The system of total widowership
At the back of every widowers’ loft, there’s a loft for the hens. Jos can bring males and females easily together with the help of a sliding gate, installed at the bottom of the separating wall. When he'd like to give his troop free-flight, he operates on a special changing system. At first, you may think it must be very complicated, but within the daily practice it’s quite simple: Through a common corridor, Jos lets the hens off for their daily free-flight. While the females are flying around, the widowers are coming into the females’ loft through the already mentioned sliding gate. After their flying workout the hens come back, now into the widowers’ loft equipped with the nesting cubicles. When all the females are back in the loft again, the widowers are released from the females’ loft. Through the sliding gate, the females are called into their own loft again. After their workout the widowers can simply fly into their own loft as usual.
When the pigeons return from a race, usually one of the mates arrives first. If it is the male who returns first, while his mate is still on her way, he gets another willing female in his nesting cubicle. To the time his own mate finally arrives the other female is taken away by Jos. If it is the female who returns first and therefore has to wait for her mate, she gets as well another male for the short term. Jos plays the system of total widowership with four different teams. 16 couples of old pigeons who only fly medium distances are paired at the beginning of December. They raise two babies, are separated afterwards and brought together once again by mid-March, for a breeding time of 5 days. A second team consists of 16 couples of yearlings trained for medium distances:
They are paired by mid-January. They raise two babies as well. Afterwards their widowership starts. By mid-March the 16 couples of long distance pigeons are paired. After breeding, their widowership begins immediately, too. Another 16 couples are reserved for the extreme long distance. They are paired by mid-January, breed for 10 days and are paired again by mid-April. For them, the widowership starts after a breeding time of 5 days. At last, there is a group of 16 couples of late youngsters who were born during the last summer and are sent to Perpignan as youngsters.
Some time around the 20th of April, males and females, both held in total widowership, participate in a flight of about 140 km. A week later, the first medium distance race already takes place – provided that we get appropriate weather. Afterwards, the hens participate in a medium distance race every week. The males leave out some of the flights in order to get as fit as a fiddle for the "big labour" which comes closer every week.
Since one year, in Belgium a fuss is made about successful females who lap the males in many cases. That’s why the organisers of the national races are planning to abolish the so called “duplications” for females. Jos cannot understand the fuss and stated the following: "We can act on the assumption that males and females are equal within the races without thinking immediately of forbidden practices. However, with the same programme for both, the females can come into the basket every week, while the males cannot. But isn’t that part of the animals’ nature? Males are machos eager for fighting other males at all times and everywhere. During their stay in the basket they are combating permanently. They are less stressresistant and therefore come home more exhausted like the females. Thus, they also need more time to recover, compared to their female fellows who take the matters much more even-tempered."