De Boe Maarten – Schendelbeke
1st National ace KBDB old birds Marathon ’23

Schendelbeke: The dice of the national KBDB championships have been cast. The winners are known and a very striking name in the list of national champions is that of 34-year-old Maarten De Boe from Schendelbeke (Geraardsbergen borough).
Maarten used to get acquainted with pigeon racing when he still lived with his parents in Onkerzele. Speed with young pigeons was his thing and even then he proved to have a knack for pigeon racing as he was on the podium of several youth championships. But the steps in life, namely studying, working and starting a family, did not extinguish his love for pigeon racing. Maarten says: “pigeon sport continued to fascinate me and even though I no longer had pigeons myself, I continued to follow it. I wrote reports for the Herbots family and for Pipa I visited the national winners every week for two seasons. Because of this, I did not lose the feeling with contemporary pigeon sport.”
We have to tell it like it is. Maarten has a very busy family and professional life because in addition to his day job as director of a school specialised in “special education Type 2”, he is now very well known as a pigeon photographer under the name “Columba Photography”. Thousands of pigeons have already appeared in front of his lens, countless top breeders, national ace pigeons and other top pigeons have already been photographed by him.

Directly towards long-distance racing
Maarten continues: “Thanks to my pigeon photography, I was able to finance my 2nd start in pigeon racing and we are talking about the 2021 season. For one reason or another, I have always had a soft spot for pigeons that can do the heavy work and despite many people calling me crazy; I immediately went into the long distance. Marathon requires marathon pigeons and because I didn’t want a legion of foreigners, I rang the doorbell of only two long distance fanciers Dirk Martens (Deinze) and Hendrik Mortier (Bruges). I had met them both before and they both appealed to me as “people” and that was the decisive factor to get pigeons from them. Apart from pigeons, I can also ask both of them for good advice and that has helped me a lot.
With Dirk I got pigeons from the following pigeons
SUPERSONJA: Won among others the title 1° Belgian hen on 3 international races 2019 PIPA-ranking as well as 4 x Top 100-National.
WALDO: Won a.o. the title 1° Belgian pigeon 3-year ranking at Pau 2015-2017 PIPA ranking as well as 3 x Top 100 National.
BARRY: Won a.o. 3° National Pau 2018 & the title 11° National Ace Pigeon Heavy Distance 2018 as well as 5 x Top 250-National.
BLEKE LEO: Won a/o 2° National Perpignan 2022 as well as 4 x Top 250-National.

With Hendrik I put children from following toppers children in my basket:
KLEINEN: Won among others the titles 1° Belgian pigeon on 3 international flights 2017 PIPA ranking & 3° National Ace Pigeon Heavy Long Distance 2019 as well as 7 x Top 100 National.
FRULLE: Won, among others, the titles 8° Nat. Acebird Heavy Distance 2017 / 1° Prov. Acebird Heavy Distance 2017 / 2° Prov. Acebird Heavy Distance 2018 as well as 4 x Top 100-National.
BARCA4BROERS: Won among others the title 4° Best Belgian Pigeon 2-year ranking at Barcelona 2018-2019 PIPA ranking as well as 4 x Top 100-National.
WIMKO: Won a.o. 1° Provincial Barcelona as well as 3 x Top 100-National

In 2022, Maarten made his debut on the International flights and Agen and Narbonne were the big targets for his yearlings. On Agen, he achieved regionally on 294 d.: 2 (1°gnature and 68°nat.), 43, 69, 86, 88, 95 (6 out of 20). The same yearlings went to Narbonne and he achieved regionally at 241 d: 6 (189°nat.), 12, 15, 25, 29, 30, 51, 73 (8 out of 15). Immediately he finished 3rd in the championship heavy long distance yearlings in the local “Denderbond Ninove”.

And then last season 2023. The year of the breakthrough. Driven by his great drive, he proved that his approach and vision was the right one. Where everyone dreams of breeding a national ace pigeon once in their lifetime, Maarten succeeded after only three years. His “Little Sonja” takes the title with a huge small coefficient (0.121%) over two international races. Later in the report we will return to this unique marathon pigeon in more detail but his racing team also performed strongly in width. On the international flights he basketed 134 pigeons of which he scored 68 prizes (=50.7%) of which 23 per ten (=17.1%). He only played on the flights Pau, Agen, Marseille, Narbonne and Perpignan with the following results:

Pau club. 102 oude: 1,4,6,8,17,24 (6 op 19)
Agen club. 175 oude: 12,13,14,27,30,34,47,59 (8 op 13)
Agen club. 227 jaarse: 1,3,8,15,19,22,23,27,28,29,30,37,43,45,46,47,53,56,57,58,61,73 (22 op 45)
Marseille club. 48 oude: 4,8,10,11 (4 op 5)
Narbonne club. 127 oude: 1,9,16,19,23,24,33 (7 op 9)
Narbonne club. 206 jaarse: 4,9,11,25,29,31,32,38,41,53,55,59,65,66,68 (15 op 35)
Perpignan club. 145 oude: 2,4,12,19,32,47 (6 op 8)


As a young pigeon…separating the wheat from the chaff
“In my breeding loft, I have 25 fixed breeding couples. These are paired on 1 January and are allowed to breed 5 rounds. Attention, these 5 rounds they do not breed one after the other. After the 3rd round, I separate the breeders for a short period and some are even re-paired.
There is 1 rule for the youngsters and that is “gain experience”. The 1st and 2nd round contains about 80 youngsters. These youngsters are just mixed together, no separate sexes, no darkening or lighting system, really pure nature. Should a young hen deposit an egg, it will be removed immediately.
In terms of care, they are vaccinated twice with Paramyxo/Rota and once against smallpox. For the rest, the medicine cabinet remains closed. Nothing against ornithosis, nothing against tricho (also no yellow drops) and in case of Adeno virus, sleeping out is the message. “Daflor 3 in 1 Mix” is the only thing of which a daily dash goes into the drinking water. As food, they get breeding mix for a fairly long time in the beginning and afterwards Champion Plus IC (Versele-Laga) is on the menu.
From the 2nd week of July, when the school year is done, I have time to train the youngsters and immediately I go to Beloeil, a 27km distance anyway. Of course I know losses but I know as many losses as someone who goes to 27km in several steps. Once the first training flight is finished, the youngsters of the 1st and 2nd round go with me as much as possible.

This year, for example, they have flown 7 x Noyon (150km) and 2 x Toury (320km). Normally they also fly the last national flight for the youngsters from Chateauroux but as they predicted more than 30 degrees this year I didn’t take any risk. A yes, out of about 80 weaned youngsters (1st and 2nd round) there are now 47 left. There are fanciers with more losses.
The other youngsters are raised very quickly and usually work through 5 to 6 speed flights. Especially now with this beautiful autumn, they sometimes go into the basket twice a week.
Gaining experience and separating the wheat from the chaff…that is the task.

As a yearling…2 international races
All those who survive the selection as youngsters get a chance as yearlings. Once the last race as a young pigeon is finished, they get a ticket to the aviary where they can fully moult. During this period, “Daflor 3 in 1” and “Röhnfried Hessechol” regularly return to the drinking bowl and sometimes sulphur flower is added to the feed. The combination of rest, plenty of oxygen and a good diet + by-products will guide the pigeons perfectly through the moult.
In February, all racers are paired. For the 2023 season, the racing team consisted of 60 yearlings and 30 old birds. For the 2024 season this will be 85 yearlings and 60 old birds.
Once February, the pigeons are paired and allowed to incubate for 10 days. Once the eggs are separated the hens and cocks are separated and played on total widowhood/chaos system. The cocks and hens are used from the first races and if one of them stays behind, a new pair will be formed.

Believe it or not but from the first speed flights in mid/late March they go with them. Via Quievrain (45km), Noyon (150km) and middle distance (320km) they go to Vierzon, another provincial flight and Bourges national. I’ll say it again, they go along weekly and apart from one outlier I shouldn’t expect any prizes.
In terms of care, they get Champion Plus IC and Daflor during this period but nothing else is treated medically. Before rearing I sometimes go to the waiting room of vet Wim Boddaert (Oostkamp) and if necessary I only treat them against tricho.
Once the basketing date for Vierzon is approaching, I step up my game and I literally follow the care schedule of Röhnfried (see brochure Koerier).
Everything happens in function of 2 international races. For the yearlings this was Narbonne and Agen and for the old ones this was Pau and Narbonne. On these races I like to basket them, with a youngster of 2 days old around their neck. Only the yearling pigeons from Narbonne were basketed at the end this year.
Everything is being done to hopefully achieve top results on these 2 internationals. The feed is enriched with energy-rich mixtures such as Energy Plus IC and the week before each international race they are treated against ornithosis for 3 to 4 days. This is the only time they are treated and it is done 100% in consultation with vet Wim Boddaert.

“Little Sonja”, 1st National ace pigeon KBDB Marathon
We had them in our hands… what exceptional class. A block of dynamite. Of the smaller type but perfectly built. Round as a bullet with trembling muscles. Fat spots on her wing show that the form is not yet gone. “She is paired against her father and soon her young will have to peck out. The nesting position at which she normally cannot be kept” Maarten clarifies. It’s easy to talk afterwards but to be honest “Little Sonja” has always been my favourite. On her first flight, she went into the basket as the first drawn and remained so until the end of her career. “Little Sonja” stood out because during daily training she always wanted to be first in. “Little Sonja” stood out because she did not let herself be done on the shorter flights either. At Vierzon this year, she flew 3rd locally against 339 old birds and 32nd prov. against 6,489 old birds.

Last season she shone at Pau International and Narbonne International. Both times she was basketed on a 2-day-old youngster. Both performances I will never forget. The Pau pigeons were released at 7.20am with the most beautiful weather a pigeon fancier can imagine. According to the gauges of the first French pigeons, it was still possible to clock on release day but evening was falling and it was getting dark. The hope of still getting one through became smaller by the second. And yet…at 22h40 and 36 seconds “Little Sonja” registered. Can assure you the adrenaline was coursing through the veins. This is what a lover does it for. Finishing 889km on the same day at an average speed of 966m/m. It is not given to every pigeon. Her ring number was 13th nationally.
Narbonnen was also special. A heavy rain zone passed over the country from west to east and the sky was dense and the rain was pouring down. “No pigeon comes through here” I heard several fanciers say and yet, at 19h51 “Little Sonja” was back there. Soaking wet from fighting the wind and rain to get home. The 853km was completed at an average speed of 1,199m/m.

You ask about the future of “Little Sonja”, well…she will get a place in the breeding loft. I have only been building my marathon colony for 3 years and hopefully “Little Sonja” will become the base hen of my colony. Apart from some three vouchers benefiting locales where I play, no pigeon will be sold here. My dream is to build a strong marathon colony and that road is too long.

Season 2024
The intention is to play several international races but I still have to figure out how I am going to do it all. I have 12-metre lofts and now it will be a puzzle to get pigeons ready for the international race. I will see how I will approach it; will it be “try and error” or “try and copy”? Hopefully the latter.

And, don’t forget to note my special thanks to Dirk Martens and Hendrik Mortier. Without them, this dream would never have come true.

Stefan Mertens