Racing pigeons Food for thought
As most fanciers know food is the fuel for their bird’s and putting the right fuel in for the task in hand is critical to your bird returning in a competitive timescale. It is also widely known carbohydrates produce short bursts of energy for speed fats provide stored energy reserves for endurance and protein is the builder. All seeds contain different levels of the three and fanciers tailor the different seeds to match the bird’s needs for the distance targeted thus providing fuel for their bird’s needs.
Oh if only pigeon racing was so simple! I hear our long haul fanciers saying “it used to be what changed?”
Well that’s a very good question, I like you remember when it was that simple when the choice of corn was number 1 or number 2 subsidized by bags of wheat or barley from the local farm. I remember my dad sending me down to the farm at the other end of the village to Billy Barker’s farm with a wheelbarrow to get two bags of wheat and being pointed by Billy to a stable door into the granary and him saying “you’ll find some bags and a shovel in there help yourself” I can tell you it was a lot harder pushing that barrow back home than it was going! Anyway I digress, are yes, what’s changed. Well that’s the 64,000 dollar question. Here’s some of my thoughts after doing some research. Again like I’ve said before in previous articles there’s very little of research specifically on pigeons plenty on chickens and humans in this field but they are I’m sure transferable after all it’s grain related not pigeons as such well not for them anyway.
So let’s get on with it and try to answer the question what’s changed with the food (the grains) we feed our racing pigeons?
Firstly grains have like everything in this world changed, take for instance the humble grain of wheat. Wheat is a grass and it was first used widely by man as a food when humans started to stop from being hunter gatherers a relatively nomadic lifestyle and gathered themselves into groups about 11000 years ago. The type of grass they found best for their use was called Emma wheat and it served humans well for millennia although this like everything humans are involved in was modified due to it’s needs by selection. Right get ready for a time hop back to living memory well for some. I found out from my research that it wasn’t until the mid twentieth century when the humble wheat grain received the most attention from the scientific fraternity because of the population boom after the second world war and with more mouths to feed they needed to produce higher yields by acre. Hence they developed more resilient plants to repel pests and insects. Now cast your mind back to the original Emma wheat it contained around 4% gluten (gluten is the plant’s natural pesticide to deter insects and animals from eating it) today’s wheat plant contains 14% gluten a rise of 10% which some experts claim is to blame for leaky gut in humans numerous autoimmune diseases because of our bodies not being able to digest the gluten. You will find that there is studies out there in the public domain that counteract these claims stating that it was at it’s worst in the 1960’s but since moving onto the latest GMO foods (genetically modified organisms) things are better now than they were! So the jury’s out on this one. But which ever way at least it demonstrates that our grains we feed our bird’s are not the same as they were and you can reasonably surmise that all other grains will have been given some sort of similar attention!
Come here in the words of Jiminy Cricket (those of you who are old enough to remember the comedian) There’s more!
Intensive farming! If you like me come from a rural farming lineage you will have a basic knowledge about crop rotation and relatively small yields of crops. Plus those that have a knowledge of horticulture will know that plants get their nutrients from the soil, with that in mind if we were to even contemplate where our pigeons food comes from we probably would imagine it growing in some idyllic location growing under natural conditions. Well I don’t know your circumstances where you get yours from and if you are lucky enough to get it from your local farm then you are indeed lucky. I’m afraid like me you do get it local but not from a farm but from a corn merchant where all the popular named brands are on offer. The corn does look pleasing to the eye but it’s like looking at a pretty racing pigeon you can’t tell what it’s immune system is like by looking at it. Like the shiny corn you can’t tell what nutrients, vitamins and trace elements they contain either. Most crops for commercial purposes will be grown intensive conditions for volume and looks not necessarily for their nutritional content.
So after all that what can we conclude, well we can conclude that the food we feed our pigeons has changed does that make a difference to them I would say yes but to what degree I don’t know.
I hear you say after reading all that you tell me you don’t know!
Yes but I know how to mitigate the possible difference and that’s simple supplements give them what you think from what you have learned from above or if you are in the position to let your bird’s out to peck around your garden/allotment etc. Do that and they will find their own.
Here’s a little tip which might help you get the most out of your pigeon feed. Remember when fanciers used sand on the loft floor, well we (my dad and me) used to get our straight from the beach although I believe it’s not aloud now. When I was looking into nutrition in bird’s in this case chickens I came across a lecture about how the chicken eats small rounds pebbles which roll between the two muscles of the gizzard to breakdown the hard seeds to extract the nutrients. Now this got me thinking about the coarse sea sand in the loft and how the commercial shop bought grit is most of the ones I’ve used over the years are flat and sharp now that doesn’t look like it can roll and crush breakdown hard seeds efficiently. So maybe it might if the nutrients in the grains are reduced small round pebbles may help to get that little bit extra nutrients out of the grains.
I hope this as been of some use to the connoisseur fanciers that like to know that little bit more in depth information that just may make that little bit of a difference to the health and in turn the performance of their pigeons on race day.
As ever Yours in sport
Dave Bunker Brierley 2020