Albert Hufkens and Kjenten Van Hecke: an exceptional combination..
Westmalle, Belgium – Weather-wise, the spring of 2014 couldn’t be better… just ideal for enjoying everything that is good in life and with the pigeons. And into this spring feeling, the achievements of the combination Hufkens-Van Hecke fit perfectly.
The combination consists of Albert Hufkens, 72 years of age and experienced in life, and the pigeons of Kjenten Van Hecke, 17 years old and a breath of fresh air in the pigeon world in Antwerp. In 2009 Kjenten and his mother moved from Oost-Vlaanderen to Zoersel… in the name of love… Kjenten’s mother and Albert Hufkens’ son became an item, and one thing led to another.
At that time, Kjenten was crazy about horses and he had never seen a pigeon up close. But that would soon change. During his first visit, Albert Hufkens took Kjenten to his loft and asked him to pick out a favorite pigeon… Kjenten chose a pale… the ‘Bo’, a nice pigeon in itself but of no great value. Very quickly, Kjenten’s enthusiasm knew no bounds. He wanted to be close to the pigeons and moved from Zoersel to Westmalle. Albert: ‘That boy really loves pigeons. The loft is everything to him. To keep cycling between Zoersel and Westmalle was not always easy. Impossible even when there are two working with the pigeons. That is why he moved. Since 2009 Kjenten has been sleeping here… it makes for new life in the house and in the pigeon loft.’
With a flashlight in the loft
Albert: ‘My father also kept pigeons, but he wasn’t able to race with them. In 1964, I married Jose… how time flies… we have been married 50 years now, and we have always kept pigeons. In the past, I used a flashlight when I went into the loft at 4.30 am, and Jose also spends a lot of time there. Nowadays, she is our best supporter. In 2012, we were busy basketing pigeons for the race from Quievrain when the Libourne hen returned… Jose had seen it coming and knocked on the window to warn us…’
There are 20 couples in the breeding loft… they rear two rounds of young and are then re-paired again for the third round. There are 30 widowers.
Everything is done in an easy companionship between Kjenten and Albert, but they both have specific roles. The loft for Quievrain and Noyon is managed by Albert, and the loft for middle-distance and long-distance belongs to Kjenten. The breed of Cois Van den Langenbergh is a common factor in all the pigeons. Cois died in January 2001, but his pigeons were not sold until October. During this time, the pigeons were looked after by Albert, and at the sale, he was able to buy his favorite pigeon, ‘De Kleine Blauwe’.
Kjenten: ‘In 2011 I asked bicycle repairman Jef Hermans for a couple of eggs. He told me that two eggs would not nearly be enough. And instead of two, Jef and Hugo gave me 40 eggs. One of these became the mother of our ‘President’, 3rd National Ace Pigeon KBDB 2013. Jefke Verijckt has also helped me a lot. At a voucher sale, I bid 100 Euro for his donation, but wasn’t able to buy the pigeon. When I went to get another voucher, Jefke approached me and said that he would give me two good cocks. They are two grandsons of the ‘Olympiade’ from Leo Heremans. Out of them, we immediately bred our ‘Generaal’ and ‘Luitenant’, who are both performing well on the middle-distance. Many good fanciers like to help an enthusiastic youngster. In May, I can collect a few eggs from Bart and Nance Van Oeckel, and Bart Geerinckx has also promised me some. I can collect a young cock from Miel Van den Branden because he doesn’t race with cocks anyway. And two hens that I got from Toine Jacops by way of Jef Hermans from Gierle are also breeding good pigeons.’
Kjenten: ‘Two years ago, I got a birthday present from my stepfather. It was a voucher for four eggs from Jos Joosen. With these I collected three young pigeons which I placed in the racing loft. At the time of basketing for Libourne a Joosen hen was in good form. We drove to Schilde with one pigeon in the basket. But it went well… a second nomination in the Kempische Fondclub behind Stan Truyts, but because of the last drop position, we overtook Stan… and we became 1st in the Kempische Fondclub and 6th provincial. Stan was the first to congratulate us and he even gave us a pigeon out of his best ones as a present. I would like to breed a team of pigeons for the long-distance. The first attempts have not been bad at all with 1st Libourne Kempische Fondclub (one pigeon entered); 2nd Limoges Kempische Fondclub (two pigeons entered) and our two first nominated pigeons returned early in the race from Chateauroux (breed Hermans-Bartholomeeusen).’
First two from Melun
Kjenten: ‘Our best moment of 2013 was in the race from Melun. I didn’t have high hopes. The ‘Generaal’ and the ‘Luitenant’ were in form, but the previous two times from Melun had been disappointing. Angerville went well, but from Melun they finished low in the list twice. I thought ‘these pigeons are no good for Melun’ and entered them for zero Euros. When we were waiting, I received a message from Bjorn Rombouts, who was with Dirk Van Dyck. Dirk had a pigeon back as early as 18, Bjorn wrote. At 21 I saw two yearlings flying past the loft, a white head and a white flight. They made a large circle and came in quickly… 1st and 2nd against 1,052 yearlings in Union ZAV. That is a good feeling for a young fancier.’
Albert: ‘It’s a good feeling for an old fancier too. I was so very pleased with it. Kjenten only lives for the pigeons. He doesn’t have time to go out on Saturday evenings… only for the pigeons and for more pigeons, and that shows in the results.’
Kjenten: ‘At this moment, the pigeons are looking good. The Quievrain pigeons have been taken out for training twice already… we feed them with a light mixture for as long as possible… Gerry Plus and diet from Versele… and this stays the same during the season, with the last two days Versele Sport and Van Robaeys Sport. The first race is on Sunday… we will likely enter our Quievrain pigeons (eight of them).’
And the latest news is that Albert and Kjenten became 2nd, 3rd and 4th against 96 pigeons (with brother ‘Generaal’ in the lead).
One year is not like the other
For Albert and Kjenten 2013 was also a year with a lot of young pigeon misery. Of the 80 young pigeons that they bred, only seven remained after the season, and of these seven, two more were disposed of.
Albert: ‘That was a big disappointment of course. Besides those five remaining youngsters we still have five inexperienced yearlings from Marc Verheirstraeten from Lille. Marc had to undergo heart surgery and I looked after his pigeons for three weeks. As a thank you I got five young pigeons (pure Herman Van Sande).’
Kjenten: ‘This year everything goes very well, touch wood, with our young birds. Of the 80 young from the early breeding round, only one has been lost and two have been disposed of. The remaining youngsters can easily exercise for an hour and they fly very well. It can’t do any better for the moment. I would very much like to enter into the national races for young pigeons… I am a go-getter in Schilde… which makes me want more… I hope that we can get a few young pigeons at the start for Bourges.’