Berlaar: Gaston Van De Wouwer… 75 year… his hobbies are pigeon sport, bicycles and hiking. ‘The last 2 are obliged by my doctor’ is how Gaston starts of his story. ‘He says that I’ve got smoker’s lungs, but I never touched a single cigarette in my entire live. I did work a lot with guys that smoked with as a result a smoker’s lung by passive smoking. The doctor obliges me to ‘open my lungs’ daily and that’s why I need to ride my bike or walk. But honestly…I don’t see this as a task as I really enjoy this daily sport’.

And then the pigeon sport. After his sale in 2014, Gaston took a so called second leap. More than 80 summer youngsters were kept and he selected 24 breeding couples out of these. These couples became the parents/grandparents of the current top pigeons on his loft. Again this is proof how much class there is in the Van de Wouwer pigeon.

Gaston…congratulations on your season…am I wrong stating that this might be your best season ever? You won both a national victory as a national ace bird title!

That is hard to say…every one enriches himself on these titles or 1st prizes. I always regret the fact that some one that races really hard meaning one that has a very high percentage on real head prizes but didn’t win a 1st prize or even a top 10 spot are being overlooked so easy. Every fancier should get a lesson on ‘how do I read a pigeon results list’. I could even have won very few head prizes but I do win those 2 titles and even then everyone would claim that I had an amazing season while this isn’t the fact. But lucky for me these 2 titles are accompanied with the necessary head prizes and I can state without hesitation that the season of 2018 is one of my top seasons. ‘

Your national ace bird “New Kim”… can you tell more about her? 

“New Kim” was just as all my other young hens coupled against old cocks. A simple system which I have used for years now and it makes me feel good. After the first Quièvrain 25 young hens are coupled against old cocks that are being kept especially for this. During the week the young hens remain on the loft in breeding boxes and the cocks remain in aviaries. The breeding boxes are made smaller to avoid pairing up amongst each other. On the day of basketing the cocks come on the loft during half an hour. The hens are being basketed and the cocks remain on the loft until the ladies come home.

“New Kim” didn’t show herself until Bourges national. She only won a small prize and on Bourges she even failed. But then Chateauroux National came and she won the 2 national against 17,280 pigeons. Then National Argenton was on the schedule and again she showed herself by winning the 12th National against 16,496 pigeons.

So on the last national race it was all or nothing…you must have had a couple of sleepless nights, no?

Oh no…when I used to race Quièvrain…those were the days of sleepless nights…but not anymore. This hen was off course one of my favourite ones and when the pigeons were about to arrive my garden was full of Chinese people. One of the spectators kept an eye on the race via the online registrations and you could feel the pigeons coming in a matter of speaking. I had 12 pigeons in the race with 11 blue ones and seen that ‘New Kim’ also is a blue one, I gave her a recognition ring. The spectators didn’t know that and when a blue hen landed, I immediately saw it was her. Everything was filmed and those who watched the movie could see that I was really calm. Only when she was registered I raised my hands up and shouted out it was her. The Chinese became crazy! She won the 21st National against 12,855 young birds. The national title was in!

Gaston…when you know that your pigeon needs to race one more time a head prize, then you will do everything to make this happen, no? Then you will motivate her extra or pass by the veterinary an extra time, no?

Sorry…but I need to disappoint you. I handled just as all the races before. I didn’t do anything extra with ‘New Kim’; I didn’t take her an extra time in my hand or didn’t give her an extra peanut. No…at the contrary…I never thought she would be so early. The last national race was on the 15th of September and the week before they started to lose some small feathers. It was even worse at the day of basketing…when I placed her fixed partner in her box; he didn’t even show any interest in her….they didn’t even crawl together in the nest dish. I noticed this immediately and gave her another cock but this one was so fears that she was afraid of him. The cock was way to wild. I then took her of the loft. Luckily I didn’t keep my wallet closed when basketing and could win a nice amount of money on poulage.
Also on a medical way I didn’t do anything special. No extra visit to the vet or no extra cure against anything. Just do as you always do! In a matter of medical guidance, the young birds were treated with Flagyl powder in June during 5 days. 14 days before Bourges, half of July, the young birds suffered infections of the eyes. On advice of the vet I cured them and aside this the medicine cupboard stayed closed. During the season I visit every month Dr. Mariën and twice a year (once before the breeding season and once before the racing season) I also visit my good friend Dr. Henk De Weerd.

Your year bird hens also had a top season with even a national victory as a highlight…could you give more details about your system.

  1. My 20-headed hen’s team reside on a specially made loft for them that consist of one part with living boxes and one part, a rest loft with special hens boxes. The bottom of the resting loft is spanned with rubber bands so the hens can’t sit on the floor.
  2. On the 1st of December 2018 they were coupled and the hens got the eggs from the breeders. When the youngsters were 14 days old, the cocks moved to the aviaries and the ladies raised the youngsters on their own. Once the youngsters were big enough the hens also went into aviaries.
  3. Last year the hens were being coupled for a second time on the 15th of March and could breed for a maximum of 5 days. After this they moved to their resting loft.
  4. Shortly the first training flights followed and via 1x Quièvrain and 2x Noyon it went direction middle distance and the national races. The hens are raced weekly…I don’t listen to the weather forecasts.
  5. My hens system is in fact the ideal system for fanciers that need to go out working daily as believe me or not…I only go to my hens in the evening from 17h to 18h. Only in the summer when it gets really hot I go give them fresh water in the morning but aside that they don’t see me. So note that my hens only train once a day and only get fed once a day. Fifteen minutes before the hens’ daily training I feed them and then they can go into the air. They train without a problem for one hour. I never have problems with hens that want to come in after 5 minutes and I believe this is because I feed them first. To get them in easy I use peanuts and a candy mixture as decoy. I put these outside on the shelf and inside the loft and once they know this they jostle each other to get in. To be clear…the hens enter their resting loft and not the loft with the living boxes…they only come there after a race.
  6. Feed is very important but I don’t use one specific brand. Last year I fed Beyers during the season but it is possible that I’ll work with the mixtures from Versele-Laga in 2019. Every brand has its mixtures to feed light in the beginning of the week and to feed them heavier along the basketing date approaches. They can eat daily all they want.
  7. In a matter of side products they get Belgasol in the drinking water at homecoming. On Sundays I put fresh garlic in the drinking pot and on Mondays I put 4-Oils (Herbots) + Mineral Mix (Mariën) over the food. On Tuesdays they get condition powder from Mariën and on Wednesday’s again fresh garlic in the drinking water. On Thursdays (day of basketing) Belgasol. Once a month I also give the syrup from vet Mariën.
  8. Before basketing the hens get to see their cock for about 15 minutes but this year I was tired off this already after 3 weekends. Taking 20 cocks out of the aviaries…I couldn’t keep this up anymore and I changed my system. I now basketed my hens before they even got to see their cock and I left 3 random cocks onto the loft. The hens are also very motivated this way and I kept on doing this. Much easier and equally efficient.
  9. In a matter of medical guidance the ladies were treated in October during 8 days with Parastop. End of April a ¼ of Flagyl was given and that’s it for the rest of the year.
  10. As noted before I started of the season of 2018 with 20 hens and from this group 10 survived the selection. In 2019 I’ll race with 10 old and 5 yearling hens.
  11. Everyone I know asks about my system…but honestly, I don’t know anything either about pigeons. I do have my fixed base in taking caring of the pigeons but aside that I also try to do what I think is best. Don’t ask me now what I will be doing in 2 or 3 months.

Gaston…I assume that you also have once in a while a pigeon that doesn’t perform, is this one being selected out quickly?

Off course, I do have these kind of pigeons…normally they can fail three times…if they fail a 4th time I take them of the loft.

Do they have to perform well as a youngster as well or do you give that one youngsters that didn’t win a single prize as a young bird another chance as a year bird?

No…the young birds have to proof themselves already as a young bird that they can race the head of the race. The reason is that they are being raced on widowhood as a young bird already, so they have been tested out in the system and that is the most important thing for me. Imagine that I would race my young birds on the sliding door system then it might be that a ‘non-prize winning pigeon’ would stay overwinter as he or she are about to be raced on another system and can maybe find the necessary motivation in that system to perform top

Who would you go to get pigeons? 

That’s not an easy question and I’m certainly not going to put names to it but it would be someone that follows a system like mine. For example, if someone is going for a toss daily with his pigeons and I don’t do that…I don’t have to go and get pigeons that are used to that system. I like to get new blood from a fancier that races well with old and year birds. There you can find, in my opinion, pigeons that already proved themselves by performing well against selected competitors.

When we visited your lofts I saw on 1 loft a cupboard against earth radiation…why don’t you have that in every loft if you believe in that? 

Well noticed but this is a story a part. You see my loft…left are the young hens and on the right the young cocks but for one reason or another the young cocks never felt at ease on that loft. I even noticed that they slept on the floor against the door instead of in the boxes. Last year Edwin Verstappen came here with a German fancier to visit and this man convinced me to put an ‘anti water veins cupboard’. Once I installed that I noticed that the young cocks didn’t sleep on the floor anymore and looked much better. I’ll race them on the middle distance races this season…I’m curious whether this will show its effect.

Speaking of the racing season…you will now race under the name Hok Van de Wouwer?

Indeed…my name won’t show on the results list anymore, this is being changed into Hok Van de Wouwer as all the pigeons are owned now by my son Kurt Van de Wouwer. Saying this I would like to thank him and my wife Maria as she does all the administration of the pigeons.

Gaston…we already look out for the next top results of Hok Van de Wouwer…thank you for this cosy chat.

Stefan Mertens