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Water and moisture (12 aug)

Water and moisture

Water and moisture play an extremely vital role in our lives. In fact, “without” water life is not possible. During dry summers farmers and gardeners are faced with a lack of moisture. There are some thing some things to discuss on how moisture impacts the pigeon sport.


Over the years quite a few “dogmas” have been bowled over. One of them has remained standing and that is the importance of a dry loft. Years ago, in the region of Turnhout, you would have been buried under free tobacco stalks, in the past I used them as floor cover in my loft. If you stepped on them and you could hear them crackle or even break, you could be sure your loft was right. The stalks had to break when you tried to bend them. If so, you had a good, dry loft. Some used pine needles and here the same held true. Earlier I pointed out how many differences the champions lofts had. However, they all had one thing in common. They were dry.  


Pigeons must take the occasional bath. Fanciers like to see them dive into the bath pan. That is a sign of form. Sick pigeons won’t take a bath, but there is one other thing, the weather. Pigeon especially like to bathe on rainy days. When the weather is hot dry and sunny, they sometimes don’t bathe at all. That was the case last June during the tropical weather we had. Many fanciers were worried. Their pigeons wouldn’t take a bath, they thought they had lost form, but that wasn’t the case.

And special bath powers? They can’t hurt but to me they are a waste of money. If I think about it I add a bit of salt and vinegar to the bath water. Sometimes also a bit of bleach. That is “if I think about it”, but truthfully that isn’t very often.


What some do just after the birds arrive home from a race is massage them in warm water. It shows how concerned they are about their birds, but I’m afraid it’s a lot of work for nothing. Pigeons must fluff up their feathers, which they do instinctively when bathing. This doesn’t happen when they are given a compulsory bath. In other words, the water does not get to where it should go: on the skin. Hence, pointless.

Wet droppings

Youngsters in the nest producing wet droppings can happen to anyone. It could be caused by canker, but it can also happen to apparently healthy pigeons. Or to pigeons who overindulged in mineral powder. These can be removed from the loft, but don’t ever do so with the drinking water. Water should never be withheld from your pigeons. What almost certainly has a fast effect is Belgasol from De Weerd. Unfortunately, a bit pricey.

Heat and light There are still many fanciers who believe in vitamins. If they are flying well they should continue using them, if only for their own peace of mind. What some do now is put the vitamins, whether in powder of tablet form in slightly warmed up water. Or the place the drinkers in the sun. The idea behind these is that the vitamins will dissolve more quickly. This is indeed what happens, but they are doing it all wrong. It is known that some vitamins only remain viable for less than 15 minutes in well warmed water or in full sunshine. In scorching temperature, it would be better not to add nothing to the drinkers. “Spoiled” vitamins can turn the water a brownish red colour and could even make the pigeons vomit, because they have become toxic (poisonous).  

No bath A bath periodically is very important, but that is different when you have pigeons in your loft with wet eyes, pocks or other ornithosis type symptoms. Five-star veterinarian Dr Lemahieu (now retired for several years) pointed out that letting such pigeons bathe is almost a guarantee for a rapid outbreak of the infection throughout the entire loft. As with any vaccination you only give healthy pigeons a bath.

Canker Canker was a nightmare for some. I have also experienced it. If I didn’t treat for it, it almost always showed up when the youngsters were a week old. You could smell it in the loft, that distinctive sour smell of wet droppings around to many nest bowls and in the worst cases even in the nest bowls. But for some obscure reason the worst fears did not come true: The ailment didn’t become uncontrollable, where the dosage of the medication had to be increased over time. Indeed, the opposite was true.

Canker for many is barely a problem any more and more and more fanciers treat less often or even not at all. But you should not discount it entirely. Especially in hot weather or when the pigeons have spent two nights in the shipping baskets, it’s best to be careful. In the warmer water in the transporters the “germs” live longer and multiply more rapidly.


Once I used a double set of drinkers to prevent the spread of canker, now the same water stays in the loft all week with some garlic in it. Copied from fanciers in the Berlaar region, where just about everyone does it. Garlic has been controversial in scientific circles for centuries.

Some do not believe in garlic, but others, even some veterinarians, make a business of the natural “antibiotics” such as garlic is sometimes called. Or something like it. Naturally it may not have a healing effect but possibly an inhibiting effect on the multiplication of canker organism?

Can garlic be beneficial in other ways, for pigeons? Many people believe there is no scientific evidence showing any benefits. Veterinarian Marien, is a born sceptic and doesn’t believe in it. On the other hand, it does no harm he points out. Too many good fanciers use it.

Rain Pigeons can handle heat and cold very well. During those scorching hot days in mid-June when you could find many of us in the shade, the here the pigeons laid on the roof in the sun. Their wings spread out. They seemed to enjoy it.

And cold? They do very well in the cold. J. Storms, from Rijkevorsel, at the time of a very cold spring, almost daily trained his pigeons 60 km from home. Sometimes when temperatures were around the freezing point. His birds flew fine that year, he was 2nd champion in the union. Rain also doesn’t bother them much, but watch out for a cold rain towards evening. It would be better to leave your pigeons in their loft, claimed the previously mentioned Dr Lemahieu.

They would go into the night wet, they don’t move much during the night, therefore not drying, resulting in lost form. Why take a chance? Missing some exercise won’t hurt them and form should be carefully nurtured and preserved. Form is possible more important than quality.