The game with hens has become a real fashion trend. Increasingly, pigeon fanciers discover that hens are capable of great performances. Especially in the middle distance and the long distance races, their performance equals the performances of the cocks. Every year there are a few good hens between the youngsters. Why should they not be able to do what they did as a youngster, namely beat the cocks, being yearling or old?
Hens are raced every week and are, after basketing,quieter in the baskets, so they start the race more equipped and stay in shape longer than the widowers.
Some already tried it with total widowhood where both partners are raced, others race with their hens on classic widowhood with a partner staying at home. All kinds of methods have already been tested, but a golden rule that gives the same good results for everyone has not yet been found.
Let's take a look at the methods that pigeon fanciers use who have success with racing hens.
Rik Cools (Ruiselede) 1st Provincial Tours 2017 and silver on the Belgian Master 2016 decided to race with hens only because they can be raced twice as much as cocks. The method of "racing with hens" of the late Remi De Mey was certainly a source of inspiration.
At Rik both the young hens and the yearling hens fly every week.
They do not rest! "Resting with hens is absolutely out of the question", says Rik, "because they then have a tendency to want to mate and that should certainly be avoided. A plus is also that they are already raced in widowhood as a youngster so there are no more couple sick ladies within the group of the yearling hens ".
His racing team is basketed every week on flights of 300 to 600 km. In the racing game with hens he only needs half the number of pigeons that would otherwise be required for racing games with cocks, because they can only be raced every 2 weeks at these distances.
The hens in the racing loft are put on "caps" before the closed box and the cocks remain in the aviary at the back of the hens loft. Rik ensures that there is always one cap on surplus, this to ensure the motivation. On the day of basketing, the young cocks, supplemented with a few old cocks, are left with the hens for about 45 minutes before being basketed, the boxes with nesting dished in it are left open.
When coming home after the race, cocks and hens stay together until the Sunday afternoon.
Rik mainly selects the young hens on their performance. To get through to the next season's racing team they must have raced at least 1 to 2 times with a provincial top result.
After their last flight, the yearling and old hens are moved to the aviary to moult out nicely. On November 25th they can mate and cocks and hens stay together until the youngsters are 10 to 12 days old. Then the racing hens go back to the aviary. In the meantime the racing loft is being cleaned and disinfected, after which the hens are put back on the loft. On March 20, they are
be coupled again. After the last hen has laid eggs, everything is taken away and the cocks go back to the aviary. The hens are loose in the loft, on caps and with wooden grids as floor. The lofts must be dry and airy with preferably not too many pigeons in one loft.
To combat the humidity in the garden lofts, the heating plates are actovated every morning from 4.30 am. until 5.30. The ventilation is controlled with panels in the ceiling. The sun also has a great input on the good shape of the pigeons.
During the spring break, the racing team gets started because they have to be ready for the first Tours. From April 1st , they will be required to train for 1 hour twice a day.
In the beginning, the flag sometimes has to be picked up, but as the season progresses, training will start automatically. The ladies train from 7 to 8 am. and from 6 to 7 pm. As soon as they have fallen, they are called in because wandering on the roof is out of the question.
Under normal circumstances they get a weekly race of about 450 km. If there is a bad or heavy race,then their next race will be one of 100 or 200 km the following week.
The hens are raced in widowhood until the Golden Spurs race, then on the nest. They are basketted on a 10 days breading for Bourges and consequently go to Argenton on a youngster of 8 to 10 days.
Normally a hen races during 3 seasons at Rik's lofts before she can be selected to move to the breeding loft.
Danny & Nick Van Avondt (Wespelaar)-1st Nat. Champ. grand middle distance YL KBDB 2017
To my question where the preference for racing with hens comes from, Danny explains:
"It's simple, widowers need bins. We are here rather limited in the number of lofts. There are 3 lofts for the breeders, each loft 12 pairs, thus possibility for up to 36 couples. Next to the 3rd breeding loft is the loft of the 31 hens with next to it the aviary where they stay during the day. In line with this, the lofts for the youngsters have been raised. Two lofts for the first round and two lofts for the second round. That's how we manage pigeon sport here. "
The hens reside in the aviary since August and remain there until early February. They are released from the aviary for their training sessions and come back in thru the sputnik of the loft. They always train at 3 pm and are raced every week during the racing season. Everything is focused on the grand middle distance. Danny has now, on the advice of friends pigeon fanciers, installed elastic bands at the bottom of the hens loft to prevent the mating on the ground (although he does not expect real problems there). From April onwards, the hens reside in the resting loft from 7 pm till 7 am upon when they go back to the aviary. They are all raced on a weekly basis.
Preparation for the season: In the loft next to the hens there are 12 breeders. A first group of hens is put together with those 12 cocks and lay eggs, then a second group of hens goes on that loft that can stay with the cocks for 5 days, the third group of hens is only one day with those cocks. "And yet, says Dany, I see no difference in performance!"
At Kurt and Raf Platteeuw (Rumbeke) the cocks race every 2 weeks, the hens go into the basket every week. They complete the national program.
In 2017 Kurt and Raf won 23 first prizes, 15 KBDB provincial ace pigeons and numerous national top performances. According to Kurt, it was perhaps his best year in the breadth and for next year the bar lays much higher. The champions are back on the loft and are all raced .... It's the only way top performances can be obtained...
In 2010 it all started with the top performances. In that year father and son Platteeuw won the 1st national Gueret youngsters with their Pauline against 13.885 pigeons.
In 2012 they won with top hen, Devils Daughter, the 1st national Argenton against 4,782 pigeons.
In 2016 they won the 1st national Châteauroux with Emmanuelle against 29.591 pigeons.
A performance list never lies ....
since 2010: 70 KBDB ace pigeons, 3 x 1st national, 2 x Belgian Champion, 2 x 1st general champion West-Flanders and 4 x 2nd general champion West-Flanders.
At the end of the season, the youngsters stay in the same loft, so it is not necessary to transfer. "Discipline is a must. Whoever can't keep to that is inexorably removed ", says Kurt.
The cocks and hens of the racing team are briefly coupled in March (they are not allowed to lay eggs). During that period they are started.
Here too, the hens are raced every week (an exception is made for the distances of 600/700 km), the cocks race every 2 weeks. The national program is completed in teams. Kurt and Raf find experience gaining of primordial importance. That is why their pigeons are also being used for the nationals. According to them, this gives a racing pigeon a huge advantage in the development of the further career. With the 2-year hens (the toppers) the cock is no longer raced. Here too, widowhood is played with the sliding door until the end of the season. "Our pigeons are not motivated in nesting," explains Kurt, "some hens stay with the first cock of their choice, but there are others who would like to change partners and play with the sliding door makes this possible. Each pigeon is motivated in a different way. It is our job to observe well and to find the right motivation so that they are optimally prepared for the race".
There is also a tight training schedule: the teams fly twice a day mandatory for one hour (with the flag). They work with a rotation system. The hens are in the aviaries, the cocks in the loft. The hens are released first, then the cocks.
Because the hens are in the aviaries at night they are faced with considerable temperature differences. "It could be that they are less morbid because of this", Kurt thinks, "it is possible that we have found the solution here by chance". Here too the 10 ° C rule is applied. The morning training is deleted when the temperatures are too cold. From July, young and old train together.
"For the old racing team this gives a boost to the training sessions to let the youngsters fly together with them", explains Kurt.
Luc & Hilde Sioen (Moorslede)
Not with the crowd, not even with a favorable location but 10 x 1st Nat Zone A in 2015-2016-2017
Hilde explains: "From January I release my hens once a week.
My racing hens are coupled in mid-March. The old ones breeds 1 youngster but yearlings raise 2 youngsters to see if they can handle it. As soon as they show feathers, one youngster remains with the cocks, the other one is raised by the hen. The first races I play the hens on the nest. Usually they are trained in two counts, up to 10 km and up to 30 km.
After the weaning of the young the hens perform a little less but that does not take long. The widowhood has started. "
During the season the hens remain loose in the loft. The floor consists of wooden grids, the boxes are closed with the caps. There is little or no intercourse between couples, and if this happens, one of those hens will leave the loft. The hens train twice a day. Both in the morning and in the evening, they first pull away for about 10 minutes and then continue to run a small 20 minute tour around the loft. Once they fall on the roof they are called inside.
Also in terms of motivation there is nothing special to note, before the basketing the cock is left for an hour with his hen and on returning home they stay until the evening with the hen."