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of Rumbeke, Belgium

by Les Parkinson

On our latest trip to Belgium we were introduced to Kurt & Raf Platteeuw who were at the Fugare Show in Kortrijk. A couple of days after the show, with the guidance of Frans Rigole, we went to visit these lofts and saw some excellent pigeons.



Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got started in the sport.

My name is Kurt Platteeuw. I’m 39yrs old, married and the father of 3 children - Louis, Pauline & Odile. Professional wise I have, together with my parents and wife, a very famous shoe shop - Vanluechene - where we specialise in very little and big size shoes, comfort shoes and famous brands. Together with my father Raf, we do the pigeons. My father started the pigeons from my grandfather Odiel. In the first years that my father took over the pigeons, I was 8yrs old and we had a super pigeon on the speed distance. He classified 4 years in a row in the KBDB Championships W-VL and the best position was a 1st place and the year after a second place. When I was a student I was out of the sport and I restarted 10 years ago with building of new loft.


With your pigeon work do you have a silent partner i.e. wife, partner or friend, if so what part do they play?

Together with my father we race and work with the pigeons so that we get the best out of them.


Do you consider there to be any advantage having a racing partnership?

Of course you can split the work and as with all racing lofts we all have our specific work.


Are there any points that you disagree on and if so how do you compromise a situation where there is a different viewpoint?

Before last year we had a helper, a lad and we were very good with this person but in partnership you have to speak to each other and most of the pigeon fanciers always know it better. In pigeon sport when you do it with more than one, you have to see every detail. It s not difficult but you have to speak with each other. You have so many pigeon trainers, who tell you how to do it. This year we had to do it alone (me and my father) and the results were from another planet.


Do each of you have an area within the partnership where responsibilities take control regarding a decision?

We do this together . But the discipline of the pigeons has to be very big. They have to listen. And now the most important. You need a system, every body can do this different, but you have to follow the system. All commercial decision are made by myself, all tactical decisions we do together.


Give the readers the most memorable results that you have achieved flying as a partnership and flying on your own.

In 2010: 1st national Gueret, fastest of the race, and 30 first prices. In the last 4 years, the results are getting better every year. We are real racers. Only with racing and racing, you can get better pigeons. The only thing which counts is results. No paper birds, but result birds.  Last year I had a team who raced 8000 km, 18 races, 18 weeks in a row. And I have some who won 18 prizes. Only with the highest selection, results can get better.


Is there anything that you have not won in the sport that you would like to achieve?

Well, I m still young, and know we have the good birds. You have to be a little bit lucky, but luck, you have to work for. There is still a lot we have to win, but one step at the time. But it is going in the very good direction. Every year better and better. But like last year was not normal. It started the first week of the season and ended the last week of the season .We race all existing races and we were sucesful on every distance and every race. That is a level where everybody can dream of. That’s why we do it, for the fun in racing.


What organisations do you race with?

We are basketing in Vliegersclub Kortemark, before you could find all results under ZARREN. We also race in other clubs, but the most time in Kortemark. We race all races, every week (except speed racing). All the provincials, all the nationals, all KBDB flights.


Do you hold any official position and if so do you take an active part, if no what are your reasons?

I have an official position in our club, but a non active part. I have no time for that. I helped my club, with getting more races, with getting more pigeons and better organisated flights. Future steps for giving our sport a future. The most important thing is having a water clear management in a club.


What are your lofts made of and how big are they?

They are all garden-lofts, not made of stone, but of wood. All different kinds, from very nice to not nice at all. I have 80 meters of lofts.


Do you attach any importance to having a tiled roof on a loft, if so, are there any benefits?

It s very nice to look at, but I think make no difference at all.


Do you use any form of heating system in any of your lofts. Do you think it would be advantages for the birds?

Where I can I use heating systems. It has an advantage when we have rainy weather (which we have a lot); it makes the lofts less humid.


How do you control the ventilation in your loft?

In some lofts I have ventilation system, but like I say, I think make it makes no difference.


Do you have any grills fitted in the floor or in the boxes, are there any advantages to using them?

In some lofts I work with automatic system Hermes, in other lofts I have grills in boxes, in some I have nothing of grills. Make all no difference. I had people in my loft with smoke machines, other people looking for water lines, but like I say, make all no difference at all. Good birds and bad birds, that is the 100 naked truth. Nothing else.


What families of pigeons do you keep?

My own family, Eric vermander, Labiau, Toye, Devos added up with all the best of Brockamp, etc. A huge collection of all most famous birds, under the name of THOROUGHBRED RACING AND BREEDING.


Easterly or Westerly do you set any stall by the position and if so why?

I don’t understand very good this question, but we are located in a very bad westerly location. Pigeon game is a wind game, and we have to breed very, very, very good birds to race the nationals, almost always in bad location.



How do you go about bringing in a new family and what do you look for?

We always have to look for better pigeons. First of all, I breed out of them, test them, that’s it. You just have to try a lot. Unfortunately, there are not so many good birds.


When you bring in that new family do you think that they need time to acclimatise, if so how long?

No, that’s a waste of time. You need results immediately. This is a mistake that many fanciers make. They think their loft is not good, that they need medications etc…. but they just not think that the birds are not good enough.


When looking for new pigeons do you look for a particular family, one for specialist races or club races or just by name?

In the pigeon sport this time, you have 2 big differences. People who love pedigrees and other people. I’m always looking after the best birds. I have all the big names, but all birds have the same chances, no  body is my favourite. But I want good birds, no paper birds. As long as people gonna buy big origins, we not gonna have a lot of concurention. People buy these days big names. They can be chickens, you know. But every body has to do what he likes.                                                                                                                 


Which of the two sexes do you consider is the most important when it comes to breeding?

Certainly hens. When you have good racing hens, in a few years you have a very good colony. That’s what happened with me also.


Some fanciers like big hens for breeding does the size of the hen make any difference to the quality of youngsters that she breeds in your past experience?

Well, they can have all my big hens. Too big is not good at all.


When it comes to breeding do you line-breed or use a first cross or just pair winners to winners?

Nobody knows this, if somebody would know this, pigeon sport would be very simple. I think in nature that good birds pair up with good birds. If possible, they can choose themselves their own partner.


Do you think that fanciers change for the sake of changing or do you think a loft can breed a winning team out and lose track of the winners?

Well, what are breeders. Before I never had a good breeding couple. But now I have 5 super breeding couples. I can tell, all what I breed out of them is BINGO. When you have that, it’s very simple. And I know where I m telling of. I’m still the same fancier as before, but now we have them, and hopefully for a long time.


What method do you use to select your breeders?

I prefer good racers, are even more, brothers or sisters from good racers.


Did you find your best breeding pigeon by luck or judgment?

By luck. But what is luck?? I think also a lot of judgment, that’s the feeling, you know.


What materials do you use for nesting?

All the possible things, but most of the time, classic nestbowl in stone.


When do you pair your pigeons and why then?

I pair all my pigeons together, that I have youngsters to ring with the beginning  of January.


How many stock birds do you keep and do you breed off your race team also how many pigeons do you think that you need to breed off any individual stock pair each year to see if they are quality producers?

I think breeding of racers is the best you can do. I do it, and never gonna change this system. I have now a 3 year old hen, who gave my best bird from 2008. Out of that bird I have already champions. Of his nest brother, I have my best bird of 2009 and best bird of 2010. Well the grandmother is 3 years old, that is success for the next 7 years, when I m lucky. And you see it immediately, normaly, but you can have always exceptions. My success from now started 5 years ago. I’ve got a cock as gift from a good friend. The brother of that cock was one of the best racers on fond distance. Nobody liked the cock the first time, and I had 1 hen left in my aviay. Out of that hen (a beautifull hen from my best family), I had nothing special, and she was all ready 10 years that moment. Well all what I bred out of this 2 was in the bullet. Like I say, nobody gonna knows it. But, feeling is very important, and I can tell you that I have that.


Please explain the method used from pairing up until the first race? 

I hope you mean when pigeons come together in March. Before they laid eggs and breed, not anymore, just a few days together, that’s it.

Do you move the hens with the young birds?



What is the farthest distance that you would train your old birds or young birds?

Before, they went 3 times a week to a training of 50 miles. Now they all train around the loft, very hard.


Do you breed off the top widowhood cocks after the racing has finished, do you breed late bred youngsters and what do you think of those later bred youngsters?

Always I breed off all my racers after season, but I don’t keep them for me. These are the best birds to start a family with, but in my system I don’t have the time for it. All these birds are for selling.


For every 50 pigeons that you breed realistically how many of them would win at 500mls, based on your past records?

I think almost all of them. Last year I started with 120 youngsters. I raced them every week, and at the final race Gueret, I sent 94. They all can do it, but the selection was extremely in the last years.



How do you race your pigeons and how many?

I race with them all. As much as possible. The name says its self - race pigeons.


Do you compete in the National events, if not why not? Or are you happy to race in the club?

Club racing is history, nobody cares. You have to do the national races. When you are not bad located (by the wind), you have to send them all. We need east wind, what is not easy. I m hoping of the heating of the earth. But you first have to be the best of your street, before you can be the best of ………..your county …. the country.


Do you ever think of competing for averages, if not why not?

Only top prices count.


Do you race your pigeons every week or do you prefer to condition them for a specific race?

Every week, for hens and youngsters, and for the others, working for a specific race.


In your view do you think that a loft needs different pigeons for different distances?

No, I don’t believe in that . I only believe in good birds. Well, example very long distance. Every body has his “Barcelona”. Are that good birds?? Who have sometimes a prize. In the most cases, the birds who are good on the 400 miles stay there, if they are not good enough, they try them further. Also, it’s a total other system, but I think in pigeon sport this time!!!! But, every body his way, and I respect every way.

But, with good birds, they are good from 100 miles up to 1000 miles. It’s just the way you work it out to a race. My best racing hens, who where fantastic on the 350 miles, when they become older, I play them much further, with big success. They have a lot of experience.


Is there any specific condition that your pigeons perform best at, or any particular time of the year?

Pigeon weather, wind on the head , races for the thoughest.


When do you allow your racers to take a bath?

Sometimes the day before basketting.


Do you use any floor dressing or do you clean the pigeons out daily?

No, also not, we clean good when they are to the race. When they train, I have to see them training.


Do you like to have plenty of room for the pigeons?

No, we put many pigeons in a loft.


How do you feed the cocks and what do you feed them on, a branded mix or do you buy separate corns and mix your own?

I have my own corn, well thought of, and only use that.


Do you measure the amount that you give to each pigeon, or are they fed according to the individual pigeon?                                                                                        

I measure the amount, but not very strictly.


Do you attach any importance to grits and minerals or can the pigeons get what they want they are out of the loft?

Very, very, very important. I make my own grit.


Is there a way that your pigeons let you know when they are in form?                               

When they train, and I see it on the result!


Do you have any secrets about what you do with your pigeons and how you get them right?

Yes, no secret at all, and I gonna tell you, they just have to be good, believe me.


Do the pigeons need any special treatment on their return from the race to help them relax? Is any such treatment needed for the short or long distance races or the hard races compared to the easy races?

No special treatment, but look well after them. And don’t feed them too much.


How many weeks do you think a pigeon can maintain its form on the widowhood system for both cocks and hens?

Well, last year, it was all season long, unbelievable.


If your race team went off form during the season what action would you take to restore their condition?

Hope that it came back. I don’t know.


What happens when you are racing either widowhood or the roundabout when you have a bad race and lose a few from one sex, how do you continue with those pigeons who have lost their mate?

We just go on, live is for the quick ones, we say in Belgium.


Is a favourable loft location the single biggest factor in sprint racing?

I don’t think so.


Do you treat pigeons differently with their preparation if they are to go to the bigger races whether National, Classic, Specialist club or open?

Always the same corn, always the same, just add up with proteins.


Do you think a pigeon has the capabilities of racing both short and long distance races? Also what distance can a pigeon actually still “RACE” as opposed to homing from any race point?

Yes, a good one can do it.


Sprinter or distance, there is no difference; it is all in the feeding?

There is no difference, pigeons are pigeons.


If you could pass on one piece of advice or tip, at this point to fanciers old and young, what would it be?

Look for birds of people who play good NOW, some people are still investing in pigeons from people who can not play any price in the last years. If these people can not race well with their birds, how would somebody else can do ??????

And don’t look after BIG names, look after GOOD birds. By the way…. Paper !!!! What is correct?


What problems do you think are most detrimental to race condition in modern day racing, both Old Bird and Young Bird?

Very simple, good as a young bird, good as an old bird. Of course  they have to be raced in the best conditions, but for me it s very easy. When you race well, you only keep the best. But racing and breeding is a total other story.


How far do you race your yearlings?

As far as possible.


What races do you send your long distance candidates to before their chosen race?.

Always nationals, to get experience.


Where do you house your widow hens?

In aviaries.


Can you tell the readers your routine for preparing pigeons for the longer races?

Just basket them when the flights are there.



Young bird sickness is a problem; have you had this in your loft and if so what have you treated them with?

I’m against treatments. No blind curing. If you have some who are not ok, get them out of your loft, and don’t look to the origin. Of course, when they are ill, you have to see a vet. But in my case, I did not happen in the last 5 years.


Do you race your young birds, if so how many races, if not why, do you think they are better off in the longer events if they are only raced lightly?

I’m racing all my young birds from the first week to the last. How can I make a selection ??? Well, correct, with look to their results. It’s much easier for me when I play them a lot. Always keep it simple.


What do you think the sport should do to change things for the better, in relation to your points made a couple of questions ago.

Every week national all races. Well pigeon game is a wind game. Local racing is finished, nobody cares. Well, for the national races, once it’s for one side of the country, once it’s for the other side. You can do nothing against this. But, I can tell you, if you breed from good national racers, you get the best pigeons. Also, I invite fanciers who think they have the best birds, to go living in the worst place of the country. Good luck to them, but I’m sure we never gonna hear from them any more. Every where are very good birds. And we have to have respect for all fanciers, from short distance to very long distance .


Do you use any preventative medication? If a pigeon goes ill do you try to put it right or does the bird have to go?



Earlier in the article we discussed the wind direction, do you consider that good pigeons will win in any position?.

Local yes, but national!!!! Stay in your bed, you don’t have any chance at all.


Some fanciers go out and purchase good quality winning pigeons but never appear to make the grade, why do you consider that this happens?

Well, some can do it, and some not. 


Do you give any special treatments when the pigeons return from the race as a precaution against anything that they may have picked up in the basket?

Eye drops, eye drops, eye drops, eye drops, nose drops, nose drops ………..and drops again and again and again. Make no difference with ones, just use a lot of them, and ones that they like.


Do you use the darkness system for the young birds, if so for how long and do you think it affects them later in life?

If you not using the darkness system, you play no prize at all. From 21 March up to 21 June. And it certainly don’t affect them later.


Are there any feeding methods for the young birds i.e. do you break them down, do you keep them hungry for control purposes, do you give them a trapping seed mix?

I have my own corn, very simple, for young birds and old birds, from 10 miles up to 1000 miles.


Do you attach any real importance to the pigeon’s wing i.e. back wing, end four flights and do you look at the wing to see if they have cast before a race. Any other comments on the wing?

When they are on 6 flights, game over. But I still send them. Like on Gueret, I still had 94 birds, my loft was empty. (sorry, I had one who won 1st prize Bourges, and 5th prize on Argenton, who stayed home, because he came in 4 days too late from La Souterraine) Some where on 9 flights, but some on 5 and 4 flights. They still went. For experience.You can not get good prizes with the ones on 5 flights, but my regime is very hard. That’s the only way to go up very quickly.


If random drugs tests were carried out on your pigeons, would it reveal any substance, illegal or otherwise?

Well, how more the drugs tests, how better. Every body has to follow the rules.



What criteria do you set down for the pigeons you winter with your thoughts on the following season’s racing and breeding?

Not many. Leave them quiet in winter.


Are there any special treatments that you give your birds once the season has finished what do you recommend the readers to do with the birds?

Use all the rests of the vitamins you still had, from that year. Buy new products next year.


What were the last four things that you put in your drinking water, when and why and did you notice any benefits?

I do all things on the corn, never in the water. If product is in the water, they don’t like it, and then they go drinking some other place.


If you could only give your pigeons one supplement what would it be?

I m racing on a protein system, that I learned from Martyn and Jayne Mitchell. But I changed it in my way. My pigeons have my corn, my grit and cheese and peanuts. And vitamins, and vitamins and vitamins again. If pigeons has to race like hell, they need all the good things, otherwise after a few weeks, game over.



Irrespective of how your pigeons have flown, what are your views on the past season whether good or bad or the management of the sport in general?

Well, it was from another planet, my father and me could not believe it ourselves.


Taking into account distance, which is more difficult racing to your area, is it a case of a 600ml race is a 600ml race regardless of competition or route?

Provincial racing is just a big laugh, no importance at all. A wind game of 300 miles race, you just have to drive to the club where you have the good location, and buy a big net, to catch them out of the sky. I played sometimes in my club first 15 prizes. But, you not gonna hear me saying that I have the best birds, on that race. Of course, when I have the first 15 in my club on a national race, I may say it. A favourite position of 5 minutes, makes a very big difference in provincial racing. I know people who would drive to the other site of the world, to have a good location .


Which fancier has influenced you most, in the way in which you fly your pigeons?

Martyn and Jayne Mitchell for the system, my other friends in the way of racing. Biggest lesson: breed a lot, cull a lot, race, race and race again. Only the result counts.


Which Champion pigeons over the years have left an impression on you and perhaps influenced your direction in the sport?

Pigeons who were early on the nationals, with good weather and bad weather, with good wind and bad wind, with being good located and bad located. But they are not so many. And I always look in areas who are bad located.


Whenever I have visited a loft fanciers always look at the pigeon’s eye. Do you consider that the eye has any importance in (a) the breeding, (b) distance races (c) sprint races. (d) The pigeon’s health. Or do you steer clear of the subject and if so why?

Well, make no differce at all. I have a good friend of me, we are always laugh with him, when he put his glasses on. Nobody knows it, you have good birds in every colour, and with all different eyes.


Who do you consider being the best fanciers in the Country and for what reasons?

Well, fanciers who play it all, all round. From speed to very long distance. With young birds, yearlings and old birds. This year certainly Mark Pollin, miles in front of the rest, also look on the map where he is living. I take my hat off. And hopefully ourslves in a while, but we still have to go on for a while.


What do you think can be done to take the sport forward?

Good ideas. All good ideas are more then welcome. 


What past mistakes have you learned from?

A lot. Before, I gave antibiotics, not any more, we need a pigeon strain, who is breed that the little child diseases are out of it. Takes some years, but if you do not give antibiotics anymore, the strain is getting better every year. I tried it all, and 6 years, we know all vets, but had no prizes. We changed totally the strategy, with success.


Who or what motivates you to remain successful?

My parents, my family, my friends, my pigeons .


What qualities do you think must be present for a fancier to be classed as a top fancier and at what level must he/she have achieved results to be rightfully so-called a “Champion”?

Just do your best, every body is a champion, but don’t be stubborn.


Do you think winning fanciers should move on from club racing once they have reached a certain level of consistency? Are club performances paramount for personal satisfaction or sales purposes?

Well, the most of the fanciers just want to be first. Even when they are first from 10 pigeons, they are happy. This is unbelievable. I have many many many respect for young people who have great results, and I always congratulate them personally. Many old fanciers are very bad losers. I’m always optimistic, in good and bad times. But when you become succesful, you don’t have many friends. But I do not care. I just go on. I just want that old guys to support the beginners.


To term a phrase are you a professional pigeon fancier and do your circumstances make a big difference.

I try to be, but I really race on a unbelievable non professional way. I’m very amateurish.


You are a successful fancier, there are far too many leaving the sport, to encourage fanciers to either join or stay in the sport what do you think about limiting prizes to two per race per loft. If not Why. If yes Why?

It s not difficult to get on a higher level, but the most don’t believe in their self.


Is pigeon racing as a hobby going beyond the average working man? Is it becoming too technical and complicated or can you keep everything simple and still win with the pigeons?

I m always much more scared from the working man, with not so many birds. It’s not too technical at all, but money has to go back much quicker to the fanciers, I think no organisation should be allowed to keep money for a while.


What do you think about the vaccination programme for the pigeons and do you think it affects the pigeons long term?

Vaccination is very very very important.


Do you read many magazines/Articles, if so which type of article do you find interesting and why?

I do, but who tells the correct things??


What aspect of the sport interests you the most?

Everything, a big respect for the pigeons, they are the champions, also the money game etc… the game,try to be good. Motivation, also the most important thing for pigeons.


Is there anything that you do not like about the sport, something that you feel needs changing for the good of the sport? 

Well, too many old fanciers, who were succesful before, but not anymore, are depressed. Young people are not helped at all by old fanciers, they are scared that young people would have good results. Pigeon sport gave a lot to these people, it’s time that they do a lot back .


If you went into another fanciers loft and were given the opportunity to leave with a pair of pigeons, how confident would you be that you had selected the best pair, or in other words do you consider that you are a good judge of a pigeon?

I think you have to get pigeons in trust . Every fancier know his pigeons the best. And like I said before, nobody knows.


Is your loft of pigeons as strong as it was 5yrs ago?

100 times better.


Do you have any further comments about anything that we may have missed in any area of the sport?

In our race history, we had good years and bad years. I learned a lot, and still learning a lot, but the most important is, that we need good pigeons. Look for pigeons from people who play good now, not 20 years ago. Look for pigeons who are all round. Look also from fanciers who play with everything. I breed many pigeons, and play with a lot, because my opinion is that this is the only way to get the level higher. In a few years, I gonna race with less pigeons. Look to fanciers where you race against. Don’t believe that the secret is medication. I know all off this, and I had the luck that we came to a deep level, that we could restart with a total other vision. One thing is for sure, just take the good things from all things that you learned yourself. If you have a pigeon with a head problem, and you breed out of him, you gonna have all pigeons with a head problem. And also, not many champions are born. I wish all fanciers all the best, a good motivation for themself. This is giving automatically a good motivation to the pigeons (they feel this). Follow one system, and stay on that.