By Stuart Sutton, United Kingdom
The Brabançonne breed is unusual in that its name is also the name of the Belgian National anthem. Furthermore, it is also known colloquially as the Houpette or Topman in Flanders and the Powder Puff in Wallonia, two regions of Belgium and dates back to at least the early 19th century.
Generally, it is thought Brabanconne refers to the Belgian province of “Brabant” where it originally appeared, although others say the name refers to the quail variety that represents the colors of the Belgian national flag; a black neck, a yellow breast and red shoulders. However, the renowned poultry expert of the time, LouisVander Snickt, called the Breed the “Brabant” in an article in the Hunt-ing and Fishing magazine of 1899.
Further knowledge of the breed is provided in the French periodical, Life in the Country (De Montmagny, 1927), here we read that the “Brabançonne is a very ancient breed, native of Brabant, it spread throughout Belgium. Do not confuse the small Brabançonne modern hen with the old Brabant as she was was a bred for eggs and flesh, wearing a crest, throat and tie.
It looked like the Crevecoeur in type and usefulness, Auge Valley (France). Some also see a kinship between this old Belgian race and Norman hen. It is also described as very rustic, bright, resourceful and resilient to cold and rain. In addition, she is qualified race, good winter laying but little early. Its flesh is good.”
The Brabanconne is also famous for its excellent productive capacities. The hens lay very large white eggs something that is mentioned way back in 1950 in La Chasseur magazine, where it confirms that eggs can weigh up to 2.5 ounces, and there were several bloodlines that start laying at 4 to 5 months. The Brabançonne has a cone-shaped body, giving it a triangle shape, of which the line “abdomen-tail” forms the base. In laying hens the abdomen is very deep. Weights are around 5.5 to 6.6 pounds for the male and 4.4 to 5.5 pounds for the hen. Besides a striking body shape, the Brabançonne also has a remarkable head. The male has a large upright single comb that starts above the beak.
The comb of the hen is folded twice on the forehead and hangs to one side of the head. Besides the comb, the hen also has a nice crest on the back of the head against which the comb rests. This crest must never be broader than the skull and must never interfere with the hen’s vision. The male’s crest is inconspicuous, and is all but a few long feathers. The breed has a sloping back and the breast is carried fairly high but not forward. In hens, the tail should always be closed and pointed.This breed normally doesn’t sit. Brabançonnes are very active birds that are busy all day and high fencing can be necessary to keep them in their pens however they do adapt well to all environments.
In Belgium the most popular varieties are quail, blue quail, silver quail and black. Other recognized varieties are blue silver quail, white, blue, buff, buff-columbian and columbian.
The statistics of the Vlaams Interprovinciaal Verbond Van Fokkers Van Neerhofdieren, the organization responsible for monitoring Belgian Breeds of poultry, show a continuous increase of keepers and the number of breeding stock between 2002 and 2011; however, the Brabanconne is still rather rare, even in Belgium. There are only a few other breeders in Holland, Germany and the United Kingdom.