THE FERAL PIGEON (Columba livia var)
and doves belong to a large and successful family of 289 species, ranging
in size from the Diamond Dove which is approximately 12cm long, to the
Crowned Pigeon which is as big as a female turkey, and in colour from
the many-coloured Fruit Dove to the soft grey Wood pigeon. Our familiar
feral pigeon of the streets has been known by man for 6000 years. They
were sculpted on Egyptian tombs, carried messages for King Solomon,
helped Julius Caesar conquer Gaul and won many medals for bravery in
both world wars. Several poets including Shakespeare have written about
the qualities of pigeons. To many they are a symbol of Peace and Love.
Pigeons are gentle, beautiful birds who need and deserve all our kindness
and respect. They are truly amazing birds, for they can;
• live everywhere except Antarctica
• suck water the way we do
• navigate up to 1000 miles
• sense the Earth•s magnetic field
• fly as fast as 75 miles per hour
• hear ultra-sound
• see colours including ultra-violet
• feed their babies •milk• even if they are male
These adaptable and intelligent birds (along with doves) have one common
ancestor, the Rock Dove (Columba Livia).Their normal life span is 5-7
years though they can go upto 15 years. The mother has an incubation
period of 17-19 days and the young leave the nest in 40- 45 days.The
bird is about 83 cm in length and weighs between 280 and 560 g - average
about 350 g. Its plumage can vary considerably, from a close resemblance
to that of the original rock dove (with blue-grey plumage, double black
wing bars and a white rump) through various •blues•, •reds• and chequered
types, to almost pure black. There are no visible differences between
the sexes. Male pigeons are usually slightly bigger in size and have
bigger beaks and wattles (white part of the beak). They also have a
much bolder, larger head than the females. Sexing pigeons is hard and
can only be achieved through practice and comparison. Females are smaller
and have flatter heads too and are often seen on the nest more than
Feral pigeons build their nests in or on buildings and other structures,
where they are usually found on ledges or in hollows - often under eaves
or on girders. Grass, twigs, feathers or any scraps, such as plastic
and wire, may be used in the construction of nests, which are frequently
rather flimsily built but, when used for successive broods, may become
Pigeons in the wild breed all the year round but the peak is from around
March to September if the weather is warm. They chase each other for
10 days and then the female lays 2 eggs in the nest, one day apart.
They then sit on these for 18 days and they hatch into two squeakers
(babies) which are covered in yellow down hair. They rear their young
until about 4 weeks old and then they leave the nest and go wild themselves.
Feral pigeons normally feed in flocks and for most of the year rely
mainly on spillage at food premises or on scraps, including bread, cake
grain and •bird-seed•, given by the public. In some localities birds
may fly to nearby arable farmland during spring and autumn to feed on
sowings and stubbles.
Loading and unloading of grain, at places such as docks and mills, provides
a source of food from the abundant spillage that normally occurs.
Pigeons lay two white eggs on any available ledge. In just under three
weeks the babies hatch and are fed on special pigeon•s milk which is
a curd-like substance produced in the crops of both parents. Gradually
the familiar grey feathers replace the yellow down that covered the
newborn pigeon (or squab). They become independent at about 2 months
old. Any baby pigeon found on the ground that appears small, still has
yellow tufts visible or who squeaks for food or in fear, is in great
danger from cats or traffic etc. PLEASE PICK IT UP as it is almost impossible
to return it to its nest. You may find pigeons breeding on your balcony,
workplace or roof space or on top of the air conditioners/coolers.Leave
them alone and at some distance away, without making eye contact, leave
bowls of water and food.
The pigeon is herbivorous. As seedeaters, these birds must obtain all
their essential nutrients from ripe and unripe seeds, cereals, and legumes.
Carbohydrates and Fats
In relation to their volume, pigeons have a large surface area. To maintain
their high body temperature of 107.2• F (41.8• C), they require an enormous
amount of energy produced from carbohydrates and fats. Fats produce
2 • times as much energy as carbohydrates but those not burned up by
activity will be deposited in the pigeon•s muscles and body organs,
making it obese and lethargic. A low fat diet is therefore recommended.
Proteins are necessary in the diet for the growth and repair of cell
tissues and in the production of enzymes to aid in the digestive system.
A large proportion of proteins are obtained from legumes (about 16-23%),
and also in cereals (around 11%). However, the amino acid compositions
are different in the various legumes and cereals, so a mixture must
be provided in order to ensure a balanced diet. The plumage is also
composed mainly from proteins and a good supply of these nutrients is
necessary before and during the onset of winter.The pigeon•s •milk•,
which is produced from the crop lining, must be as rich in protein as
possible. Pigeons that do not receive a varied supply of amino acids
will not be able to provide an adequate diet to their young through
Mineral salts such as calcium and phosphorous play an important role
in the forming and maintenance of bones. These minerals are not contained
in sufficient quantities in the normal diet, so must be given in the
form of grit. Water
Water is necessary to lubricate and soften the food, to regulate body
temperature, and to serve as a transport system for digested food. Pigeons
should have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Food must not smell musty, or show a trace of mould. Grain, seed, and
legumes should have moisture content not greater than 17%. If higher
than this the nutritional quality, including the vitamin content, will
be diminished. Damp grain can cause digestive problems. Under normal
conditions the moisture content is well under 17%. All ingredients must
be kept dry and protected from rodents.
Cereals are excellent food for pigeons. Grains have a high starch content
(40-75%) and are easily digested and provide a good supplement to the
Barley is an excellent food with a starch content of 62.5%, a protein
content of 7.5%, and a low fat content of 1.2%. The fibre (roughage)
content is 1.3%. It has vitamin B, vitamin D and mineral content.
Maize has the lowest protein content of the cereals (7.1%), but a high
starch content (65.7%), and a fibre content of 1.3%. It has the highest
fat content of grains of grains or legumes (4%). Maize is avidly consumed
by pigeons and, because of its high fat content; it should be given
sparingly (maximum 20% of the diet). In intense cold weather it can
be increased to 30% so that the pigeons can compensate for heat loss.
Wheat is an excellent food for pigeons. Its digestible protein contents
are somewhat higher than that of other grains: 9.7%; the starch content
is 63.5%; fat content, 1.2%; the raw fibre content is low at 0.9%. Wheat
should form a maximum of 20% of the diet. Too much wheat can cause digestive
Oats stimulate the nervous system and are particularly useful in preparing
for the breeding season.
The drawbacks of oats are a high fat content (4%) and a higher proportion
of fibre than other grains (2.6%; double that of barley). Dehusked oats,
with no loss of quality, are more acceptable to the birds. Because of
the high fat content, oats should not be more than 5% of the diet. The
protein content is 9.3% and the starch content 44.8%.
Paddy (brown rice)
Paddy is a valuable food because of its high vitamin B content. The
vitamin is contained in the husk and in the germ, and is more or less
lost in dehusked rice. Brown rice has a fairly high fibre content. Its
protein, starch and fat content are lower than in other grains but this
is compensated for by the vitamin B content. An adequate amount of brown
rice is 2-3% of the food mixture.
Sorghum is a small grain that comes in various sizes and colours, from
white to reddish brown. White sorghum is the largest and is probably
the most nutritious. It is easily digested and has high starch content.
The protein content is low. It is not especially valuable as a pigeon
food, but 2-3% can be added to give the diet more variety.
Legumes, or pulses, are an important part of a pigeon•s diet. They have
a greater percentage of protein and minerals than grains and many seeds,
and have low fibre content. They are necessary to provide a full range
of amino acids.
Pigeon peas (tuvar/arhar)
Pigeon peas are the best-known legumes used in the pigeon•s food mixture.
They contain a high proportion of digestible protein (20%). The calcium
and phosphorous content is fairly high at 0.14% and 0.45% respectively.
5- 10% of pigeon peas can be included in the diet.
Green peas are the most suitable protein rich legumes for our pigeons.
The protein content, at 19.4%, is lower than that of pigeon peas, but
green peas are very nutritious and more easily digested. In addition,
the various vitamins are better represented than in other legumes. Green
peas have a good vitamin B content, and contain vitamin E and carotene.
Green peas should form 50% of the leguminous part of the diet.
Linseed has about the same protein content as green peas but a much
higher fat content (about 35%). Linseed may be given only in very small
quantities. It helps the growth of young birds. Moreover, linseed gives
the pigeon smooth and silky plumage.
Hemp ( bhang )
The pigeons eagerly consume hemp. It is high in fat and protein and
stimulates the sex drive. Feed it only in small quantities.
Safflower seed ( kusumbha, karadi, kardai )
Safflower seed is high in protein but also has a very high fat content.
Therefore 1-2% in the food mixture is adequate.
Weed seeds and chaff (Chokar)
Weed seeds, of good quality, are an excellent tonic for pigeons. About
one thimbleful per bird per day can be mixed with a minute quantity
of linseed and hemp. This will gives the birds a supplement of vitamins
and minerals that are scarce in the larger grains and legumes.
They should be given in small quantities as many of these seeds have
a high fat content, too much of which will make pigeons obese. Some
varieties of weed seed also have high fat content.
Vitamin deficiencies result in impaired health of the birds. Such deficiencies
can show in various ways, including weak muscles, swollen eyelids, thin-shelled
There are a few cautions to note: first, it may be difficult or impossible
to distinguish the pigeons that require extra supplements from the healthy
ones; secondly, by giving synthetic vitamins, we discourage the pigeons
from producing their own from their normal foods. In such cases, the
synthetic vitamins are used in the body and the natural ones are passed
out with the body wastes. There are occasions when synthetic vitamin
preparations are useful for all the pigeons: for example in the winter,
when they are receiving too little sunlight (ultraviolet rays from sunlight
are absorbed through the pigeon•s skin and help it to produce vitamin
D, essential for healthy bones). A small amount of cod liver oil (enough
to barely show on the food seeds) can be added to the food, not more
than twice a week. Be sure that the cod-liver oil is fresh; if rancid,
it will destroy the vitamin E. .
Function/ Essential for
Growth in young ones
peas, yellow maize, carrots, green vegetables and cod-liver oil.
good appetite,healthy nervous and digestive system, helps build
up the skeleton.
green peas,and paddy, carrot and kale.
Essential for the metabolism of the proteins, carbohydrates and
fats and adequate functioning of the nervous system and the development
of the embryo.
Regulates metabolism in the nerves and liver. Important for growth.
kinds of grains,yeast and bran.
anaemia and deficiencies like leg cramps.
yeast and green feeds.
for the formation of red blood cells and for growth in the first
few weeks of the pigeon's life.Necessary for the good development
is of animal origin and not found in normal pigeon food. It is contained
in chick rearing food and in black earth.
Works in close relationship with Vitamin A.
in the pigeon's own body
the skeleton violet rays of the
is produced in the body from ultra-sun. Barley, coating of cod liver
oil on seeds.
in both male and female pigeon.
grains,legumes wheat and maize and green peas.
of blood clotting
Mix of Food:
An average sized pigeon weighs about 14 ounces (400 gm). On a daily
basis, a pigeon requires 1/10 to 1/12 of its body weight in food; that
is 1 • ounces (30-40gm) per day. During the rearing of the young the
amount can double and during the rest period, it may reduce to 1 ounce
(25-30gm). The 1 • ounces (30-40gm) of food is best given in two parts,
mornings and evenings.
Feeding in the rest period
During the winter rest period, no eggs are usually laid, no young are
reared, and molting is over. Food required will be only for the maintenance
of the pigeon•s body. However, on colder days and nights, the energy
requirement will be somewhat greater.
A protein content of 7-8% is adequate. Various cereals contain this
amount, but, as cereal proteins are not adequate in themselves, legumes
are added to give the necessary variety of amino acids.
Feeding before and during the breeding season
Two weeks before the breeding period starts, the diet must contain more
protein. The amount of barley is gradually reduced and the amount of
legume increased, so that the 7-8% protein content of the rest period
reaches 12-13%, with a littile variety. The mixture should be given
throughout the growth and rearing of the young.
After the eggs have been laid, the protein percentage in the diet can
be slightly lowered. Many protein foods are heavy and the digestive
system, especially the liver, has to work hard. During the first ten
days of brooding, the legume content of the diet can be reduced to 20%
and the barley increased to 30%. After these ten days, increase the
legumes again to 40% and reduce the barley to 10% of the mixture. During
the rearing of the young, feed liberally twice a day, so that food is
always available for the adults after feeding the young. Weaned youngsters
require the same mixture as that on which they are reared.
Pigeons molt the whole year round; in the rest period they shed some
down feathers, but in March/April the first flight feathers are molted.
The molt continues slowly until the main molting period, which usually
starts mid-July to the beginning of August. During the molting period
a lower percentage of protein than in the breeding period should be
given. A protein content of 10-11% in the diet will be adequate, but
through as varied a diet mixture as possible, in order to supply a full
quota of amino acids.
Oilseeds such as sunflower, hemp, linseed, cabbage seed, and rape (Rai),
fed in small quantities during the molting period, will give an improved
bloom to the new plumage.
In all of these periods, you must not forget to supply the pigeons with
a good, varied grit mixture, greens, and, for birds that are not free-flying,
fresh, overturned grass sod every week. Do not leave out barley and
do not feed too much!
Remember that pigeons drink immediately after eating, to help them digest
their food. Every time you feed the pigeons, inspect the water container
and be sure it is filled with fresh water, which should be warmed in
When the young are being reared, water is essential for both young and
adults. If the parent birds are unable to supply the young with adequately
softened food, the chicks will soon die. Pigeons, unlike most other
birds, suck up water and hold their beaks in it the whole time they
Like most birds, pigeons love to bathe, especially in the molting period.
Young pigeons like to bathe throughout the year. Bath water also helps
maintain humidity during brooding; otherwise the embryos can die in
the shell or the shells may become too hard for the young to break out
TREATING A SICK PIGEON
is intended as assistance towards problem recognition through elimination
of possibilities until arriving at the most probable cause of illness
and diagnosis - a •Layman•s• directory!
Many pigeon ailments have similar symptoms and yet are completely different
in their nature and severity. Most common pigeon ailments are equilibrium
unbalance problems; that is to say that they are stress related. The bacteria
live permanently in balance within the body until something reduces the
individuals vitality and the natural balance becomes upset.
A sick pigeon will fluff out it•s feathers as if it is cold. The patient
hides perhaps under a park bench or in a doorway, and is seen on the ground
at dusk when its fellows have flown up high to roost. The droppings may
appear green and watery, and signs of bullying injuries by other birds
may be visible around the head. An injured pigeon may be in shock, limping
badly, drooping a wing or bleeding.
Pigeons suffer from a variety of ailments peculiar to themselves, the
most common being the Paramyxo virus and throat canker. The virus causes
birds to appear fluffed up, unbalanced or dizzy. They may walk in circles,
throw seeds in the air when eating, hang their heads or have fits. No
veterinary treatment is available as far as we know but the patient almost
always recovers after a lengthy period of rest and care. However, he or
she must be kept separate from other birds for at least 6 weeks. Canker
or Trichomoniasis seems most common in adult collared doves and young
feral pigeons aged between 2 and 5 weeks. It is detected by a swollen
throat, wet or bad smelling discharge from the beak and unwillingness
to fly. This complaint is fatal if not treated with a drug such as metronidazole
bought from a vet. Crop-feeding may be necessary while healing is underway.
Please do not attempt to scrape away the white growths unless they are
severely restricting breathing, as this may damage the lining of the throat.
Keep the patient away from other birds. As with dealing with any animal,
please observe common-sense hygiene.
Catching the Pigeon
Pigeons are easier to catch than most birds because they are semi-tame.
The flock to which the patient belongs can be attracted with corn or unsalted
peanuts. A soft cloth, coat or towel is often helpful. Throw it over the
bird from behind whilst its attention is distracted. The first attempt
is the most important since pigeons (being preyed on in the wild) quickly
become wary of attention.
Pigeons very rarely bite. Their beaks cannot cause injury. Line a cardboard
box with something soft and make a few airholes in it. Pigeons will not
die of fright through such confinement. On the contrary, a warm dark environment
is vital to overcome shock. One may be apprehensive of causing further
pain or stress by a clumsy
catch, but if you leave the pigeon where it is, a cat with no such qualms
will almost certainly find it.
Causes of General injury/ill health
• Fall from the nest especially nestlings
• Door closing accident
• Kite flying
• Cat/ dog attacks
• Hit by a vehicle
• Due to less food (no stamina) they fall straight to the ground
• Catapults (slingshots)
• Other birds
• Cold weather
• No water
• Bad or inappropriate food
These include diarrhoea, dropsy, paratyphoid, rupture or tumour which
are detailed below. Most pigeons will display abdominal problems at some
time or another and this does not necessarily signify disease. The most
common cause of loose droppings are:
• sudden change in air temperature from warm to cold; pigeons fed regulated
diets may use up all calorific energy to maintain body heat. This leads
to mild hunger and the passing of water. In both cases the balance is
soon restored with feeding.
• Change of feed or feeding regularity may also result in the passing
of wet or loose faeces until the body adjusts.
• Excessive use of vitamins - the metabolism will only absorb and use
a minute amount required, the remainder (excess) will be expelled. Very
often this expulsion is accompanied by thirst with loose or wet faeces
and may very often negate any benefit derived from the vitamin addition
• Toxic or deleterious substances
-when the pigeon ingests anything of this nature it will immediately attempt
to flush the system.
Before panic measures are taken and medicines resorted to check all possibilities
and probabilities! The simplest course of action to effect a cure is to
isolate the bird, do not feed for 24 hrs, remove water immediately after
the bird has taken a drink (twice daily). On the second day remove the
water immediately after feeding, feed lightly with bulk protein and fibre
(peas/beans) avoid small grain or seeds. Gradually increase the feed from
the third day onwards and replace the drinker containing a
proprietary enteric assisting agent e.g. Entrodex. on days 5-6-7 allow
a course of multivitamins. Alternatively bicarbonate of soda is an excellent
calmative agent (1 tablespoon - 4 pts. water) during days 1-3. This is
also recommended for use throughout regular weekly management on one early
day per week (Sunday or Monday).
The faeces from hunger-exertion-change of diet-toxins may be recognized
from the following list:
• yellow and frothy;
• clear watery, water with black spaghetti like pieces;
• bright green fluid;
• soft consistency of various colours (the colour may be dictated by diet
or digestion of bird and vary accordingly from bird to bird);
• little or no odour detectable.
This is commanly known as the •young bird vomiting syndrome•. Symptoms
include retention of undigested food, full crop, thirst, weight loss and
foul smelling loose faeces. It rarely affects the entire flock and fatality
rate is low; the disease may disappear almost as quickly as it arrived
in some birds or continue its infectious course for several days. Generally
Adenovirus is an ailment in young birds and birds who have recovered become
immune although possibly remain carriers. Being a virus, antibiotics cannot
cure but may be used to prevent the escalation of secondary infections
from stress imbalance. The most common allied secondary infection being
of respiratory nature and E.Coli. The treatment for nursing to a speedy
recovery is covered in the section on Toxin ingestion. The period of controlled
water supply should be extended to three days, and feeding should be restricted
to beans/peas approx. 1 oz once per day. The antibiotic administered to
best effect is BAYTRIL. When using antibiotics you are advised to remove
all grits and minerals, do not feed any yeast containing supplements,
do not use any other additives to drinking water until the course of treatment
Pigeons in some cases are allergic to the loft environment or other inmates.
Once isolated to a solitary cell cure is affected almost immediately.
This is weakness from poor blood. Symptoms include pale eyes, lethargy,
pallid throat, will not exercise keenly. Causes can be:
• none-assimilation of vitamins from natural diet,
• secondary reaction to many illnesses through passing of excess body
• old age;
• deficient diet;
• poor rearing in young birds,
• general debilitation from poor husbandry.
The pigeons are in need of a tonic i.e. B complex vitamins, Brewers Yeast,
Sulphate of Iron. Give B complex liquid like Bivinal-5 drops in the morning
and 5 drops in the evening for a week or Brotone(B Complex liquid).
Symptoms - shaking, staggering, falling over, and misjudging distance,
collapse. Usually found only in overheated and crowded lofts during very
hot weather. Overcrowding and excessive use of heating seeds or stimulants
may be other causes. This is mainly a hot weather ailment when the brain
is affected by increased blood flow and rupturing of minute blood vessels
causing haemorrhage. This is easily cured or rectified: increase ventilation
to cool air, darken loft with sunshade. Most cases demonstrate immediate
recovery; serious cases may be taken to a vet for bleeding from a wing
Often mistaken for canker or tuberculosis. The symptoms are a hard growth
or lump in the windpipe, gasping for breath, sneezing, coughing, nasal
and throat discharges, diarrhoea, swollen joints or lameness. Throat canker
shows up as a soft easily removable cheesy growth; Aspergillosis is hard
and embedded into tissue and cannot be removed without excessive bleeding
or pain to the bird. It also attacks the liver and spleen where it may
be revealed as white growths in autopsy. The cause is fungus and mould
spores usually floating within the immediate environment of the loft.
These proliferate from damp deep litter straw or hay which lay dormant
until temperature increases and are only one of many fungal entities lurking
therein to cause a variety of illnesses. Another cause is mouldy feed
stuff i.e. blackened beans/peas, sour wheat/barley, powdery maize (inspect
for blue/grey mouldy powder and smell for sourness). Fumigate the loft
with a mould destroying agent, sterilise all drinkers, grit boxes, corn
bins etc. Paint a solution of aqueous iodine, glycerine and honey onto
the affected throat area with an artist brush. This solution must also
be added to the drinking water for both patient and uninfected birds.
There is no 100% cure and vital organ damage will remain permanent.
These include bent keel, rickets, off legs syndrome. Bent keels in squeakers
are usually caused by pressure upon the soft cartilaginous type bone before
hardening and not always through lack of calcium as it is sometimes thought.
This can be avoided by checking nesting materials for depth and comfort
as the full weight of the squab is borne upon its keel. Always wean for
the first few days into deep dry straw and avoid perching opportunities
upon hard edges. Rickets are caused by lack of sufficient calcium and
trace elements. Any loft that ensures adequate supply of fresh grits and
minerals daily in most cases should not have any cases of rickets. Some
birds are unable to assimilate these into the metabolism from feed or
supplements and draw their requirement from their own bones. If bone weakness
persists after supplementation then it must be deemed to be an undesirable
The Off Legs Syndrome is caused by a variety of factors.
• insufficient calcium and trace elements in diet, laying hens draw these
from their bones to provide shell to eggs: ensure adequate supply in feed
• Excess weight causing pressure to nerve endings : reduce feed slightly
but maintain quality.
• Lack of iron causing anaemia: Bivinal liquid 5 drops in the morning
and 5 in the evening for a week or B. Complex (no more than twice weekly).
Do not give Brewers Yeast to parents rearing young due to possible yeast/fungus
problems. Although Brewers Yeast is excellent for supplying B Complex
vitamins there are times when it must not be used i.e. during rearing,
whilst administering antibiotic treatments or nursing pigeons with fungal
Pigeons have this disease permanently but will keep equilibrium until
severely stressed. Canker is due to a parasitic organism called Trichomonas
colombi and three forms are recognised affecting the pharynx, navel and
internal organs respectively. The majority of adult pigeons are symptomless
carriers of the organism but clinical cases may occur if the bird is under
stress and in young pigeons the disease may be severe and even fatal.
The disease is spread from adults to squabs in the crop milk and between
pigeons through drinking water.
Cheesy yellow deposits are seen on the membranes of the pharynx at the
back of the mouth. The deposits can affect food intake and also breathing.
Severely affected birds are depressed, food intake is reduced and they
become emaciated. Affected birds may have diarrhoea. Water intake may
increase. In advanced stages a stringy mucous or putrid odour can be detected
in the mouth. Throat Canker which forms a soft cheesy growth may be easily
removed with a cotton bud dipped in aqueous iodine and glycerine, then
treated with a standard veterinary cure.
This form occurs in young birds that are affected in the nest box from
affected crop milk dripping onto the nest box floor. A typical cheesy
yellow deposit is present under the skin at the navel and it may spread
from here to the internal organs.
The internally affected organs include liver, crop and lung in which the
cheesy yellow deposits may be found. The clinical signs of the internal
form vary depending upon the organ involved but usually diarrhoea and
emaciation are a feature of this condition.
All infected birds should be isolated as it is readily spread to any bird
in low condition via the feed or drinkers. Canker does not require routine
treatment but, may be monitored by regular clinical inspection of faeces
and treated only as required. Canker equilibrium imbalance is often a
secondary infection to a more serious disease. Therefore it does not make
sense to attempt to completely eradicate this protozoan with routine treatment
but only maintain a natural equilibrium within the immune system. Only
treat as a cure for badly infected birds (imbalances) It can be cured
within 3 - 5 days plus for 3 - 5 days convalescence. Dimetridazole is
very effective against Trichomonas. All susceptible and in contact birds
would be treated for a period of seven days. In some birds a broad-spectrum
antibiotic or multi vitamin may be recommended. Flagyl is another antibiotic
that is used as an anti-canker drug. Carnidazole is the generic name for
all anti canker drugs • 1 10mg tablet is given for an adult pigeon and
half ( 5 mg) is given for a newly weaned pigeon. This is a single oral
Diagnosis has to be `based on the clinical signs in the living birds.
Samples of crop smears are positive in the majority of adult birds and
diagnosis is dependent on the number of organisms present. Post mortem
examination of cadavers will give a positive diagnosis of the internal
form. The disease needs to be distinguished from Pox, Tuberculosis, Aspergillosis
Catarrh (Coryza •• common cold•- Mycoplasmosis see ornithosis
Symptoms - clear watery discharge from eyes and nostrils, throat
and wheezing or rattling sounds when breathing. This is yet another equilibrium
disorder; pigeons live permanently with the causative agent and there
is nor never will be a total cure. However it may be treated with antibiotics
when it appears in a severe form. Broad-spectrum antibiotics used are
Oxytetracycline liquid 5 drops of which should be given in the morning
and 5 drops in the evening for at least 3 days or Enrox Oral solution
with the same dosage. It may be cured by injectable Oxytetracycline into
the subcutaneous tissue of the neck or into the breast muscle. One shot
only is required to effect cure together with aviary convalescence. Convalescent
birds should receive honey and garlic plus additional vitamin C in drinking
water and probiotics to speed recovery
The most common afflictions to cause problems are:
One Eyed Cold
This takes several forms; some innocuous and some pernicious being the
symptom of a more serious disease. One eyed cold is identified by clear
water and air bubbles in one eye only, accompanied by slight swelling
and reddening of eyelid and cere. Most commonly noticed is a watery or
mucousy discharge in only one eye. But occasionally both eyes will have
a watery appearance. Sometimes one eye can become completely shut depending
upon the degree of infection. Should these symptoms develop to dark reddening
and hard mucous deposits plus nasal discharge and severe breathing problems
then the bird has a more serious disease. One eyed cold in young birds
often occurs with the peak moulting time coinciding with atmospheric (temperature)
wide variation (hot days-cold nights). Generally speaking this is easily
rectified by greater ventilation or isolation to an aviary and increasing
the Vitamin C supplement. Left to take its course the patient recovers
in 4 - 7 days and gentle swabbing of the eye to remove dried particles
certainly helps. One-eyed colds are also associated with a peck in the
eye or some other type of physical injury affecting the eye. They are
also often confused with the onset of mycoplasmosis.
Dry cold is rather like hay fever in humans. Symptoms are sneezing, breathing
difficulty, etc., and yet perfectly healthy in all other respects. The
cause is most probably lack of humidity and air circulation during dry
spells or lack of air circulation within an excessively closed loft environment
coupled with overcrowding. To detect a dry cold - first gently press upon
each side of the wattles with finger and thumb; the bird will sneeze.
Inspect under the wattle and one will observe a blunt needle like appendage.
This is the incumbent valve and serves the function similar to hair in
the human nostril i.e. it prevents dust etc. from entering and blocking
In an unaffected bird this should appear slightly moist (not wet) and
clear, being a healthy pink. The affected bird will be different; when
applying slight pressure to the wattles, instead of sneezing, the pigeon
will awkwardly open its beak and attempt to shake its head. The incumbent
valve will appear dry and powdery with slight deposits of dust and mucous.
The pigeon will only breathe through its beak and any attempt to close
the slight gap will meet with resistance. The inside of the wattle must
be gently cleaned with a slightly moistened feather taking care to remove
any deposits. Remove all dust from the loft and increase humidity (put
in an extra drinker). Most importantly do not overcrowd and keep down
the dust as much as possible. This is the most common respiratory problem
and antibiotics are not required nor will they cure.
Coccidiosis, an intestinal disease, is also caused by a protozoan parasite,
usually Eimeria labbeana or E.columbarum. The protozoan infects the cells
in the intestinal walls in large numbers, multiply there and eventually
destroys the individual cells. Each time a cell is destroyed, protozoa
are released into the intestine, infect the semi-digested food, and attack
new cells. One form of the parasite is passed out in taeces and is called
The seriousness of the infection will depend on the numbers of protozoa.
Seriously infected pigeons rapidly lose weight, and their droppings are
watery. No blood appears in the pigeon•s droppings.
The oocysts released in the droppings can only develop further if ingested
by another pigeon, but only •ripe• oocysts will develop. The ripening
takes place best in a damp and warm environment. Pigeons can be infected
only by ripe oocysts of pigeon coccidia, and not those of other animals.
In order to prevent this disease, you must keep the cote scrupulously
clean and dry and protect it from infected birds. Add Amprolium pro salt
5gms in one litre of drinking water for 5 days and then give a gap of
3-4 days after which give half the dose in 1litre water for another 5
A fecal examination one-week after the last treatment is strongly recommended.
Wash cuts clean with a mild antiseptic and dress with Betadine or paint
with weak tincture Iodine. It there is damage to eye ceres - wash with
clean water only (boiled and cooled), leave to dry, do not use any antiseptic
that might cause irritation or eye damage.
This is a symptom rather than a disease and may indicate disease of enteric
nature, arsenic, copper, lead poisoning from pesticides etc., change of
diet, poor diet, hunger, stress from exertion, reaction to medication
or additives, excess vitamins, medical additives to galvanised drinking
vessel causing chemical reaction,algae build up in hose pipes used for
filling drinkers etc.. It could also be due to a sudden drop in air temperature.
If the faeces is devoid of odour it is only a metabolic imbalance -give
more fibre/protein in diet, bicarbonate of soda (it helps minor complaints)
in water or use Entrodex and Electrolytes to re-hydrate. For the general
treatment of diarrhoea administer Furazolidone-half a tablet (5mg) both
morning and evening for five days. You can also give Gramogyl syrup, 5
drops morning and evening.Should the faeces be foul smelling, unusually
coloured or blood spattered then use this check list for the probability
of other disease. The pigeon will always try to physic itself by flushing
out the system, in some respects this is good
but, the danger lies in cross infection of other loft inmates when normally
harmless carried bacteria can flare into a problem caused by increased
activity. Always isolate suspected sick birds immediately to prevent further
spread of the disease.
This is more usually a problem with old pigeons that demonstrate a swollen
abdomen filled with watery tissue.Ascites is another name- the accumulation
of lymph or tissue fluid in the tissue between cells. The bird gasps for
breath with constant panting and signs of exhaustion. There are several
causes - obesity at laying, lack of exercise; over-breeding, weak heart,
worms (severe), coccidiosis, digestive problems, injury and internal tumour.
Birds rarely recover from this condition and there is no treatment for
This is more common than dropsy and can affect hen pigeons of all ages.
The pigeon is unable to pass the egg due to obesity or poor condition.
In some cases the egg is being miscarried or aborted while at the soft
shell stage. This happens when the female has started egg production but,
contact with the mate has ceased (male or female) and has neglected to
consume sufficient food or grit. In both cases the egg will require surgical
removal or nursing assistance taking care not to break a shelled egg internally.
This may be done by using your vaccination syringe (without needle) to
insert warm olive oil (body temperature) into the vent and leaving nature
to take its course after applying a very gentle massage. The process could
need repeating 2-3 times. Most hens recover from the experience.
The symptoms are inflammation of the mucous membrane of the intestine,
watery droppings, weakness or listlessness, poor appetite, excessive thirst.
It is caused by bad digestion, severe worm infection, and rodent contamination
of feed. It may cause liver damage and problems in other vital organs
dependent upon the causative organism. Simple cases may be nursed and
convalesced in the same manner as diarrhoea. The treatment is symptomatic
i.e. the treatment should be carried out on the basis of symptoms. Liver
problems are controlled by administering Liv 52 (vet) 5 drops morning
and 5 in the evening.
There are two causes - fungus/feather and boring mite. Both cases thrive
in damp patches i.e. residual damp from faeces on perches / nests/ floor
corners. It is usually found to affect birds of coarse webbed feather
type. The fungus, microbe or mite lives within the soft pulp of the feather
shaft, gradually breaking to the stubble until bald patches appear. Affected
pigeons may be bathed in Camphor water. Pigeons will moult clean but the
problem may reoccur at the next humid season. The modern veterinary treatment
is injectable Ivermectin, which also acts as a complete de-louser and
wormer. Ivermectin has proved safe for pigeons and has also shown a capability
to improve feather quality at subsequent moulting. IVOMEC can be applied
via a single drop upon the skin, under the feathering at the very rear
of the birds head - this has proven to be remarkably effective for keeping
the birds louse or mite free for the season.
Fungus disorders in pigeons are not always readily recognized until their
manifestation into a more serious illness. These take numerous forms and
reduce resistance to secondary infections see - Aspergillosis, Chlamidospore,
Feather Rot, Thrush (candida albicans) etc. Fungus disorders attack the
respiratory system, nervous system, reproductive organs, and air sacs
etc. reducing performance and yet the bird often displays apparent health.
The causes are outlined under the various disease headings but a couple
of extra causes may be outlined here: Aflatoxin poisoning
Aflatoxin is produced by a mould (Aspergillus flavus) which may develop
in any badly harvested or stored grain or vegetable matter (straw, hay
etc.) The mould thrives upon changeable humidity when the grain (or growing
plant) is exposed to warmth after damp conditions. Unfortunately Aflatoxin
develops unseen within the centre of the grain; outwardly the feedstuff
has the appearance of being sound. Seasonal weather, incorrect storage
plus several other factors, one of which could be condensation within
the silo or the corn bin may promote the fungal growth. At its least severe
condition Aflatoxin poisoning can result in brain damage, lung, heart,
liver, spleen, and kidney damage, at its worst sudden death. There are
pigeons that will not fly, yet appearing apparently healthy. The cause
is almost certainly a fungus disorder affecting either the brain or the
Two of the main causes are mouldy maize or peanuts, which by definition
are also two main ingredients of the pigeons diet. Maize should be checked
regularly and peanuts purchased only if fit for human consumption and
fed in small amounts only due to their limited storability.
Another cause of fungus disorder may lie due to bad loft management i.e.
damp hay or straw. A further cause comes by the addition of Brewers Yeast
to the feed whilst treating the bird with antibiotics, as the bird caretaker
adds a mould to a mould and in many cases negates the medical treatment.
Young pigeons in the nest are very susceptible to fungus disorders; there
is a time to use Yeast and a time to withhold it. These are two of them.
Fortunately most mild fungus disorders can be controlled by the addition
of weak tincture aqueous iodine to the water and this may also have a
tonic effect when not abused (1 teaspoon per Gallon). Sometimes fungus
problems may be mistaken for P.M.V. in their symptoms.
The symptoms of Gapes are gasping for breath, head shaking and coughing
without any sign of apparent illness. The cause is • the small red Gape
worm (Syngamus Trachaelis), which develops inside another host i.e. earthworm,
maggot, snail etc., that thrives around soiled ground near poultry, ducks
and geese. The parasitic worm once ingested feeds within the lung upon
blood for ten days. It then makes its way after rapid growth to the windpipe.
The adult male attaches itself to the female forming a letter •Y•, causing
the bird to gasp or •Gape• when it is eventually coughed up onto the ground
or water. There may be a homeopathic cure: Drosera and Dulcamara given
on alternate days. Also Ignatia,Lacesis and China.
This again is a symptom rather than an illness and may be related to a
number of causes. The bird suffers rapid weight loss, listlessness and
emaciation. This may possibly be due to coccidiosis, ornithosis, psittacosis,
a fungus related disorder, canker etc. There is also another form of going
light which is very common. This is when an apparently healthy bird with
full body appears extremely light (not fit) and seems to lack vitality,
will not fly and when made to do so appears to be •all in•. Often these
birds will rarely leave the loft floor or struggle to reach
their perch; somehow they just seem lifeless in the hand. It could be
suffering from over exertion and all will and physical power is destroyed
and somehow the bird never recovers its former character. Monitor all
offspring for signs of vigour loss! Give a multi vitamin solution like
Vimril or Alviton-5 drops in the morning and 5 in the evening for a week.
Birds infected with the Haemophillus bacteria suffer from a severe conjunctivitis,
which affects both eyes. In this condition the eyelids are markedly swollen
and there is purulent discharge. Affected birds often show respiratory
distress signs due to infection of the upper respiratory tract.
The disease spreads by direct contact and droplet infection from one bird
to another.Diagnosis is based on the clinical signs and laboratory culture
from the eyes or nasal discharge.As this is a bacterial infection a suitable
antibiotic such as a Tetracycline can be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon
once the disease has been confirmed Indigestion
A symptom is that the pigeon fails to digest its full feed overnight.
This may be due to probably gorging after being hungry. If it has affected
more than one bird the grain was probably kiln dried and too hard to soak
and digest. Too much barley; irregular feeding; too heavy feeding , lack
of grit in gizzard are other reasons. Convalesce by feeding sparingly
then gradual build up in quantity; replenish fresh clean grits and minerals;
bicarbonate of soda in drinker. Give the bird a liver tonic like Liv 52
(vet), antibiotics-oxytetracycline or Enrox. If the bird has a grain or
any other feed stuck in its throat, help induce regurgitation (vomiting).
Pour warm water (not hot) into the bird•s beak with a dropper and then
press the crop lightly. The other possibility is hernia of the gizzard
which has no cure.
This may be caused by injury, Staphylococcus arthritis, Aspergillosis,
Tuberculosis, Salmonella Typhymurium. Give the bird an analgesic suspension
like Ibugesic for 1 •2 days and massage the leg with turpentine liniment,
which would give warmth to the affected leg. Consult a vet if not obviously
injured. If diseased - cure with injectable antibiotics like Enrox 0.1ml
I/M or Gentamicin 0.5ml I/M.
Symptoms include consistent yellow fluid droppings, lassitude, thirst.
The condition may be attributed to genetic fault, overuse of vitamins
A & D, lack of sunshine, damp, lack of exercise, too long imprisonment,
damage from previous disease, excessive use of stimulants or incorrect
use of antibiotics (overdose). Plenty of sunshine
and exercise should be given to the ailing pigeon. Do not give multivitamins!
Administer the bird Liv 52 (vet) 5 drops in the morning and 5 in the evening.
Mycoplasmosis is caused by tiny microscopic organisms transmitted from
pigeon to pigeon through droppings in water and food. One to two weeks
after the initial infection, you may note a watery nasal discharge, which
later develops into a slimy pus-containing discharge. A grayish deposit
appears in the beak and the saliva is tough and hangs wire-like between
tongue and palate. There is swelling in the infected beak and throat cavity;
an unhealthy smell is apparent. The nostrils become grey. If you press
the nostrils, a thick discharge emerges. As the air passages become congested,
breathing becomes laboured; the patient sits with open beak and makes
wheezing noises, especially in the evenings and at night. The air sacs
can also be infected.
In mycoplasmosis there is usually not an infection of the eyelid. Fatalities
rarely occur, although the disease usually has a long duration. The disease
appears to lower the bird•s resistant to other disease and chronic infection
can markedly affect performance due to respiratory problems. Internally
the air sacs can be seen to be affected and secondary bacterial infections
can occur at this site
Serious cases require antibiotic treatment. Enrox-2 tsp in 1 lt of water
or 0.1ml injection I/M or Sulpha drugs-1/ 2 tablet in 1 lt water for 3-4
days. All healthy pigeons of the same loft should be treated with Althrocyn
or similar medicine. Althrocyn, which is usually available in the powdered
form, should be given 4 gm in 1 lt water for 5-7 days. Thoroughly clean
and disinfect the whole coot, preferably on a weekly schedule.
Suitable antibiotic medication with Enrofloxacin, Tetracyclines, Tylosin
or Tylamulin is effective against uncomplicated cases of Mycoplasmosis.
Mycoplasma infection is endemic in the pigeon population and the majority
of pigeons will be affected by the organism. Stress conditions favour
the development of the clinical disease in birds. The principle clinical
finding is one of catarrh and initially there is a clear nasal discharge
which in time becomes thicker due to the presence of pus.
This is also known as P.M.V. (the poultry equivalent of which is Newcastle
Disease). Affected birds will at first have an increased thirst and will
pass liquid faeces - this may be followed by nervous signs. The nervous
signs seen include paralysis, torsion of the neck and uncoordinated body
movements • not all these signs will necessarily occur in every affected
bird as there are many strains and various degrees of virulence of the
disease. Symptoms are many and varied, sometimes several together, at
other times singular. These include watery faeces, slimy green/brown faeces,
nervousness, lack of co-ordination, falling backwards, misjudging distance,
fear of sudden noise, reaction to bright light, torsion of neck, complete
twisting movement of neck, inability to pick up grain immediately etc.
Diagnosis is based largely on the clinical signs and it can be confirmed
by blood tests. The disease needs to be differentiated from Salmonellosis,
other causes of wet droppings and other causes of nervous signs including
poisoning. There is no cure but recovery is possible after nursing and
convalescence for 10-14 weeks. The mortality/fatality rate is dependant
upon the viral strain contracted. Some strains may kill within days but
are extremely rare. Most strains result in recovery and future immunity
for the individual although some may demonstrate continued nervousness
for up to two years. The disease has an incubation period of 8-12 weeks
after which the symptoms begin to appear. During this period the pigeons
are infective to others. The symptoms are actually the onset of recovery,
which takes another 8-14 weeks, plus further convalescence. Immunity is
passed from an immune parent to nestlings, however this immunity only
lasts for 3 weeks. Youngsters should be vaccinated at 21-28 days old.
Prevention is via vaccination for both young and old but, 14 days must
be allowed for vaccination to become affective; immunity is not immediate
and also builds and wanes over a period of ten months for full effectiveness
(not 12 months as many imagine).
Not all pigeons contract Paramyxovirus, some are resistant, possibly due
to having contracted a mild but unnoticed strain at some previous time.
However this is not an argument for not vaccinating the bird. The disease
may be spread as airborne or contact borne.Vaccination is ineffective
against the disease once the pigeon is in the stage of incubation of the
virus. Birds who have recovered do not remain as carriers of the present
pigeon related strain of P.M.V. However viruses do mutate so all information
available may be subject to revision in future. As this condition is due
to a virus no specific treatment is available. Antibiotics and multi vitamins
may be used if the birds are under stress. Prevention of this disease
is very important. There are vaccines but they may not be available in
India.The best time to vaccinate young birds is during the last two weeks
of March and the first week of April. The young birds should be at least
3 weeks old .The best time to vaccinate older birds is during November
and December before the start of the laying season. Vaccines are given
subcutaneously in the midline of the neck with the needle towards the
tail of the bird. Great care must be taken to keep the needles, bottles
etc as clean as possible.
Pox infections are caused by a virus that attacks the skin and mucous
membrane cells, infecting the bare skin around the eyes, on the beak,
on the feet and internally within the mouth and throat area. On occasions
infection of a wound on a feathered area of the body can occur. The lesions
are typically scabby in appearance with pus often being present due to
secondary bacterial infection. The internal form can be so severe that
feeding and breathing are affected to the point that death occurs. Lesions
typically occur 4 to 14 days after initial infection and may be present
for several weeks. Diagnosis is based on the clinical signs • the internal
form affecting the mouth and throat may need a laboratory diagnosis to
confirm this condition. The disease needs to be differentiated from canker
with which the mouth form could easily be confused, and from Candida infection
caused by a fungal infection of the mouth. In external pox, an infected
pigeon will have crusty lesions on its unfeathered parts, especially around
the eyes, around the beak, on the feet, and around the anus. The mucous
membrane form (the internal form: diphtheria) is recognized by a cheese
like, evil smelling deposit in the beak and throat cavities. It is possible
for an individual pigeon to have both forms of the disease. However, the
chances of survival are rare if the pigeon has an internal pox.
The poxvirus is transmitted via saliva droplets from the nose and mouth,
seldom via droppings. The infection is then picked up with food or water
or by a mosquito bite. The virus may be also present in dust that, when
inhaled, infects the bird.
The first visible signs that a bird is infected occurs after 4-14 days.
In one example, the virus can enter the bloodstream through a wound. The
virus multiplies quickly and infects the liver and bone marrow, from whence
it reinfects the blood. Via the blood, the pox organisms then migrate
to the skin and mucous membranes, forming lesions that are a good feeding
ground for many bacteria, such as staphylococci and streptococci. Thus
pus soon forms.
The patient should be treated with antibiotics such as chlortetracycline
in order to combat possible secondary bacterial infection. Add boric acid
to lukewarm water and gently rub it on the affected eye(s) using cotton.
In addition, a vitamin preparation should be administered (especially
vitamin A to promote skin healing).
- In serious outbreak of pox the deposit on the skin and mucous membrane
must be removed daily.
- Treat healthy pigeons with chlortetracycline for 4- 7 days. Also give
7.5 gm chlortetracycline per gallon of drinking water.
- Disinfect the cote at least twice, with a week between treatments.
- Continue chlortetracycline treatment for four weeks.
As with paramyxo this condition is due to a virus and no specific treatment
is available. Antibiotics may be used under veterinary direction to combat
secondary infections and multi vitamins may be of benefit in some birds
during the recovery phase.As no specific treatment is available the prevention
of the disease is very important. There is only one vaccine licensed for
use in the U.K., this is the Intervet product Pigeon Pox Vaccine (Living)
Nobilis. All birds over six weeks old should be vaccinated. Annual re-vaccination
should be done. The vaccine is administered by removing six to eight feathers
from the thigh, the skin is stretched to open the feather follicles and
the vaccine applied with the brush provided to the de-feathered area.
Do not apply the vaccine to bleeding follicles and do not use a disinfectant
to clean the skin before vaccination.
If Pox and Paramyxo vaccine are to be used together in a loft then both
vaccines should be given on the same day. If this is not possible then
a minimum gap of two weeks and preferably six weeks should be allowed
The pox virus is very resistant and will remain infective for many months.
It can be transmitted by biting flies and other insects. As a result good
loft hygiene is important in the control of the disease.
Homeopathic remedies are:
Lesions on head & comb are wart like in nature -- Antim tart
Lesions in mouth are dipthertic type -- Kali mur, Nat sulph
Lesions with fever -- Antim tart, Aconite
Lesions without fever -- Bryonia, Calc phos
Head remedy -- Variolinum30, or 200
A combination of Pulsatilla200+ Thuja200 + Nat Sulp200, 5ml each is mixed
in 8 liters of water for 100 birds.
The disease is caused by Chlamydomonas, a group of organisms with characteristics
of both viruses and bacteria. The disease is not fatal to fully grown
pigeons. Ornithosis is due to a micro-organism called Clamydia. It is
susceptible to antibiotics like bacteria but lives within and destroys
body cells like a virus. Clinical signs vary from poor performance to
an acute disease causing a marked conjunctivitis, decreased appetite,
respiratory disease, diarrhoea and death.
Isolated patients will quickly respond if placed in a warm, draft free
cage and will in a few days or weeks be their old selves again. O-c (•
ornithosis-complex•) under normal circumstances does not present a great
danger. But should the birds suffer from stress (molting, bad food, cold
and damp in the lofts, drafts, etc) they become more susceptible to a
heavy o-c infection. If an additional disease should infect a bird, then
the danger is also greater. A bird suffering from o-c is less inclined
to fly, a symptom that also occurs in many diseases. After a time, the
bird will develop respiratory problems, will quickly tire, and sit with
open beak gasping for breath, hunched up in appearance, raised feathers
on rump, damp matted patches upon wing butts (eye wiping or scratching)
constant sneezing. Thereafter, the normally white or light rose coloured
eyelid membranes will well and become gray or brown. The eyes water profusely,
and an inflamed, wet patch soon forms under the eyes. In serious cases
the eyelids will stick together, and secondary bacterial infections can
cause blindness. The nostrils become gray and are also wet from a running
nose. The bird will sneeze and scratch at its face. Should the mucous
membranes of the nose, throat, and trachea become infected, the bird will
sit with open beak, gasping for breath. As the trachea fills with mucous,
you may hear a rattling sound as the bird gasps. The intestines may become
infected, resulting in diarrhoea.
O-c is very infectious. It can be transmitted via infected drinking water
and also through the air. The cote must be well-ventilated, clean and
light, and disinfected at least once a week. Damp, stagnant air will spread
the disease more quickly. Disinfect loft and all utensils, blow torch
disinfect again and limewash. It is extremely difficult to eradicate and
may reoccur. Completely isolate all others into a fresh air aviary quarantine.
It is essentially a disease due to filth or lack of observation.
You should do two things:
1. Allow the bird to be injected by a vet:0. 5 ml oxytetracycline in the
breast muscle; repeat after 24 hours and
2. Administer chlortetracycline powder in the drinking water or Hostacycline
powder 4 gms in 1 lt water for 5 to 7 days or more. Multivitamins must
be given for 30-60 days.
Diagnosis of this disease in the live bird is difficult and must rely
heavily on the clinical symptoms present. Blood tests will identify birds
that have been exposed to the organism but are not a good indication of
the present disease status. Where dead birds are available, samples from
the liver or spleen can give a positive diagnosis in the laboratory. The
disease needs to be distinguished from Mycoplasma infection, Haemophylus
infection and •One Eyed Cold•.
Salmonella bacteria, mainly found in the intestines causes problems with
the bone joints, diarrhoea and nervous problems. In general, the disease
is not fatal, as long as medicines are given on time.
The bacteria are passed in the droppings of infected birds, or via the
crop milk, the saliva, or infected eggs. It is well known that certain
unaffected pigeons can be carriers. Birds are infected by ingesting food
or water contaminated by the droppings of infected birds.
Pigeons infected with salmonella bacteria get serious intestinal problems
in four to five days. Fatalities occur quickly in young birds, because
they have no immunity. Older birds, however, incubate the disease over
a long period, and if they are not adequately cured, they will become
carriers capable of infecting other birds via their oviducts and their
Squeakers may suddenly lose weight at 4-6 weeks and show signs of staring
eyes, twisted necks, losing balance, gasping, difficulty in eating or
digesting, mainly water filled crop, will not fly up to perches. Old birds
demonstrate dropped wing, wing swelling, lameness, swollen foot (usually
left foot), hens become barren, eggs fail to hatch. Affected birds have
enteritis which may be blood stained. They are depressed, become dehydrated
rapidly and emaciated. Death quickly follows if they are not treated.
It is possible for Salmonellae to enter the blood stream and a generalised
infection will result. In addition to the two forms of Salmonella recorded
above cases are seen where the organism localises in one or more joints.
Affected joints are swollen and painful and movement of the joint is lost
due to the pain involved. If the organism is localised in the brain nervous
signs will be seen depending upon the area of brain involved.
Infected pigeons may show only one, some or all of the symptoms. Carriers
rarely show any symptoms at all. The complexity of correct diagnosis makes
this the most common but often wrongly diagnosed illness. The many and
varied symptoms cause confusion for treatment but, are actually good signs
for diagnosis when several birds appear to be ailing in different ways.
The greatest problem is in identifying the carrier which may appear fully
fit (start with the oldest first and work backwards). The main cause is
rodent contaminated feed, cross infection from wild birds or contact with
a carrier from elsewhere. It is often confused with P.M.V. due to the
Serious cases must be injected by a veterinarian with 0.5ml oxytetracycline,
repeated after 24 and 48 hours. In addition oral administration of chlorytetracycline
must be given via the drinking water twice daily for five days. After
the first five days no medications should be given for two days, or an
individual treatment of one Furazolidone tablet per day should be administered.
The cote must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The bird should receive
no grit during the course of treatment.
The disease is particularly severe in young birds and can be introduced
into a loft by an apparently healthy carrier bird that can excrete the
organism in faeces or saliva but which shows no clinical signs of disease
itself. Young birds can be affected from crop milk or affected faeces.
Salmonellae most commonly affects the intestinal tract. Laboratory testing
is required to confirm a diagnosis of Salmonellosis. The disease needs
to be differentiated from other causes of diarrhoea (viruses, other bacteria,
parasites etc), injury to the joint and other causes of nervous signs
including Paramyxo-virus and poisoning.
Where dead birds are available for post mortem, examination of cultures
from the birds should determine whether or not the organism is present.
In live birds faecal and mouth swabs may detect the organism.
This is a secondary infection usually accompanying Ornithosis, Psittacosis,
cold etc. It is caused or spread via dust infected dried droppings (faeces)
or spread via contact and feed trays or drinkers. There are two types
- (1) Virus (2) Pneumonacocccus. There is no cure; however, secondary
infections can be treated. Add Enrox oral 2tsp in 1lt drinking water.
The medication is a displaced oviduct or rectum protruding from the vent
after egg laying. It is usually caused by obesity, over breeding or old
age. The protruding organ may be gently replaced with gentle coercion
but is liable to infection if not immediately noticed. Clean the organ
that is protruding with warm water and gently press the organ inside.
Do not leave the bird immediately after pressing the organ inside, instead
hold for sometime in the same position to reduce straining.
This may be a common complaint and young birds definitely benefit from
a lighter diet during the warmer months. Psittacosis (parrot fever)
This is a virus disease similar to Paratyphoid and usually affects young
birds. Although this is a disease affecting psittacines (parrots, budgerigars
etc.), it can be found in pigeons as well. Symptoms include pasty and
sticky mucous in throat lining and mouth, diarrhoea, green and white faeces
(smelly), soiled mated vent, swollen abdomen, vomiting, poor appetite,
listlessness, panting, rump may be seen to constantly rise and fall, dull
partially closed eyes, sneezing, weaned birds tend to stay upon the loft
floor. Birds usually die in their nest and death is fairly rapid for older
infected birds. It is caused by a virus passed via sneezing and faeces,
food contamination etc. Incubation is 2-10 days and onset is very sudden
with a high fatality rate. It is usually accompanied by various secondary
infections i.e. canker, pneumonia, peritonitis (liver & kidney infection),
enteritis, roup. The effects include pus forming in air sacs and lungs,
damage to heart, liver, kidneys and spleen. Birds that contract a mild
form survive to become carriers. Action should be taken be destroy and
burn all infected birds and routinely disinfect all lofts fixtures and
fittings. Psittacosis is essentially a filth disease caused by damp and
wet droppings. If you smell ammonia or foul odour, with houseflies in
abundance then suspect the onset of this disease. Pigeons will very often
eat maggots that may be contaminated. Keep your loft clean.
Rickets (See bone troubles.)
It is caused by a lack of calcium or damp conditions, inattentive parents,
impoverished diet and followed by arthritis or rheumatic condition with
permanent weakening of muscular efficiency. Give the bird Ascal or Ostacalcium
or any other calcium supplement.
This is a highly contagious form of avian Diphtheria. Symptoms include
cold, running nostril mucous, inflamed eyes, catarrh, dry cheesy matter
in throat and nostrils, sometimes pox like lesions, blue-grey membrane
in throat, on tongue and grey coloured wattles. Swab the throat, nose
or any other part having the •cheesy• material with glycerine. Isolate
patients, increase ventilation, fumigate loft and convalesce all birds
in open-air environment as much as possible. The condition is mainly caused
by overcrowding and bad ventilation or cross infection from wild birds.
Scaly leg (Mange)
Caused by the mite Sarcoptens Gallinae Mutans. For treatment wash legs
in paraffin and paint with iodine and Vaseline.
This is a fungal disorder (Candida Albicans) resulting normally in loss
of equilibrium but increased by stress. Causes include mouldy feed, spores
from droppings or litter which can be airborne or waterborne. May attack
the throat, respiratory tracts, reproductive organs and vent. More common
in nestlings. Symptoms are grey coated throat, blue-coated tongue (do
not confuse with blue tipped tongue which is inherited pigmentation not
a disease symptom), rattling and general debilitation or poor growth.
Old pigeons show lack of vigour, reluctance to mate or rear young, may
refuse to feed infected young and change nest location where possible.
Cure for old pigeons -swab throat with mixture of aqueous iodine, glycerine
and honey. Use water purifier in drinkers, blow torch dry any damp nesting
area and disinfect. Check all feed for sourness. There is no worth while
cure for nestlings. Worse case scenario - thrush can escalate via secondary
complications into Aspergillosis or Psittacosis. Identify immediately
and effect prompt action. The disease is not serious if caught immediately.
This is usually a result of stress from moulting and insufficient vitamins
are assimilated into the body from feed to maintain balance. Give the
bird Vimral - a multivitamin solution-5 drops in the morning and 5 in
the evening for a week. This deficiency can be cured with one Halibut
oil capsule daily for 5 days and no recurring disorder in most cases.
This caused by parasites that live on the outside of the host•s body.
Anaemia, feather damage, respiratory problems (air sac mites) and poor
growth in young birds may all result from external parasite infestation.
Where cases of anaemia or reduced performance and agitation are obvious
in birds, external parasites should be suspected and regular visual inspection
of the birds should be undertaken to identify the presence of tics and
lice. The lice and mites that infest pigeons are the feather louse, the
small louse, the quill or feather mite, the itch, body mange, or depluming
mite and the red mite.
Long louse (feather louse): found on the flight feathers and guard
feathers of the whole body. Long lice do not cause many problems since
they feed on feather scurf and do not damage the feathers as was previously
thought. Sick birds that are not able to control the lice are susceptible
to heavy infestations. Young birds may have particular problems with this
louse. The lice can easily be seen by spreading the wings. In heavy infestations
the lice may be seen on the neck, head and back.
Small louse: it is small and round. It also feeds on feather scurf
but does more damage than the long louse, causing much irritation (prickling,
burning). The small louse must be controlled. It is found on the underside
of the guard feathers on the throat. Free flight helps to keep these lice
under control, since they are shy of the light. Feather or quill mite:
it is the most important of the mites. It sits on the feather shaft of
the flight feathers, especially the wider ones. It does not destroy feathers
but causes much irritation. Feather mites can be best seen if the wing
is held up to the light; they appear as small black specs on the sides
of the shafts.
Itch mite: these mites cause feathers to fall out and are very
dangerous. They burrow through the feather shaft into the follicle. If
fallen feathers have a swollen root, itch mites may be the probable cause.
The feather shafts swells and the feather is shed. Small pale spots appear
on the undersides of feathers on the breast, wings, back and neck.
Red mite: it will not be found by examining the pigeon. During
the day the mites hide in nooks and crannies in the cote and come out
at night to suck blood. The mite causes irritation and damage through
bloodsucking (hence the red colour). Pigeon and bird ticks and red bird
mites can be detected with the naked eye in cracks in the loft - ideally
in the early hours of the morning, when the parasites leave the birds
in search of a hiding place. They are also found under feeding troughs
and nest bowls.
Mange mites and scaly leg mites can be identified by a scraping from the
Control of ectoparasites
Clean feed and water vessels with hot water. Regular bathing in clean
water - at least once a week - protects pigeons against parasite infestation.
Administer Ivermectin injection or orally to the birds regularly and bathe
the bird (below the neck) once in a month with Botox, Pestoban added to
Development and life cycle of the most important ectoparasites in pigeons:
mature parasites live perma-nently on the pigeon
day in cracks in the loft (photophobic), invade pigeons at night to
on the pigeons
laid in the pigeon•s plumage
cracks of the lofts
burrows in the outer skin; give birth to living larvae
burrows in the outer skin; lay eggs
of development from hatching to reproduction
to 6 weeks
month to 3 years
to 7 days
to 6 weeks
scales, feather material
to 3 monthsbut remain viable for up to 6 month without nutrition
to 3 month,
in pigeons (nestlings, young pigeons) Parasites are usually detected
by chance in cracks of the loft.
The period of development and lifespan of the parasites is temperature-dependent.
The times specified will therefor evary accordingly.
There are parasites that live inside the body. The most important parasites
in pigeons are the round worm, the threadworm and the fluke.
the fully-grown roundworm lives in the small intestine and is approximately
2 inches in length. The female worm can lay hundreds of thousand of tiny
eggs, which are visible only under a microscope.
The eggs are excreted in the pigeon•s droppings. Outside, the eggs require
14 days to become infectious; they must first ripen. Any eggs taken up
by another bird in this 14-day period will not develop. However, if the
pigeon takes up eggs that are ripe, larvae will hatch from the eggs in
the intestines. The larvae burrow into the walls of the intestine, where
they stay for sometime.
The amount of damage caused by these worms depends on the degree of infestation.
A single worm will not do much damage but a large number of worms blocking
the alimentary canal can prove fatal. A pigeon should not have a single
parasite in its body. The worms take a large proportion of nutrients from
the pigeon and produce toxins that prevent normal digestion. The food
does not stay in the intestine long enough to be digested, and this results
in diarrhoea. In slight infestation, little or nothing will be apparent
to the observer, but in serious infections, the pigeon will lose weight,
have diarrhoea, molt badly, and quickly fatigue.
Should worms, about 2 inches in length, be seen in the droppings, you
can be sure that the bird has a roundworm infestation, but in most cases
the worm is not seen.
To prevent worm and other manifestations, strict hygiene in the pigeon
cote is required. Floors, boxes, and perches should be kept very clean.
The worm eggs are very resistant and difficult to eradicate. They require
a damp medium at normal temperatures in which to ripen; in times of warm,
damp weather, the worm eggs stand a much greater chance of ripening. They
are less resistant to dryness. To destroy the eggs, the best method is
to sanitize the floor with a blowtorch. To prevent infestation in the
cote the pigeons should have their food served in clean containers.
threadworms are as thin as a thread and hardly visible to the naked eye.
The threadworm lives in the walls of the intestines and, in spite of its
much smaller size, can do more damage than the roundworms.
The worm eggs require similar conditions to those of roundworms to ripen-that
is a certain amount of time in a damp medium before they are picked up
by a pigeon and can develop further.
The symptoms of threadworms infestation are similar to that of roundworms
and so are the preventive and hygiene measures to be taken.
they occur only in grassy areas. The pigeon can become infested only if
it eats infested snails that live in such areas. The parasite is flat
and almost as wide as it is long. It lives on the walls of the intestines
and holds on tightly by biting, causing much damage. Blood vessels are
destroyed and haemorrhage occurs. This can be so serious that a pigeon
can die from blood loss in a few hours.
To prevent further infestations, do what you can to keep the birds from
areas where the infested snails are. This is a difficult task. Take care
that the young bird does not fly out with the adults.
Control of endoparasites
Fortunately there are medicines for worms. Dewormers include Albamor or
Minthal- 5 drops in the morning on empty stomach for one day.
A regular fecal examination for the presence of parasites is useful to
check for worms.
A pigeon limping or a leg which may be twisted out of shape should be
taken to a wildlife centre or vet who can X-ray and set it. If this is
impossible one can use the diagram below as a guide. Fractures in the
upper part of the leg are best attended to by an expert.
Extend the leg and wrap it in wadding to protect the skin from pressure.
Cut a straw to a length that is shorter than the wadding so that the sharp
ends do not cut the skin. Slit the straw lengthwise, fit it over the wadding
then cover with adhesive bandage. Leave in place for 2-3 weeks, longer
Bird•s bones are hollow and very frail. Fractures near joints do not mend
well, and compound or multiple fractures need experienced attention. The
diagram below shows how a clean break to a wing can be treated.
Fold the fractured wing into its natural position. A figure of 8 bandage
holds a broken wing in place then another bandage is wrapped over the
damaged wing, around the body then under the sound wing. Leave for about
Also, many pigeons lose toes or legs because of discarded tackle or threads,
and can be injured by fishing hooks. Please pick up such dangerous debris
and dispose of them safely. Bird feet can be disentangled using nail scissors
and antiseptic spray from any chemist can be applied to the area afterwards.
An injured pigeon may be suffering from shock. This means that blood vessels
become inflamed and restrict the blood supply, particularly to the toes.
These feel cold. To counteract this, keep the bird warm i.e. in a box
with a wrapped hot water bottle. The condition should not last longer
than 3 hours. Give the bird 5 drops of Stressvit morning and evening to
come out of the shock quickly.Bach•s Rescue Remedy is helpful. Use the
same technique if you know the bird is concussed ie. it flew into a patio
door or car. Keep the box away from noise.
Many pigeons become a victim to kite strings. About 80-85% of pigeons
get cuts on the wings and the remaining 20-15% on neck or legs.
Wing treatment: the bleeding part should be immediately placed
under running cold water or keep ice cubes on the particular part of the
wing. Press it with a handkerchief or any other soft clean cloth. Apply
Betadine or any antiseptic liquid/cream and then bandage it. Follow the
same procedure for an injured neck or leg though caution must be taken
that the water does not enter inside the mouth.
In summers birds get dehydrated and often fall on the ground due to lack
of stamina. Add a little glucose or pinch of sugar to the drinking water
or any other electrolyte solution to rehydrate the bird.
Exhaustion generally applies to birds that have exercised beyond their
endurance. If one comes down in your garden etc. it will appreciate some
food. A pinch of sugar or glucose in water would also be of benefit. If
the breastbone can be seen or easily felt, there is muscle wastage and
the bird is suffering from malnutrition and needs help. In most cases
the fatigued pigeon recovers in a day or two and will leave on its own.
A puncture wound is generally painful and may bleed. Only a vet can tell
if the pellet is still present and remove it to prevent infection. Part
the feathers and clean the area with iodine. If the wound is bleeding,
apply pressure for a full minute with a finger swab or cotton bud. This
is vital since all birds have a small blood volume and movement accelerates
blood loss. Keep the patient still. Heavy panting or laboured gasping
may mean imminent death. Injuries/Cat Attacks
Pigeons are commonly caught by cats. Typical injuries are scratches or
holes under the wings or on the back with considerable feather loss. In
all cases, even if it seems recovered, antibiotics from a vet are necessary
since cat•s teeth carry bacteria. Clean the wounds with saline solution
or antiseptic spray like Betadine or Gentamicin or Himax. Half an aspirin
can be given if the pigeon seems in pain or inject Diclovet I/M .32 ml.
Warmth and quiet are essential. Give the bird multivitamin solution like
Vimral and Stressvit.
Medicines that You should Have in the medicine Chest
Baytril : for serious intestinal or systemic infections. This
comes in tablet form and individual pigeons can be dosed at 5 mg per day
for 5-10 days
Amoxicillin : safer alternative to Baytril. Can also be used for
serious infections. Comes in tablet form of 50 mg which can be used once
or twice a day
Tetracycline : (Terramycin, Aeuromycin or Doxycycline): good for
Tylan : Used with Tetracycline for respiratory infections. 50 mg
per pigeon per day
Amprolium : Used for coccidiosis. 1 tsp per gallon for 3-5 days
Dimetridazole : for Trichmoniasis. Should be used in very low
doses 1/4-3/8 tsp per gallon, for 3-5 days. Higher doses can causes seizures
Flagy (Metronidazole) : for Trichmoniasis. 25-5 mg per pigeon
per day for 1-3 days
Ivomec (Ivermectin) : wormer 500-1000 micrograms (ug) per pigeon)
Not effective against roundworms
Pyrantel pamoate : 1-3 mg per pigeon for 1-2 days. For orund worm
Fenbendazole : effective against 3 major but can cause feather
damage. 5 mg per pigeon for 3 days
REARING A BABY PIGEON:
the reason you may be called upon to take up the task of hand-rearing
a baby bird, you must remember that it is very time consuming, especially
with chicks that are very young.
The following rules will help you to be successful.
1. The need for heat and humidity of the brooder.
2. The need for the correct recipe, consistency and temperature of the
3. The need for the correct feeding technique, frequency and hygiene.
4. The need to monitor the babies progress and to be able to detect signs
The Need for Heat
A new born chick requires a temperature between 33-37 degrees C. As the
chick grows and produces feathers its need for heat diminishes.
The best brooder can easily be made from a glass or plastic fish tank
or a laminated wooden box. Untreated wood or cardboard is ill advised
as it harbours germs and prevents adequate cleaning. The heat source can
be a heat pad or even a 15 watt light globe housed inside a tin can that
is about 12cm across. It should not get hot enough to burn the chick.
A hot water bottle changed frequently is another alternative heat source.
Whatever method is used to warm the brooder the heat can be kept in by
a simple lid of a sheet of polystyrene with air holes punched in.
It is important to closely monitor your charges. Chicks which are too
cold become lifeless and are cold to touch. Chicks that are too hot at
first will show a red wrinkled skin then become restless, pant, gasp and
hurl themselves around the brooder in a frenzy. Overheating is often fatal.
• The floor of the brooder should be lined with fine wood shavings with
a layer of paper towelling on top. The purpose of the towelling is to
monitor the bowel movements of the young bird.
• Humidify the air via an open dish of water covered with wire to prevent
an accidental drowning. Humid air will prevent dehydration of the baby
• Keep the baby warm (at least 80 degrees F). If the squab is completely
without feathers (only has yellow down), a ventilated box containing a
red light bulb is needed, (hot water bottles do not last through the night.)
If the baby is fledged, then a cardboard box lined with kitchen paper
• Keep the baby dry!
• Keep the baby in a quiet, safe place - away from noise, curious humans,
cats, dogs, etc.
How much, how often•
The consistency of the food will depend greatly upon the age of the bird.
A youngster that is only a day or two old will be able to handle extremely
thin watery food every 2 hours, if the crop has completely emptied.Newborn
chicks have only small crops and will not hold much food at all. Do not
force the chick to take more than it can handle. Remember they are very
weak at this tender age and will eat very slowly and tire quickly.
If you want to rear the bird yourself it is best to feed it 3-4 times
a day. Acceptable foods include Complan fed through a syringe, wholemeal
bread soaked in warm water or milk or a mash of warm porridge or digestive
biscuit with a little scrambled or boiled free-range egg (about a third
of an egg at first, increasing to half an egg per day). Unlike garden
birds who gape when hungry, it is necessary for the squab•s beak to be
gently opened to receive tiny pellets of food that should be pushed into
the back of the throat. Feed until the crop feels plump or the bird loses
interest. Food can be moistened, but do not squirt water into the mouth
as baby birds can choke or actually drown this way.
You must get food and water into the baby: if she is too young to eat
by herself, you will need to feed her by hand. Make a baby bird formula
(whole meal bread soaked in warm water or milk or a mash of warm porridge),
and buy a feeding syringe (no needles, just a feeding syringe).
Fill the syringe with formula; make sure it is not too thick or you will
not be able to push it through. Carefully open the little squeaker•s beak.
Insert the syringe carefully into her mouth and squeeze a little bit at
a time. It will take you a good twenty to thirty minutes probably, and
the squeaker needs feeding at least five times a day. Babies must be fed!
The food should be made thicker to a melted ice cream consistency as the
chick grows. Feeding intervals will be determined by the speed of the
emptying of the crop. Only very young birds need feeding at night, and
then only once at about 3 a.m. otherwise four times daily feeding until
5 weeks of age is adequate. The food should be given at 42 degrees F.
This is the temperature that can be tolerated on the lip without burning.
In between feeds boil the utensils etc. so as to prevent any food spoilage
and subsequent infections. Syringes can also be used.
Feed your bird every day, even after she begins eating seed by herself.
Spilled food around the face should be cleaned with a warmed clean cloth
before it dries. A •bib• may help to keep the feathers clean as well as
a fine warm water mist spray over the body when the weather is hot, but
ensure that the pigeon does not get a chill. When she first starts showing
an interest in picking up seed, she will need at least one more week of
handfeeding to be sure she is getting enough nutrition. It takes a while
for a baby to learn how to eat and drink, so be patient. Small seeds like
millet can be added gradually until the youngster begins to feed itself.
When the squab is old enough to begin to peck at seeds, provide a shallow
dish of water and cage bird grit.
The first indications that the time for weaning is correct is the growing
lack of interest in their food. When this behaviour begins a variety of
soft foods can be placed in a shallow dish on the floor of the brooder
or cage. Remove these foods after 6 hours and replace fresh each morning.Feed
the birds only in the evening until they lose interest and then weaning
should be completed.Weaning is encouraged by offering a variety of soft
foods such as fresh corn, steamed peas, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, apple,
fruits, soaked lentils, beans, sunflower seed. Seed should be given in
as small quantities as possible. Millet sprays are given on a daily basis
to stimulate the weaning process. Clean seed mixes soaked for 24 to 48
hours helps your bird develop a taste for a variety of seed types.The
newly weaned bird will try new foods more readily than at any other period
in its life, so offer your bird a variety of foods during this time.Birds
start flying at the same time as weaning . The birds should be provided
with a low perch during the weaning process and offered water twice a
day in a low dish.
Once it is well feathered (appearing last under the wings), keep the youngster
outside in some sort of cage safe from cats during the daytime. This will
help it get used to other birds: encourage it to pick up it•s own seeds
and grains and get beneficial sunlight. Ideally it should spend some time
in a rehabilitation aviary. But if this is not possible, do ensure that
the bird can fly properly and eat by itself before release, allowing it
to strengthen and try it•s wings in a bedroom or garage.
When you are satisfied that it is able to fend for itself, let it go in
fine weather in a safe area, perhaps a town or city park, well away from
cats, where it can join a regularly fed existing flock who have all year
round access to water.
About 45 days after birth, a pigeon can fly. Please do not release her
until you are sure she can fly well and defend herself. If you release
her, bring her back to where you found her or to a safe area nearby, preferably
where there are other pigeons.
If you rescued her at a very young age and feel that she should not be
released into the wild, or if any other injury/condition exists so that
she can be released, then you should provide her with a good home. That
means she should have room to fly and always have dry, fresh food and
Three weeks to independence
At around three weeks, it is time to start the weaning process by leaving
a few that small seeds for it to peck at and a container of water so do
not it can drink.
Very young babies that do not get real pigeon milk usually grow much more
slowly than babies that get the milk so do not get discouraged and be
patient. Hand feeding babies from day one is a last resort because they
do grow much more slowly than when fed by their own parents, and sometimes
they just do not make it.
Babies need water, too. Keep a close watch on the babies when you first
set them out to see that they get the water they need. Some signs to watch
for are: blinking eyes or the crop (digestive tract of the bird where
the food is stored before digestion) will feel hard. If the crop is hard,
give them a little water with a syringe and tube, and massage the feed
in the crop and it will soften up. Once you see them take a good drink
on their own, they will not have any more problems. But make it easy on
them. Always place the water in the same container and put the container
in the same location in the cage. Just like people, pigeons need more
water when it is hot, so watch them closely in hot weather.
All baby birds are frail. Any period of cold weakens their ability to
thrive, and infant mortality in nature is always high.
Tube feeding is like force-feeding. It adds vital nutrients to the body
when the pigeon may not actively take in these nutrients on its own. Tube
feeding can be useful to aid in weaning of the young birds. This is the
time when the squeakers are left on their own to learn how to eat and
drink. Every year, there always seems to be at least one squeaker that
does not •catch on• as quickly as the others. He may even get weaker and
weaker as he falls further behind. This is a good time to tube feed. Youngsters
in this situation can be fed a high calorie feeding solution containing
fructose and glucose. In the pigeon, fructose has been documented to be
a highly digestible sugar being quickly converted to usable energy. (The
sugar fructose can be found in grape juice, honey, and in powdered preparations
in health food stores.
Sick pigeons generally do not eat or drink as much as they should. This
is a natural phenomenon in all animals, including man. Tube feeding can
be beneficial in this situation. It will deliver vital nutrients that
the bird would otherwise not take in on its own. Again, there are commercially
made products for birds that contain all the necessary fats, proteins,
and carbohydrates that a sick pigeon needs. Oral antibiotics can also
be mixed right into the formula and placed directly into the crop.
Tube feeding procedure
The first thing needed is a feeding syringe. Feeding syringes are a little
different than regular syringes in that they have a larger opening at
the end. This allows the passage of thicker and larger materials, such
as ground pellets or very thick feeding solutions. A •regular• syringe
can be used if you are only going to feed water or water/electrolyte solutions.
Glass syringes can break easily when dropped. Plastic syringes are best,
as they are very durable and easily cleaned. There are two types of feeding
tubes available: rigid stainless steel tubes; or flexible, rubber feeding
tubes. The best are the rubber flexible, round tipped feeding tubes, as
they are soft and flexible as they are passed into the crop. This is safer,
because it will move with the pigeon if it struggles, preventing damage
to the mouth, esophagus, or crop. The rounded tip provides easy passage
of the tube into the crop. Rigid feeding tubes such as the stainless steel
ones can cause damage, if handled improperly. Soft rubber tubes are much
safer. The tube size should have an outside diameter of no more than 0.4
cm (4 mm). When holding the pigeon, care must be taken NOT to put any
pressure over the crop area. (Pressure on the crop can cause regurgitation
[vomiting] of the feeding solution.) Next, the pigeon•s neck is straightened
out vertically while the beak is opened. With the mouth open, it is easy
to see the opening into the trachea or windpipe. It is on the lower portion
of the mouth just behind the tongue. It will contract open with every
breath. The tube is then gently placed past this opening to the rear of
the mouth on the bird's right side. If done correctly, the tube will pass
very easily down the throat into the crop. Do not force it if you feel
The tube is passed approximately 3-3 1/2 inches in to the crop. Once in
the crop you can actually feel the tip of the tube by feeling the skin
on the outside of the crop. Now slowly inject the solution into the crop.
Do not fill the crop completely because this can cause some overflow.
The neck should be kept in full extension during the feeding to discourage
any overflow or reflux. After injection of the solution the tube is slowly
and carefully removed. If reflux occurs during the feeding process the
pigeon should be released immediately to let it clear his throat on his
own. Attempting to hold the bird upside down or trying to swab out its
throat will only cause undue stress. This will only increase the chance
of aspiration (the breathing in of some of the solution.) This can cause
Some tips when tube feeding
pigeons Always lubricate the feeding tube before use. A small amount of
a lubricant such as K-Y Jelly or Vaseline wiped on the tube will help
its passage into the esophagus.
Feed liquids should be warmed slightly. Excessively hot or cold liquids
can cause irritation and possible regurgitation.
Feeding formulas should be fresh.
The cleaning of the feeding tube and syringe is important. This is especially
important when feeding a sick bird. The feeding can be from 70-100 kcal
per day depending on the health status of the bird. You would want to
feed a total of 100 kcal to a sick non-eating pigeon.
During the time the pigeon you rescued is recovering, suggested containers
to keep the pigeon are a wicker (thin flexible twigs) basket or large
box with strips cut away to permit light. Newspaper bedding is the most
suitable but needs regular changing! A spare room or garage allows one
to assess if the pigeon can fly properly prior to release. Perfect weather
conditions for this are sunny and windless days, preferably not in winter.
For food, feral pigeons rely on our generosity and wasteful ways. In the
pigeon•s interest it is important not to throw food where notices prohibit
it, such as railway stations, forecourts etc. Doing so will attract a
large flock and consequently adverse attention from authorities who can
and will take action to the pigeon•s detriment.
Safe sites are open spaces and parks. It is best not to feed bread near
gutters as hungry birds will be tempted to follow stray crumbs into the
path of traffic. If you can, feed mixed corn (from pet shops). It is nutritionally
superior and is quickly consumed with less risk of crusts being left to
encourage rats and still more unsympathetic notice.
Feeding is especially appreciated in the winter months, and water should
be provided in gardens as all species drink freely and enjoy bathing.
Pigeons do not need ostentatious abodes, after all they have been living
quite happily for centuries in cliffs and on boring park statues. the
cage or loft you build for your pigeons must fulfil a number of pigeon
Your pigeons will also spend a lot of time making and raising babies,
so they will need nest boxes to do it in. Their loft will need lots of
walking areas, where they can strut and seeing as how male pigeons are
one of nature•s biggest show-offs, they will need more boxes than you
might think. Once a male pigeon claims a nest box and settles his wife
in, he will most likely head off to raid and steal the boxes of others.
A good idea is to make the boxes in pairs, with a running board that extends
right in front of both compartments and a barrier between each pair of
boxes. This is like little bird-sized apartments! That way, if he heads
off to steal another box, one of his rivals will quickly step in to steal
HIS box and possibly his wife as well! Male pigeons catch on pretty fast
though and it does not take long for peace to reign. This show-off trait
will probably also mean that you will need more than one loft so that
the single males do not cause trouble for the paired birds.
Next, let us think about the size of the loft. Generally speaking, each
breeding pair should have about 4 square feet (a little over one square
metre) of floor space. So a loft for 5 breeding pairs will be about 20
square feet. You can make group pens but you will also have to make individual
pens where sick birds can be isolated. Each pen should have 3 solid walls
and one wire mesh wall. The pen should have a feeder, waterer, a perch,
a bathing bowl which is a large shallow pan and mould free straw.
When planning the loft, careful consideration must be given to just where
you are going to put it. Ideally, the front of the loft (the wired side)
will face the sun, this being south in the northern hemisphere and in
the southern hemisphere, north. This allows plenty of winter sun to get
into the loft, yet keeps the hot summer sun out. Another consideration
is the direction of the prevailing winds, after all you don•t want the
chilly winter gales blowing straight into the loft freezing your birds
off the perches. If the ground in your area is prone to damp, you might
consider building the loft above the ground on legs to avoid the floor
staying too wet and cold. If you decide to build in this way, make sure
the loft has at least a foot of space underneath, otherwise you will probably
have neighbourhood mice (or worse, rats) taking up residence underneath.
Finally, the materials you use to build the loft can be almost anything.
Timber, metal and wire which can be protected from the elements with good
quality water based acrylic paint paint, particularly any exposed timber.
Try to ensure that there are no crevices or hollows where insect pests
like mites can hide. The loft must also be sound enough to withstand attacks
from vermin, such as cats, rats. The most common point of entry is through
the wire or where the wire and framework meet. Use wire of sufficiently
heavy gauge to prevent these unwanted visitors making off with your birds.
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