Mertens Rene - Arendonk

Mertens Rene Arendonk<br>National champion Sprint Youngsters KBDB 2008.<br>
National champion Sprint Youngsters KBDB 2006.<br>
Provincial champion Sprint Youngsters KBDB Antwerp 2008.




Arendonk : an independent borough in the Antwerp's Kempen. A green borough that breaths tranquillity, but where the approach roads are slowly beginning to fill up during the morning and evening rush hour. Rene was not born in Arendonk or should we say he is not a "tellorenlekker". This nickname probably came from when times were not so good for this area. Where the pigeons are concerned, Rene is not the first person to put Arendonk on the map. "The men" attracted the fanciers to Arendonk a long time ago. Although they have not raced the pigeons for a quarter of a century, the name of the (brothers) gebroeders Janssens from Arendonk is still seen in the pedigree cards of numerous renowned pigeons and pigeon lofts. Many have in the meantime given their name to what was originally Janssens blood.
The farmers from the Kempen, who were economically better off due to the emergence of the cigar factories, could also afford to spend money on their hobby. Once upon a time there were 3 pigeon clubs in this borough which proved that this sport used to be very popular with this hard working population. Football in the winter and cycling and pigeons in the summer was the entertainment that was offered to these people. This country municipality also knew a few toppers where cycling was concerned. Namesake Rene Mertens knew how to turn the pedals quickly as a cyclist. Another concept in the cycling sport was Rik Vansteenbergen. A real topper in his time, the best in the world, and according to some, the best ever, but of course this could be discussed due to personal preferences.

How it began
Rene, a child out a string of sixteen, was born in Retie. No, they did not have a lot, but they lived well for the time. When he was fourteen he started work. He was trained in the building trade to be a carpenter and for the last seventeen years before his pension he worked for the council. A job that brought him into contact with everyone in the borough. We don't know whether the council received subsidies for recruiting him, but he was possibly the first environmentally conscious council worker. Rene cycled everywhere, because he doesn't drive a car. He has been infected with the pigeon virus nearly all his life. Fifty-five years ago, the then eight year old chappie already had show pigeons. He was fascinated by the thought of racing with pigeons, basketting them and then seeing them come home. When he was eleven, in '56, he basketted his first pigeons. He basketted his feathered friends full of hope and courage. Despite the commitment and the many sacrifices he had to learn that not one of his pigeons managed to reach the results after fifteen weeks.
Jan Claessen, a pigeon fancier out the area, took little Rene under his wing. He wanted to help. Proud and full of expectation, Rene showed him his twelve youngsters. The disappointment was huge week after week when they couldn't race any prizes, so that the knowledge and the experience of Jan was called upon. With great pride Rene removed the pigeons one for one out the basket. The verdict couldn't be misunderstood " I've never seen such rubbish ". The judgement of an honest pigeon fancier gave the child of eleven another disappointment. Whether it was deliberate or through pity, we don't know, but Jan spontaneously offered to give Rene some pigeons the following year.
After the winter Jan still remembered what he had promised. He provided the young fellow with a loft full of pigeons free of charge. The pigeons were cared for with a lot of commitment and sacrifices. The boy's dream of seeing pigeons coming home with a prize became a reality this year. The current champion was that year for the first time crowned as first champion Youngsters in the pigeon club "De moedige duif Arendonk"

Stock building
The pigeons of Jan Claessen have long formed the basis of Rene's pigeon stock. Originally they were Janssens pigeons and that probably proves their quality as Sprint pigeons. The greatest successes were achieved after the introduction of two pigeons from local fanciers. Two breeding couples were formed that form the basis. The birth of "Den Ezel" changed everything in the Mertens household.
A cock from Staf Van Gorp 6427800/96 is a very good breeder and was crossed with a hen of the own sort from Louis Meulemans 6330565/97. Staf has pigeons from Chris Vanmassenhoven from Schoonbroek Retie who was supplied with pigeons from Frans Proost from Retie. "Den Ezel" (The donkey) 6266536/99 was given his nickname in his birth year. Week after week this cock returned home early and then teased his owner. After two or three minutes, in a Sprint race that is an eternity, he finally went inside, but acted as if he did it reluctantly. Not because of his bad character, but because of the many first prizes he won, he was 9th national Ace pigeon Sprint yearlings 2000, is he a basis pigeon of the now twelve breeding couples.
This unique pigeon raced a first prize fourteen times, 7 first prizes in his birth year and another 7 first prizes as a yearling. The racing loft has also experienced the strong inheritance qualities of "Den Ezel" and with sixteen widowers who are all related to each other, with him at the basis, the better results were scored over the last few years. The filling of the empty places can occur every year by the better youngsters out a total of sixty. They have to achieve the selection standard of seven prizes per ten.

The selection is very tough. Eggs that are not perfectly formed, are too large or too small, are disposed of straight away. They have to grow well otherwise they have to return their ring. Rene weans in two parts. When the youngsters are 17 days old the hens go together with one youngster to the loft for the youngsters. Eight days later the second half goes to the youngsters' loft. They are allowed to ask for help once in finding the drinking bowl, the second time they are thrown in the rubbish bin, irrespective of their origin. On the other hand, the youngsters that find the drinking bowl the quickest are held in high regard by the master.
Pigeons that after a time have a wet eye or a nose that is not chalky white don't belong in the garden lofts of Rene. They have to prove themselves. With six prizes from ten races, prizes per ten, they are given a chance as yearlings, today Rene can keep this standard. When inspecting the pigeons by hand, the average pigeon with a soft plumage, are well muscled, a pear-shaped body, a head and wings in proportion have his preference.

Rene finds that coupling on the 10th of December works best. The breeders and racing pigeons are coupled at the same time. Each pigeon raises its own young, because Rene doesn't like to move the eggs. The breeders are allowed to breed a second round and then they are allowed to rest in the aviary. Before the season the hens are not put with the pigeons to brood for a second time. Rene has found that the not re-coupling has more advantages than disadvantages, according to his own experiences over the last four years. Rene thinks that the rising form in the Spring is slowed down by brooding for a few days. By considerable weather the pigeons are given 12 km three times, Tina and Rene take the pigeons in the car and they are liberated in a group. After a training race in the club the pigeons leave for Quievrain (135 km) or Noyon (243 km). The widow hens are locked up in individual boxes with constant fresh grit and water.
The hens are allowed to fly from their loft to the widowers.
The widowers then have half open boxes with a dish and are allowed to call to the hens that land at the traps. Rene takes the time to release the hens separately, on the condition that there is no egg in their box. A hen that has just laid an egg is not so keen to see her cock, and the disillusioned cock in the basket could give a disappointing result. Such a hen then remains in her box until the cocks are basketted. All the cocks are entered for the same race. Once the last hen is inside, Rene goes to the loft and lets the cock and hen stay together for a few seconds, counts to ten, in the opened living box. At the end of the season there is sometimes something else pulled out of the magician's hat. Tobacco stalks on the floor is one of the means. The hens are let into the loft on the Friday. If the cocks fill their brooding dish full of nest filling then it is also a sign to nominate them first. Once the cocks have been taken to the club, the hens are let outside to fly in the open air.
They let off steam for more than two hours, because the hens are also fed the same as the cocks. By homecoming the couple are allowed to stay together for an hour. The widowers train twice for an hour, in the morning at 7.30 and in the evening at 17.00. Once the sexes have been separated at the middle of June, the young cocks are also let outside at the same time.

The weaning of the youngsters occurs with floor covering on the floor. From the moment that the last pigeon no longer sleeps on the floor the floor covering is removed from the loft. The dividing door stands open so that the pigeons can freely chose a sitting place. The youngsters are let out under a grating so that they can gradually get used to their surroundings. Afterwards birds of prey or other large birds will not be as much the cause of youngsters suddenly flying and disappearing because they are exhausted. After an extra ten days of growing the pigeons are better at landing on the roof. Weather permitting, the youngsters are let out every day in order to train.
The week prior to the races the short trainings races begin. A few times fifty km and then 12 km followed by a liberation from Halle via the club. For the first following Quievrain they are basketted as racing pigeons. Not the calendar, but the weather conditions determine when Rene starts training the youngsters. A clear blue sky or north-westerly wind are not the moments that he asks Tina to ride with the pigeons. Wait, if necessary for two weeks. After two races the youngsters that have been darkened from 18.00 to 8.00 are separated.
The darkening begins in the middle of March and stops at the end of May. During that time couples are often formed and that helps during the further course of the season. An imbalance between the sexes can sometimes cause problems. Old hens can solve the problem by too many young cocks. By too many young hens is the bringing in of old cocks a demotivation for the young cocks. The old gentlemen make themselves master of the loft and toss the young cocks out their boxes, which is not the intention. Rene will then put half of the hens in the basket and the second half will be let free in the loft, so that they also have a reason to quickly race to De Daries 42. The youngsters are separated once again in the evening but with a tough race or homecoming late in the afternoon they are allowed to train together on the Monday. In this way the pigeons in Arendonk are raced until the middle of September. Cocks are stopped after 7 or 8 races in order to bring them to the start in optimal condition as a yearling.

The widow hens have their own loft. This loft consists of four rows of four individual boxes. This handy carpenter has constructed the boxes to his own ideas, they are 60 cm deep, 30 cm wide and 40 cm high. The doors are ten cm from the front and have two openings. The floor plank, which is ten cm wide, is where the feeding trough is placed for twenty minutes, and then it is replaced by a wooden container with grit or other by-products. The other opening is used for hanging the drinking bowl. The hens have a wire flooring with blocks for sitting on. The droppings fall in the drawer under the wire construction. The ladies are kept calm by means of a curtain in front of the transparent glass. In this small garden there are also two sombre wooden garden lofts, both with three inside lofts. The outside door opens into an outhouse where supplies can be kept.
The loft on high poles, consists of two lofts for the youngsters and to the right there is room for the sixteen widowers. The ventilation system is very simple. The beams don't stick out very much and there is no gutter. This way the wind can blow over the inside ceiling of the loft and in the attic above the boxes there is hardly any dust.
The west side of the roof is covered with a pleated metal sheet, the east side is open so that wind and sunshine can enter there. Additional ventilation tiles have been added to the roof. The second loft is three steps high and also consists of two compartments for the youngsters and the breeding loft. The breeding loft has an aviary with metal floor gratings and measures three by one metres, and is only open at the front. Next to it stands an aviary without an inside loft for housing loose breeding hens during the summer months. The low garden loft has ceiling slides in every inside loft and has an extra glass in the roof. By high temperatures this glass is closed on the inside with a plywood slide and a mesh is placed in the window to regulate the temperature and the air supply in the loft.

On returning home the pigeons are given a level soup ladle of diet mixture and one peanut, whether it was Quievrain or Noyon. For the second meal in the evening they are once again given a ladle of diet mixture and one peanut.
On Monday and Tuesday the feed is identical, the feed is always from Beyens. For supplementary feeding Rene is a great believer in Multi-Power-Mix.
On Wednesday they receive a level soup ladle of sport mixture twice per day with a coffee spoonful of nibbling seeds for dessert with two peanuts and it is all fed to them in a feeding dish in their box. On
Thursday and Friday the soup ladle is full of sport mixture.
On Saturday the cocks are given a coffee spoonful of nibbling seeds and two peanuts. On Sunday, the racing day, there is always tea in the drinking bowl.
On Friday vitamins are added to the water. Garlic oil and brewer's yeast are added to the feed on Monday and Tuesday. During the rest period Rene also gives the pigeons garlic oil and brewer's yeast on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They are given fresh drinking water every day. Naturaline or apple vinegar is added to the water three times a week.
The drinking water is thrown away every evening, the drinking bowls are washed and a drop of washing-up liquid can work wonders in the warm washing-up water. After the bowls have been dried they are ready for use the next day. The widow hens are also given a level soup ladle of feed twice per day. Their feed consists of three parts barley and one part diet mixture. At the end of the week the hens are given more to eat.

Care and medical guidance
The nearest veterinary surgeon is allowed to give the pigeons the compulsory vaccinations and carry out a check on the general health. Rene never cures blindly, but that has not been necessary for the last five years. If the pigeons are sitting huddled up, or their feathers are not shiny and they are not achieving the desired results then an intervention is justified. However, he pays a lot of attention to certain points. A neighbour's cat is allowed in the vicinity of the loft without Rene being bothered by it. If they regularly visit then it means that there is vermin in the area. There is always mouse poison in the loft. All the empty pots and feed in the loft are covered so that no mice get to them. Important health rules include the prevention of the drinking water going sour and paying attention to over-feeding.

6337724/08 "Tina"
This blue hen, named after Mrs. Mertens, raced 12/13 wherefrom 10 per 10 with two first prizes and two second prizes.
Father is a cock from Karel Sas-Wouters from Vosselaar which was bred from an own cock coupled with a hen from Heremans-Ceusters from Vorselaar.
Mother is a daughter of "De Ezel", the stock couple.
25/05/08 Quievrain 2nd 301 p
01/06/08 Quievrain 40th 889 p
08/06/08 Quievrain 37th 594 p
15/06/08 Quievrain 10th 766 p
22/06/08 Quievrain 1st 1005 p champ
9/06/08 Quievrain 1st 1246 p
06/07/08 Quievrain 2nd 1057 p champ
13/07/08 Quievrain 54th 881 p champ
20/07/08 Quievrain 5th 667 p champ
27/07/08 Quievrain 21st 748 p champ
03/08/08 Quievrain 81st 688 p champ
17/08/08 Quievrain 9th 520

6337728/08 "Stefhi"
This blue hen, named after the daughter-in-law, raced 12/12 wherefrom 7 per 10.
Father of "Stefhi" is 6058150/2006 a blue cock that made Rene Champion of Belgium in 2006. The cock comes from Faes and is self bred out two pigeons from Jef Lauwers from Arendonk.
Mother is 6058248/06 and comes out a daughter of "De Ezel" with a cock from Karel Sas-Wouters from Vosselaar.
01/06/08 Quievrain 9th 889 p
08/06/08 Quievrain 115th 594 p
15/06/08 Quievrain 16th 1766 p
22/06/08 Quievrain 2nd 1005 p champ
29/06/08 Quievrain 215th 1246 p
06/07/08 Quievrain 23rd 1057 p champ
13/07/08 Quievrain 4th 881 p champ
20/07/08 Quievrain 78th 667 p champ
21/07/08 Quievrain 6th 285 p
27/07/08 Quievrain 10th 748 p champ
17/08/08 Quievrain 47th 520 p
24/08/08 Quievrain 50th 465 p

6337731/08 "Roosje"
This blue white headed hen raced 8/13 wherefrom 6 per 10.
06/07/08 Quievrain 29th 1057 p
13/07/08 Quievrain 128th 881 p
20/07/08 Quievrain 10th 667 p
21/07/08 Quievrain 8th 285 p
27/07/08 Quievrain 16th 748 p
03/08/08 Quievrain 3rd 688 p champ
17/08/08 Quievrain 6th 520 p
24/08/08 Quievrain 60th 465 p

First prizes and 1st Champions titles
18 first prizes
1st Champion early Youngsters Quievrain
1st Champion late Youngsters Quievrain
1st Champion Yearlings Quievrain
1st General Champion Quievrain
1st Champion Middle Distance youngsters Noyon
14 first prizes
Champion early Youngsters Noyon
1st Champion late Youngsters Quievrain
1st Champion Yearlings Quievrain
1st Champion middle distance youngsters Noyon
15 first prizes
General Champion Noyon
1st Champion Yearlings Noyon
1st Champion early Youngsters Noyon
1st Champion early Youngsters Quievrain
14 first prizes
Champion Sprint Youngsters KBDB National
1st General Champion Quievrain
1st Champion early Youngsters Quievrain
1st Champion early Youngsters Noyon
14 first prizes

District Retie-Schoonbroek-Arendonk
1st General Champion Quievrain
1st Champion Yearlings Quievrain District Arendonk
1st General Champion Quievrain
1st Champion early Youngsters Quievrain
1st Champion Yearlings Quievrain
1st Champion early Youngsters Noyon
12 first prizes
Champion Sprint Youngsters KBDB National.
1st Champion Sprint Youngsters KBDB Antwerp.
District Retie-Schoonbroek-Arendonk
1st Champion early Youngsters Quievrain
District Arendonk
1st General Champion Quievrain

Old pigeons

01/05/08 Quievrain 3, 14, 15, 17, 18, 28, 222 old pigeons
6/8 04/05/08 Quievrain 1, 5, 8, 26, 32, 46, 194 old pigeons
6/8 18/05/08 Quievrain 3, 4, 11, 20, 21, 24, 154 old pigeons
6/8 15/06/08 Quievrain 3, 4, 14, 17, 114 old pigeons 4/6
29/06/08 Quievrain 1, 3, 16, 21, 23, 110 old pigeons 5/8
13/07/08 Quievrain 1, 2, 9, 14, 24, 90 old pigeons 5/8
21/07/08 Quievrain 3, 6, 7, 8, 12, 15, 18, 67 old pigeons 7/8
27/07/08 Quievrain 2, 4, 9, 13, 14, 15, 86 old pigeons 6/8
03/08/08 Quievrain 2, 5, 6, 7, 18, 25, 56, 215 old pigeons 7/10
10/08/08 Quievrain 1, 5, 6, 9, 21, 26, 43, 45, 151 old pigeons 8/10
22/06/08 Quievrain 1, 2, 19, 35, 82, 86, 141, 227, 239, 270, 321, 1005 youngsters 11/23
06/07/08 Quievrain 1, 2, 7, 9, 23, 29, 64, 66, 66, 82, 101, 101, 104, 105, 111, 189, 1057 jo 16/21
13/07/08 Quievrain 1, 4, 5, 7, 17, 54, 56, 86, 128, 131, 135, 138, 172, 264, 266, 881 young 15/17
20/07/08 Quievrain 5, 10, 13, 75, 78, 98, 108, 111, 149, 151, 154, 173, 667 youngsters 12/17
27/07/08 Quievrain 4, 10, 16, 21, 43, 51, 62, 62, 65, 66, 69, 115, 122, 125, 748 youngsters 14/16
03/08/08 Quievrain 2, 3, 11, 13, 58, 78, 80, 81, 121, 218, 220, 224, 688 youngsters 12/14

Figures 2008
Basketted - prize - coefficient
Old pigeons 131 - 96 73,28%
Yearlings 73 - 53 72,60%
Youngsters 206 - 167 81,06%