Marc Van den Eeckhout (Kalken, BE) had a splendid season, winning two national first prizes

Any fancier dreams of winning a national first prize, and claiming a second national victory in a single season is something only a few can hope to achieve. Marc and Diana did manage to win two national victories in 2015: Cahors old birds and Narbonne yearlings. They added a provincial win from Issoudun to their palmares as wel,which shows that 2015 was an exceptional season for them.

Diane and Marc Van den Eeckhout

Marc Van den Eeckhout is one of a kind. He has been a top level player for over 20 years now, although he only started to gain a national reputation in 2011, winning the title of General Champion in the province of East Flanders. He has now become a internationally renowned fancier, thanks to his two national victories in 2015. He has really entered the hall of fame this season.

It would be impossible to talk about Marc Van den Eeckhout without mentioning his wife Diane. They are running a very busy butcher shop in the city of Aalst, which takes up a lot of time. They have to get up early and work hard every single day, which means they can hardly spend any time in the loft in the morning, let alone organise a training flight. Caretaking and training all has to take place in the late afternoon or the early evening. Marc and Diane are a close knit team, and they spend nearly every free moment looking after the pigeons. We could say they can only spend as much time in the loft as an average hobby player. Yet they are running a full size pigeon family that has been able to achieve remarkable results. We asked Marc about how he has been able to achieve such great results, and he said: "You just have to make it work!"

Marc and Diane also told us they had the fortune of working together with Etienne Sens, who is responsible for training, bringing the pigeons to the club and returning the clocks. In addition, Koen Bauwens does some of the administrative work. Transport belts and gratings make for a loft that is easier to clean. Caretaking and training is mainly the responsibility of Marc and Diane, who keep pigeons with the passion, dedication and perseverance of great champions. They really want to achieve their goals and they do it their own way.

Marc has a clear view on the sport, so we let him do the talking. The days that racing birds were fed nothing but water and grain are over. You cannot get anywhere without the use of some medication. This is not a must but rather a necessity. The fanciers collect pigeon manure before the start of the season, which is then examined by vet Vincent Schroeder. If something is wrong with the manure, he will look for adequate treatment. The dreaded Chlamydia infection, which causes ornithosis complex, can be discovered and treated with this approach as well. The goal is to get the pigeons as healthy as possible before the start of the season. If any treatment is required it will be administered through the feed. Marc thinks any great champion who claims he has never used any medication is a liar. You cannot do without, although using too much medication is harmful. A fancier that can keep the use of medication to a bare minimum is likely to have a good season. 

A fresh portion of grit is very important for the pigeons' digestion, along with a varied mixture. They create their own mixtures, based on 50% Vanrobaeys mixture, 25% Diet-Energy Natural and 25% corn. One eighth of P40 grit is added as well. They do not give additional feed before a race but they do increase the fat percentange of the mixture by adding peanuts and sweet seeds in the days prior to basketing. It then comes down to training and a good quality breed. The Van Eeckhout pigeons can easily train for an hour straight, both the young and old birds and the cocks and hens. Solid training requires a solid diet, and this is still one of the cornerstones of great fitness.

The pigeons from Kalken get plenty of opportunities to show their potential. Marc believes pigeon races are determined by the pigeons' intelligence, by which he means orientation. Fanciers that can take away their pigeons for regular training flights have a big advantage. Marc thinks pigeon racing is not as much about speed as it is about heading straight home. This is something they learn by doing a lot of training flights. Unfortunately Marc and Diane's professional situation does not leave them much time for that. They do close their butcher shop at 2pm in July and August, so that they have more time to look after their pigeons. They can also have a few additional training flights, although not more than once a week. The only viable alternative is to basket them very often. Many of their champions will start to show their value only after four or five races, after having gained some experience. This explains why their pigeons get a lot of chances to prove themselves, which is clearly a successful approach: they won an impressive 15 first prizes at club level in 2015 (from longer middle distance to extreme long distance), and  the highlights of 2015 were of course the two national first prizes and the provincial victory. Click here for their achievements in 2015.

The hen that won a 1st Nat. Narbonne 3,366 YL in 2015 (you can reread the report here)

A pigeon family based on inbreeding

It takes a strong pigeon breed to achieve great results, which shows why top quality bloodlines are so important. You need pigeons that can easily pass on their talents to future generations. If you discover a valuable bloodline, you should try and merge it into your existing breed. This is why Marc adds great importance to inbreeding top class pigeons.

Marc and Diane started keeping pigeons in their current loft in 1985, and their breakthrough came in 1995. Marc thinks he knows why: 1995 is the first season in which regular doping controls were being carried out, as a result of which some great champions had to take a step back. This loft's first stock breeder was Oude Blauwe, which comes from Honoré Props from Serskamp. Oude Blauwe was paired to a daughter of Prins of Etienne Devos from Deerlijk. Prinsesje was a highly talented hen that was bred from this pairing. She became 2nd Prov. Ace Pigeon KBDB East Flanders, winning for instance a 1st Prov. Chateauroux and a 1st Nat. Zone Bourges in 1999.

William Secelle from Zomergem, a great champion in the sprint and the shorter middle distance, organised a total auction, and Marc managed to obtain one of his stars, the Super Red. He was paired to Prinsesje and together they bred the amazing Super Prins (1st Limoges old birds, 1st Limoges Derby, 1st Prov. Souillac, 2nd Prov. Angoulême). Super Prins was then paired to a hen of Andre De Coene (Moortsele), and together they fom an outstanding stock pair.

Prinsesje was also paired to her brother (Broer Prinsesje), and they bred this loft's next stock breeder Inteelt Prins. The most important bloodlines in the Eeckhout loft are currently Super Prins and Inteelt Prins. For instance, the 1st Nat. Cahors 6,576 pigeons comes from Inbred Prins x Daughter Super Prins, while the 1st Nat. Narbonne 3,366 YL was bred from another daughter of Super Prins. As you can see, top quality bloodlines will always lead to a top class breed.

No wonder about 50% of the breeding team is based on the line of Super Prins and Prinsesje. New introductions are paired to these stock bloodlines first to see how valuable they are. Any new bloodline that can increase the level of quality in their existing family will be kept. The fanciers breed about 150 young birds every season, divided over three rounds. The breeders are kept in the aviary after the third round, because Marc needs the breeding lofts for keeping his young birds.
The key to success is breeding a lot of young birds, and have them compete in many races. A strict selection process is of crucial importance as well when trying to discover good quality pigeons. Marc is a butcher, so we assume he knows what to do with pigeons that fail to meet the requirements.

The hen that won a 1st Nat. Cahors 6,576 old birds in 2015 (click here to reread the report)

These are some of the champions of 2015:

- Ace Pigeon light long distance old birds BE13-4205786

 1st Ace Pigeon light long distance old birds 2015 Long Distance Club Lokeren
 1st Prov Issoudun  3,162 p.
 1st Vierzon          302 p.
11th Prov Vierzon   3,848 p.
 2nd Bourges          423 p.
42nd Zone Bourges   4,055 p.
 4th Prov Montluçon 2,172 p.
42nd Nat Montluçon 11,056 p.
19th Prov Gueret    2,829 p.

Click here for the full palmares of BE13-4205786. She comes from a crossing of Doornebal-Jonker x the line of Prinsesje.

- Ace Pigeon long distance yearlings BE14-4123089

 1st Ace Pigeon long distance yearlings 2015 Long Distance Club Lokeren
 1st  Blois                 156 p.
 6th  Prov Blois          2,713 p.
27th  Prov Brive          2,336 p.
101st Nat Brive           9,049 p.
42nd  Zone Gueret         4,161 p.
11th  Zone La Souterraine 4,610 p.
11th  Prov Vierzon        3,573 p.

Click here for the full palmares of BE14-4123089

- Ace Pigeon light long distance yearlings BE14-4123113

1st Ace Pigeon light long distance yearlings 2015 Long Distance Club Lokeren
31st Prov Montluçon 3,700 p.
35th Prov Bourges   2,124 p.
67th Zone Argenton  6,099 p.
81st Prov Gueret    4,432 p.
87th Prov Bourges I 4,668 p.

Click here for the full palmares of BE14-4123113

The following ace pigeons of 2015 are worth a mention as well:
Ace Pigeon extreme long distance yearlings BE14-4123175: 1st Ace Pigeon extreme long distance yearlings 2015 Lokeren (palmares)
Ace Pigeon light long distance young birds BE15-4182722: 1st Ace Pigeon light long distance young birds 2015 Lokeren (palmares)

Several more champions and great pigeons can be found in the loft of Marc Van den Eeckhout, but it would be impossible to include them all in this article. We have focused only on the ace pigeons of 2015, but it goes without saying that they are set for the future wich such a collection of top class birds.


Wat deze mensen en hun duiven realiseren is gewoonweg top, in een adem een Wauwseizoen Exclamation Doe zo verder.

Marc en Rolande Rousseau - Barbé Oudenaarde/Leupegem