Electrolytes? Yes sir!

Fanciers often ask me ‘what are electrolytes?’ Are they really useful and when  should I give them to the birds? Since it seems to intrigue so many I will give a short explanation but will not go into details, since that would be too complicated a story.

The term is a medical (scientific) one for salts, specifically ions.

They are commonly found in sports drinks for humans and they are used to replenish the body’s water levels after dehydration caused by exercise, diarrhoea, vomiting or starvation.

If a person exercises heavily, he loses lots of electrolytes in his sweat, particularly sodium and potassium, which are major electrolytes and need to be replaced as soon as possible to restore imbalance, once it occurs. Mostly carbohydrates and glucose are added by the manufacturer to provide energy.

Not only humans but pigeons as well may lose big amounts of salt and ions, especially after heavy exertions in hot weather. Dehydration may be a direct consequence and therefore birds may need some help to restore fluid levels.

How to help them?

‘Electrolytes’ is the word.

The next question may be which are the best?

That is hard to say but… you are on the right track if you find the words sodium (Na), potassium (K), chloride (Cl), calcium (Ca), magnesium (ma), bicarbonate (HCO), sulphate (So3) on the label.

Pretty many different medicinal dehydration sachets or drinks are available for both humans and pigeons. For ‘us’ the best thing is to get them from an experienced vet or a trustable firm.

What do electrolytes do to the body and what are their functions?

  • As I said, first of all they restore the fluid balance (replenish the body’s water levels after dehydration caused by exercise or diarrhea).
  • Furthermore they suppress the feelings of thirst.

When to give them?
The best timing is directly after the exertion (a race in hot weather). So it should be in the water on homecoming already. It is also useful to give them before basketing if the weather is hot. ‘If the birds come home and nearly fall apart due to the loss of water/salts, you are too late’ In this case you should add the electrolytes on the grains with some (Cure) Oil, thus the typical salty taste of a water solution of electrolytes is avoided. Soon after eating, the electrolytes dissolve in the crop and stomach, birds get thirsty and consequently they will drink an extra volume of water which is well fixed in its system. This will probably give the pigeon a feeling of self confidence too. You can increase this technique by adding, intestinal-conditioners (Cometose). Fibers can suck up a lot of water and keep this water a long period in the intestinal transit. By doing so birds will not try to land during a race and lose time in hot weather conditions. After a long distance race electrolytes may be administered for 2 or 3 days in order to help them to recover more quickly.

It sometimes happens that 10-day-old babies suddenly produce watery droppings; sometimes it is more water than sh… After you have put electrolytes in the drinker the result may be spectacular and within 2 days the droppings may get back to normal. Birds that suffer from Adeno (E coli) drink very much and their droppings are very watery as well. For such birds electrolytes are also helpful. Electrolytes and even sports drinks can be homemade as well, but some expertise is required to use the correct proportions of sugar, salt and water. After this you may have understood that electrolytes, sedochol and beer yeast belong to the very few feed additives in which I believe. Apart from grit of course, but that should be obvious.

Electrolytes  by: Ad Schaerlaeckens

The Leading Online Pigeon Racing and Racing Pigeons Magazine – The Pigeon Insider

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23 thoughts on “Electrolytes

  1. Never thought about electrolytes in Pigeons!!! Very interesting, makes sense though. These are important components in every living thing! Gatoraid for da boids?!? “PigeonAid”!!! Be well Chris.

  2. i use honey 1 spoonfull and 1 spoonfull of gluecose mixe in fountain with warm water and you will see the diffrence

    1. Paul,

      When to you give the spoonfull honey and 1 spoonfull gluecose to your pigeons? How offten? I assume the 1 spoonfull of honey and gluecose is for 1 liter of water.


      Johan Botha

  3. I used to breed and race horses and always understood that giving horses electrolites only on odd occasions was futile,as the electrolites had to be given regulary so that the horses system could adapt to making use of the electrolites,do you think this would apply to pigeons too.

  4. I use Honey all the time, it’s a great mucous breaker and has antiseptic qualities too. I put TWO Tablespoons in a gallon of water .. on return from Race, they get Electrolytes and Honey. I buy my Electrolytes from a Farm Supply company and they’re sold for the Poultry Industry.
    I Teaspoon of Electrolytes to a Gallon of water.
    I also give my Breeders Honey in their water at 2 Tablespoons per Gallon, when they are breeding for I believe in it’s Health benefits for babies too.
    To add any ‘powders’ (Brewer’s Yeast Minerals, etc.) to seed? I use Lemon Juice as the ‘glue’
    I agree with Tom M. on the salt issue,ordinary household salt or I steal some of my wife’s ‘course salt’ and I sprinkle it into the dry grit oyster shell container and they love it.
    Selenium is also a great ‘treat’ on the sticky feed, it has salt, Iodine and lots of other goodies from ‘the sea’ ha! ha! “Fish and Chips for Pigeons.”
    Tom M. in Calgary, Canada? Thanks for sending me the Link to this site, it’s a great wee place. Congrats Chris and Good Luck!

  5. good day sir is it ok to use a brown sugar instead of honey and how about the mucose when is the right time to use it thnks n god bless u all

  6. I would like to say that regular household SALT will do a better job and at a cheaper cost than Electrolytes. It will also keep your pigeons droppings firm and your pigeons in much better health. DO NOT use rock/chunky salt…..if your pigeons are short of salt – they can over eat it in these chunks and die……but as loose/household salt – they will stop before they stop eating it before they would ever overdose.

    1. just in connection with ur post using salts.when do you use salts and how much per litre and is that all you use.

  7. hi sir…
    good day…
    i have few questions….
    is it okey to add electrilytes on the garlic juice?…
    is it okey to use honey to make the electrolytes stick on the feeds?…

    thank you sir for the tips and guidelines to us begginer..
    more power and good luck to the for all of us….

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