The Pigeon Lofts

How often has it been questioned already? What’s more important, a good pigeon loft or good pigeons? Without cerebrating for a long time, I can answer that both of it is extremely important. A moderately arranged loft in combination with excellent pigeons can boast successes, but surely not outstanding performances.

On the other hand, the combination of an excellent loft and moderate pigeons cannot result in pigeon racing at the highest level as well. These questions were of course posed by Jos Thoné, too. His aim was accurately defined: He wanted to be the best, and only an excellent pigeon loft and the very best pigeons are good enough therefore. Still today, one can confirm that the concept of his loft as a whole is unique – an idea of Jos Thoné himself.

Jos benefited from experiences of Thomas Peeters, his father-in-law. And he reflected on everything by himself.

His lofts should therefore be built according to his particular insights and ideas, too. You’ve really got to see the lofts at the Kruisstraat, at least once.

They set a prime example for usefulness. Jos constructed the whole pigeon loft by himself, with the help of a friend. All external and internal walls are made of Ytong stones, which can easily be handled and ensure brilliant insulation. For optic reasons the external walls have been equipped with clinker bricks in addition.

The whole loft features a longitude of 60 metres and an area of 300 m². Everything is geared to allow the accomplishment of the daily elementary activities (like cleaning the lofts or providing for the pigeons) in a minimum of time. It was the stated aim of Jos Thoné to spend as less time as possible for useless activities.

He had scrapped the droppings at the loft of his father-in-law long enough. Now it appears to him as a simple waste of time. Today his motto is rationality and efficient working. The time which is saved by the rationalisation of mechanical operations is especially dedicated to the pigeons themselves. Asked for that special issue Jos answered once:

"Almost all pigeon breeders claim that they do a lot for their pigeons. But what does their work look like?

Most of the time is spent on carrying baskets, cleaning drinking troughs and scrapping droppings. No time remains for the pigeon itself. You have to focus on essentials and therefore keenly reduce the pure mechanical work."

Modern pigeon racing consists mainly of observing pigeons intensely, looking after them individually and strengthening the bond between breeder and pigeons. In former times as well as today, these are factors which made and make up a big part of the success. Thoné’s lofts are – like already mentioned – made of Ytong stones. Altogether they have a depth of 5 metres. At the front, compartments with a depth of 2 metres are arranged behind the corridor. At their back in turn, you can find an aviary behind every single compartment. All lofts are equipped with grillages.

The dung is cumulated in the so called "dung-cellar", which is cleared out if necessary. Normally only once a year. The cellar’s floor is well isolated against the ascending humidity. He has got quite an intense decline in order to facilitate the highpressurecleaning. The water runs outside through a channelling and drains away in a welldrain.

In 1991, Jos started his career with youngsters, at his new lofts. At first, only sitting-shelves were installed in the loft. At a later date, the nesting cubicles with conveyor belts were added. But why conveyor belts? Jos told me the following: "More than enough, I’ve scrapped droppings at the lofts of my father-in-law.

Precious time has been lost." The one who gets a look at Jos Thoné’s pigeon lofts for the first time will surely be surprised:

He won’t find the traditional garden lofts, like we know them just too well. There are no fly-ins at eye level, but big windows reaching to the floor serving as fly-ins. Once, I experienced the pigeons’ arrival from a race with Jos and I could not stop marvelling. The homing pigeons touched down on the grass or the footpath in front of the windows or flew into the loft in a direct way. It was fascinating. Wrong world – one could guess. But nothing is less true. Jos had thought accurately about everything: He had built the lofts at the level of the even soil in order to avoid climbing stairs - what he had done for more than a decade in the lofts of his father-in-law. The contact with the pigeons should be strengthened as well. Furthermore, the family was to be integrated. No one should pose the question where Jos was again. No, everything should be clear. Besides, Jos thereby wanted to attain an adaptation of the pigeons to the family and not the other way round. That’s an idea which calls for a walkthrough, my dear pigeon fancier colleagues!

Reduced to a common denominator, Jos brought together all his experiences made in his younger days at the house of his father and later at the one of his father-in-law. On that base, he built his own loft. Like already mentioned he had scrapped droppings and hauled widowhens in and out more than enough. That’s a complete waste of time in his opinion. He got to know the cubicles with conveyor belts for the dung in Jüchen, at the house of Heinz Willi Ritz. In Belgium, they didn’t exist at that time. Why shouldn’t he use them for his own lofts? Jos installed them.

The one who guesses that it is Jos’ first job in the morning to switch on the conveyor belts and only afterwards he would start his work is completely wrong. First of all, the dung in the cubicles is controlled. Then the conveyor belts are activated. I definitely know that a lot of breeders do not operate in this way: They immediately press the button and start the automatic cleaning machine. I can only advise them to think about the fact that there’s a lot to be recognised in the dung…

The conveyor belts as well as the "dung cellar" show another advantage which probably hasn’t been recognised by many pigeon breeders yet. In this way, emergence of dust is reduced within the loft. Dust represents an often underestimated danger for man and beast. If Jos Thoné had known that already exactly when he had built the pigeonries, he would have had installed conveyor belts beneath his floor grillages, too. Jos Thoné plays his pigeons according to the system of total widowership. That means he plays the females as well as the males. The hens are accommodated behind the lofts of the widowers. Jos can simply bring them together by opening a sliding gate at the back board of the particular loft. One can ask now how the daily separated free flight looks like in this case: Actually, that’s quite easy. At first, Jos releases the hens through a common corridor. While the females are flying, the males are leaving their compartment through the opened sliding gate at the back board of the widowers’ loft and afterwards are waiting in the females’ compartment.

After their workout the females fly into the widowers’ loft and its nesting cubicles. When all females are back in the loft again, the widowers are released from the hens’ loft. Then, the females are pushed into their own loft again. After finishing their workout, the males can fly directly into their own loft.

The organisation on the whole looks quite difficult at first, but it’s simply a matter of  habituation. It’s a functional and elaborate business. Now, it is time to spend some lines for the juvenile pigeons as well. Jos Thoné can play 200 or more juvenile pigeons. It takes some time to get 200 juvenile pigeons into baskets, one may think for sure. But that’s not true in the case of the rational thinking and acting Jos Thoné. He simply places a pigeon basket against the separating fence of the juvenile pigeons’ loft, opens a sliding gate, spreads some food into the basket and the pigeons get into it without any bigger problems.

That’s rationalisation à la Jos Thoné. You really have to look at all the details at Jos Thoné’s, at least once. Surely, you’ll get abundantly helpful suggestions in As, Kruisstraat 7.

Quality from the base

Of course, the most important thing concerning the sport of pigeon racing is the quality of the pigeons. The quality of the breeding base is the foundation for success in pigeon racing. It surely cannot be mentioned often enough. Therefore, top priority has to be given to the act of breeding itself. You have to breed from the very best. Don’t you have that quality? Then you have to look for it, you have to contact successful pigeon fanciers and get confidence in them. Because in the end it’s confidence what is essential for the sport of pigeon racing. If disbelieves are existing  concerning a breeder’s person, you should never buy pigeons of him. You won’t develop a mutual trust. For evermore, the doubts will stay. Only the question if these pigeons are really an offspring of the famous, phenomenal breeding pigeon should suffice as a flash point for breaking off the relationship.

This question represents already a clear hint for a non-functional mutual trust. The buying of the very best pigeons is not always a matter of money, but most of the time a matter of trust, that’s for sure. If you have already found the quality necessary for your breeding (an offspring of the very best  breeding pigeons), it’s time to breed and use up the gained quality by breeding. The offspring has to be played and selected. Of course, not every new acquisition will be the absolute breeding hero. You have to be patient and try different ways of breeding if you want to reach your destination. Still the question is not answered, how much of patience a breeder has to or wants to exercise. One year, two, three or four years? Several years are necessary anyway.

From the view of a breeder a lot of things have been easy for Jos Thoné: He worked at the lofts of his fatherin-law for many years. He knew the most successful lineages, the best breeding couples and, at the beginning of his "career", he was already aware of his high personal aims concerning the sport of pigeon racing.

Because of these special reasons Jos Thoné owns the necessary breeding potential today. His pigeons fly short, medium and long distances as well as the extreme long distances. He can work with his pigeons. He can breed with them like nearly nobody else. He pays attention to the pigeons’ ancestries. They have to derive from winning families: They have to originate from pigeons, which, themselves, are able to fly top level positions. It also applies for their ancestors again. But there’s still one essential point, which should never be forgotten: You can have the very best pigeon, but that doesn’t always mean the pole position for you. The real challenge consists in appointing the right pigeon in the right moment for the right flight. Otherwise, it’s the breeder’s fault: Then it does not tell us something about the pigeon’s quality, but about the one of the breeder. Recapitulating, the pigeon’s quality represents the most important element of the chain called success.

That’s what Jos Thoné knows as well. He has got the quality and he keeps it.