Interview with Monick Nys

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La colombófila belga, Monick Nys, en su palomar de Arendonk


WINKIE: Where does your interest for pigeon racing start?

MONICK: My hobby starts when I was very small. My father has always had pigeons. He was a great fancier and since I can remember, I have been linked to this sport. My father died in 1995 and it was from that moment when I took the reins of the loft. For me it was nothing new since I have always helped him since I was a child. When I was 12 years old, my father gave me 15 young birds, I had to clean them, to feed them and take care of them. They perched on my shoulder, they ate from my hand, it was very funny, I even made them compete, but under my father's name, and I won.


WINKIE: How do you remember your beginnings in pigeon racing?

MONICK: Since I was a little girl, I always waited in the garden of my house for the pigeons to arrive. In those years there was no electronic system to measure the time of arrival as we now have. The pigeons had a rubber around the leg and had to be thrown and installed in a small bowl inside the watch. For this, you had to be very fast because every second you lost counted. My father watched the pigeons from the back of the garden. Then, he would start blowing with a whistle to get the attention of them and I was ready to mark the times. In this way, we both worked together and, despite being more than 100 meters away, I was already prepared and I knew that the birds were going to start entering the loft.

When my father died, I found myself alone with the loft but I was so used to working with my father that it was not a problem. I was 27 years old and, despite all the negative comments I received for being a woman, I won. In 1996, it was my first time with yearlings, because I kept 30 youngsters of my father when he died, the rest I sold them. I stayed with De Stier, De Stier's father, a daughter and another bird, in total 4 pigeons. In 1996 I bought Elfpenner from my dear Cees Timmers. In 1996 it was the first time that I had the yearlings and I was a middleweight champion in Arendonk. In 1997 the yearlings were adult birds and I also won with them. A few years later I was the champion of all the Tournout clubs, about 23 clubs.

And a few years later I competed in long distance, more than 500 km, and a day. That is, the pigeons have to return on the same day of the release. I was also the winner in this kind of distance. It's hard to get them to take you seriously in this world of man that is pigeon racing. They were very jealous. My friend Timmers, veterinary expert, told me once, when they hate you and speak badly of you, nothing happens, it is better to talk about one even if it is bad, to not talk and so everyone will not know you. My father won first prize in the National Long Distance (La Suterraine) with a family member of Elfpenner and it was this bird that Mr. Timmers reproduced. The men thought that I would not be able to do it , and now... I looked at the past and... I did it!  and very proud I am.


WINKIE: What is your connection to the Janssen family?

MONICK: My connection is that my pigeon lineage is pure from Janssen de Arendonk. But not of the Janssen brothers, but of the father. It is an incredibly strong lineage that provides great flying birds. My father obtained Janssen pigeons from Mr. Timmers, a reputed veterinarian who was a genius with consanguinity. He was an expert in pigeon genetics and was my friend and mentor for many years. Timmers bought several Janssen pigeons in the 1950s, when the father of the Janssen brothers was alive and was the one reproducing them. For Timmers it was clear evidence that the breeder who made the Janssen race a spectacular lineage was Father Janssen, not his children, who subsequently continued with the business. And Timmers gave them to me. And he gave me the secret to a good consanguinity without problems. Janssen pigeons are great for long distance. It was a shame for the Janssen because when the father died, their children did not know how to reproduce the same blood, not like the father. Mr. Timmers was a very special man. He reproduced between 20 and 30 pigeons that got the 1st National. In 1979 we won the 1st National La Suterraine and 4 weeks earlier, a sister of our bird, won the 1st National in Argenton. Something incredible.


WINKIE: Have you had a fancier as a reference?

MONICK: Without a doubt, my father.


WINKIE: The lineage of your pigeons makes your offspring are highly valued, how would you summarize your trajectory until you get to have these pigeons champion?

MONICK: The lineage must be pure and strong. That is our principle, what my father taught me. Only from a thoroughbred lineage you can advance. When a pigeon has many types of blood of different lineages there will come a time when no more birds can breed. The quality of the feathers and muscles of the animal is very important as well and my father always taught me to pay attention to these details. The body of the bird and the feathers should be good enough to resist the flight and should help the pigeon to be able to fly a whole day and return home without the feeling of being exhausted.


WINKIE: Which pigeons are most abundant in your breeding loft, the ones that are native to your area and flight line, those imported from other areas or even from abroad, or a mixture of both?

MONICK: We've always raised Janssen pigeons. Formerly, we owned the largest colony of these birds. We never cross them with any other blood type. In 2012 I sold all my pigeons to China and I have only stayed with 6 pairs, descendants of those Janssen. Today I keep breeding to sell to China but about 40 pigeons a year.


WINKIE: How do you proceed selecting the breeders?

MONICK: That's not a difficult task because all my pigeons are pure Janssen. I do not make any kind of crossing, they are all from the same family and that has been the success of my loft, keeping the blood intact in each of my birds. The pigeon has to be pear shaped and the feathers silky. They are two characteristics in which I notice a lot.


WINKIE: Tell us something about your facilities/loft.

MONICK: My pigeon house is very spacious and very ventilated. The nests are very spacious so the pigeons have a lot of space to move around. But, what I would highlight the most is that my loft is healthy. There is a lot of oxygen inside, very ventilated, which is why the roof is very large and plays a very important role. The ventilation is placed in the upper part of the pigeon house, in the roof and covered by a grating, therefore the air enters directly into the pigeon pigeonholes. In this way there is always fresh air inside the loft without the birds being able to get out.

WINKIE: What training and competition systems do you usually use?


MONICK: When the pigeons have 3 months I train them every day, first 5 km, 10, 15, 23, 50, 70, 80 and then they go with the club 240 km. Then, I start with flights of 500 km. If the pigeons are in good shape and well trained, they can perfectly go from 140 km to 500 km. The most important thing for me is to work on the orientation. When I go with the car to train them, for example 5 km, I always leave them about 15 minutes in the basket on the ground, to give them time, before releasing them, to focus and know where they are. In this way, when you release them from the basket and they are already oriented, they fly home quickly. You have to teach them to fly home directly, without wasting time.


WINKIE: What is the type of contest that has given you the greatest prizes?

MONICK: The best pigeons compete in distances of between 500 and 700 km. This type of competitions are the most spectacular in my country. It's the fond/ middle fond.


WINKIE: Do you consider yourself a specialist at some distance?

MONICK: Yes. My specialty is the hens in a widowhood system competing in distances ranging from 500 km to 900 km. They are one day flights. That is to say, that the pigeons have to return home the same day of the release. I have won this type of competition 90% of times. In Belgium, one out of every three pigeons that are competing wins a prize. For example, if there are 900 pigeons competing in a race, there are 300 prizes in the club to distribute.


WINKIE: Do you use consanguinity or are you more in favor of open crosses?

MONICK: I've never crossed my pigeons until now, that with Javier Peral, I've made some crosses. I have a pure Janssen breed. A pure breed can always be crossed with any pigeon and we will obtain a good result of the mixture.


WINKIE: Do you have a preference for any line or lines of pigeons?

MONICK: The Janssen, of course, I think it's a strong and spectacular line. I have the old and pure bloodline of these pigeons of the times of the father of the Janssen brothers. Because Father Janssen was the true breeder and trainer, his children continued with the pigeons but they did not do the same.


WINKIE: In what cases do you use consanguinity?

MONICK: Always. To maintain my line. I make the following relationship: brother for sister, father with daughter and mother with son. It is very important that you pair them in the correct way and it is not the free will. If you put the wrong pair together you will have invalid pigeons. There is a secret that Mr. Timmers, a great friend of our family and the one who got me Janssen pigeons, explained to me once, and as a secret I can not tell you.


WINKIE: What methodology do you use in pigeons since they are born until they are ready to compete?

MONICK: I demand a lot from my pigeons. Discipline and a lot of hard hand is what I use. They have to know that I am the boss and they have to respect me and listen to me. They train every day, in the morning, 1 hour and from the moment they alight on the roof of the loft, they have to enter it. The pigeon that stays outside for a long time and does not enter the loft in time, runs out of food that day. So he knows that the next time I blow the whistle it's time to go home. If you are not severe with them and you allow them to fly around the loft and not enter when you tell them to, then they will not return on time over the weekend when they go to compete.


WINKIE: What level of demand do you have for the yearlings? In terms of distance, how far do you usually get with them?

MONICK: With the yearlings I have been champion every year and I have also obtained the ACE Pigeon on one day flights every year. A young pigeon first has to learn the basics in the loft, the orientation, the return every time I blow the whistle to be heard and always fly straight to the loft. Since they become yearlings they must win enough races here. A pigeon that wins only 50% of the races, leaves the loft. If the birds are in good shape, they have to finish the 500 km races each week and the full year program. Each week they must go on a long distance flight, as long as they return home and are not tired. It is important that when returning they do not lose part of their muscles and that they are not exhausted. Once they have these criteria, they can do everything, including the yearlings.


WINKIE: Is there any secret to becoming a champion in this sport?

MONICK: Keep pigeons healthy and make sure they are in good shape. In this way, they can do and compete in whatever they want, as long as the reproduction of them is strong and strong enough. And, of course, my secret in terms of mating to have birds in very good condition and purebred.


WINKIE: What is essential in a loft?

MONICK: A very good quality of birds. Strong and resistant pigeons.


WINKIE: What do you think are the essential characteristics for a pigeon to become a champion?

MONICK: That comes from a good line, pure, that has a clean, silky plumage, that the water of the rain slips and does not make it soak and be heavier. A good muscular structure and with a great sense of direction. This I work a lot with them, I teach them to orient themselves with a very severe training.


WINKIE: What do you feed your pigeons with?

MONICK: I prepare my own seed mix. It is about the following: 5 kilos of base mixture, 1 kilo of corn, 200 grams of pulp with kemp seeds and 300 grams of peanut butter. I crush these grains in a bucket with yogurt, enriched with lactobacillus so that they have a good digestion and keep the intestines healthy. Each grain should be well soaked in yogurt. The mixture stir it well until it stays in a uniform dough. On this pasta, add 4 tablespoons of brewer's yeast and 1 tablespoon of vitamineral. The last thing I add is 1 kg of P40.


WINKIE: Do you vary your diet during competitions and trainings?

MONICK: Yes, I change it. Every week I give my pigeons the following mixture; When they return home from a flight, the first thing I give them is a mixture of very light seeds. I do it with 2.5 kg of diet mixture, 1 kg of flight mixture, yogurt, 2 tablespoons of brewer's yeast and 1 kg of P40.

The same day, 3 hours after the race, they get this mixture which helps them recover very quickly. Keep in mind that the birds must be recovered to compete at least 500 km the following week.

For short distance competitions only pigeons should be given a very light mixture on day of the flight. The heaviest food is offered only the day after the race.


WINKIE: Do you follow a sanitary program throughout the year in your loft?

MONICK: Every morning and every afternoon, while the pigeons are 1 hour training, I clean the loft. During the competition season, the pigeons get 2 times clean water, especially if I introduce vitamins or other liquid. That is why the drinkers are cleaned every time they are given water. This is very important, especially when temperatures are high, since the added vitamin-like products can ferment inside the drinker.


WINKIE: How often do you go to the vet?

MONICK: I take them once a year for trichomoniasis. I also do checkups in the stool every 3 days to see if everything goes correctly.


WINKIE: What requirements must a person have in order to succeed as a fancier?

MONICK: Discipline and perseverance.


WINKIE: As a woman, in this world mostly of men, how did you feel?

MONICK: It was very difficult. The first time I went to the clubs, after the death of my father, they looked at me very jealous. They thought I would not be able to win anything and I won everything just the following year. Something very special happened in 2005 and, in 2007, I did it again. And it was competing with 4 adult birds and I won the first, the second and the third position. And it was the 2, 7 and 10 position of the whole province of Antwerp.

In addition, each week competed with 12 hens in long distance and 11 of them each week obtained prize. Likewise, 7 of the 8 yearlings with whom I competed also returned home with awards. I left everyone with their mouths open and I gained respect. But it was a very hard period because they did not take me seriously, they thought I was the spoiled little girl of Dad and that only my father was the competitor. But they were wrong, even my friend Timmers told me that it was better to talk about me, even if it was bad, because this supposed that was on everyone's lips and I was making a name for myself.


WINKIE: Throughout your career, do you think this sport has changed in recent years?

MONICK: Yes. And unfortunately worse. Now there are many less enthusiasts of this sport. In the past, at the time of my father, everyone had pigeons and competed with them, it was the activity of the weekend. People organized themselves in clubs and spent a lot of time dedicating them to this activity. Today there are many more options to spend free time, with Internet and all kinds of sports, the range of hobbies is greater, so the number is reduced and young people are less interested in pigeons, because they require a lot of dedication and money. You need to have a loft, some birds and be very constant. Today people who do not come by family tradition, it is difficult to be interested in pigeon racing.


WINKIE: As for pigeon racing, what is your vision about the future of this sport?

MONICK: I think that sport as such will continue in time but not as it is done in Belgium. Individually, raising and training in the loft itself, will tend to disappear. However, I believe that the future of the activity is in the One Loft Race, the derbys.


WINKIE: The pigeon racing in Spain has always been very ingrained, what news do you receive about colombofilia in Spain?

MONICK: Well, I'm aware that the derbys are more and more popular competitions. I was last year at the Costa del Sol Derby and it was great. This type of racing plays a fundamental role in keeping the sport alive in Spain. Progress is clear, and the news is more and more numerous.


WINKIE: What role do you think One Loft Race plays as a type of competition?

MONICK: A very important role in the development of sport in Spain. It is becoming more and more popular and hooking more fans. It's a way to make it simple, you can participate but you do not need to spend all year taking care of your birds and investing a lot of money in a pigeon house and so on.



Monick Nys