained some good results in young bird racing but we would rather race old birds. That is why we pair up the race birds around 10 February.
We always have two youngsters per nest. As soon as the cock starts driving the hen again, she and one youngster is housed in a separate loft and we leave the cock, for a few days to look after the other youngster. The hens are then given plenty of feed. Some will not look after their youngster, others will feed 10 of them.
After the youngsters are 21 days old they can look after themselves.
The race birds are paired up again around 10 April. In this way, one is just ready on the second Sunday when the birds go into the basket for the races above Paris.
Only in 1969 we paired them up on the 28th of December because a rich Englishman wanted to buy a whole team of youngsters which had to be ready by the end of February. The first few weeks of that season they gave the same performances as the year before but we had to stop them earlier because they became too far in the moult. We are sure this experiment would not be repeated.
Q. Is the loft heated during the breeding period when it is very cold or do you put straw on the floor? Do the breeding pairs stay locked up in the loft or aviary during that time?
A. if the weather is very cold we place a stove underneath the loft, not because it is cold, but to keep the loft dry and keep out the damp. The stock loft is situated immediately behind our house which is fairly high so that it receives hardly any sun in the winter. For that reason this loft is much more subjected to dampness than the racing loft. Early breeding in damp lofts is mostly a fiasco. For that reason we light the stove every three days for a few hours to make sure the loft is bone-dry.
A few years ago we had the floor covered with straw with a layer of lime underneath. We did away with it. The carrying of the straw and lime to the loft, the renewing and later the removing of the soiled straw and lime, gave more work than the daily deaning of the wooden floor.
As soon as the paired and newly paired birds can find their own nest boxes, they are given an open loft. Severe cold, even snow, does not trouble them. Only when there is mist about, the loft stays dosed.
Q. How do you feed the breeding pairs?
A. Self-evidently the feeding of the early breeding pairs gives a lot of trouble for fanciers that are away from home the whole day.
At 6 o’dock in the morning by artificial light each pair with youngsters in the nest is fed in its own nest box. After the lofts are deaned they receive again a hand full of breeding mixture. This system makes sure that all young and old birds receive a well balanced feed. Pigeons that receive their meal once a day it very often happens that the old birds pick up all the beans and peas and feed them immediately to the youngster. For themselves there is only maize and wheat left. The result is obvious: the youngsters are fed too strong and the parents too weak. This is the mistake of many novices.
In the afternoon the birds with youngsters are given two full hands of mixture. This job is usually done by my wife or a good natured neighbour. Keeping the drinkers free of ice is another job that has to be done. An dectric bulb placed immediately on top of the drinker is sufficient. At 7 o’clock we feed again by artificial light and we keep the light on for about one hour.
Breeding birds receive 3/4 breeding mixture + 1/4 barley till a few days before the eggs are hatched.
The composition of the breeding mixture is as follows: 6 parts of maize; 4 parts of wheat; 2 parts of milo; 2 parts of beans; 1 part of sunflowerseed (small white ones); 1 part of English peas; 1 part of green peas; 1 part of white peas; 1 part of tares ; 1 part of buckwheat.
Q. Do the early breeding pairs receive any vitaminized minerals, vegetables, vitamin added to the water or on the corn, a disinfectant product in the water. If so, on which days of the week?
A. The breeding pairs have always to their disposal the well known pink minerals and a few times in the week they have some vegetables:
salad, cabage, carrots, etc.. Always pure water out of the pump, but no towns water. There is always a small pot of salt in the loft. In a box 25 X 10 cm is placed a grassturf. After a week there is nothing left of it. It is unbelievable how much earth my birds pick up. This was a tip given to me by an old fancier. It stops them from picking up dirt out of the gutters.
Q. When are the early youngsters weaned?
A. They are weaned when they are 23 days old, thus two days earlier than the summer youngsters. The youngsters are placed in the loft where they are weaned. The hens stay in the stock loft where they will start their second nest.
Youngsters that are weaned receive in the morning and in the evening the ordinary breeding mixture. The second evening they are all checked if they have had any water. Those that have a hard crop are put with their beak into the water. Next time they will find their own way to the drinking-fountain.
When the youngsters of the second round and those of the race birds are ready to be weaned they are housed with the early youngsters. During the months April and May the kit is sometimes in the air for an hour and longer.
They start roaming which means they are doing their first training and develope their orientation capabilities at the same time.
When they have reached this stage the later born summer youngsters are not housed in the same loft but have a loft on their own. The experience learned is that it is not advisable to put the just weaned youngster with the older birds. Firstly there is always the danger that the older youngsters give chase to the weaned youngsters and knock them about. Result: They don’t have a moments rest because they are not strong enough to defend themselves which can bring along great losses of these youngsters, either they get scalped or are lost from the roof. For the older ones it is also not advisable because when the younger ones go in the air for the first time, they only fly around a few times and come down unto the roof or the platform. The old ones will follow this example and long exercise is out of the question.
Q. Do the early youngsters get their liberty the whole day or are they only let out at certain times? Are they forced to fly? When does the first training in the basket start?
A. I give my youngsters, in the morning and in the evening a half hour forced flying and in the Spring when the days get longer, this is increased to a full hour. I really don’t have to force them. Healthy pigeons fly on their own.
Birds that are repeatedly sitting on the roof are looked at with a weary eye. Mostly I kill a youngster which sits repeatedly on the roof before the first training, no matter how they are bred.
I call them in with a repeated whistle signal and feed them as soon as they come in. The ones that don’t come in directly lose their meal. When one works this way one does not need any catching trap, bolting wires and such like gadgets.
When they are two and a half to three months old the first training in the basket starts. In former days the first step was 2 km. In the course of the years I have experienced that from all the youngsters that were lost in their first training flights were never before in the basket. I have a system that minimizes the losses. I put them into a basket and take them to a field not more than a 100 metre from my house and after they have settled down I release them all together. The second stage is 7 km and the third 20 km. Than I send them again to 20 km but release them one at a time, afterwards they go in the big race pannier of the dub to 35 km. Since that time the losses became amazingly small. I have told many fanciers that bought birds from me about my system. Afterwards they informed that their losses were also rapidly minimized.
I very rare send for youngsters that are reported to me. if one is reported I send the one that reported my pigeon the proof of ownership thank him very much and tell him or her to keep it. During my first years in the fancy I used to take notice of the ring numbers of the birds that were reported to me. I never had a good flyer amongst them.
Q. Are the youngsters parted from each other, cocks and hens in a separated loft?
A. Young birds are never separated, my loft is not suitable for this and also, I cannot spare the time to dean more lofts than I already have. And another thing, I have never tried the widowhood method with my youngsters. They are flown as much as possible to the nest. With unpaired youngsters there was some success but this becomes with the years more difficult.
Q. Give the date of the first race in which the early youngsters are flown?
A. As I have expaned before, old birds racing is in the main the principal part. A rather race birds of 6 or 7 years old than youngsters. That is why we don’t start early with the youngsters. They have the first rubber ring on their leg in the Clermont race, which is exactly 8 days before the first important race above Paris.
Before they are really raced, they are sent for a few training fligths to Arras as trainers. When they return they are not taken in the hand but receive, as a extra, some small seed. They will learn to trap quick when they are pooled and will not stay on the roof.
Youngsters, born in March that will not pair together are sometimes given an old bird as a mate. Fourteen days before the first race the nest bowls are brought into the nest boxes.
Q. In case the youngsters are flown on the widowhood method, are they given an old hen as a partner? What tricks do you use when the youngsters are flown to the nest?
A. The young cocks are never flown on the widowhood method. For this I have no time because I have my hands full with the old birds. In any case I have no experience in that field.
Q. Do you attach much value to the state of the feathers by youngsters which compete in the races? Give the ad- and disadvantages of this.?
A. The state of the feathers of the youngsters that are raced is of paramount importance. In earlier days the youngsters flew only to their perches and then it was not so important. In the last few years the youngsters are flown in the same way as the old birds. In the flying season it is useless to fly youngsters that are too far advanced in the moult. My best youngsters, in 1969, were all youngsters bred out of the “Bambi” paired to the “Schone Blauwe” out of the “Prins” (all names of pigeons). The first one, the “05” was a first nest youngster born in January. The other, the “114” was born at the end of April. Both were paired with old hens and well when they were breeding and also when feeding youngsters. They only had one nest and were completely through the moult at the half of November. See also their complete performances which are given later on.
Q. Do yoûr youngsters receive during the flying season any vitamins (which?), vegetables, special grains (give the mixture), colombine tea, disinfecting or other products?
A. During the flying season the youngsters receive the same feeding as the old birds. They are fed in the morning and in the evening after they have had their training flight.
In the loft I never use any tea, disinfecting or restorative products. A sick pigeon is immediately separated from the other birds and placed in a sunny aviary. They receive a mixture without beans or peas. If the recovery takes too long they are immediately destroyed.
In former days I had a lot of trouble with pox and inflamed eyes. It took me a long time to make up my mind to vaccinate them against this disease.
I tried it for the first time in 1969 and since that time I have not had any trouble with it. From that time I have always vaccinated them.
In case they all are infected, which happens very seldom, it is of no use dearing all youngsters away. I always ask for the advise of a very skilful headmaster in zoology. After a laboratory examination the correct measures are taken.
Q. Do you attach much value to the origin of your youngsters? Give the composition of your strain, which are the best stock birds. Were in former seasons your best youngsters also your best old birds?
A. Some years ago there appeared in a well known Flemish daily paper, on the sports page, a commentary about pigeons under the title of: Origin is the basis of success. I have always defended this statement, especially for those who wish to shine on the long distances.
Pigeons of real good origin will always give a generation of outstanding birds. This explains the fact that the great champions, who have at their disposal, a good strain of pigeons, always manage to come to the front and stay there.
Since I started, a quarter of a century ago, I have brought into my loft many different strains.
I found out, in a few years, that the youngsters of two, in this country and abroad, well known fanciers give me the most satisfaction. They were the late Charles Vander Espt from Ostend and Marcel Desmet from Waregem.
Although they are specially bred for the long distances, their youngsters fly well for me on the short distances and above all on the middle distances, which is my special hunting field. The crossing of these two strains have given me for many years some real champions. The departure of this world famous fancier was for me a sad disappointment.
This does not mean that I never bring into my loft pigeons of another strain.
In 1966 I had an exchange with Jef Verscheure, Meulebeke, the beyond praise manager of the loft of Norbert Norman who himself was an excellent flyer. This transaction turned out to be a great success for both of us. Jef possessed an outstanding winner out of my “Koekoek,” while I had a first dass racing pigeon, which in 1969 won some money for me over the whole line of flight upto Brive. Her nest sister was a very good stock hen.
In 1968 I got two other youngsters from another Jef; namely my good friend: Jef Vandewalle from Handzame. They were two late breds of his first prize winner from Libourne National in 1967. The cock was paired to a daughter out of my “Prins,” while the hen was paired to my “Kiki” (8th Poitiers Nat., 1st Angoulême, etc.). Both pairings were a success, because the 1969 youngsters flew well for us.
In 1969 a hen was chosen from the loft of senator Lahaye in leper. It was a direct descendant of his “Spaak,” once one of the best flyers from Spain.- This excellent hen, which was raced upto Angouléme and never lost an early prize, was paired up in 1970 to one of the best cocks.
I don’t have any special breeding pairs. Very rarely do I keep a pair together for a long time. After a few years, I usually pair a cock that is getting old to a young hen and vica versus.
The “Prins I,” 3164970-61 and “Kees,” 3186770-60, bred many top prize winners. A curious fact was: That hens bred out of those cocks when paired gave better descendants. In other words: The second generation was better than the first one.
Most of the time, the best youngsters are also the best old birds. The youngsters that flew always in front, were always stopped early so that their future was not endangered. They were sent four, at the most five times above Paris.
In 1963, I had three cocks which week after week obtained high distinctions. Because I had the intention to sell my late breds in a public sale I raced the trio till the end of September. A question of publicity.
As yearlings they flew fairly well. They could not pay their way as two year olds. And in 1966 were finished. I still feel sorry that I had not stopped them early. Especially hens that flow well on eggs upto about 400 km, were in later years good long distance flyers.
In Belgium terms, I was 1st long distance champion.
In 1968, I was third.
In 1969, first again.
All those hens won regularly when they were youngsters.
Q. Give the performances from one or two of your young hens in 1969?
A. In 1969 was 3302005-69, a son of “Bambi” and the “Schone Blauwe” raced five times.
26-6 Clermont 190 km 880 birds 29th
29-6 Clermont 1,075 birds 9th
6-7 Dourdan 842 birds 5th
13-7 Dourdan 780 birds 12th
24-8 Sint-Denis 230 km 573 birds 7th
The “05” was born at the beginning of January.
The 3402116-67, born at the end of April out of the same parents, flow four races.
17-8 Clermont 556 birds 43rd
24-8 Saint-Denis 573 birds 5th
31-8 Orléans 356 km Regional 416 birds 4th Provincial 1,690 birds 26th
7-9 Angoulême 635 km Regional 64 birds 10th Provincial 685 birds 10th National 5,017 birds 471st
This young cock was after the old bird racing season put in the widowers loft in the nest box from a widow cock which was done away with because of insufficient performances. It paired up immediately with the old hen, and as soon the hen was on eggs the cock was sent to a race. It would have won that first race on widowhood. But because it was not yet used to its new loft, it landed on the trap of its old loft from where it had flown before and flew inside the loft. It became 43rd 2 minutes after the winner. When it was sent to Angoulême it was feeding a youngster of 18 days. After a stay in the basket through repeated hold overs, it was out of condition and came late. It came home in an advanced state of the moult, its neck was bare and it had dropped two flight feathers. But it still won Provincial pooled up to 500 Belgium francs.