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Pigeon Basics Start


When we hear an airplane flying over or if we see all those cars driving on the highway, we really do not instantly reflect on the fact that for every movement, however small it may be, energy is needed. An airplane that has not enough fuel on board will have to make an emergency landing.

A farmer, driving a tractor, who has not put enough diesel in his fuel tank, will have to go back to the farm to get an jerry can with fuel. He will find out that this can be a heavy walk through the thick clay soil. And the car? Did you ever pushed for a small mile to the gas station because your fuel tank was empty?

You will get very big muscular arms when you do this.….. Therefore it may be quite useful to know how much fuel we will need if we want to travel from A to B by car. We don't pay a lot of attention to this, but you could try to forget to take money and  your bank card  with you …

I want to bet that you will look more often at the fuel gauge. If we want to make a trip of 500 miles and you know that your car needs 1 on 10, then you should know that you need to have at least 50 l petrol in the tank. Otherwise we will get into trouble.

The muscle cells of a human or an animal can contract and provide labor. They get the energy they need from proteins, carbohydrates and fat. By oxidation ( combustion by the intake of oxygen) the composition of the1.se of these substances changes and energy is released.

This energy can be converted by a cell to another form such as heat or motion. Actually, how is energy made? In fact, sunlight, hydrogen, chlorophyll (the green pigment in plants) and carbon dioxide are responsible for it. The plants will, when hydrogen is available,  convert carbon dioxide from the air into oxygen and high energy substances (carbohydrates).

In the body, oxidation (combustion by the absorption of  oxygen). Of these high energy substances in the organs, will finally convert them in heat, movement and carbon dioxide. That is why food is the raw material or the energy supplier for humans and animals.

The human sportshuman sports
People doing sports, consume energy.  If we want to perform at an high level, it is important to know how we should nourish and how we should train to get peak performance. The fuels that supply the energy are
carbohydrates (4.1 kcal per gram), proteins (4.1 kcal per gram) and fat (9.2 kcal per gram).  The burning of these substances produces heat, energy, carbon dioxide and waste. 

Only with the burning of fat, no harmful waste products are released, only water and carbon dioxide are produced in this case. If people are working out, the muscles are being contracted and lactic acid is produced. This gets in the blood. During an intense workout, the acidity of the blood increases, which is the cause of fatigue. You can get a grip on this process by training regularly. If the training is adapted to the person,  the fatigue limits can increasingly be pushed.

There is a clear link between the level of lactic acid, the labor intensity and the heart rate. It can be measured by the heart rate: for explosive sports, the final values are 9 times higher than those at the point of departure. For endurance athletes those values are 3 times higher on arrival. Top athletes "run" on approximately 60% carbohydrates.

Pigeon top sports
In pigeons, almost no lactic acid is produced. In the first place the pigeon determines its own pace. He will not be rushed. The metabolism of homing pigeons is very different from that of humans or mammals. The pigeon burns mainly fats and therefore, no lactic acid will be formed.

Energy consumption

Now, we arrived at the point to learn what the pigeon actually consumes during flights. In the universities of Ghent (Belgium), Guelph (Canada) and Frankfurt (Germany), pigeons were learned to fly in a wind tunnel.

So they did fly, but they didn't advance. In this way they could be "connected" to technical equipment  and measurements could be performed. With fine equipment, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide levels and weight loss are measured.

This way, it is possible to determine how much oxygen the pigeon consumes and how much carbon dioxide it exhales. If the amount of oxygen inhaled equals the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled, then, at that moment,  the pigeon  flies on  glycogen. If only 7 parts carbon dioxide  out of 10 parts oxygen are exhaled, then the pigeon flies on fat.

During the first 10 minutes, the pigeon flies exclusively on glycogen. That is enough to leave the basket and attain the right altitude and speed. After that, during 30 and 50 minutes glucose and fatty acid from the bloodstream and from the liver are consumed. During the first hour most of the weight loss occurs.

This indicates that the energy from burning glycogen (4.1 kcal per gram) is half of that from burning fat ( 9.2 kcal per gram). It was also measured that pigeons consume 3 to 3.5 gram of fat per hour and that is, of course, very interesting to know. The fatty acids are stored in the red muscle fibers which are mainly located in the breast. This is the storage tank for the trip.

These red muscle fibers contain +/-   97 ½% unsaturated fatty acids. The glycogen that is used by the pigeon during the first 10 minutes of the flight, is located in the white muscles directly next to the sternum.

Those have to be substantially inflated when the pigeon is basked. The “light blood fats” in the body are produced by the carbohydrate and fat-rich grains which are fed at the last 3 feedings. Only after these are consumed, the pigeon will switch to the burning of fatty acids from the red muscle fibers. As we now know how much fat is contained in the feed, we can calculate what the pigeon needs.

Suppose, you will send your pigeons on a flight of 400 km and you estimate that this is a flight of  6 hours. During the first hour, only glycogen (collective name of various kinds of carbohydrates) will be used. This is also when the highest speed is achieved.

During the last 5 hours, the reserves of fat (acids) are addressed. We assume 3 grams of fat is used per hour. So the pigeons need 5 x 3 gram = 15 gram  of fat. If we know how high in fat the feed is, we can calculate whether this feed provides enough energy.

The energy from the feed
Suppose we have a feed with a fat content of 5%. We feed an average of 200 grams of feed per pigeon per week. Then, with the feed, we have given the pigeon 10 grams of fat reserves. That is enough for a flight of 3 hours. Let us add the first hour during which the pigeon uses glycogen and blood fats, then we end up with a total of 4 hours.

That is not enough for this flight. If we now take a feed mixture with a fat content of 9% (= 18gram fat), then this is more than sufficient for this flight. So we have to keep an eye on how many hours our pigeons are in the air. For the short distance flights of 2 hours, we need very little fat and the main part of the feed should result in carbohydrates and light blood fats.

For heavy long distance flights, this is a completely different story. Therefore, short- and middle distance players need a different kind of feed than the long distance and overnight long distance players. It is therefore useful to have a close look at what you buy.

It is not necessarily the nicest mixture that gives the best results, but a mixture that enables the pigeons to do what is expected from them. So this is quite a different way to look at feed than that most pigeon fanciers are used to.

We usually give the same feed as the top players do, without considering whether this is the right choice for us. We feed the food that is being promoted in the pigeon magazines, without further consideration ……. You get the picture. In the next articles, I will specifically address the short-, the middle-, the long distance, the overnight and the game with young pigeons. shaidani

I considered it useful to explain the fundamentals of feeding first. We are going to start from that point and then we are going to have a specialized look at what is most important for you. A good feed for widowhood has all what is needed for an optimal performance.

For the program game (from short  to long distance), it is very important that your feed has a relatively high fat content, an highly metabolisable energy content, and a relatively low legume content. If you cannot find the composition on the bag, then it is probably to be found in a brochure of the manufacturer or you could simply make a telephone call.

Too much of a good thing
It is certainly not wise to feed a lot of fat. Even if you have the best intentions, you should realize that the
pigeons have to carry all that fat. With every wing beat, the pigeon will have to cope with it. So if you feed too much fuel week after week, the fat deposits may become overfilled and the pigeon will get out of shape.

This also means that you, as a fancier, should also do some thinking of your own. If your pigeons are planned to have a flight of 400 km for two weeks in a row, but they are put back by weather conditions to 100 km, their tank is not empty. You have to take this into account by feeding lighter and less during the next week. Pigeon fancying remains an art, and he who makes the least mistakes, has the biggest advantage...

If the carbohydrates and the fats are consumed during a tough race, then the pigeon still has a small reserve tank with long-chain carbohydrates (the Alfa 1.6 compounds). If those are used too, then the pigeon switches over to the burning of proteins. This are the building elements of the muscles.

This process is accompanied by massive muscle cramps. It is like if the muscles are combusted and for this process, a lot of oxygen is needed. Most pigeons don't want to go through this ordeal and they go to the ground. So, bye bye pigeon (our fault!!). The real go-getters, the character pigeons, return home but are severely emaciated. These pigeons will usually never perform at the same level as before.

Besides the fuel, the pigeon also needs oxygen. Muscles cannot function without oxygen. The “creators” of oxygen are the red blood cells. These should be widely available for an optimal oxygen supply. Also proteins are consumed during a flight. That has been proved by measurements. The heavier the flight, the more the proteins are addressed.

You can compare this with the oil consumption of a car. If the car is heavily loaded and has to go over the mountains on a long trip to reach the final destination, the chance that oil is consumed is greater than if you would have gone to the bakery to pick up a sandwich. Consumed proteins should always be supplemented, otherwise the motor will stop working. This is also true for the pigeons.

Pigeon Basics

If you want to read more about how to measure energy of a pigeon click here


What can you learn from the articles on pigeon basics?

It is important to know how a racing (feeding) plan is developed and why. Besides that it is important to know which and how much energy a pigeon uses. Pigeons are top athletes and we have to treat them appropriately


Get to know all about nutrition



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