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Lucien Geerts – Messelbroek

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Lucien a 59 year old retired warehouse supervisor whose passions are football and pigeons, with football Lucien has coached three teams in Belgium all of them making Provincial Champions, so a man with determination to succeed and the pigeons, well nothing different here either, he has to succeed.

Concentrating on the sprint races only racing with young pigeons and yearlings, no two year old birds or older are raced, and neither are any old hens. Lucien only competes with the yearlings because he can double these into the old bird races at the same time so in Lucien’s words, ‘why should I keep more pigeons when my yearlings can race against the older birds’.

With formalities out of the way we are soon settled in the conservatory and with the leading question fired, all you have to do is sit back and listen for all is revealed, as far as Lucien feels there are no secrets in pigeon sport its all about the pigeon and the man.

The Lofts

There are two lofts, the first loft we looked at was the loft for the youngsters the races with the young pigeons had only been finished a week but already this loft hade been cleaned and disinfected with dettol and gone over with the blow torch, all the lofts openings are then opened, not just to dry out but Lucien believes that a good airing is very important to help break down the cycle of anything untoward going on in the loft that may affect the health of the following seasons in mates. No birds will be placed in this loft from the day after the last young bird race until the new youngsters are weaned.

The loft for the youngsters this is ten meters by three meters, the roof is tiled under which is a false ceiling which can be adjusted to control the air however this is never altered, air may also enter the loft along the lower roof line underneath the tiles. There are four sections in the loft two each side of a central corridor and behind a corridor that also runs along the whole front side of the loft, for each section there is a large window with a trapping bay fitted to the two first sections each side of the door. The windows are always in the open position with a screen of fine mesh fixed in the opening, the screen is covered both sides so the birds can not feel a draught on them, if that wasn’t enough air coming into the loft just below each window on the floor is a hole measuring 20cm x 3cm so as to keep the air moving, and if you are wondering about a heating plate, no there is no artificial heating what so ever in this loft or that of the old birds.

Once inside we are soon aware that we are in the loft of a man who does not stand still and leaves nothing to chance, everything in the loft is designed for the comfort of the pigeons, their manager and of course motivation, as Lucien says every body needs some form of motivation to do well and it is the same for the pigeons.

On the floor of the loft is a board that sits 3cms higher than the floor, at the back of the floor is a groove, this acts as a dust trap, which is cleaned every weekend with the vacuum when the birds are out of the loft.

Two of the young bird sections are fitted with widowhood type nest boxes, these are also different to most as they are all fitted with an extra nesting area which again is all designed for the motivation of the young pigeons, the other two sections have perches, in the corner of each section there is a try of pine needles these also act as a dust trap and any feathers floating around the loft are soon caught in these.

On the front of these boxes a board is fixed that can be removed at any time this is used when the boxers are closed and before the youngster are given the boxes, again this board may be moved to nay where along the box so that the birds are sitting closer

towards basketing day, more motivation

The loft for the old pigeons, I say old pigeons as this loft is a double decker and houses the breeders down stairs and the yearling race team upstairs, the loft for the yearlings also has four sections two each side of the central entrance, one with nest boxes and the other with ‘v’ perches for the hens.

Downstairs on the left are the breeders, while on the left is an area we shall call the ‘dressing room’ more on this later.

The ventilation is along the same lines as that in the young pigeon loft and again no artificial heat is used.

The Pigeons

Seventy per cent of Lucien’s bloodline comes via the postman for m Booischoit Remi De Mey; sadly Remi is no longer with us having past away a few months ago. Lucien came by these birds via a non pigeon footballing friend who asking after how Lucien’s birds were doing, when the reply came back not to good, the friend told Lucien I will ask my friend if he has some birds for you, on hearing that the friend was the great hen racer Remi, Lucien thought to himself, no not possible how does he know such a champ he doesn’t even keep pigeons, a few weeks later came a phone call sure enough the guy on the other end was Remi De Mey, at first he thought his friend was fooling around, but know it was Remi who invited Lucien over to come and select some eggs, it didn’t end there though as Remi followed up with other phone calls asking how Lucien had gone on with the eggs, well Lucien had had a little bad luck as he used pine needles for nesting material, one had pierced on of the youngsters from the eggs, immediately Remi invited Lucien back to Booischot to choose from his hens. This time Lucien returned with some youngsters, with the eggs and youngsters Lucien finished up with five grandsons and five grand daughters of the Paula 5000.

The other part of the loft is made up with birds from Maurice Voets and local fancier Rene Deiddan blended together Lucien has produced a family of birds that win from the word go.

Breeding

There is no out of season for me, after racing the birds are fed a mixture of equal parts of barley, depurative and moulting mix. None of the birds are given their liberty but have access to a bath twice a week.

Three weeks prior to coupling the birds are taken to the vet and if any thing is a miss then they are treated, normally a cure for canker is given as a precaution, the following week I give them 50% barley 50% depurative, the week after they are given 100% barley and tea is put in the water all week, the condition on the birds at the end of this week is unbelievable, you don’t need the scraper to clean the droppings you can just brush them away with your hand, the next week I put the lights on in the loft until 10pm for the last hour I have a small 8 watt lamp this allows any bird that isn’t on its perch to get there safely, their food is back to 50% depurative and 50% barley and clear water, the week they are coupled I give them a 3 part mixture of depurative, barley and a breeding mixture, they remain on this mixture until the eggs are hatching, this may sound like a lot of bother but from the sixth day after coupling to the tenth all my hens have laid.

When the eggs have hatched they are breeding mixture only, then when the youngsters are eight or nine days old I give then sedochol with brewers yeast this is given on the corn, between each round the breeders are treated for canker.

The Racers

I only fly yearlings and youngsters, I have only ten or twelve yearlings and will start them off in April this is when they are coupled, why well, It’s my opinion it is to early for widowhood cocks in April, I say this because mine are only yearlings so I am careful to take my time with them, the weather can sometimes be a bit cruel for them and I always remember what my father said “don’t put oil on the fire if you want it to last, stoke it!” the last race for them is 1st August. They are coupled the first of April and will go to the first race on 8 day eggs during the time they are sitting I take them training with the car this is a distance of 30km. for the flights in April they will race to their nest and even youngsters, I say youngsters because at 10 days I take the hens away and they have the youngster by themselves, this will bring me to the 16th or 23rd of May depending on when I couple, when the youngsters are days this will be the last time they race back to the youngsters, while they are at the race everything will be cleaned out. Now they will be on widowhood.

The birds are not exercised around the loft at all I take them 30km in the car on their return they are fed, in the evening there is no exercise for them just their evening feed. When the birds are prepared for the club I put the bowl in then the cocks and then the hen, when I have put the last hen in I take the first hen cock out and place him in the baskets.

In order to motivate the yearling cocks I have a few spare nest boxes, these are opened up earlier in the day prior to basketing, sometimes I may put a little straw in the loft but this is normally at the end of the season. Both my widowhood cocks and young cocks are trained together, they never exercise around the loft, they are taken thirty kilometres in the morning and that is it, when they return they are fed and then fed again in the evening.

Young Pigeons

I take about sixty youngsters for myself, these will be the first rounds, the second round I give to my brother Leon, and he only races young pigeons. I try to get them in their own loft when they are about 23 days old when the last one is in they’re given a cure for canker, at this time I continue feeding breeding mixture until the small feathers start to fall, when they start to fall I change to moulting mix for the first two weeks they will also have Sedochol and brewers yeast on the corn. I don’t darken the young pigeons because I have finished racing at the end of August and during this month they are raced on the nest so there is no need for me to do this, however if I was racing on the longer distance and into September then that would be a different story.

Education is very important for the youngsters, at first I will leave the windows open and in about a week they are flicking in and once they are all coming out they are allowed one hour of freedom a day, it’s not long before they are flying as soon as they are flying then I give them a mixture of depurative and flight food.

When they are roaming away from the loft for about thirty minutes I will start to train them with the car first they will go five kilometres then ten and so on until they are at the thirty kilometres, during the training, during the first training flights they are all let go together, when they are at the thirty kilometres I then let them go 15 at a time.

The first race for the youngsters is the third weekend of May; they are raced on the door system until June at this time I select the youngsters that I am going to race through to the end.

 With the door system you stand a chance of having the majority of the birds motivated, in the section for the young cocks I have made put an additional ‘nesting cave’ on each box, in here I place the bowl, when I open this Saturday morning within seconds its kike you have no pigeons in the loft they all go directly in there and start calling their hens, I then let the hens in which immediately find their mate, from these ‘nesting caves’ I take the cock and hen at the same time, it’ simple!

After racing the youngsters on the door I then select the ones that I will race until the end of the season don’t have a crystal ball or an eye glass, its all done on results, I have no reservation about dropping those that are under performing, those that haven’t made the first 10% of the result in 70% of the races they have entered.

I now allow them to couple so that on the first Sunday in August I want all my youngsters to have a day old youngster, to achieve this I take my eggs and give them a stone egg, until they have all laid, its important to keep turning the eggs you have taken away though, when the last hen has laid I place them in an incubator come the first weekend in August first I take the hens while she is sitting on the eggs, then I place a youngster under the cocks, this will be the last race the young hens go to, from now on I will only send the yearlings and young cocks.

Pre and Post Race

Yes both are is very important, here we basket on a Saturday and have to be at the club between 5pm and 6pm, for me it is important that all my birds are calm when they go in the baskets at the club. At the side of my breeding loft I have a room where I have four large baskets similar to those at the club, at 10-30am in the morning I take the cocks from the loft in a widowhood basket, I then place a drinker in the large baskets then one at a time I place one pigeon in turn in each of the baskets, I do this because I want to be sure that all of my birds have had a drink, also by the time I get to the club my birds are fully rested they aren’t chasing around using up their energy, I want them to save this for the race.

When they return from the race they are left together for up to an hour, during this time they are given some depurative and in the water they will be Avipharm from Rhonfried, when I remove the hens I then give every pigeon a forced bath in warm water which contains bath salts.

On alternate weeks they will be given a cure for canker and Doxycyline for the head. All the birds both youngsters and yearlings are fed the same, the day after the race which is Monday they are given a three part mix this is made up of Barley, Depurative and a Widowhood mixture, this is given twice a day with the spoon, it’s the same on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Thursday and Friday they are given two feeds with the widowhood mixture, in the water on Friday they will have Orvital from Orapharma.

The only other thing they will receive via the water will be Electrolytes with glucose but this is only given when the velocity is below 1000m.p.m.

My widowhood hens are given the same care as all of my other birds all be it that they are only fed on barley, I think many fanciers neglect the hens but without the hens are in good condition you can forget the cocks.

Taken From Issue One of The Winner