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Site last updated on 10/19/17

This section should really be titled “Air, Water and Feed” since these are the three “inputs” that are vital to the health and success of our birds. The order is important. All three are vital, but since the first two are generally free we tend not to pay them proper attention - big mistake.

Air - Plenty of fresh air is absolutely required!!!! This means making sure the lofts are well ventilated and are not over crowded. It also means being aware of this requirement when we are shipping birds to the races - again good ventilation and don’t over crowd. There are two reasons we need to insure good air quality:

  1. Air is the source of oxygen which all animals need for the basic chemical reaction of respiration that produces energy (sugar plus oxygen produces carbon dioxide, water and energy). The naturally occurring concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere is about 20%. Good ventilation insures that the air in the loft (or shipping crate) also has 20% oxygen.
  2. In addition to energy, respiration also produces water (vapor) and carbon dioxide, both of which we want to keep from building up in the loft’s air space. One of the key requirements of good ventilation is to get these out of the loft as fast as they are produced.

Water - We prefer not to add anything to the water unless there is a clear reason and there is no other method of application. So for example, when additives or medications are necessary, they are placed on the feed whenever possible (some medications are designed for a slow administration through the water and in this situation we will put them in the water).

There are two things we ALWAYS add to the water.

  1. Bleach - a small amount (4 ml per gallon =  4 oz per 30 gallons = 1 Tablespoon per 4 gallons) is added to act as a germicide. We use an automatic watering system and this helps keep algae and slime from building up in the water lines. It also helps kill organisms that are introduced into the waterer and so it serves as a deterrent to the spread of disease through the watering system. The trick here is to keep the water clean, but without killing the naturally occurring friendly intestinal bacteria that need to not only live but to thrive in the intestine. Click here and read item #6 for more information on why this is so important. We have been following this practice for many years with good results. There are other products that will also work in this fashion, but we have chosen bleach since it is easily obtained.
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar - ( 15 ml per gallon = 2 cups per 30 gallons = 1 Tablespoon per gallon) is added to make the water acidic. True Apple Cider Vinegar also adds a number of beneficial nutrients, though we just use the commercially prepared product found in the grocery store and I doubt it has much nutritional value. For our water source (a well) the rate mentioned above makes the water acidic with a pH of 6 (water that has a pH above 7 is alkaline and below 7 is acidic). You can buy an inexpensive water pH test kit from a pond or pool supply store to test the pH or your own water. So why do we want acidic water for our pigeons? Acidic water promotes an acidic crop, a condition which discourages trichomoniasis (Canker) and Salmonella. The acidic conditions also create an environment favorable for beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus.

Feed - This is the where our pigeons get the building blocks and energy sources necessary to live. There are six key components that must be supplied by our feed (the relative amounts will vary depending on the stage of life, the amount of flying etc). These are:

Component

Composition

Example Uses

Sources

Notes

1) Protein

Long chains (polymers) of amino acids. There are 22 different amino acids (with names like lysine and alanine) some of which the pigeon can synthesize via its own bodies metabolic pathways  and others which they can not and which must be ingested.

Muscle, feathers, enzymes (which are a key regulatory control for all of the biochemical reactions of the body).

Grains. Protein is found to some degree in virtually every grain, but it varies considerably. Peas are an example of a grain high in protein (22-29%) while corn is closer to 6%. Pigeons needs a well balanced grain mixture that is somewhere near 16% for individual pigeons and higher for birds that are feeding youngsters.

You will note that grains provide the bulk of what our pigeons need but NOT everything! Feeding just grain will drive your birds to forage on their own when they are out flying. Sometimes they will land in fields and eat fertilizer (and of course die). You can’t prevent them from foraging on their own, but by providing a complete and balanced diet at home, you can minimize the risk that they crave something and forage more than necessary.

2) Carbohydrates

Molecules made up of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms.

Primarily energy.

Grains and again composition will vary among individual grains. So, a balanced mixture is essential.

 

3) Fats

Fatty acids (chains of Carbon and Hydrogen) and glycerol.

Energy, but also used in the synthesis of key structural components and some hormones.

Grains and again composition will vary among individual grains. So, a balanced mixture is essential.

 

4) Vitamins

Complex molecules. They consist of two types - fat soluble and water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins can be stored while excess water soluble vitamins will pass through the pigeon’s system rather quickly.

Vital participant in cell chemistry.

Available to some degree in fresh grains but probably not in sufficient quantities. Definitely should use a commercial supplement. However, do not over do it. The fat soluble vitamins (ADE and K) are actually toxic at high doses.

Vitamins are very complex molecules that can be easily denatured (and hence rendered ineffective). Keep your sources fresh and out of the heat.  We prefer not to use products that mix vitamins and minerals together since the minerals can denature the vitamins.

5) Minerals

Calcium is just one - there are many others.

Required for the building of many parts of the birds body - bones, egg shells, etc. as well as being an integral component of the cell and blood.

Not available in grain in sufficient quantities. You must provide supplemental minerals on the feed or with the grit. We put “Mega-Mins” on the grit. It is available from most of the pigeon supply houses.

Balance is important. Selenium for example is required, but lethal in high doses. The Selenium content of the soil of the US varies widely (from being Selenium deficient to some areas where it is at toxic levels). As a result, the Selenium content of the grains raised in these regions varies. Best practice is to feed a well balanced grain mixture and supplement with the recommended amount of a commercial supplement like “Mega-Mins”. One advantage of putting it on the grit (or even better yet in its own container), the birds will eat it by choice - they have a remarkable ability to balance their diet when given the opportunity.

6) Co-enzymes, micro-nutrients

There are certain micro-nutrients that the pigeon is not able to synthesize that must be provided in the feed. Certain co-enzymes are one example.

Various, but one example is as a key participant in many biochemical reactions that comprise metabolism.

Not altogether sure what is the best source for these. We just know they exist and keep an open mind about possible sources. We do use Brewers Yeast.

There are many other micro-nutrients that are required for optimal health. Some are known and some are probably still not discovered.

Garlic

 

Promotes healthy immune system

Use Fresh garlic. We blend it in Apple Cider Vinegar with the “Magic Bullet” and mix it on the feed twice a week.

 

Grit

 

 

 

Needed by the gizzard to break down grain. Can be mixed with crushed oyster shells which will also serve as a source of Calcium (important for shell formation and vital if you have any hens whose eggs you foster off - such intense egg laying will create a Calcium deficiency in the hen and she will rob Calcium from her own bones, ultimately becoming unable to move - hence the need for Calcium supplementation).

Probiotics

Contains beneficial baceria for the intestine.

The intestine can be easily upset resulting in extreme population shifts.Frequently “seeding” the intestine with beneficial bacteria helps insure that the intestine maintains a healthy balance, dominated by friendly bacteria.

Commercially available products. We use Primalac and Probac.

Treatment with antibiotics will kill the beneficial bacteria of the intestine in addition to the targeted bacteria. Be sure to ALWAYS follow antibiotic treatments with a week of probiotics.

Prebiotics

Non-digestable (by the pigeon) “feed” for the intestinal bacteria.

 

 

We currently don’t provide this, thinking that there is enough fiber in the ration we feed and other products of digestion in the intestine to meet this need. We could be wrong and may experiment with some of these products in the future.

 

These are the basic feed rations we use:

Breeders that are paired and raising youngsters:

When feeding youngsters

When mating or just setting on eggs

Commercial pigeon pellets 28% protein. Full feed. We are fortunate where we live that we have access to the Swanson brand which has a 28% protein pellet specifically formulated for the squab industry.

Commercial chicken lay pellets (helps with the Calcium balance needed when laying round after round of eggs). 2 ounces per day.

Breeders that are separated for the fall moult:

33% Barley and 67% TMC Gamebird Mix (a grain mixture available in our area which is 13% protein and 4.5% fat). The birds need to be handled regularly to insure they are not being under or over fed. In general we feed 1 1/4 ounces of this mixture daily.

Our basic grain mix that is fed to all pigeons that are not racing or breeding:

Seed Factory Winners Cup Gold (15.5% protein with popcorn). This is just what is available locally and has good quality grains. Each locality will have its own brands that are available. Just make sure it is fresh, with good quality grains and with sufficient protein. You do not want to use the “economy” mixes which are cheaper but don’t usually have the level of protein the birds need.

We mix 50 pounds of this grain (in a portable cement mixer) with:

  1. 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar blended (using the “Magic Bullet”) with three cloves of garlic
  2. 1/2 cup of Red Cell (a vitamin feed additive made for horses that can be purchased at most livestock feed stores)
  3. 2 Tablespoons of Primalac (probiotic)
  4. 8 Tablespoons of Brewers Yeast

Our Racing Mixes:

Basic Mix for races up to 300 miles:

  1. 7 parts of our basic grain mix prepared as above
  2. 3 parts Caffer (white milo)
  3. 3 parts Safflower
  4. 3 parts Hemp
  5. 3 parts Paddy Rice
  6. 1 part Raw Spanish Peanuts

Basic Mix for races over 300 miles:

  1. 6 parts of our basic grain mix prepared as above
  2. 3 parts Caffer (white milo)
  3. 3 parts Safflower
  4. 3 parts Hemp
  5. 4 parts Corn (not popcorn)
  6. 3 part Raw Spanish Peanuts

Our Depuritive mix for when the birds return from a race:

  1. 5 parts Caffer (white milo)
  2. 5 parts Safflower
  3. 3 parts Hemp
  4. 3 parts Paddy Rice
  5. 4 parts Raw Spanish Peanuts

We follow a “light” to “heavy” feeding regimen during the race week and these methods are discussed under Young and Old Bird Racing.

[Feed and Water]

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