The entrances face in all directions. One loft faces South or South East, others face West, North and even North West. It doesn't make any difference which loft the best flyers are housed in. The nest boxes are pine, some have cottonwood bottoms. They are of several different dimensions although the majority are 75 cm wide, 38 cm high, and 40 cm deep (30' x 15' x 16').
From 1936 to 1940 father Jerome had a special loft manager whom we now would call a full time manager. This was Emile Deweer from Ingooigem. He came to St. Lodewijk in 1936 and was installed in a house belonging to the Vereecke father. Emiel Deweer was a renowned widowhood man at a time when the method was not widely applied. After the war, Jerome and his son Roger took care of the birds. Later, Jerome did it all by himself until 1974.
In 1975 Richard Schatteman took over. He had lived in Lochristi and in St-Denis-Westrem and now lives in Eke. Roger keeps himself more or less busy with young bird racing, just as he did in his father's time.
Jerome's wife never went into the lofts. Roger's wife even less. They limit their pigeon activity to attending the many receptions for champion racers given during the winter months.
Q : What is your breeding mixture? Are your widowers and stock birds given greens? If so, which ones and when?
Breeding mixture: Corn (Indian Plata and Cinquentino), green peas, English peas and ordinary pigeon mixture of vetches, wheat, sunflower seed and white peas.
They are never given greens. It is better to give vitamins instead (see later).
Breeding of Ace Pigeons
Q : What sort of breeding produces your aces - your national winners? Crossing or inbreeding?
Over the years we have bred a lot of good birds by crossing ; however, our superstars of the last few years have come mainly from inbreeding distant relatives as you can see by looking at our pedigrees. The pigeons that have made us known throughout the world are the following : (including birds we bought as well as those we bred and listed chronologically by year hatched.) :
Schuwen (Shy) 350617-45
Atomique (Atomic) 3343614-46
Witoogske (Little Pearl Eye) 3000742-53
Ijzeren (Iron) 3064724-57
Roste Tanghe (Red Tanghe) 3000469-59
Blauwe Barcelona (Blue Barcelona) 3110576-64
Ronden (Roundie) 3420902-64
Witpenneke (Little White Flight) 3216143-65
IJskop (Palehead) 2323124-72
Klein Zwart (Little Black) 3232233-72
Grote Geschelpten (Big checker) 3331005-74
Pursang (Thoroughbred) 3331065-74
Blauwe Pau 3331280-74
Jonge Bandiet (Young Bandit) 3073036-75
Witoog (Pearl Eye) 3255098-76
Q : Do you attach any importance to eye sign? What do you think of the wing theory?
We never attached much importance to theories, neither those dealing with eyes nor those dealing with wings. Thus we are unable to comment on these theories. Our method is : raise youngsters, as many from yearlings as from old birds and race them. The basket does the culling, the best remain.
This was also the system used by Charles VanderEspt in Oostende. Before the racing season he raised youngsters from every pair and put them aside. No one ever got a youngster from the first nest. One never knows from which pair the best youngsters will come.
Q : Do you give medication ?
Before the race season we treat the birds for salmonella, trichomoniasis (canker), coccidiosis and worms. During the race season: as little medication as possible because it is dangerous. It is of course absolutely necessary to treat racers as soon as any symptoms of sickness show up. After the race season: we treat again for canker and coccidiosis; this during the breeding period and again immediately after the race season. Pigeons are wormed only if tests indicate it. We use sulfamides.
The veterinarian comes to check the droppings (for coccidiosis and worms) and saliva from the birds throats (for trichomoniasis). The veterinarian we regularly consult is Dr. Gerrit Dhondt from Melle, he prepares the medication needed and explains how much to give.
Q : What do you feed your widowers? Break it down to a day by day morning, evening basis. Which grains are given and how much per bird.
Widowers get, on their return from a race, a light mixture over a period of time which varies depending on the date of their next race. This is given morning and evening about a soupspoonful per meal. The light mixture is made up of wheat, barley, dari, sunflower seed, linseed and some crushed grain. We mix some of it ourselves and buy the rest. The regular widowhood mixture is given the last week preceding the long distance races (a few days preceding middle distance races) and consists of Indian corn (plata and cinquantino) wheat, dari, green maple and white peas, vetch, sunflower seed and black wheat. Widowers also receive a coffee spoon of the following dessert mixture : crushed grain, coiza, rape, hulled oats, rice, hemp, and white sunflowerseed. Healthy grain has a high germinating percentage. There is always fresh grit with redstone at their disposition. A few days before basketting, pigeons need one of the vitamin mixtures that can be bought everywhere.
Q : Do you race hens to the nest or as widowhood hens? Explain your widowhood system.
Concerning widowhood cocks : we show the hens to yearling and two-year-olds before basketing. We never do this prior to sending older cocks to the long races. Widowers raise a youngster before the race season and another one after the race season. When a widower loses appetite and weight there is nothing to do but wait until he comes back to normal. Widowers are never flagged or forced to fly but are given an hour of free loft flying mornings and afternoons. They go out willingly and fly for the love of flying. Each widower eats from his own little food cup in his nestbox, but they all drink from the same waterer.
Q : How do you realize that a widower is in form or in top form?
Top form is most evident when they fly quickly and happily and when they tend to break away from the flock to fly alone. The loft should be darkened so that the birds are quiet and rest, because rest brings form.
Q : When do you remove your hens from their mates ?
a) in the winter?
b) in widowhood are they left together or is each hen kept separately ?
Breeders are separated at the beginning of October. Racers are left together until the end of December because they aren't mated up until the 1st of March. Thus their separation only lasts two months, January and February. Widowhood hens are put in an aviary. They are shut outdoors during the day and only allowed inside at night. They are fed once a day in the evening when they are called inside. They get a commercial mixture that contains everything they need. We never race old hens. Sometimes we race a young hen in the young bird races. An ideal basketing time is when they are on small babies which are only a few days old.
Vitamins and Trace Elements
Q : What sort of vitamins do you give your widowhood cocks?
We do not talk about trace elements because their use can be dangerous. Widowers need vitamins and get them once a week. The right kinds are stocked commercially.
Dose: a table spoon per litre (or quart) given two days before basketting.
Q : When and who cleans your lofts? Do you use a disinfectant and if so which one? What kinds of loft related problems have you had to contend with?
Our lofts are cleaned daily by our loft manager, Richard Schatteman. He occasionally uses a blowtorch to kill germs and then uses the disinfectant Detol.
In some lofts we have had a dampness problem to contend with. When changing our birds from one loft to another we are careful to renew parts of the loft and/or accessories as needed such as flooring, nestbowls, etc.
Q : Are you in favour of introducing new blood every year?
We believe in introducing fresh blood from time to time but not necessarily every year. We have not had any real success with our acquisitions during the last few years and so would prefer not to name names. Our present ace pigeons are the same strain as those of ten years ago and therefore descend from our old middle distance strain (Dupont Schuwen) crossed with top flyers, usually National 1st prize winners, that we bought between 1962 and 1967.
We should mention that our best flyers today often come from various distant inbreeding of our old strain whereas this strain was created by new crosses. As an exception we should perhaps cite, Young Bandit 3073036-75 as his father, Bandit was from our loft manager Richard Schatteman and his mother was a stock bird from our old strain.
Odds & Ends
Q : What role does your wife play in your pigeon fancier life today? What about other female members of your family? What are their names and ages?
My wife is not an active fancier and never goes into the lofts. Her role is limited to listening to me, to going to club meetings during the winter and to welcoming fanciers from here and abroad who come to visit our lofts. My wife's maiden names is Renée DeBaene, she was born in Poperinge on May 12, 1932. Our family consists of only one child, a daughter, Regine Vereecke who was born on Oct 27, 1968.
Good advice for beginners
Q : What advice can you give new fanciers ?
For beginners we can only say that they need to be very observant, able to compare and evaluate what they see and above all, to be very patiënt.
Here again the old saying applies, many are called but few are chosen! To go far in our hobby you really must put your heart into it. It requires a stick to it attitude.
Nevertheless we are always willing to assist beginners in word and deed.
Johan Kempen, Roger Vereecke and Mr Bodson
Part I : Click here