The 2022 season was an all-round success for Hok Van den Bruel from Itegem. The national victory at Argenton against 22,869 youngsters and also the fastest of 28,035 pigeons was already a great success for them, but when the final tally was made they also had the 1st National Ace pigeon Great middle distance youngsters KBDB 2022 under their belts and then, of course, the fun couldn’t stop.
When you pronounce the municipality “Itegem” in pigeon circles, almost all of us make a link to the world-famous Houben family who practised pigeon racing of a different level there, a few decades back. The Houben family has written more than pigeon history. The Houben family helped determine the level of Belgian pigeon racing. For Kurt Van den Bruel, everything started there too. Kurt and his wife Nancy had a greengrocer’s shop in Itegem and the Houben family were regular customers. They became friends with Jef Houben and Kurt visited the Houben family almost every day to admire the arrivals of the Houben racing team.

The start
Father Van den Bruel was not a pigeon fancier, but through his father-in-law, Kurt got to know pigeon sport. Kurt was a suitor for his daughter Nancy and one thing led to another and the interest in pigeons grew steadily. Due to lack of time, Kurt only raced short distance namely Quiévrain and Noyon in the beginning. They raced on the short distance until the end of the 1990s. Then pigeon racing was stopped completely until 2011. Then Kurt Van den Bruel and Bart Henderickx, Berlaar, started pigeons together and they formed a combine until 2019. In 2020, Kurt basically wanted to quit pigeon racing but then Jelle Roziers came up. He visited Kurt and Nancy every day and he convinced them to continue racing anyway. Kurt and Nancy got a group of breeders from Jelle and he added, when you listen to me it will work out. And so it happened!
So it is no wonder that 75% of the Hok Van den Bruel colony consists of pigeons from Roziers-Xiang. An important cock was the “Brisbane”, which became one of the best breeders. He is father of “Clio” with 17th nat. Ace pigeon great middle distance youngsters 2020 and 8th Nat. Ace pigeon all-round youngsters 2020. He is also father of top hen “Sofia”. Pigeons were also added by Gert Jan Beute from Wilhelminaoord (NL), including some good breeders. There was also an input from Maurice Scheers from Heist-Goor with, among others, the mother of the 1st National ace KBDB 2022. Some strong pigeons were also obtained from the tandem Habraken-Ducheyne from Vorselaar.

The 2022 season
Hok Van den Bruel came to the start of 2022 with a widowhood team of 19 yearling hens with partners staying home and 13 yearling cocks with partners staying home. There were no old birds in the racing team in 2022 because the best old birds went into breeding. This team of yearlings neither bred nor nested.
During the first training tosses, the yearlings did not see a partner. At basketing they did not come to their partner either. They came together with their partner for the first time on arrival day from their first short distance race Quiévrain. At first, the period of being together was very short and before Kurt went to the club, cocks and hens were already separated. After arrival from the national races, the partners stayed together until the next morning. The yearlings were not given a fixed partner beforehand. During the game, they still had to learn widowhood. They came together in the loft and when a cock and a hen flew together in a box they were locked in the living box and became partners. Cocks and hens are basketed on the same race with the main objective being the national races. Kurt races differently every year. In 2021, total widowhood was raced. In 2022, classic widowhood was raced. Variation in everything and that’s how a fancier gains experience.

The young force
The breeders will be paired on 8 December and all pigeons will be re-paired. No family breeding is done as crosses are preferred. The selection of the breeders is rather strict. Good racers that have raced in the first hundred national races go to the breeding loft. The parents of these pigeons also get an edge. Good x good is coupled.
We started with 85 youngsters only bred from the breeders. The youngsters were weaned at the age of 26 days. The first round was darkened from early March to 21 June from 6pm to 8am. The second round was darkened immediately after weaning until 21 June also from 6pm to 8am. Additional lighting was provided from 14 days after 21 June until the end of the season from 6 am to 8 am and from 6 pm to 10.30 pm. They went out 25 times with the training basket before entering the basket for Quiévrain. The training was done together with Roziers-Xiang with the biggest distance to Vilvoorde (50km). Cocks and hens remained separated and did not nest. When the first and second round flew well, the cocks from the first and second round came together in one loft and the hens from first and second round came together in another loft. At basketing, cocks and hens never come together. On arrival from a race, the youngsters run in on the two lofts but after that, cocks and hens are separated as soon as possible.
The 1st National Ace pigeon great middle distance youngsters are the B22-6044625 “Morris”. It is a middle sized cock. He is well muscled and has a perfect wing. It is a beautiful pigeon with a soft plume. In the loft, he was always on top of his living tray and on the adjacent shelf. “Morris” can boast a handsome record!
In Belgium we have 4 national races for young birds and to win the ace bird title you need to take the best 3 results.
“Morris”became 1st National ace bird with
8th Nat. Argenton 13,393d.
68th nat. Argenton 22,869b.
134th nat. Bourges 23,847b.
As 4th national race it became 119th Nat. Chateauroux 17,081 youngsters.
His palmares are adorned with 1st nat. Ace pigeon great middle distance young birds KBDB 2022, 1st Prov. ace pigeon great middle distance young birds 2022, 1st Prov. ace pigeon Flyingclub 2022, 1st Prov. ace pigeon Fondclub Antwerpen 2022 and 1st best young bird of Belgium on 4 national races KBDB

In terms of feeding, Kurt Van den Bruel broadly follows AIDI’s feeding schedule. The day of returning home from a race, MIX 3 is fed. At the beginning of the week he feeds MIX 1 for two days, then MIX 2 for one or two days, and MIX 3 for the last four feeds. On arrival of a race, Recup Fast and Condition Booster also go into the drink. During the week, 2 x Omega Plus Oil Extra is added to the feed with proteins. Alternately, Health Elixir or Probacterial also goes in the drink. Sometimes Probiotics Plus + Omega Plus Oil Extra also goes over the feed. All these products come from AIDI.
In terms of medical supervision, just before the start of the season, the racers get the well-known “yellow drops” on the feed four to five feedings in a row. During the season, after a race with one night’s basket, the pigeons get the yellow drops on their feed. After a race with two nights in the basket, the pigeons get a yellow drop in the beak. No treatment was needed against respiratory infections last season. Vaccination against paramyxo was done with the paramyxo smallpox vaccine. In 2023, this became paramyxo-rota. There is no treatment and no vaccination against paratyphoid. Antibiotics for pigeons is the biggest enemy Kurt Van den Bruel thinks.
They race on 10-metre lofts. The ceiling in the lofts consists of trellises. For the old and young pigeons, there is an aviary in front of the lofts. During the racing season, the lofts are cleaned twice a day. Out of season, the lofts are cleaned once a day. The major cleaning is done after the racing season. The ceiling, living quarters and sheds are removed and this is all sprayed off with the high-pressure cleaner. Inside the loft, everything is scrubbed off with warm water with soda and Dettol. There is little glass in the lofts and all pigeons sit on a plank floor. In the lofts, part of the floor is covered with wood shavings. The other part where the pigeons are fed is also cleaned daily.