Pigeons need an average of 35 to 45 grams of feed a day. Feeding may be split into two periods with one third of the feed requirement given in the morning and two thirds in the late afternoon.
CARBOHYDRATES AND FATS
Pigeons need to maintain a high body temperature of 41.8 degrees C—so they need lots of energy from carbohydrates and fats. Seeds, legumes and cereals provide 40 to 75 percent carbohydrates. Fats can be derived mostly from seeds. Fats produce 2 and a half times the energy as carbohydrates. Captive pigeons do not need as much energy unlike those in the wild. Obese pigeons are unhealthy and fat pigeons have a reduced sex drive which leads to less egg production.
Legumes provide most of the protein requirements of pigeons 16 to 23 percent, with cereals coming close at 11 percent. Protein helps pigeons build muscles for racing stronger wing, for regrowing feathers during moulting, for egg production, and pigeon milk for feeding babies.
Minerals and salts are inorganic materials not necessarily food that still play an important part in one's diet. Minerals are needed for eggshell production when laying eggs, growth and strength of their skeletons, and aiding body functions. Grit helps birds digest their food by being grinded in the stomach along with the stomach acids of the birds and cleans out the gizzard of the bird too.
Pre-mixed pigeon feed mixes already contain the needed energy and protein requirements of your birds.
Water is essential for the birds to lubricate their food and soften grains for digestion, to regulate body temperature and as a transport system for digested food. You pigeons should have access to fresh clean water at all times. Pigeons don't drink like most birds who dip, tip and gulp; pigeons dunk their beaks into the water trough and drink like horses. Parents feeding their young need a lot of water to soften the food they give to their young since the young cannot digest feed as is. If the young cannot digest food that is not softened by water they will die.
READING THE FEED TRAY
The feed tray always reveals what your birds may be needing, if they leave peas, they need carbohydrates for energy and heat, so add a little corn or safflower to the mix. When they leave corn in the tray, they need protein for a moult or to feed babies.
Before breeding and conditioning the
sexes are separated. Two weeks before the breeding season starts, change the diet to include more protein to increase the pigeon's sex drive and help them into breeding condition. Your feeding mix should also contain nutrients that aid production of eggs, milk production, and for development of strong bones and healthy tissues in the new young. You may include tidbits and lettuce in their diet. You must give breeders fresh grit everyday because the hens need extra calcium to form eggshells.
Protein content for breeding season should be 18 to 20 percent of feed mix with a variety of foodstuffs. This mixture should be given liberally twice a day throughout the growth and rearing of the young. Newly weaned bird require the same feed mix since the whole body is still maturing and the flight feathers and muscles are developing.
As they are learning to fly, young pigeons will eat at a time. But will eat often so feed should be available throughout the day.
MOULTING SEASON FEEDING
Breeding usually ends after the summer solstice. Pigeons moult the whole year round to a degree. They may shed and regrow some down feathers during rainy season when it is colder, but during the onset of summer the first flight feathers are moulted. Moulting starts slowly until the the middle of the month.
A feeding mix with a slightly lower protein content should be used from 15 to 18 percent, but keep an eye out on carbohydrates and fats as the inactive birds may put on weight.
You may induce the moulting in birds by changing their feed from a breeder mix to the one with les protein for 6 to 8 days until the birds lose their drive to bree and automatically go into moulting.
Oil seeds like hemp and linseed should be included in their diet to improve feather health and feather bloom. Show pigeons benefit greatly from a diet of 'tonic seeds' when moulting. Sunflower seeds may cause diarrhea due to oil content and result in a very dirty loft. As soon as their last flight feather drops, the moulting season ends and you can change the diet to resting period.
TRAINING / RACING FEEDS
Feeding during racing season is an art. Carbohydrates are the primary content over protein as the birds need energy to fly fast over long distances. Aside from the commercial conditioning mixes available, corn and safflower are recommended to build energy reserves. The trick is to balance fat / protein and carbohydrates content to build up reserves for longer tosses and races. You must not overfeed and allow the birds to get overweight, extra energy reserves are needed in case of a hard race, cold weather. Young birds being trained might need a 12 to 15 percent protein mix since they are still building up muscle until they go into adult moult.
Older birds trained for a race need 10 to 12 percent.
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