Digestion Process in Pigeons

Digestion Process in Pigeons

Typical Avian Digestive System

After you have eaten a large meal at home or at a restaurant all you want to do is relax on the couch. What better way to enjoy a full stomach than to just sit and do nothing, maybe have a nap. Sometimes I want to have a game of table tennis directly after eating. “With a full stomach that’s not wise”, my mother always said. Did she have nutritional know how?

No, absolutely not. There are things we just know from experience. First the meal in the stomach has to be digested. The blood supply becomes more concentrated near the stomach and intestines in order to take up the nutrients. This causes the rest of the body to have less blood available. If you go out and do any sports, there is less oxygen available; your body will quickly build up too much lactic acid. In fact you should wait two to three hours after eating before you can go out and perform at the top of your abilities. The stomach has to be empty.

This is also the case with our pigeons. The pigeon has a crop, where a pre-digestion process takes place. The large grains are ground up when enter the gizzard (stomach). Depending on the type of food the pigeons eat this process can be long or short. Peas, beans and corn etc. therefore need a longer time then peeled rice or dari etc.

The gizzard uses grit to help grind up the grains. These are small sharp stones. A small pot of these should always be present on the loft, so that the pigeon can use it according to its needs. When the stones become worn down and rounded they are eliminated via the droppings. We often think that grit is only used to help grind the grains, but grit also contains calcium. The strongly acid stomach juices quickly make it available. This calcium can only be partly absorbed. The grit may also contain heavy metals, not a good situation of course. The grit mixes containing a lot of red stone have little benefit as the pigeon can’t use it. Oyster shell has more absorbable calcium and therefore is my first choice.

Next the pre-digested food goes to the small intestine. Along with food, a number of other products also end up in the intestine, such as moulds and toxins. The pigeon may have picked them up somewhere or they may be on the feed. Sometimes we also have to deal with antibiotics that not only kill the disease causing bacteria but also the benign fermenting intestinal bacteria. ACPRO (Animal Care Professionals), a company I am very familiar with, does a lot of research on disease and other problems with sporting animals.

The veterinarians that work there do so in as natural but effective manner as possible to find causes and solutions to these diseases and problems. They have found that a poorly functioning intestinal tract is one of the biggest causes of these many diseases and defects. In the regular medical world little thought is given to the reason for the disease only the disease itself is treated. The cause is very often not addressed. I will try to explain in an easy to understand manner an example of their theories.

In the small intestine the nutrients needed by the body are digested. These are products that the animal cannot produce itself, such as some of the amino acids, fatty acids and minerals. In a well functioning digestion process the liver receives these products from the small intestine via the blood supply.

The liver produces bile, makes blood proteins and purifies various products that are harmful to the body.

The kidneys work as purifiers. Cleansed particles are directed back into the blood supply and waste products are eliminated.

Heart and Muscles:

The heart is a large pump that delivers the blood to all parts of the body. The muscles get their nutrients and oxygen from the blood.

Pigeon Body Cavity

The large intestine absorbs moisture giving the droppings their typical form and appearance. The nutrients that are absorbed through the intestinal wall of the large intestine are mainly products that the body itself can produce. The intestinal wall of the large intestine passes these nutrients to the blood supply that goes directly to the heart, which in turn delivers them directly to the muscles.

If a portion of the good intestinal bacteria either through the use of antibiotics or the presences of poisonous products are killed, then the bacteria left no longer function efficiently and the products needed by the body are no longer digested in the small intestine but in the large intestine. This can also occur when the animal is under too much stress. Think about our young birds. During periods of stress adrenalin is produced which burns the intestinal flora. Poisonous products through the intestinal wall of the large intestine also go un-purified directly to the blood supply and into the muscles. Toxins and other poisonous products in the muscles cause tiredness, stiffness and decrease performance. Via the bloodstream the poisonous products arrive in the liver un-purified, because the small intestine did not pre-digest them. This can cause the liver to be over-taxed and then in turn the kidneys. If this situation lasts too long then problems and diseases begin to appear.

Allergic reactions, skin and hair problems in people and animals, caused by products that earlier were digested in the small intestine, but through stress etc. now end up directly in the blood supply unpurified. It could be products that are trying to find their way out through the skin that earlier the liver would have broken down. They have to be eliminated but they cannot find a way out. If we put the small intestine back to work then the toxins etc. can again be purified by the liver and all those allergies, itches and inflammations will disappear!!! Strange isn’t it? We are looking at the entire body, this is a holistic approach. This is what Chinese healers do and have done for thousands of years. They still have the ancient wisdoms. You don’t have to agree with me, do whatever you like.

Small Intestine
It is essential that the small intestinal bacteria keep working efficiently. Especially in the first part of the small intestine we find various types of lactic acid producing bacteria. We can help the digestion process in the small intestine in various ways. We work more and more with soft cheese curds, yogurt and buttermilk to promote the good bacteria. This is only somewhat effective, because the stomach acids and secretions in the small intestines such as bile salts and pancreatic enzymes throw a wrench into the works and many of these Lactobacilli die an early death.
There are also ready-made pro-biotic preparations on the market. Probiotics are preparations made up of microbial cells that have a positive effect on the health and well being of the host. Bacteria with a positive effect (good bacteria) are Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Lb. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.

Providing we keep the quality high and use good quality raw material, then the use of these probiotics can make a positive contribution to a more efficient intestinal tract. There are still scientists who look at this differently and are critical about their use. I personally believe that their use  can make a difference in our path to healthy pigeons.

Overburdening the Liver
Probiotics can have a good effect, but naturally we cannot keep on taxing the liver with antibiotics, mycotoxins, aflatoxins, chemical products, toxic herb mixes, to many legumes during the racing season, over dosing vitamins and amino acids and so on, and so on, and so on………. It has to stop somewhere.

Back on our feet
Yes there is some fiddling about done in this pigeon world by many fanciers. Health is of the utmost importance. It the organs can again do what they were meant to do and don’t have to constantly keep cleaning up rubbish, then health and resistance can restored. Then the birds will shine again, like they used to. I think that the readers of my articles must by now seen the light.

Easily assimilated amino acids in the right proportion, the right fatty acids in sufficient amounts, lecithin, good quality minerals, carbohydrates and an efficient healthy intestinal tract… They all have a part to play in the proper functioning of the organs and the digestion of good nutrients. Everything put into a total package. If all the pieces are in place, then the puzzle is complete. When it becomes a whole, then we’ll stand back up, back on our feet. Then we won’t need doping, tricks or antics to achieve good race results. All we’ll need are good pigeons, motivated and in excellent health.

Digestion Process in Pigeons by Peter Mulder

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17 thoughts on “Digestion Process in Pigeons

  1. Well, it does make sense! Every living “animal” seems to rest after eating, not sure just what the plants do.I always worry about ’em drinking at a bad water source while out. But, if they have to stop let’s hope they stop at a good spot!

  2. How do you encourage the birds to drink prior to shipping, but not overload them with feed,since they tend to drink only after eating?

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