La Bouverie, Belgium – A district of Frameries … in the middle of the Borinage … is an old industrial area where the spoil heaps of the former coal mines have been transformed into green hills that dominate the skyline.

This is Henegouwen … the strongest Wallonian pigeon province … where the pigeon sport is still very much alive.
To see the national winner of Bourges yearlings we had to go to the Gaie Bros… which means the brothers Jean (54) and Gaston (60) Gaie.
The brothers come from a long line of pigeon fanciers … their parents and grand-parents were fanciers … and it would have been a small miracle if they wouldn’t have taken up the pigeon sport as well. In 1987, Jean started for himself with pigeons at his current address … and since about a decade he has formed a combination with his brother Gaston.

The basis of the colony is formed with 95 percent of pigeons from Maurice & Gregory Casaert from Nechin. All pigeons come directly from the Casaert loft … either bought … or given as gifts.
The other 5 percent comes from vouchers purchased at the champions day of the club … for instance, there is a hen from Jean-Pierre Druart from Hyon … a hen from Roger Pierre from Pecrot … a hen from Hugo Gorniak from Hornu … and a cock from father and son Brulez from Ressaix. Two years ago they bought five pairs of eggs from the combination Casaert-Senechal. And precisely out of these eggs came a cock and a hen that would become the parents of the ‘Loulou’, the national winner of Bourges yearlings.

The racing team of 2012 consists of 23 widowers (8 old ones + 15 yearlings), raced on classic widowhood … 10 yearling hens, also raced on widowhood … 70 young pigeons … and 15 pairs of breeders in Gaston’s loft.
This season, for the first time they will be entering hens in the races … So this means this will be a trial year for the ladies.
During the day, the hens stay locked in their nesting boxes … once a day they come out to exercise … but this doesn’t work to the satisfaction of the brothers yet.
The last race for the widowers is national Argenton … the hens are allowed to lay one last time, and then the cocks and hens are separated.
The first coupling is at the beginning of December and old pigeons and yearlings raise a couple of young. There is no second pairing … widowhood starts mid March … 2x taken by car for a training flight … 2x Soissons (125 km) … Nanteuil … La Ferte … 1x Orleans … and then in the basket for national Bourges.
According to brother Jean, Gaston is a very punctual fancier, who makes caring for the pigeons a matter of honour. Feeding is a very important topic … with a race every fortnight the feeding schedule is as follows: after returning from a race on Saturday, the pigeons get diet with a few grains ‘Gold Corn’ + fresh grit (Beyers) … and this mixture is given until the following Saturday.
On Sunday for the last time diet … on Monday 1/2 cleansing + 1/2 sport … and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 100% sport mixture … 1 tablespoon per pigeon in a communal feeding trough, and after that each pigeon is fed individually.
With the last six feeds they also get one percent of ‘fatty mixture’.
Before the first pairing, the pigeons were treated for five days against trichomonas through the drinking water … and this five-day ‘treatment’ is repeated before the racing season. After that there are no more blind treatments … if the performances are getting poorer, the vet is consulted.
After coming home from a race, they get electrolytes in the drinking water on Saturday … and an antiseptic on Sunday.

The national winner is the ‘Loulou’ (B11/9097009) … a small, yearling cock who in the last few months has already proved that he is capable of winning and flying in the lead.
In a fantastic final sprint he easily left his 16,867 yearling competitors behind with a speed of 1,221.48 meter per minute.

After Chateauroux in 2011, this is the second national victory for the brothers Gaie in two years!