Jan and Rik Hermans (from Zandhoven) have been known for years in the international pigeon world, among others through their well-known pigeon magazine “De Duif”. Also, in pigeon racing as such, Rik Hermans has in recent years claimed his position in the absolute Belgian top in the heavy middle distance races (500-600 km). We visited Rik Hermans’s colony to ask him some questions about his preparation for the new season.
- Have your racing pigeons done any winter breeding? And will they possibly be paired a second time?
- When do you start letting out the racing pigeons and do you do a lot of training with the old pigeons/yearlings at the start of the season? And what happens during the training sessions during the season itself?
- How are they fed in the run-up to the season, at the first flights and later on in the season? Together or individually?
“The racing pigeons never do any winter breeding. The youngsters have always been darkened for a long time during the past season and therefore they are not really ready for winter breeding yet. Moreover, during the winter, I am very busy with visitors from abroad, sales, fairs, etc. The racing pigeons are only paired in the middle of March and are allowed to breed for five to ten days before they leave on widowhood. In 2020, the racers were paired again in mid-March, but because of the delayed start due to corona, they were able to raise their youngsters for the first time. Hens did go to their section before they had to lay again and were still allowed to feed the youngsters when the cocks were loose.”
“Around the middle of January, the racing pigeons leave the youngster loft with aviary, where they have been all winter, back to their own loft. After a few weeks they are released regularly. After pairing and when the weather is good enough, the pigeons fly twice a day. The hens at 06:00, the cocks at 07:00 and then again in the evening at 16:30 and 17:30. After a few weeks, the old pigeons/yearlings are lapped three to five times up to 40 km and then go along to Quievrain. From the start of the national flights, they continue to train once a day in the morning. So normally, for about six weeks, the pigeons train twice a day for an hour. And then for the rest of the season once a day (with a helium-filled balloon on a fishing rod) is still necessary, but this does not always have to be for an hour. The old widowers are never lapped during the season. When they are brought to the nest in July, they are lapped almost daily for 40 or 60 km. We leave at 06:00 in the morning, release them at 07:00 and get home in time to avoid traffic jams.”
“In the winter period the pigeons get mainly Plus I.C.+ Mutine. At the beginning of January they move from the youngster loft - with aviaries - where they stay the whole winter, to the race loft. Then I switch to Plus I.C.+ Gerry. This is given until the pairing in mid-March, then they get about ten days of breeding mixture, and then again the Plus I.C.+ Gerry.
Before Quievrain and Noyon (only preparation) mainly Plus I.C.+ Gerry is given. Only during the last or last two feeding sessions the feed is switched to Plus I.C.+ Champion, just as on the day of return home. For middle distance it is again Plus I.C+ Champion on the day of arrival home, afterwards Plus I.C.+ Gerry, but from the day before basketing Plus I.C.+ Champion is given. Before the great middle distance races and on return home, and often the next morning Plus I.C.+ Champion is given. After that Plus I.C.+ Gerry until Tuesday morning. From Tuesday evening it is either Plus I.C.+ Champion or 50% Plus I.C.+ Champion and 50% Plus I.C. + Gerry. From Wednesday 100% Plus I.C.+ Champion, perhaps supplemented from Wednesday evening with 50% Plus I.C.+ Energy, and this kept up until basketing on Thursday evening.
The pigeons are always fed together and can eat as much as they like. For the hens this is in the morning 15 minutes before they go to their resting loft, where they only have something to drink. And then another 20 to 30 minutes in the evening.
The cocks can also eat as much as they want. If they leave a lot of feed behind, I take away the surplus. If there is only a little left over, I leave it in the tray and usually it will be finished by the evening or in the morning.”
“The old pigeons normally go along the first weekend of April. The cocks certainly, the hens when they have laid two eggs, so it depends a bit on the moment of pairing. Normally, depending on the date of the first national race, the pigeons ideally fly—depending on the weather—Quievrain (113 km) twice, Noyon (218 km) twice and then middle distance (320-360 km) three times, although the latter has only been possible twice in recent years. I have never let my pigeons fly a preparatory great middle distance race before the first national race. Of course, my young pigeons have already done three or four national races, so they already have the necessary experience as yearlings.”
“The hens fly every week. Preferably two national flights and then an “intermediate flight” (speed or middle distance). Only towards the end of the season it may happen that occasionally they get a week’s rest. Then we may sometimes lap them up to 40-60 km ourselves. Preferably, the cocks fly two consecutive national races and then they have an “interim flight” or, depending on the circumstances, a week’s rest. So, they are not lapped. For recovery, I use Hemolyt 40 in the water after the race, and Form-Oil Plus with B-Pure and possibly vitamins/amino acids over the feed. In the build-up (great middle distance) we mix Dextrotonic and Carmine Mega Forte in the water on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In addition, Boost X5 and Form-Oil Plus are regularly added to the feed on Tuesday evening and Wednesday.”
“For preparatory flights, they are only shown after returning home. Long enough, several hours to half a day (in the evening). From middle distance they are always shown about 30 to 45 minutes before basketing. The couples are then locked up and I can easily catch them when basketing. After coming home from the great middle distance, they stay together until the evening, and sometimes until the next morning.”
“All beginnings are difficult. Try to start with good pigeons. They certainly do not have to be expensive pigeons. Start with eggs or late youngsters from a small fancier in the neighbourhood and then it is just a matter of being patient. Focus on one part, don’t try to participate in everything, especially in the beginning. If you have questions, follow the advice of one or two experienced fanciers in the area. Don’t let yourself be influenced by twenty different people, because everyone has a different opinion and after all, many roads eventually lead to Rome.”