11/03/2008 13:49:17 - Henk van Limpt de Prut

Louis, Charel & Jef Janssen

The lofts housed in the attic of the house.

In the foreground the well where all the drinking and bathing water for the birds is drawn.

Some trophies won since 1919.

Kleine from the Vos.

Birds housed in the attic lofts.

Henk van Limpt de Prut examining 019.


Henk van Limpt de Prut is a champion pigeon fancier in his own right, by profession he is the manager of the Racing Pigeon Division of Pantex Holland BV, a leading company in the field of animal health, he also has his own column in the Dutch pigeon magazine NPO. Living in Reusel so close to Arendonk it’s hardly surprising that visits to number 6 Schoolstraat were frequently made. His first was when he was still in short pants. Henk and his family have been close friends through the years with the Janssen family. After the death of Jeff and Charel racing ceased, and sadly Louis is the last remaining brother. Although there is no racing there remain 42 pigeons breeding pigeons in the old lofts, what follows is an article written by Henk van Limpt de Prut.

PART ONE . . . Arendonk, a famous place in the north of Belgium, well known due to the fact that it was the birthplace of Rik van Steenbergen, one of Belgium’s most successful cyclists. Next to this, however, Arendonk is also the home of the Janssen Bros, the biggest name ever in the world of pigeon racing. With huge racing successes during a period of 75 years, and one of the best breeding programmes, the Janssens now and in the future will be the most important key persons in the pigeon sport worldwide. The Janssen bloodline can be found in every country where pigeons are raced. As I am a good friend of the family and still visit the last remaining Janssen on a regular basis, I will try to give a good impression of the history and an idea of their successes.

THE BEGINNING . . . In 1872 Henri Janssen was born in Arendonk, Belgium and was founder of the Janssen loft, who at the age of 14 started with a small number of pigeons, from which he got his nickname Driekse de Paauw (Peacock).

Henri married Pauline and raised a large family with seven boys and two girls. During this time a pigeon club was formed in Arendonk, with Henri not only being one of the founders but also top players. Between 1908-1914 he had already won a lot of races and had a few very good pigeons like for example ‘Het Blauwtje’ (small blue hen) who won 20 races and several bicycles for his owner. In that time bicycles used to be the 1st prize in a pigeon race. Remarkable to say was that Henri Janssen was an admirer of nature, and he refused to manipulate or change the natural conditions for his pigeons. Hence no breeding during the winter and absolutely no “widowing” in order to improve results. With loving care and the eye of the master the Janssen family were forming a basis of a legendary bloodline.

All the children were raised as pigeon fanciers and everybody, boys and girls, from an early stage was involved in the cleaning of the lofts. Henri Janssen or Driekse the Paauw passed away in 1946, after which his widow Pauline became the engine inside the family. She was well known about her good nature and the loyalty towards her family, which she maintained till her death in 1967.

As mentioned before the first Janssen did not like Widowhood, as among other things he anticipated the danger of losing his good strain, because there would be fewer possibilities of breeding with the young pigeons. More though was the fact that his hens were mostly the best flyers and was afraid that by not putting them in the races he would get fewer results. After the death of Henri his sons continued his lifework, some were married now and all the members together made a deviation of the tasks in the loft.

Adriaan took care of the Natural system and the youngsters; Louis did the book keeping and the breeding loft; Jef washed the dishes, walked the dog, put the pigeons in the basket and went up and down to the clubhouse; Charel was responsible for the cocks on Widowhood, yes that’s right, the Janssen brothers had decided to go along with the new trend and started to play the Widowhood strategy. First with four pigeons, ‘De Oude Donkere’ (Old Dark One), ‘De Oude Lichte’ (Old Light Chequer), ‘De Rode Vos’ (Red Fox) and ‘De Lichte Vos’ (Light Red Fox).

VISIT TO SCHOOLSTRAAT 6 EARLY 1999 . . . People who visit the Janssen residence would expect something different than what they would see. In a very sober house with a small white gate on the side, you have to pass the gate and walk around the entry at the back. The Janssens were an honest and simple family who did not live above their means and all worked until their pension age. Inside the house the decoration was as the family, simple and efficient and no fancy rubbish. The pictures of all the family members have their own place. What did attract my attention was a big trophy which was located next to the telephone. Louis explained to me that they just received this from the chairman of the Cuban Pigeon Association who announced the Janssens as honorary members of their organisation. On each visit the hospitality is striking, only rule is that you should make an appointment before coming in order not to disrupt the pigeon schedule, which still is the central role within the family.

THE LOFTS . . . Outside first thing to notice is the well in the middle of the backyard from which still today the pigeons get their drinking water. The motto no water from the tap if natural fluids are available. When you see the lofts the same description is valid as for the family house; plain, simple but efficient. No expensive material, only one very modern alarm system. Louis thinks back on the old days and says “It is very bad that nowadays such prevention has to be taken in order to protect your pigeons.” In the backyard two lofts are built, one they call “the run” where the older pigeons are housed, and the other with an outside run for the Widowhood cocks.

There are also four lofts built in the attic of the house, first floor a loft for the nest breeders, and on the second floor a loft for the cocks. Entering the lofts you will find a strange atmosphere, for instance the traps are directed to the south west. The pigeons are housed directly under the tiles of the roof, some of the tiles are made from glass and together with a large window it provides enough light. As there are a lot of chinks and cracks the pigeons are using the air of the entire attic. “Only during heavy snowfall,” Louis explains, “We have to remove the snow which finds its way through the ceiling.” The Janssen philosophy does not believe in controlling temperature or airflow. “The lofts are unchanged winter and summer” Louis acknowledges. What is important is the hygiene of the housing and the health of the pigeons.

The Janssens could not abide to see droppings in their lofts and they explain that sometimes cleaning of the lofts take place 5-10 times a day. Once a week with the vacuum cleaner and every two weeks with water and scraper. Each year the loft will get a big cleaning where the walls, bowls, floor and inside traps will be scrubbed with bleach. Additionally the walls will get new chalk.

BASE OF THE JANSSEN PIGEONS In order to give you an idea of the basic strain of the Janssen bloodline I will go back to a visit to them in 1993, at the time when still three brothers, Louis, Charel and Jef, were alive. Today Louis is the only living Janssen.

Drinking a glass of beer the Janssen brothers are nicely chatting. Easy sitting in their well known chairs with sheep wool they tell in their native Belgian accent the history of their pigeons. Happily we can understand each other very well because we talk the same language and accent.

• ‘De Oude Vos’ – In 1919 Fons, one of the older Janssen brothers, went to Ceulemans in Berlaar, Belgium, to buy a blue cock. Ceulemans at that time was already an old fancier with very good pigeons. Crossing the Ceulemans pigeons with the Janssen birds was successful. Louis bought ‘Oude Vos’. He made a little loft on his own, upon the old wooden outside toilet and inside the door he made a little entrance with two bars for the pigeons. Outside he made a little trap. His first loft for the ‘Oude Vos’ was made!

In that time father Henri had a young red hen; she won a week before already the 2nd prize. As a real pigeon fancier Louis already saw the young red hen was in love ‘Oude Vos’. Immediately Louis closed the entrance because now he had his first pair of pigeons! The whole day he dreamed about his new mated pair of pigeons. In the evening however he had his first disaster in his young pigeon life. It seems that the ‘Oude Vos’ didn’t make love with his bride but . . . he pecked her full of madness on her head. The hen was damaged and of course there were troubles in the family, said Louis. You can understand this was a big disapiontment, specially for Louis. In that period Fons Janssen went to Schoeters in Herenthout in Belgium and bought there what was later called ‘Oude Duifke Van 25’ (Old Little Hen of 1925).

• ‘De Tamme’ – Adriaan and Charel also were fanatical pigeon fanciers. “We had two small lofts,” tells Charel, “One of them was a chicken house with an outside cage. Adriaan had in those days ‘De Tamme’ who always walked on the Liguster hedge. You only had to place your hand on the hedge and he jumped directly onto it.”

• ‘De Lichte’ – After some discussion ‘De Tamme’ was mated with ‘Het Schoon Voske’ (Beautiful Red Hen) of Charel. He received two very beautiful light youngsters with white eyes. Frans, the older brother, liked them and offered five Belgian francs for the both. Brother Fons however offered 30 francs and took them both to his loft in Baarle-Hertog and sure enough a lot of success followed. One of them was lost off the loft but his nestmate ‘De Lichte’ grew up as a super pigeon. This bird raced nine consecutive weeks and won the 1st prize! At first Janssen family thought that Fons told this story because he didn’t want to hurt his little brother Charel. However, when Fons put his lists on the table in Arendonk and showed the 1st prizes they were totally surprised. Charel was as proud as a peacock. Fons however had his heart in the right place and gave the ‘Lichte’ as a present to his brothers.

After the ‘Lichte’ was mated and stayed in Arendonk they started to race him again. One day they put him in the basket for a race because Adriaan thought he was in super condition. On Sunday the pigeons stayed in the basket because the weather was very bad. On Monday they were released, and Fons decided to go to Arendonk to check the results because that day there was a strong wind in front of them (‘De Lichte’ liked this kind of wind). It was a long time before the pigeons arrived and when the first did, Fons was disappointed that ‘De Lichte’ was not among them. “He is much too late,” Fons said, and he cursed, but his brothers laughed and said, “You were the one that was too late.” Adriaan had already clocked ‘De Lichte’ before Fons arrived. ‘De lichte’ won that day the 1st prize more than 10 minutes in front of the next pigeon. Suddenly one day ‘De Lichte’ disappeared and returned back two years later without his ring. After that obviously they could not race him, but still continued his bloodline. Also ‘Blind’, sister of the ‘Lichte’, was good for top results in those years.

• De Schalieblauw x Blauw Duif – In those days Fons was a good friend of Schoeters in Herenthout, and one day he visited him together with his brother Adriaan. When they arrived they met a friend of Schoeters called Goossens (the miller). “What do you have over there?” asked Fons, pointing to an old rabbit hutch. Inside was an old pigeon with rough feathers and a broken tail that was constantly pushing against the cage. The brothers took the pigeon and saw it was a late youngster still having three old feathers in her wings. Asking if they could buy her, Goossens confirmed but he wondered what the brothers wanted to do with it. They made the deal, Adriaan and Fons were satisfied and went home. After sometime, the ‘Schalieblauw’ was totally through the moult and was in outstanding condition.

At an auction of Schoeters, Fons bought some more pigeons among which a blue hen with a red sign around her eyes. She was an outstanding race hen and won a 1st prize from Noyon and Orleans. The blue hen was mated with the ‘Schalieblauw’ and they produced mostly light chequers as youngsters with white eyes: Top pigeons such as ‘De Oude Witoger’, ‘Grote en Jonge Witoger’ became famous afterwards. Pigeons with a perfect body, soft feathers and perfect character according the brothers.

• Jonge Witoger x dochter Van De Aap (Young White Eye x daughter of The Monkey) – Afterwards Fons bought another one at Schoeters, she was a hen from the famous ‘Aap’ and they mated her with ‘De Jonge Witoger” son ‘Schalieblauw x Blaw Duif. The first two youngsters were a disappointment. One was lost from the loft and her nestmate was lost in one of the first races. The next youngsters were all top pigeons. Exceptional beautiful light chequer pigeons with white eyes. More important was that they all had a high quality for breeding good youngsters. Nowadays their bloodlines are still present in the Janssen pigeons. They were crossed with red ones of Louis’ ‘Oude Vos’, ‘De Vos Van 1926’ of Ceulemans.

• ‘Wondervoske van 1945” (Wonder Red Hen of 1945) – One of their well known pigeons which won several 1st prizes and was hardly beaten by the competition. She was a daughter of ‘Vos van 1939’ x a sister of de ‘Oude Grote-en Jonge Witoger’.

• ‘Bange van 1951’ (Afraid one of 1951) – This crack was a youngster of the well known red coloured line specifically from ‘De Vos Van 1949’. The name de ‘Bange’ was not given like most people think he was afraid, no he got this name because he always looked around on the trap of the loft entrance when he returned from the race.

• Pigeons during the years 1960-1970 – ‘Bange van 51’ is again a pigeon who wrote history in these years, also ‘De Scherpen’, ‘Oude Merckx’, ‘De 019’, ‘Jonge Merckx’, ‘Geeloger’ and so on.

• De ‘Halve Fabry’ (50% Fabry) – One day Fabry Snr visited the Janssen brothers and bought a cock. The cock was named ‘De Trage’ (Slow One) youngster of ‘Witoger’. Fabry wanted to mate ‘Trage’ against a direct son of his famous ‘Portois’. He promised to give the Janssens a direct youngster off this pair. One year later a little box with a youngster was standing in the kitchen. After a lot of thinking the brothers remembered the promise of Fabry. It was a normally built pigeon, no remarkable special condition. After some training races he went to his first race Quievrain. The weather was not quite good but all birds returned home, except ‘Halve Fabry’. After some hours they saw him behind the roof of their house, his stomach was full of corn off the field.

As a youngster he didn’t race well, however during the spring his body changed and developed, so they decided to keep him, believing he had the quality to become a good racer. During his second birth year he raced three consecutive weeks, and won a 5th. Afterwards he missed and he stayed home for one week, then he had one training race from Halle during the middle of the week, and afterwards on Sunday he won 1st prize in the Combine. He became a good racer and won four 1st prizes. Also as breeder he was successful and now we still find his line in the Janssen pigeons.

Louis and Charel admit they had a lot of luck, because it is not naturally possible to have so many good racing pigeons. I do however believe that this family with their feeling and love for pigeons, the luck (plus the exceptional class of their pigeons) is made by themselves. But still it is nice to see how sometimes such famous pigeons are obtained by many coincidences.

THE MATING . . . Before describing this part we think it is important to know what the Janssen brothers demand from a pigeon.

Important things to them are: * Is the pigeon well built * A good back * Soft feathers * Well closed from behind * A clean eye * A firm behind wing * The pinions not too broad * The three last pinions have to jump a bit horizontally * No broad tail, the tail is the building of the pigeon. Very important is the spirit and the vitality. How do you manage to breed such pigeons, was the next question of course. Louis and Charel say: “The most important are: good results in the races, and good pedigrees. Preferably a cousin is put against his niece. By doing that they recorded the best results.”

The following matters are taboo for the mating: * No big cock against a big hen * Not two little ones put together * Not two birds with pale eyes put together, because the Janssens’ opinion is that here has to be vitality and pigmentation in the bird’s eye. Especially with birds that have ‘white eyes’, the inexperienced fancier has to watch out that the eyes don’t get too pale. Louis also gave important advice about recognising the decay of the bloodline, “Watch out when the black stripes on the pigeon’s wing get pale!”

They put the pigeons together after they have discussed it well with each other. The long winter nights are often used for this. The cocks mostly keep their own breeding box. If the hen had good results she can also keep her breeding box. Couples that don’t want to mate also have to stay together, this has no effect on the racing.

THE FEEDING SCHEDULE . . . Sunday am – Some little seeds (between the fingers) plus a bit of sports mixture, pm – 25% barley plus 75% sports mixture, not too much Monday – Same as Sunday Tuesday – Sam as Sunday Wednesday am – Same as Sunday, pm – Sports mixture and just 5% barley. They get a bit more now Thursday am – Same as Sunday, pm – Sports mixture and 5% barley. As much as they want Friday am – Same as Sunday, pm – Same as Sunday Saturday – Same as Sunday, pm – Same (except for the birds who have to race).

The first few days they spend most time in the loft. As soon as the hens have laid their eggs, the Janssens are still curious what colour feather the youngster will have. The colour of feather varies from light and dark chequered to blue and red ones etc. Their favourite colours though are light chequered, blue and red. To the question if birds who have white in their feather can’t race as well because of decay, they laughed and said, “You know better than that! Among all colours are good racing birds, for us it’s just a certain taste.” The ‘Vossen’ have to be red ones, they don’t like pale ‘Vossen’. “But also among pale ones there are good ones”: says Louis expressively. The mating dates are: eight pairs of breeders + January 8; 13 pairs of nest birds + January 22; 14 widowers + February 12.

In total the Janssens have 35 pairs of old birds which stay together for about nine months. During the season the couples don’t get changed, they are split up at the end of October. The feeding of the birds is the one of the most important things in the sport. Often fanciers give the birds too much food. The most important is to keep the birds on the ideal weight and to keep them at that weight. The feeding schedule for short/half distance birds: Monday and Tuesday very light food (after that build it up to more and heavier food). Friday night feed them well. Saturday morning only little seeds (bird seed). Charel’s advice: “Never feed a pigeon much before a race because of thirst during the transportation.”

The brothers compose their own mixture of food. The grains are upstairs in big bags and tubs in their very dry attics. The grains are stirred with a stick every day. The time of feeding the birds is adjusted to the seasons. According to them there is no problem with artificial light, in the past when they were still working they had to use a lamp. But they prefer to disturb nature as little as possible. It is important to use strict times. The birds get: Winter 31% maize, 28% barley, 15% peas, 15% wheat, 5% tic beans, 6% tares. Summer: 30% maize, 27% wheat, 25% English peas, 5% barley, 5% tic beans, 8% tares. The feeding system of the nest birds, widowers and youngsters is described in the next part.

THE EXTRA SUPPLEMENTS . . . The well water is, as you read in the earlier part, ‘the secret weapon’ for the Janssen pigeons. The pigeons always drink this water, and it’s also used for the bathing of the pigeons (once a week). They put a handful of kitchen salt in the bathing water. This experience teaches that the pigeons get more bloom on their feathers from the water from the well; and water from the conduit pipes takes the bloom away. In the past they sometimes put Aviol in the drinking water, but they stopped doing that. Throughout the whole year they put honey in the drinking water on Sunday. Tea made of dead nettles is given one or two days every 14 days after the racing season. Once in a while tea made of plants is given. During the racing season the pigeons never get tea.

Every week the birds get cut carrots. Other vegetables aren’t given. Jef gives the birds downstairs curled kale once in a while. He is also the one that picks the dead nettles and plants in the surroundings of Arendonk. They dry them upstairs in the attic. In all lofts there is vitamineral, grit, calcium of old calcium bricks, and rock salt (looks like a big piece of ice). The vitamineral (with salt) is taken away on Friday and put back on Monday, to prevent that the birds get thirsty during the transportation.

THE NEST BIRDS . . . These exercise three times a day at 7.30am, noon and 5pm. They do this so that as well as the cocks the hens can fly also. In the past the pigeons stayed out of the loft a long time, but nowadays due to the farm chemicals on the land the pigeons are called in earlier. After exercise the birds get small seed (after 7.30pm). At noon they get a bit of sports mixture, and in the evening they get plenty of food. All nest couples get their food in a separate tray.

Charel says that you have to watch out that the birds don’t fatten up too much. That depends on what type of bird it is. A pigeon during breeding and when having little youngsters doesn’t need much food. During the breeding the birds get barley in the mixture. When the youngsters are 8 to 10 days old they get more wheat. Then the Janssens stop giving them barley. In their opinion the birds can feed their youngsters better, they can give milk more easy. The youngsters are weaned after four weeks. In the summer after three weeks. After doing this follows a certain prognosis. The future champs are pointed. The nest birds are in the dark in a half closed breeding box. This offers rest and protection against wind and cold. But especially look at the behaviour of the nest birds, like health and vitality.

The hens are raced the most. As long as the cock doesn’t drive too much, the hen will be raced. The best nest position for a cock is driving his hen, and that the position with one youngster of approximately 8 to 10 days. All birds raise one youngster during the racing season. It is important that the bird during the raising of its youngsters stays healthy. The pigeon may not get a ‘raw’ neck (not too tight in their feathers) and they have to stay shining. “You don’t have to pay too much attention to yearlings who have these symptoms,” according to Louis. “They are in a growing stage.”

Special signs of a nest bird in good racing condition and that is very well motivated are: very sharp in their breeding box, make a lot of noise, eat one or two pieces of food and then immediately back on the nest etc. Ticking with their claw in the breeding box or on the table. Except for the health and the looks of the bird like tight feathers, nice pale flesh and nice red clean feet, it is also often a strange behaviour of the bird that you get an eye for.

To the question: Can a cock that is raced on the nest become a widower? The answer is positive, they even have the experience that the cocks who were raced on nest as yearlings become the best widowers. A cock raced on the nest for three or four years can still become a widower. Pushing and tricks is still a thing the Janssens don’t do.

An funny story though is their ‘Dood duifke’ (dead hen). ‘De Dikke Witoger’ was in that time one of their best nest cocks. At a certain point during the racing season his hen was found dead in the loft. What now? Before transportation they put his dead hen with him in his nest box. On Sunday he flew the 1st prize. “You have to see him come through on Sunday,” Louis tells.

Can nest birds be raced often? Louis says, “The first thing a pigeon must be is healthy and he must recuperate quickly after a race.” Their nest birds and widowers are being raced about 15 races on average. For example he mentions ‘Het Oud Blauwke’ (the old blue one) who was raced five times in 14 days with five top prizes (3 x Quievrain and 2 x Noyon). This is no exception with the Janssen brothers. The fancier needs to keep in mind the strength and the ideal weight of the pigeon. You can’t force them, the eye of the fancier is very important concerning this.

SOME ADVICE . . . – During warm/hot weather you often don’t have success with birds who have ‘milk’. This gets worse when the transport takes a while. – The results on morning flights are better than on flights at noon with hens. Because hens feel that they don’t have to take their place on the nest this time of day (noon). Another little thing that marks a fine craftsman! – Birds who go to the field when they have little youngsters are locked up so that they do not teach other birds this habit. – Widowers aren’t better than nest birds especially yearlings who are sharp on the nest. At the second and third nest the sharpness weakens. You have to try to motivate the birds yourself by giving them extra care.

THE WIDOWERS . . . They exercise twice a day at 7am and 6pm. In the morning they get little seeds, composition of groats, little black sunflower seed, and linseed. They get this the whole year through. The amount is always the same, the food between thumb and middle finger. In the evening they get normal sports mixture. After the weekend 25% wheat is added to the mixture and they are fed lightly. The food and extra supplements are given the same way as with the nest birds. Every bird is fed in a separate tray in the breeding box.

The widowers go out in the morning for about a half an hour, they can’t go back inside then. A flag or any of these methods are never used to keep the birds flying. Charel says, “You musn’t scare a pigeon. They have to fly at free will.” People who do that to keep their pigeons in the air longer often forget that the birds are tempted to go and sit for example on the roof of the neighbour’s house or on the field. ‘De Oude Witoger’ often sat on the plate of the youngsters’ loft.

Widowers all raise one youngster and after approximately 10 days they are put on Widowhood. All hens are removed at the same time. The widowers’ loft is right above the youngsters’ and nest birds’ loft. To the question: “Is that okay?” They say, “We’ve always done it like this.” According to them it doesn’t make a difference. By the way, with taking care of the widowers they don’t pay any attention to reduce noise at the widowers’ loft. “That a widower cannot be disturbed is ridiculous,” says Charel, he comes three times a day to the lofts and visits the lofts just as long as the lofts of the nest birds. “Also when I walk to the youngsters and nest birds, they can also hear me walking,” Charles says. “So the birds will be distracted a few times, and we aren’t silent when we are taking care of the other pigeons.” To the question, How can you see if a widower is in perfect shape? They answered, “That depends from bird to bird, our ‘Schalie-Blauwe’ always sat on the landing board. And ‘Het Licht’ always acted like he wanted to land on the roof and then just before landing he shot up on to the sky like a bullet.”

The yearlings are given the empty nest boxes, this happens as soon as possible. Before the race the cocks get a nest bowl. The old widowers don’t get to see a hen. The yearlings do get to see their hens, after the old cocks are put in the basket. They can stay together till they are both in the nest bowl. The cocks however can’t have sex with the hens. The brothers don’t have a fly in window, so they have to come in through the trap. After the race they can stay together for a half an hour locked in their nest box. If it was a bad race day due to bad weather circumstances they can stay together a bit longer. Even the birds who came in too late (even a day later) can see their hen for a while. The other widowers are locked up in their nest box then.

The widowers are free in the loft the whole week, with their nest box open where a wooden block is placed. The nest bowls are always removed after the race. If there are two cocks who try to mate with each other, the one who had the best results on the races stays in the loft, the other one has to go out. This happens very rarely. Before this happens they do try to make the cocks a bit angry by for instance locking up one cock in another cock’s breeding box in a way that the cock who owns the breeding box cannot go in. The Janssen brothers say it gives good results. Only cocks that look well and are in perfect shape are put in races. Widowers who don’t participate in the race stay in the loft and don’t get to see their hen.

The breeding boxes of the widowers in a race are closed then, “Flying two short races a week is no problem for widowers,” according to Charel. “Stories of people who say that widowers get out of their flight rhythm when you race them twice a week is rubbish,” Charel says. Every different widower has got something peculiar. One is very shy, the other one very bossy. Important though is that a widower doesn’t let himself get knocked out of his breeding box. This kind of pigeon isn’t fit to be a widower.

The cocks stay three months on Widowhood, after that they raise another youngster. That is absolutely no problem. After that it could be possible that a widower, when mated and having a youngster is raced again, on the nest this time. According to them, a widower can also be a good Natural cock after several years of Widowhood. They have good experiences with this in the past. They rarely have trouble getting a widower in when a widower and a Natural hen arrive at the same time from the race. When the bird doesn’t want to come in, they sometimes use a dropper to get him in. When a widower races well, it’s important that you give him back the same hen every time. Charel adds, “A widower flies as soon as the hen and eggs are taken away. It’s rubbish, that it takes two weeks before a cock is ready to race.”

THE WIDOWHOOD HENS . . . “The widow hens play a key role in playing Widowhood,” according to Charel. The hen must totally in love with her mate. If she isn’t the Janssens try to make the cock angry. They never show another hen. After showing the hens to the yearlings, the hens leave the loft immediately and go back to the widow hens’ loft. Before arrival from the race the widow hens are locked up in their nest box with a nest bowl. The widow hens get extra attention. Louis takes care of this. The feeding schedule is the same as with the widowers. The hens are locked up during the season, they stay in a loft and an outside run for three months. As soon as they start mating with each other they stay in the run for the whole day. In the evening they go back in the loft. This only happens when the weather is good! This shows again that the love for the birds is more important than results.

The hens are never locked up separately. A hen is, according to them, only fit to be a widow hen for approximately five years. After that she knows all the tricks in the book and she loses interest for her cock.

SOME MORE ADVICE . . . Take care of your widow hens, try to keep them healthy. The advice is take care of them first. Because many fanciers are tempted to say, “Oh I’ll do that later on.” The widow hen must make the widower fly well. “Listen,” Charel says loudly with his finger pointing in the air, “In these days hardly no one wants to play on the nest, everybody focuses themselves to Widowhood and quit the nest game. But if it’s about breeding young birds for the future, you can’t cope by only focussing yourself on playing Widowhood.”

THE YOUNG BIRDS . . . After the youngsters leave the nest they stay a day in their new loft to get used to the environment. The next day they are put outside on the landing plate to discover the outside world. They repeat this every day. They find it important because this way, the losses will be minimised. Because then the youngsters are too old, something might scare them and the chance of losing many birds is very high then. The first days the brothers are very careful, because the birds might fly a bit and go to the roof. And perhaps can’t get up any more. In the beginning they are outside from 1pm-4pm.

In total they breed 16 winter youngsters and four youngsters are bred in the summer. Both groups are put in the same loft (2 x 2.5m). It is perhaps a disadvantage according to the brothers, but because they don’t have enough space, they have to. The summer youngsters get a bit extra to keep them in optimal shape. Another disadvantage is that the winter birds take summer birds with them, when they go and train. The youngsters get the same food as nest birds, only the corn is replaced by popcorn maize and french maize (extra small). This is only given the first weeks, to teach the youngsters to eat corn. They make sure that they eat everything. Further they get the same extra supplements as the old birds.

They spend a lot of time with the youngsters and give them extra attention because they are the future flyers. Also the base of the close relationship between them and their pigeons is made when the birds are young. You have to teach them strict discipline. The pigeons learn that when the brothers blow their whistle, they have to come inside because they get their food. The whistle is always used when they feed the birds.