Feeding the racing pigeons with the right diet has always been a topic surrounded by mystery. It is no surprise that finding the right diet for racing pigeons is quite confusing.
Most of the fanciers use trial and error methods to find the perfect blend of grains for their aviator athletes. Whereas, many fanciers are simply stuck with the mix they have been using for years.
When I started my journey of fancying, I went through the same confusion.
But gradually, with experience and detailed study about the feeding schedule and diet of racing pigeons, I figured out what brings out the best results for my racing pigeons.
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To help you better understand the dietary requirements of racing pigeons, I have tried to summarize my learning in this section.
How To Feed Pigeons For Sprint Racing?
Racing pigeons should be fed a diet containing a proper balance of all the essential nutrients that the birds require for the racing purpose. The aim of feeding the pigeons is to provide them with exactly enough energy in the food for sustained flight.
By using the fresh, clean, and highest quality grains, the fancier can introduce a racing mix appropriate for his pigeons and their training methods. The most essential nutrients that play a major role in the diet of racing pigeons are proteins and fats.
To have a better understanding of the requirement of proteins and fats for racing pigeons, let’s discuss them in detail separately.
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Proteins majorly help the racing pigeons in repairing tissues and various other base metabolic purposes. For optimal racing, the pigeons’ diet should contain 12-14% protein.
Any sort of increase or decrease in the percentage of their protein consumption can lead to a major drop in the fitness levels of the pigeons. Therefore, it is extremely important to calculate the amount of protein given to them.
The overfeeding of proteins to the racing pigeons can lead to many problems in birds. Some of them include:
- Excess proteins take longer to digest as they first need to be broken down into amino acids and then have to be metabolized.
- The high amount of protein results in high levels of nitrogen. This indirectly increases the workload on the kidneys as nitrogen in the form of urea and uric acid has to be excreted out of birds’ bodies.
- An increase in protein levels affects the release of energy per gram.
- The intake of various extra substances like phytic acid and tannins increases with overfeeding. These substances are anti-digestive and thus, interfere with the release of nutrients.
The underfeeding results in making the bird less competitive. Further, it leads to the depletion of energy reserves in muscle, fat, and liver.
Fats help in providing energy for exertion to pigeons during racing. A gram of fat releases up to 9.3 calories of energy on combustion which is more than twice the energy provided by protein. Racing pigeons mostly require 7-15% of fat in their diet.
Many times, people assume that high protein is all that is needed by pigeons to win races and get home but this is not completely true.
Although proteins help in tissue repairing during racing, it is the fats and carbohydrates that are more important.
Generally, when birds exert, they use sugars available in the blood as an energy source.
During extensive flying, the glycogen (complex carbohydrates) is broken down into glucose which provides energy. As soon as they deplete, the role of fats comes into play for providing energy.
The balancing of fats and carbohydrates is extremely crucial. The absence of fats can result in the breakdown of muscle tissue and other proteins, leading to loss of weight in pigeons. Whereas, excess fats can lead to loss of buoyancy.
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Other things to consider:
Getting the right amount of fats and protein levels in the diet is a good start in formulating a good diet for racing pigeons but there are many other things to consider. These include:
1. Vitamins and Supplements
Racing can survive on grains, seeds, or grits alone, but if they are into racing most of the time, then they should be provided with food containing a good amount of vitamins.
Without the consumption of idle vitamins, the bird may not remain healthy and fit for competition.
Some vitamin supplements can help in increasing the vitamin level of these birds as it is hard to find a blend of grains that supply all the required vitamins the birds need.
Fanciers mostly assume that racing pigeons will require additional electrolytes in their diet. But this is just not true.
Pigeons do not have salt glands and thus, they can only tolerate high amounts of electrolytes as long as they have access to fresh water.
The unavailability of water can lead to salt poisoning in pigeons. Therefore, there is no need for electrolytes to pigeons competing in races.
Even if the bird has become dehydrated due to racing in hot weather, it is still not a reason to use electrolytes.
How much to feed racing pigeons?
The amount of feed given to racing pigeons may vary according to the ingredients the feed holds and the number of nutrients each ingredient contains. But the nutritional value of their diets should remain the same.
Their feet should contain an exact 12% of proteins and a minimum of 5% fats. Other than fats and proteins, the diet should also contain vitamins, minerals, and additional supplements.
Racing pigeons require a different amount of feed than other pet pigeons. A proper nutrition program is required to be installed for birds according to their weight, age, and training methods.
The feed of racing pigeons can contain a mix of different grains like barley, wheat, peas, maize, oats, peanuts, safflower, etc.
How many times should racing pigeons be fed?
Racing pigeons should be fed two to three times a day. The feeding can be done in the morning, mid-day, and evening. However, it may change according to their racing sprees and exercises.
One thing to pay attention to while feeding them is that the birds should not overfeed.
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The main objective of feeding them at different intervals is to provide them a minimum of one ounce of grains for each bird daily but not more than that.
Best Food For Racing Pigeons
There are various food items eaten by pigeons in their lifetime, but not everything they eat is idle for them to be good racing pigeons.
These pigeons require a special diet to fuel their extensive flying. Some of the best foods for racing pigeons include:
Experts prefer giving barley to racers for 4 to 5 days a week which constitutes 10% of their food.
The right time to give barley to racing pigeons is after the participation in the racing. It helps in cleaning the intestine and provides energy to balance out the tiring effects of a long flight.
Barley shouldn’t be given in the regular grain mix of the bird as excessive intake can lead to an increase in their fiber level.
Also, it shouldn’t be given to the parent birds as its excessive use can result in the depletion of growth of the young chicks by almost 15%.
Corn is not only one of the most loved grains by racing pigeons but also the most preferred grain given to these birds as it has ample fats and crude fiber.
Therefore, it should constitute almost 25% of the daily consumption of racing pigeons.
The only drawback of adding corn to your birds’ diet is that it lacks two important amino acids, tryptophan, and lysine.
But this usually does not affect the owners much as they use alternative supplements and ingredients to fulfill the requirement of these amino acids.
Providing corn daily to racing pigeons is good but make sure that the ratio of its intake should not be more than one-fourth of its total consumption.
Wheat is one of the major sources of proteins to racing pigeons and therefore, it is essential to add wheat to the daily consumption of these birds.
The amount of wheat given to them should be around 25% of their total daily consumption.
It is important to ensure that the wheat consumption of these birds should not cross the limit of 25% because excess use of it can increase the weight of the bird, resulting in poor performance.
Millet is one of the best grains that constitute a good amount of both fat and protein. Hence, it is among the top grains given to sprint racers.
It makes a good substitute for corn as it has more protein and less fat than corn.
Peanuts make the most interesting food item for racing pigeons. They contain massive amounts of protein and fats, making them an idle food for pigeons of longer races.
Due to their rich composition, fanciers should keep in mind that peanuts far exceed other food items in energy value.
Therefore the right amount should be given to these birds and at the time when they are most needed.
Peanuts can also be used as treats for racing pigeons. During the racing season, they can be used to increase the attraction of the bird to his box.
Related Read: Do pigeons fly at night?
Health Problems in Feeding Racing pigeons
Some of the common diseases that occur to racing pigeons include:
Chlamydia is one of those diseases that do not show any symptoms in birds.
You only get to know about it when your flock is already suffering from it. Various variants of this disease are found in the aviator family members.
You can prevent your racers from the disease by providing them with ideal food and a stress-free environment.
There is not any particular treatment or vaccine for the disease, but if it is detected at an early stage, it can be cured with the right medications and care.
It is a type of respiratory disease that majorly harms the respiratory tract of birds.
Some of the basic symptoms of the disease are coughing and nasal discharge. If the right treatment does not reach the infected birds, they will eventually die.
As fancier, you need to pay utmost attention to the behavioral changes of your racing pigeons and if you find any, take the bird to an avian vet immediately.
3. Respiratory infections
One of the most common avian diseases, respiratory infections can impact the performance of racing pigeons badly. The disease mostly targets the young, old, and stressed-out members of the flock.
The birds suffering from the disease find difficulty in breathing. This leads to less intake of oxygen in them, causing early fatigue and poor performance in birds.
The common sign of the disease is that you will find the affected bird keeping its mouth open.
If you detect the disease in any of your flock members, separate it from the flock to prevent the other members from catching the disease.
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Racing pigeons require a special diet to be fit to participate in long flights. The nutrients they take in their diet provide them with the fuel they need to race.
Proteins, fats, and some other vitamins and supplements are extremely essential in their diet to be able to win the race.