Ad Schaerlaeckens

What Matters


Performance is what most of us think pigeon racing is all about. I have done a lot to try to perform better and have stopped using many of these “tricks.” For example, you don’t want to know how many “tricks,” I have tried, all with one goal: To get as much as possible out of my pigeons as possible. What have I tried, you may ask?

  • Put another cock in the widowers’ nest box
  • Push the breeding pigeons nest bowls closer together
  • Put a pebble or an insect in an artificial egg, to make it feel as if there was life in it.
  • Put mirrors in the nest box so that the pigeon within would feel threatened by the perceived invader.
  • And so much more. As a young lad, I heard a lot of these tricks, from half-drunk fanciers, in smokey bars. Some of them passionately believed in what they told me; others just wanted to sound important.


But unfortunately, rarely did any of the tricks have and effect. When I placed a mirror in the nest box, the pigeon within did not get livid as I had been told on the contrary the pigeon became scared and quickly flew out of the next box. It looked at me as if it were going to say, “What are you doing? Give it a rest, mate!” I even managed to make exceptionally good pigeons miss their prizes. That is when I began to believe little by little what a champion had  always claimed:

“I do not believe in motivation. For me, only two things count. They either have form, or they don’t, they can do it, or they can’t. The rest is bullsh**.

This champion flies well and I have never caught him in a lie. From fanciers such as him, you can learn more than from the half-drunk fanciers in those smokey bars. Or from people who want to feel self-important.


I have written many times, that the loft and the pigeons territory within it, have a huge influence on their wellbeing, that is on  their form and therefore performance.
In nature movies you can see how animals will fight to the death in defense of their territory. In that respect, they are like we humans, we also fight each other and are willing to die in defense of our own little piece of the globe. That is the way it was, with Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. If we consider our own territory so important, it goes without saying that we go out of our way to make it pleasant and livable. People and their homes, benches in downtown shopping areas and teachers in their classrooms. For our pigeons it is no different. A Pleasant environment where pigeons feel comfortable and safe, will usually have more effect than any motivation tricks we may try, because coming into form from one day to the next is an illusion. Doing crazy things on  the day of basketing? It rarely yields anything of value. 

Never Forgotten

But there is something you can do. I still remember a Limburger who had invited me to come and see his pigeons. He was a hugely successful fanciers and from fanciers who are hugely successful you can learn.

In the widowers loft he asked me, “don’t you notice anything?”
 No matter how hard I looked, I did not notice anything.
“Count the pigeons”, he said. “And now count the boxes”, I did not have to count, you could easily see, “Twelve”, I answered.
“That is my secret” he laughed. “Of course, you have to have good ones, but a thirteenth pigeon in a loft with twelve boxes can work wonders”
I took him seriously.

His Idea

He feeds the pigeon separately in their boxes and the extra pigeon also wants to eat and will fly into one of the boxes or other when the others are being fed. The actual resident of the box naturally gets tired of the intruder and pushes it out and will soon be constantly alert. It is possible that form will be awakened and that such a pigeon will rush home more motivated out of loathing for the intruder and love for his hen. An extra cock can be used when other pigeons are in the container. You can open a box and allow the “thirteenth” pigeon begin to feel at home in it. Two pigeons that both think that the same box is theirs can fan the flame. Sometimes for the entire loft. You have to watch closely and keep everything in check. Because as we know a pigeon that has been fought out of its own box, is finished.

Empty box.

Empty boxes in a widowhood loft are also useful. You can sometimes open one and “give two cocks the idea” that they own that box. And again: start on time. You can have enormous success, but it can also go entirely wrong. But… don’t the most beautiful orchids grow on the edge of the ravine?

L-Shape and perches

It is safe to have some life, or rivalry in a pigeon loft. Situating nest boxes in a L-shape or better yet across from each other as Verkerk and de Bruijn have done also livens up the loft. Occasionally hanging or removing perches can also wake up the residents. Temporarily putting a perch close to a nest box can have a double effect. One pigeon wants to appropriate the new perch and the other feels threatened. If you do not begin to soon, you can burn the flame longer into the season with the “thirteenth” pigeon, extra perches, opening empty nest boxes, orienting boxes in a L-shape.


Understandably, floor grates/grills on loft floors became fashionable a few years ago. The numerous hours spent doing daily chores that fanciers think they have spend caring for their pigeons can become such a burden that some decide to leave the sport. Floor grates can save a lot of time and work, but there are grates and then there are grates.
My first grates were metal ones.
 I was not happy with them.
Youngsters do not feel comfortable on them, they will not relax on them and they do not promote nest building. Flights and tails are also easily damaged. Plastic grates can also be found and are much better, as are wooden grates. But I think floor grates becoming more and more unfashionable.


Andre Roodhooft has made the study of floor grates a calling. He concluded that the wooden grates are better, but the space between the slats is crucial. If they are to narrow, the droppings will not fall through, if they are too wide, then walking on them becomes more difficult. He thought that a spacing of 22-mm (approximately 3/4 inch)  was the best.
When Maurice Voets was so dominant a long time ago, I went there regularly. It was in the days when Willy Daniels acquired gold (top pigeons) there. I have never seen any of them, Karel Schellens has. Maurice was struggling with his health; he could not clean his lofts. He had wooden grills all over the loft and flew all the competition to pieces. Lack of time to clean does not have to be an obstacle to performing or a reason to say goodbye to the pigeon sport. That is what Maurice Voets showed the pigeon sport, in the last century.