The Art of Feeding
Extract from Ron Bissett "Pigeon Fancying"

There are many successful fanciers who claim that when have mastered the art of feeding racing pigeons you are on way to success, assuming of course that you have the basic successful bloodlines in your family. The late W. T. Carr Tottenham, a mentor of the author, once said that there was no way that any feeding or management would make a bad pigeon into a champion, but by good feeding a mediocre bird could be improved and a good bird could be turned into champion. But he also emphasised that feeding, like every thing connected with pigeons, was something individual to both the fancier and his birds.

Like most birds, the pigeon has no teeth with which to chew the food it is given, so it has another method of dealing with what it eats - the grain consumed is stored in the crop, where it is moistened or softened, until it starts going through the, digestive process. It then passes on to the stomach, which in the pigeon is quite small and cannot contain a large amount of food for any length of time. From the stomach the food moves into the gizzard, which has an outer covering of strong muscular-type walls and a very sturdy lining. It is here that the grain, with the help of grit which the bird will have taken, goes through the mill and is ground down and mixes with the digestive juices through which it has already passed on its way to the gizzard. From the gizzard the masticated food passes to the intestines, where it meets further secreted digestive juices and where the contents of the food are broken down further to enable it to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Having briefly looked at how a bird consumes its food, we must consider what a healthy bird needs and what foods will satisfy those needs. Basically, they come under four headings: protein, fats, carbohydrates and mineral salts plus vitamins. Each is required for building up and maintaining the active functions of the pigeon's body. Protein is needed to build up body, bone and feather, and to replace worn tissues from time to time. Carbohydrates are the main sources of heat and energy, for although protein can also supply these it should not be regarded as satisfactory for the purpose, as an overloading of protein has a detrimental effect on the birds. This is because the bird breaks down the protein into carbohydrates and into ammonia which has to be excreted by the kidneys. The amount the latter can handle is limited, so that toxic ammonia and urate accumulate in the bird. So it really is a question of finding the correct balance. In general, a protein content of 17-18 per cent is considered correct.

To help the reader determine the value of the food he feeds to his pigeons, the following list takes an average of four sets of analysts' figures as to the contents of various grains and seeds:
Protein Carbohydrates Fat Fibre Minerals Water
% % % % % %
Lentils 27.5 51.1 2.1 3.4 2.7 14
Tares 25.5 48.4 1.6 5.4 2.9 13.6
Beans 24.5 49.4 1.3 6.9 3.4 14
Linseed 24.3 22 37.4 5.5 3.8 7
Peas (maple) 22 44.5 1.5 4.6 2.6 14
Rape 19 18.6 45 5.9 4.2 7.3
Canary Seed 14.2 56 5.2 8.8 3.4 12.4
Wheat 13.2 69.5 1.9 1.9 1.7 14.2
Oats 11.2 60.1 5.4 6.3 3 14.1
Millet 10.8 64.3 3.7 8.1 1.8 12.2
Maize 10.5 67.1 5.7 2.2 1.5 13.5
Barley 9.5 68.7 1.9 4.5 2.3 14.9
Dari 9 70.4 2.4 1.9 1.4 12.5
Rice 5.8 80.5 .5 1.5 .6 12.3