The Brakel Poultry Club


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By : Jan Schaareman (NL)



With pride we can say that the "Brakel Hen" is the oldest Flemish, largest layer that still exists today. The "Ardennes Hen" has the honour to be the oldest Belgian (Walloon) breed.

One hundred years ago you could find the Brakel on every smallholding. This is why the breed was also known as the "Farm Yard Hen". Other names for the breed were "The Everyday Layer", "The Grey White Neck" and "The Nuns Hen". They were admired by the people who kept them because they laid well and provided a good table bird, the meat having a slight game flavour. It is noted that in the past, the breed was only fed in the evening. The rest of the day the fowl scratched around the yard and fields, looking for worms, insects, seed and greens. In this way the breed became hardy and only the strongest, the quickest and the healthiest ones survived. A basic natural selection took place, creating a strong breed resistant to all climates.

In 1898, in the village of Nederbrakel, the first Society for Brakels was formed. The name "Brakel" is without any doubt, derived of the name of the villages Op- and Nederbrakel. Within the triangle area of Ninove, Geraadsbergen and Oudenaarde, the Brakel was bred intensely and the birds and eggs were sold at the local markets. Because there were so many birds being bred, the looks of them varied greatly. Some had a horseshoe sign in the feathers while others had a straight band sign, which is still demanded in today’s standard.
Due to the breed having so many looks, the different areas which bred them, also gave different names to the breed. For example : "La Poule d’Hernies", "Het Hoen van Ronse", ... In the village of Chaam, in the Netherlands, another variety of the Brakel - one with orange eyes - was found. In other parts of the country people tried to change the typical layer, which the Brakel is, into a meat producing chicken. In the end there were so many varieties called "Brakel" that none of them met the Standard, which was created in 1899.

The first World War caused the population of Brakels to reduce by a large amount, due to the breed ending up as Sunday Roast ... The small rebirth of the breed after the war was swept away by The Second World War. A new fact was also the introduction of new varieties of Layers coming from abroad. After the war the success of the breed was limited and infrequent. In 1968 the Brakel was scarce and time was running out for the breed. An old Flemish breed was at the point of extinction.

In 1971 a number of enthusiasts formed a new Society for the Brakels. At this point only five Brakels could be found in Belgium. With this group, a breeding program was started. Fertile eggs were exchanged and ... a miracle happened. Ten years later, in 1982, the Brakels - after ten years of absence - returned to their original location. Since the beginning of the 1980s the number of Brakels has increased gradually.

In 1996, the Society celebrated 25 years of existence. The membership total in 1996 stood at 120, most of these members breeding the Silver and the Gold Brakel. Apart from these two main colours, other colours do exist. These are: White Yellow Band (or Chamois), Blue, White and Black. In the Bantam breed, only Silver and Gold are to be found. Breeding Bantams is more difficult.

In 1983 a book about the Brakel Breed was published, called "Het Brakelhoen" (The Brakel Hen). This is the bible for every enthusiast. It gives full details and descriptions about the breed and the standard. The publication is certainly a must for every breeder. Soon a new edition of this book wil be available (only in Dutch).

In times that genetics are used to develop new, more resistant and more productive types of plants and animals, there is a permanent danger that the Brakel Hen will disappear just for the fact that they lay a few eggs less than their genetically manipulated sisters. It is urgent to preserve from extinction an old monument of cultural and historical value and inheritance before it is too late. Vigilance is a strict demand.

If you have any interest to become a "Brakel Hen Breeder" or if you want more information about this layer breed, please contact: Peter Golsteyn, Verbindingsweg 5, B-3510 Kermt-Hasselt, Tel. +32 (0)11 25 28 50

You can help us to keep the Brakel alive, by becoming a Member of "The Brakel Poultry Club". Once a member you will receive four times a year, an information bulletin (90 pages) and you will also enjoy the special offers the Club can provide.


(c) Brakelhoenvrienden 2014