Superior on the short and middle distance races
Koos van Koppen, Steenbergen
The fanciers from Steenbergen who play the program-flights have to compete against the pigeon-coaches that live in the area played by cooperative club ‘Mark and Vlietstreek' and these are no less than 200 people! Someone who wants to compete against them needs to remember that for the general championship of the cooperative club, the 600 kilometer races and the long distance races also count. By ignoring these types of flights it will become very hard to win the title!
Koos van Koppen
When you get to the door of the Koppen house, located on the Steenbergse Franse-road, you will find two remarkable things. A sign that warmly says ‘Welcome friends', with a small sticker above it that says ‘Save the mailman'. Thanks to the computer and email traffic, the number of postage that has to be delivered has decreased a lot, and as such the number of mailmen is lowering as well.
One of these mailmen is Koos van Koppen, that was born the son of a farmer in the Westland. On their large barn there were always some pigeons, which father van Koppen did not like. The rainwater from the barn-roof was caught in barrels, and normally used as drinking water. The pigeons on the roof could make that water dirty, and that's why he did not want them around.
After they installed running water, the pigeons were no longer a problem and Koos saw a good chance to get some of his own. Because of his work, Koos moves to Steenbergen after he had been married several years, where he immediately built a loft in his garden. He now plays from this location since 1982 and Koos is proud to tell that he once managed to beat the famous pigeon ‘Mozes' from Toon Schouteren, which not everyone was happy with...
Types of pigeon
Enough about the past, because the present is very interesting to talk about. If I ask Koos about the foundations of his strain, he says that it is not a real strain because he continually looks for new pigeons that can bring even more quality onto his loft. After asking a bit further he mentions some famous names, names that can be traced back to the pedigrees of many other pigeons. I have learned that Koos started his foundation with pigeons from Piet van de Merwe (Dordrecht), the late Geert van Turnhout and the dentist Willem de Bruyn. However, from these strains there is nothing pure remaining on the loft today.
Other fanciers often ask Koos to search special pigeons for them to buy, and sometimes he brings home one or a few pigeons for himself. But he also bought all the young pigeons from the fancier de Heus from Vianen, because he knew he had a top breeder and Koos wanted some offspring from that breeder. And now it turned out he has bred some great pigeons from that big purchase.
Last winter he bought a cock from Groenis de Waal in Bergen op Zoom, that had 1st prizes on their club's level 9, including one in Etampes where he also was the fastest of the entire release! Koos also bought a few sisters from this great flyer and is now waiting for what the offspring will achieve.
With the breeding method, Koos uses the good x good mentality, where he does not care at all about names and strains. If I mention that most fanciers would then not have to spend a lot of time planning which pigeons to couple, he corrects me: "If I don't want youngsters from a pigeon, then I don't need that pigeon at all and he can leave! I only keep pigeons that I trust and from them I want youngsters." All his pigeons (6 breeding couples and 32 couples that later on will be played on the widowhood system) were coupled in the third week of January. Eggs from the breeders are not placed under different pigeons. "I find that hard to do, emotionally," Koos admits. "though I don't think the pigeons themselves mind a lot. If their eggs are suddenly gone, a pigeon won't feel bad but just immediately starts working on another nest!" The couples raise the youngsters until they can be weaned. Most of the time, the hens will have had new eggs by then, which are taken away after a week. The pigeons are then moved to their own compartment in the loft, where they sit all by themselves. There are no special measures to prevent coupling between wrong pigeons. "The daily trainings, the weekly flights and the year-long selections against wrong coupling make sure I have little problems with this. Only at the end of the season might there be hens that will get together, but I place those apart very quickly." Koos explains.
After weaning the youngsters of the First round of breeding, and separating the hens from the cocks, the racing pigeons aren't coupled again. From that moment on, the food they get depends on the weather conditions. In the warm spring of 2007 they got a combination of flying- and disinfecting mix in their food, but this year it was much colder so they had 100% flying-mix.
The older pigeons are only trained with Koos his pigeonclub before the first race, while they are only trained around the house in the afternoon and evening. Wife Ada releases the cocks at 16:00 hours and they are called back by Koos around 17:30. Then the hens are released and they train until 18:45 hours. In that period, Koos has to stay inside or else they immediately return to the loft! "I am not a very good observer," Koos admits. "But I don't even have the patience for it anyway!"
On the day of the basketing the racing pigeons are not trained. Around 17:00 hours the hens are put with the cocks, after which Koos has dinner. When he returns, they are basketed, but pigeons that don't seem in top condition are left on the loft. Once they return home they get some food (the flight-mix from van de Weert) in their loft bowls and he takes his electronic system to the pigeonclub. Once he gets back, the cocks and hens are separated again.
In between the races the pigeons only receive the flight-mix; only a little in the beginning of the week, and a little more each day, because it is important that they want to eat until the basketing day. Fresh grit and redstone are given as an extra, and Koos feeds them a spoonful of his self made mix every day. With the older pigeons, Koos has no experience yet with feeding peanuts to them, but he did buy the peanuts already. The same with sheep's fat, because especially in the last days before basketing, a little extra fat is never a bad thing.
After the weaning, the youngsters are tried out for flying. Only after they fly good circles, they are put in a loft that is darkened from 06:30 to 08:45. Koos his wife, Ada, removes the panels that make the loft dark, and she makes sure all pigeons are fed in the morning. The food is prepared by Koos in advance. At 14:00, Ada releases the youngsters who can fly around for two hours long. Only after the half of june will the youngsters train, from 07:30 to 08:30 in the morning.
Separating the cocks from the hens depends on the health of the pigeons. Separating them only is good when both pigeons seem healthy; if this is not the case, separating them will not help. The training for the youngsters takes a little more time and effort; as soon as they train twice every day, their habits are also trained. From that point on, if they don't enter the loft, they won't get food. A fellow fancier told him: ‘The young pigeons need to train for 45 minutes at least, but you can't achieve that without effort. You have to slowly build it up, so the pigeons can get used to it.'
The lofts of the older racing pigeons are cleaned twice every day, but the loft of the young pigeons has a thick layer of berch-scraps on the floor, so only the places where the pigeons sit have to be cleaned. All the young pigeons have to fly until at least the Orleans race, and some even some races after that. When selecting the pigeons to bring to the races, the ones that remain healthy without extra care are the best choices. Koos does not care about how many prizes he won, but he is more interested in the top prizes he has won.
Koos is mostly not in favor of using medication, but the needed treatment against salmonella is the exception. He never gives preventive treatment and he likes it more to work with double drinking bowls, because bacteria just can't survive in a dry drinking bowl! He does admit that there have been health problems in the last year. A specialized animal doctor advised a specific products against salmonella, and the result was that he scored 1st, 2nd and 3rd place of his pigeon club the next race! He knew that they were healthy again, and that there was no extra need for more medicine.
In the long garden behind the house of Koos stands the 30 meter long loft, that has been divided into 9 parts. The racing hens have one part, late youngsters and widowers both have 4 parts of the loft.
The loft is made from wood with a high roof with tiles. The front is facing towards the east. The inside of the loft is very simple, but the pigeons feel comfortable there and that is all that matters. It is interesting to mention the plank on the floor of the older pigeon's part of the loft. This plank has raised edges on the bottom, so all the dust gathers under there. This makes the loft look nicer and also is healthier for the pigeons.
Koos is one of the few fanciers who can say he never really had a bad season. He has proof in his book where he wrote in all his results. From every race, he wrote down the arrival time of every pigeon, even the late arrivals! He also wrote down things that he noticed when they came home, like ‘wet eye' or ‘very exhausted'. These notes are very valuable when he has to make a selection for another race.
If I ask about his best pigeons, I get an unexpected reply: "It seems my best scoring pigeons have a curse! Something always happens that is negative to them. The 02-1802411 became 2nd place pigeon champion, gained some weight and was dead 3 days later! The same happened to the 06-1212583 this year, who won the same title and was later caught by a bird of prey." The 06-583 was bred from the 02-1802157, a cock from pigeon club member J. Bernaards, who bred him from 2 Ad van Loon pigeons. Bernaards quit the pigeon sport a few years ago, and now ‘157' is a great breeding cock on the loft of Koos. It was coupled with the NL01-2062020 in 2006, who has pigeons from Jan Aarden, de Klak and brothers Janssen in his pedigree.
Koos gave me all his results from 2004 and later, but I will focus on the results of 2007 for now.
Date released in p.* flew** pr*** prizes
0704 Nijvel 1.702 49 28 3, 5, 7, 13, 15, 25, 27, 55,,74 etc.
2104 St. Quentin 2.042 50 39 3, 7, 9, 10, 14, 24, 28, 33, 37, 49, 50, 51, 53 etc.
2804 St. Quentin 2.336 50 38 2, 4, 7, 8, 21, 22, 24, 25, 32, 46, 47, 56, 60, etc.
0505 Morlincourt 2.436 50 32 15, 24, 29, 37, 52, 60, 63, 74, 80 etc.
3006 Pommeroeul 2.355 52 20 3, 4, 7, 37, 59, 73, 74, 77 etc.
25-8 Peronne 987 36 25 2, 3, 7, 10, 15, 20, 21, 36, 44, 50, 57, 66 etc.
0109 St. Quentin 1.085 54 26 2, 3, 5, 9, 12, 20, 24, 25, 27, 28, 51, 52, 63, etc.
* = number of pigeons in the race
** = how many pigeons Koos used in the race
*** = the total number of prizes he won in the race
These results gave him the following championship titles:
2nd short distance not nominated.
2nd short distance nominated.
2nd middle distance not nominated.
2nd short distance youngsters not nominated
2nd short distance youngsters nominated
2nd mixed race not nominated
2nd Pigeon champion with NL06-1212583
3rd Pigeon champion not nominated, won without participating in the overnight long distance races
Several results from pigeon club ‘de Zwaluw' in 2007
Date released in p. flew pr prizes
07-04 Nivilles 682 49 29 1-3-4-6-7-8-9-13-17-20-24-26-31-34-37-38 etc.
14-04 Pommeroeul 887 50 28 4-7-8-9-15-21-36-42-47-56-66-75-82-93-94 etc.
21-04 St.Quentin 954 50 39 1-2-3-4-8-9-11-12-14-17-18-22-24-25-31-32 etc.
05-05 Morlincourt 960 50 34 4-9-11-14-25-26-28-30-31-34-43-45-48 etc.
30-06 Pommeroeul 710 52 29 1-2-4-5-7-16-17-18-21-22-28-29-30-31-32 etc.
01-08 Nivilles 701 60 30 2-5-10-20-21-23-24-25-26-30-32-33-39-40 etc.
These results gave him the following championship titles:
1st Champion short distance nominated and not nominated
1st Champion middle distance not nominated
1st Championship short distance nominated and not nominated youngsters
Allround champion youngsters not nominated
1st Champion after-season races not nominated
1st Allround champion not nominated and 2nd nominated
1st Total pigeon champion NL 06-1212583
I only gave a small number of results of last year to give an impression of the play quality on the loft of Koos. For a more complete overview I could have included some more years of results, and I am sure you would have been impressed by the surprisingly strong achievements. That he does not achieve more titles is because he rarely races on the overnight long distance races and only plays the 600 km races with the pigeons that did not perform their best in previous races. You can only stand out in these races if you bring your best.
This year Koos has a strong start. His cocks were flying in the air at the time I visited and one look into the loft where the hens were, convinced me that all the pigeons were looking very good. The competition has been warned!