Care and Protection

Introduction Care of Pigeons

Mr. Axworthy, who has for many years run The Standard Laboratory, is well known to all in the Fancy. He was asked by Harkers Veterinary Remedies to produce an explicit and up-to-date booklet of Pigeon Care and Protection.

We consider he has done this with admirable clarity. No group of pigeons will ever perform well where there is either obvious or Subclinical disease. We feel that this booklet will be immensely valuable to owners and will enable the individual to recognise disease and ill health. It is important that these should be identified at once so that treatment may be instituted quickly.

This is an opportunity of which the Company would like to take advantage, to offer all owners of pigeons every good fortune and Success in racing.

R.M. S. Neave, M.C., M.R.C.V.S.,

Technical Director.

Internal Parasites

ROUNDWORMS (Ascaris columbae)

A few roundworms probably cause little trouble, but unless routine worming is practised, there is a definite danger of a build up and some birds becoming heavily infested, with consequent severe loss of Condition.


Loss of condition, dull plumage, increased appetite, worms seen in droppings. In severely affected birds, worms may be passed in vomit.

Life Cycle

The worm eggs are passed out in the infected bird’s droppings, where they develop on the ground or floor, and become infective in about 6-8 days. If they are then picked up by a pigeon, each egg will develop into an adult worm within 20 days, when eggs are again produced and the whole cycle recommences. Worms do NOT multiply within the body.


Piperazine citrate. This is normally administered in the drinking water. Piperazine compounds act by paralyzing the worms which are then expelled without any need for violent purging. It is advisable to give a second dose after 10-14 days to deal with worms which may have been in the larval stage at the time of the first dose and which hatch out subsequently.

General Precautions

As the worm eggs live best in moist conditions, care should be taken to remove droppings frequently and to keep the loft floor dry.

HARWORMS (Capillaria obsignata)

Hairworms cause more trouble than roundworms and are generally more difficult to remove.


Rapid loss of weight, birds becoming extremely emaciated. Droppings loose, may contain blood.

The worms cannot be seen with the naked eye, although 1″ long, they are as slender as a hair and are found buried in the mucous lining of the duodenum and small intestines, causing severe catarrhal inflammation.

Life Cycle

Similar to that of roundworms, except that the time required for the eggs to become infective is longer, as much as four weeks or more.


Although it is claimed that Piperazine at a higher rate of dosage, is an effective remedy, better results are considered to be obtained by the use of Methyridine.


Many species are known to infest the pigeon but the most commonly found in the U.K. is one of the species of Rallietaenia. This worm is about 2-3 inches (5-7 cms.) long, V8 inch wide (2 mms.), flat and segmented. The worm is firmly attached to the intestinal wall by the Scolex, or head, which is armed with hooks.


Loss of weight and listlessness, which may be accompanied by an increase in appetite. In Some cases the worm may be found protruding from the vent, but more often individual segments, which appear as small white ‘blobs’ may be seen emerging from recently passed droppings.

Movement ceases within 10-15 minutes after emergence.

*NOTE: A combined worm remedy for pigeons containing Piperazine and Methyridine is obtainable from H.V.R. New Roundworm Treatment is in a form suitable for flock medication. For routine preventive worming the use of combined worm remedy is adequate.

For known heavy Capillaria infestation, the use of pills containing Tetram isole hydrochloridet is recommended.

Life Cycle

Eggs contained in the terminal segments of the worm, which are constantly being passed out in the pigeon’s droppings, are eaten by an intermediate host (slug, snail, beetle or similar Small creature) in which #y develop to form “cysts’) which are the intermediate stage of their life-cycle.

When the intermediate host is then eaten by the bird, the mature tapeworm is formed in the intestines.


Flock treatment is impracticable. Individual treatment by capsules containing Dichlorophen B.Vet. PC is usually successful. This treatment has the effect of killing and disintegrating the worms within the intestines; therefore dead worms will not be found in the droppings after treatment.

General Precautions

As far as possible, keep the surroundings of the loft free of slugs and snails by the use of slug baits containing Metaldehyde. These are poisonous and must be covered to prevent access by the birds. Inverted flower-pots are useful for this purpose.

External Parasites


Most mites are of microscopic size and can only be seen with the

aid of a microscope. The Red Mite is an exception.

(a)Feather rot


Feathers fall out from all parts of the body; this is distinct from feathers breaking off.


The Depluming Mite (Cnemidocoptes laevis)

This microscopic mite inhabits the feather follicles at the base of the feathers. The exCreta of the mites builds up and forms a ring of whitish caseous matter round the base of the quills.

This is an infallible sign of true feather rot. The disease spreads slowly from bird to bird, by direct Contact.

Small areas of the body may be affected, or it may spread to all parts of the body.


Successful treatment is difficult and much patience is required.

Restricted areas are best treated by plucking all feathers from the affected area and applying cream of Gamma Benzene Hexachloride, which must be well rubbed in.

In cases where the body is extensively affected, the use of the cream is impracticable and resort must be made to the use of dipping. An effective dip contains anhydrous sodium sulphite and sodium lauryl sulphate. This must be done in warm weather, early in the day, to give the birds a chance to dry out thoroughly before nightfall. The treatment must be repeated once or twice a week for three or four weeks.


Feather Mites

Several species infest the pigeon; the most important of these are:-

(i) The Feather Mite (Fasculifer rostratus). Microscopic in size, hardly visible to the naked eye. Causes feather damage, usually seen as indented areas on the edges of feathers. Not especially troublesome in the U.K.

(ii) The Ouill Mite (Syringophilus bipectinatus). Invades the interior of the quill during the formative stages. Older feathers become split at the base.

Other body mites are the Scaly-leg mite and the Mange mite, but these are so infrequently encountered in the U.K. that no further mention need be made of them here.


Regular routine spraying with a recognized aerosol insecticide spray it will effectively keep the birds free of these parasites. The most important time to spray against quill mite infestation is just before the moult, when the mites are migrating from the old feathers and invading the new.

(iii) Red mite

The red mite lives in Cracks and crevices in the loft during the daytime, and emerges at night to infest the birds whose blood it sucks.

Red Mite

The mites are capable of living without nourishment for long periods; infestation may persist in a loft emptied of pigeons for a year or more.

Normally the mites are grey, but appear red after they are gorged with blood from their hosts.


Regular spraying of the pigeons for lice will assist in preventing attack by red mite, but the loft and all utensils should be sprayed regularly at least once a year with a suitable Spray containing Malathion or similar persistent insecticide.

It is very important to ensure that the spray penetrates all Cracks and Crevices in the Structure in which the mites hide.


Lice are larger than mites and have three pairs of legs. They are easily seen with the naked eye. They live permanently on the body of the birds and feed on feather dust and skin scales. Slight infestations cause little discomfort or damage, but a heavily infested bird suffers from irritation and will generally be below par.

The most common louse of pigeons is the Slender Pigeon Louse (Columbicola columbae). This louse is dark in color, is about 2 mm long, and 0.3 mm wide. It can usually be seen lying between the barbules of the wing flight feathers. The female louse lays eggs, usually called nits, which adhere firmly to the feather shafts or barbules. The nits hatch out after about a week and develop to maturity in 3 to 4 weeks.

There are several other species of lice which infest pigeons, but as they are of very infrequent occurrence in the U.K., no special mention need be made of them here.

Sometimes a series of small round holes may be found in wing flight and tail feathers. These are caused by lice eating through the sheath while the feather is in the formative stage and only become visible when the sheath is discarded.


Regular spraying with a suitable aerosol spray will speedily kill all species of body lice.

Spraying should always be repeated after four weeks to ensure that young lice which have emerged after the first spraying are effectively killed. The spray will NOT kill the eggs or nits.


This is a disease which is often confused with Pigeon Pox, since the lesions of the two diseases are in some respects similar.

It may be said to be of a contagious nature and is passed from parent to young, which has given some fanciers the impression that the disease is hereditary.

There are three forms; the pharyngeal (or throat) form; the internal form and the navel form.


Pharyngeal form. The presence of pale, yellow cheesy deposits on the mucous membrane of the back of the mouth and throat, extending down the gullet in some cases. The growths may attain a large size and thus obstruct natural swallowing. The bird is obviously ill.

Internal form. The bird is obviously ill, but definite diagnosis is impossible for the fancier as the internal organs are affected, especially the liver in which large circular hard yellow lesions are present. Often the base of the trachea (windpipe) and Syrinx (voice-box) is affected, resulting in acute difficulty in breathing and subsequent death.

Navel form.

An accumulation of yellow cankerous growths under the skin in the region of the navel in young squeakers.

The infection may originate from infected pigeon milk from a ‘carrier’ parent, and may spread internally to give rise to the internal form of the disease.


A minute protozoan parasite (Trichomonas Gallinae). Earlier additions of this booklet referred to another species of trichomonad, T. Gallinarum, said to be the cause of the internal type of canker. It is now generally agreed that the latter is primarily a parasite of the digestive tract of poultry and turkeys, and that T. Gallinae is responsible for all forms of canker in pigeons.

This parasite is capable of movement by means of two pairs of flagellae and a membrane rather like a fish’s fin. It is incapable of life outside the pigeon for longer than a few minutes and therefore infection via the buildings and utensils is not likely to occur.

It is invariably passed from apparently healthy adult birds who carry the trichomonads in their crops to their young who have little immunity.


Individual treatment by means of capsules containing T. AminoNitrothiazole. All adult pigeons should be routinely dosed several weeks before the pairing season starts.

Squeakers may be given similar treatment, at reduced dosage, if Symptoms of the disease are observed.


Coccidiosis used to be regarded as a killer disease, but in recent years a very high proportion of cases are seen as of a chronic nature in which the birds have lost condition but are usually not noticeably ill. They cannot achieve good results in races.


Some loss of weight and condition, droppings may be watery and discolored, but are often quite normal, never liquid and green. Progressive loss of color from the iris of the eye, which assumes a grey appearance; paleness of the mouth and throat. Dull plumage.


A minute protozoan-parasite, of which two species affect the pigeon. Einmeria Labbeana and Einmeria Columbarum. The most common species in the U.K. is E. Labbeana. The parasite undergoes a complicated life cycle, partly in the intestine of the bird, where the damage is done, and partly in the ground. The parasites, in the form of OOCysts, or eggs, are passed out in the droppings of affected birds and . will live for long periods in the open air, especially in warm, moist conditions. While not dangerous when excreted, after a period of about 48-hours under suitable conditions of moisture and temperature, changes take place within the oocysts and if they are then picked up they become infective.


A compound remedy containing Amprolium hydrochloride B. Vet C.* and methyl 4-acetamide-2-ethoxybenzoate.

General Precautions

Where Coccidiosis is present in the loft, strict attention should be given to loft hygiene. Damp patches surrounding drinkers should not be allowed to form.

Oocysts are resistant to ordinary forms of disinfectant, but they are killed by iodophor-based formulations at the recommended strength and by ammonia 5% solution in water.

*Coxoid Harkers *Vykil Harkers


Enteritis simply means inflammation of the middle and lower portions of the intestines.

Enteritis may be associated with other diseases in which case it may be regarded as a symptom, rather than a specific disease. It is often difficult to distinguish between specific enteritis, and enteritis as a symptom of some other condition, such as Coccidiosis, paratyphoid or worm infestation, and this section deals solely with enteritis as a distinct disease.


Birds going off their food, reluctance to fly, dull plumage, watery dark green diarrhoea.


Impossible to be sure in every case, but often due to a germ Escherichia coli.


Feed a light diet only, avoid beans and peas. Valuable pigeons may often be saved by feeding a liquid feed direct into the crop by means of a /4 inch plastic tube. Glucose solution enriched with a meat extract often gives excellent results.

An antibiotic, especially Weomycin sulphate * in the drinking water or liquid feed usually affects a speedy cure.

Fatigue & Stress

Birds often return home after an exhausting race showing symptoms of fatigue or stress. They may show loss of appetite and a disinclination to exercise.

In most cases their immediate need is easily digested nutrition containing readily available energy. It is not helpful to allow an exhausted bird to take a substantial feed of hard corn immediately after a race, to do so may lead to digestive stagnation and ‘Sour Crop’.

As an immediate reviver, a drink of water containing a few teaspoonfuls of medicinal glucose cannot be bettered.

As a first feed, a few hours later, or first thing in the morning if the bird

returns at nightfall, a light feed of Hormoform is advised, gradually returning to normal diet as the bird recovers.

“Neobiotic Soluble Powder 5% (Upjohn).

Feather Disorders

(Not associated with parasitic infestation)

(a) Premature feather failure

Flight and tail feathers show thin patches in the webbing; the edges of flight feathers may have the appearance of being eroded.


It is thought that these signs of ‘wear and tear’ represent degenerative changes occasioned in flight, and may be associated

With nutritional deficiencies, disorder or interruption of

growth due to illness, during the formative stage of the feathers.


Nothing can be done to repair damaged feathers, but prevention is best achieved by ensuring that adult birds, especially prior to and during the pairing season and during the period when they are rearing young, receive a fully balanced ration supplemented by additional vitamins and minerals.

A diet of peas and beans is simply not good enough.

(b) “Blood quills and “Pipey’ feathers

In the case of blood” quills, the new feather grows with the quill filled with blood. “Pipey’ feathers are those which fail to discard the sheath normally.

The cause of these feather abnormalities may be varied and has never been clearly established. Blood feathers may appear after an accidental injury, such as a collision in flight. In some cases an hereditary factor may be involved, in others the diet may be responsible.

Some authorities have suggested that the condition of pipey’ feathers may be due to a deficiency of Vitamin D in the diet or inability of some birds to assimilate Vitamin D normally.


When the bird is a few weeks old, the deformed feathers can be removed in the hope that the replacement feathers will grow normally, but there is no guarantee that this will happen, and if only the odd bird in the loft is affected and the bird continues to grow deformed feathers it is best eliminated from the loft.

The importance of adequate levels of Vitamins in the diet, especially during the early stages of rearing, cannot be overestimated.

(c) Feather loss, causing bare patches on the breast

Bare patches appear on the upper part of the chest, in the region of the crop. Careful examination reveals that the feathers have not fallen out, but have been broken off near the base, leaving the stumps still in the follicle.

This condition is often mistaken for Feather rot (Depluming Mite) and fanciers apply Feather Rot cream in an endeavour to effect a Cure. The differences are:-

1. The feather quills are still in position.

2. The damage is confined to one site on the chest and does not spread.


Continual friction between the chest feathers and the sharp edge of a feeder or water fountain.

Prevent the condition by using only food and water utensils with rounded rims to the food or water trough. Those having sharp metal or plastic rims should be avoided.

Paratyphoid (Salmonellosis)

An infectious disease of bacterial origin, spread mostly through the droppings, thereby infecting food and drinking water.

Basically it is a disease of young pigeons and causes early death of Squeakers without showing any specific symptoms, and therefore often goes un recognised by the fancier.


A bacterium, or germ, of the genus Salmonella (Salmones/a Typhfmurium), The same germ may be responsible for outbreaks of food poisoning in maՈ,

The germs may be passed from a “carrier’ parent on the outside of the shell of the egg, later penetrating the pores of the shell, developing during incubation, thus producing a Squeaker infected at birth.

While most affected youngsters die, some may recover and become ‘carriers’.

The germs become localised in various parts of the body, notably the wing joints, where raised swellings are seen; sometimes in the shoulder joints; in the lining of the intestines, and sometimes in the brain, giving rise to so-called ‘vertigo” when the head is twisted round and the bird is unable to stand.

Birds showing any of the above symptoms should be promptly eliminated and NEVER used for breeding.


There is no certain treatment for the disease, and the use of furazolidone may be tried. Until recently a vaccine was obtainable, but at present owing to the revised legal requirements under the Medicines Act, none is available.

It is hoped that a new vaccine may be made available in the future.

General Precautions

Food and litter should be examined for signs of contamination with mouse or rat droppings, as these vermin carry the disease.

Rats and mice should be exterminated. The presence of paratyphoid in the loft should never be ignored. The elimination of an infected bird is no guarantee that the infection is eliminated from the loft. Failure to take proper precautions may result in heavy losses among squeakers later on.

*Capsules of Furazolidone Harkers

Pasteurellosis or “Bird Fever”

An infectious disease which usually terminates fatally. It may assume epidemic proportions, or, on the other hand, it may cause the death of a few birds only. The disease affects other species of birds, including poultry, in which the name Fowl Cholera is applied.

It is probable that latent infection is present in many lofts and poultry houses, but only becomes active when unsanitary conditions prevail. Therefore it is normally regarded as a disease of dirty premises, especially if the birds are overcrowded and not cleaned out regularly.


Birds seen to be obviously very ill, evidence of a high fever, inflammation of the mucosa of the mouth, diarrhoea; death ensues within 24-48 hours. At post-mortem multiple pin-head yellow spots are seen on the liver, the lungs are acutely inflamed, with multiple small yellowish foci, and there may be hemorrhages on the heart.

Definite diagnosis can only be made as a result of bacteriological examination.


Attention to loft hygiene, remove and burn any floor litter, sulphadimidine in the drinking water. Burn the carcases of dead birds.

*Sulphadimidine sodium solution 33% B. Vet. C.

Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease is probably responsible for more of the troubles to which racing pigeons are subject than any other. Accurate diagnosis is difficult since, while it is apparent to the trained veterinarian that more than one cause is probably responsible, the observable symptoms, whatever the cause, appear to be very similar.

Unfortunately, owing to the very high cost of thorough research, and the lack of adequate funds, little fresh work has been carried out in this direction, either in this country or overseas. During the last 25 years the poultry industry has been seriously plagued by epidemics of respiratory disease, but as a result of intensive research financed by the Government, it has been possible to label the several different diseases, and, in most cases, to provide a protective vaccine for them.

One can only hope that one day money will be found to implement a similar research programme in pigeons.

Among the known causes, the following can be listed:- SIMPLE CATAR RH, usually involving the eye; often called ‘one eyed cold’ by fanciers.


Probably not always the same, possibly a germ called haemophilus influenzae, more probably Mycoplasma, described in the following paragraph. An unknown virus may be involved.


A Watery discharge from the eye, usually accompanied by evidence of gas bubbles. May be some nasal discharge but not severe.


Furazolidone capsules B.P.C.. If the condition fails to clear up within a day or so, suspect mycoplasmosis or possibly ornithosis (see page 21).


A disease caused by a minute germ, which may be described as being half-way between a bacterium and a virus. It has been the cause of heavy losses in poultry, especially in broilers, and is often associated with a virus infection (infectious bronchitis). Whether or not a virus is present with mycoplasmosis in pigeons is not known. Mycoplasmosis infection may be spread by direct contact, through the droppings, food, water and by droplet infection and also through the egg. Recovered birds probably have some degree of immunity, but tend to become ‘carriers’ and it is in this way that the disease is passed to young birds year after year.


A thick mucous discharge from the nostrils, easily demonstrated by putting pressure between the finger and thumb. Soiled wattles, inflamed mouth and throat, the mucous membrane covered by a greyish catarrhal slimy exudate.

In the latter stages, a rattling sound which is most easily heard in the loft at night. Sometimes blobs of jelly-like substance are expectorated by the birds and are found on the loft walls.

Even in the early Stages, which may pass unrecognised, normal flying capability is greatly reduced owing to obstruction of the air passages and it is thought that this may be one of the reasons why so many hundreds of young birds fail to return from races.


Bromhexine” is useful in reducing the viscosity of the mucous and is an aid to natural recovery.

A broad-spectrum antibiotic of which the most effective is water soluble Spiramycint, normally clears up all but the most stubborn cases within 5-7 days.

Spiramycint given in conjunction with Bromhexine is an ideal combination, but no known treatment will successfully eradicate the disease from a loft as so many adult birds are chronic carriers, and it is virtually impossible for a racing pigeon fancier to keep his birds free of infection when each week they are subjected to potential infection in a transporter on the way to a race point.


A disease of Worldwide distribution in many species of birds. In parrots, budgerigars and other sittacine birds it is called Psittacosis. Man may become infected, when the disease runs a course similar to influenza.


A minute organism (Chlamydia) which, like mycoplasma represents a form half-way between bacteria and viruses. Unlike mycoplasma, they multiply within the cells of the body, which they destroy.

Continental sources suggest that Ornithosis is of fairly common occurrence in European countries, but experience at The Standard Laboratory, in recent years, has failed to confirm the disease in more than a small number of cases in the U.K.


A catarrhal exudate from one or both eyes, which fails to respond to normal treatment. The condition progresses and the eyelids appear swollen, the feathers surrounding the eye are soiled and stick together.

Later, the eyelids may be stuck together and the structure of the eye may show inflammatory changes, leading to partial blindness. The bird becomes thin, and there is usually diarrhoea. Affected birds often linger for some weeks before death ensues.

Internally the pericardium of the heart may contain yellow caseous matter and the spleen is very much enlarged.


Definite diagnosis can only be made as a result of blood tests. Facilities for these to be carried out in the U.K. are restricted, and fanciers who suspect that Ornithosis infection may be present in their birds are advised to consult a veterinary surgeon. If any member of the household is taken ill with symptoms including a severe headache, resembling influenza, the doctor should be informed that pigeons are kept.

While the disease may be transmitted to man, it is known that of the recorded cases of Ornithosis (psittacosis) among human patients in recent years, very few have been attributed to infection from pigeons; mostly recently imported exotic birds have been to blame.


ls best left to the Veterinary Surgeon, but of the most effective antibiotics, oxytetracycline is the drug of choice.


It is thought likely that hitherto undiscovered diseases may be responsible for Some outbreaks.

One known virus was described by Smadel (P-5) and associates in America in 1945. A similar virus was confirmed by Cornwall and associates working at Glasgow University Veterinary School, in 1967, among racing pigeons in the West of Scotland.

It is possible that this virus is of more widespread occurrence than is realised, owing to difficulties of diagnosis.


Pigeon Pox is a highly Contagious disease which is very similar in cause and effect to Fowl Pox in poultry. It commonly appears during warm weather and therefore during the months of June to September it often OCCurs in the U.K.

*(Complement Fixation Tests) ‘Oxytetracycline’ B.Vet.C. (On Veterinary prescription)


Small, round, hard, raised nodules on the head parts, often round the eyes, on the eyelids and on the wattles. Flesh coloured at first, these darken as the disease progresses. Their size is normally between 2 mm and 5 mm diameter. In some cases there may be yellow cheesy growths in the mouth, usually within the area of the beak, often under the tongue.

These signs are often confused with Canker, but, unlike Canker, these cheesy growths do NOT affect the throat.


Pigeon pox is caused by a virus (Borrelia) which gains access through an abrasion on the skin or mucous membrane of the mouth.


Affected birds should be promptly isolated, away from contact with other pigeons. The growths, either external or in the mouth may be painted on alternate days with mild Silver Protein 25% which can be made up to order by a dispensing chemist.

Unlike iodine, which is sometimes advised, mild Silver Protein will not harm the eyes. IMPORTANT: when dealing with an outbreak of Pigeon POX, remember:-

1. Always handle the affected birds LAST in your daily feeding and cleaning routine.

2. Keep a special overall for wearing ONLY while attending to the affected birds.

3. Remember that infection can be carried on the hands; wash them in hot water and carbolic soap before touching other birds.

4. Disinfect all loft partitions, baskets and utensils used by affected birds when the epidemic is over.

Prevention is better than Cure

Subject to availability of the vaccine, vaccination of all pigeons at the beginning of the season, when the youngsters are fully fledged, will provide a solid immunity against the disease.

The vaccination of all young pigeons is essential, while older birds and stock birds should receive a booster once every second or third year.

NOTE: At the time of going to press, pigeon pox vaccine is unobtainable in the U.K. It is hoped that vaccine will be made available for future seasons.



Basically, this is a respiratory disease; although the causal organism may invade all parts of the thoracic and abdominal cavities.


Marked difficulty in breathing, birds are seen to be gasping for breath, death often ensues rapidly.

It is unusual for a single bird to be affected; owing to the cause and nature of the disease, it is more likely that a number of birds, if not the majority of birds in the loft, will be affected at the same time. The onset may be sudden and unexpected.


A mould or fungus which grows freely in damp and “musty straw, hay, or food. The minute spores, which are given off by the growing mould in millions are inhaled by the birds and the mould grows in the lungs and air-sacs. At post-mortem, so called ‘disk” lesions will be found on the walls of the body cavities, in addition to multiple grey patches in the lungs. The ‘disks” are greyish white circular and vary in size from pinhead to 8 or 9 mm in diameter.


There is no practicable treatment for this disease. Prevention is easily achieved by careful inspection of any hay, Straw, and foods before allowing them to be used. A common cause has been the use of “musty’ straw on the floor of the loft.

Food bins should be completely emptied and disinfected at least once a year. Mould can easily develop in the bottom of a bin when it is repeatedly topped-up with new corn and seldom emptied.


A deficiency disease of Squeakers and young pigeons, seldom experienced if birds are fed and housed under good conditions. Rickets is regarded as a sign of bad management which is easily avoided.


Squeakers are unable to stand. On attempting to regain an upright stance, they repeatedly fall over.

On examination, they are found to have soft and deformed bone formation. The keel bone may be bent, long bones of the legs and wings are like rubber and easily bent; the beak is noticeably soft. The rib cage is often deformed and collapsed.


A diet deficient in Vitamin D and/or calcium. Imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet, resulting in defective calcification of the Skeleton:

Vitamin D is called the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ and besides being present in many foods, especially in oils and fats, such as Cod Liver Oil, it is manufactured in the body when exposed to the ultra-violet rays of the sun.

Therefore young birds reared in dark, badly lit lofts, with windows of ordinary glass which do not allow the passage of ultraviolet light, may suffer from rickets if at the same time their diet is deficient in Vitamin D and minerals.


As mentioned, the best treatment is prevention by ensuring that the birds have a well designed loft and are fed a balanced diet.

Young birds affected with rickets should have an additional supply of Vitamin D and calcium. This is best effected by giving one Halibut Liver Oil capsule daily and ensuring that a balanced mineral mixture or calcium-based grit is available to all birds.


Tumour means literally a swelling, but by common consent the term is applied to those which are composed of new abnormal cellular growth, and which may occur in any part of the body.

Fortunately, the occurrence of tumours is neither very common, nor of great Consequence in pigeons. Tumours may be classed very roughly into two categories, i. e. benign or simple tumours, and malignant tumours, which include those of cancerous nature.

The most important tumours of pigeons which may be mentioned here are:-

So-called Temporary tumour” (Epitheliohaemangioma). This is a tumour originating from the capillary blood-vessels of the skin, and occurs most frequently On the breast, either Surface of the wing, or on the back.

At first flesh coloured, but soon becoming engorged with dark venous blood. They are often hidden by the feathers until they become quite large, often the size of a chestnut.

In time, the tumour dries up and becomes quite hard, eventually dropping off naturally.

While their appearance is unsightly and alarming, birds so affected seldom show any sign of illness and while the tendency to suffer from these tumours may be present in some birds, there may never be a recurrence in the same bird.


It is thought that an hereditary factor is involved, and it is recommended that birds known to have been affected should not be bred from. The condition is not thought to be infectious.

Treatment In most cases the tumour will shrivel up and drop off and the bird will show no signs of ill-health.

The process may be assisted by ligating the tumour by means of an elastic band wound several times round the base or stalk of the tumour, thus helping to cut off its blood supply.



A puffed up appearance of the neck in the region of the crop. It is not a Specific disease, but an abnormal condition.


An escape of air from the thoracic air-sacs, which becomes trapped in the spaces under the skin, causing a distension around the neck or breast region.

Sometimes due to the bird receiving a blow, such as might be caused by a collision in flight. Possibly associated with damage to the air-sacs in respiratory disease.


The site of the distension may be carefully punctured by means of a sterilised needle, thus allowing the trapped air to escape. Unfortunately the condition usually recurs, as it is not possible to repair the perforated air – sac.


This is a common cause of Sudden death, more often in hens of three or more years old maintained as breeding stock.


None, sudden death, often in flight. Examination of the body shows that the bird is usually overweight, often 1 lb. 4 ozs.-1 lb. 6 ozs. and carries much abdominal fat. The mucous membrane of the mouth appears very pale, indicating internal loss of blood.


The liver and spleen are infiltrated with fat cells and thus very Soft. During a period of exertion, the spleen ruptures, and the bird bleeds to death internally in a few minutes. Post-mortem reveals the abdominal cavity filled with dark clotted blood.


Attention to correct diet and adequate exercise for all breeding prisoners’.


A not uncommon condition in older birds, of 3-4 years and older.


Distension of the abdomen, which is tense and hot to the touch.

The bird is obviously suffering great discomfort and shows evidence of increasing respiratory distress, especially when handled.


The fundamental cause is usually heart weakness, and resultant sluggish circulation of the blood. Seepage of blood serum into the body cavities ensues and this builds up until they are unable to take any more. At this stage, other organs, notably the lungs, become saturated, and death occurs.


There is no satisfactory treatment. Temporary relief may be obtained by draining the cavity of the excess fluid, which can be done by a veterinary surgeon, but the fundamental cause, a weak heart, remains, and the condition usually returns within a few days.

However valuable a bird, it is advisable for it to be painlessly destroyed.


When a bird is involved in an accident which may incur broken bones or Severe laceration of the body, it is essential to seek professional assistance promptly.

If a broken leg or wing is left untreated for more than a day or so, it is likely that the bones will start to reunite in a bad position and it is then too late to effect a satisfactory repair. Similarly, body injuries should be treated as Soon as possible. Severe skin lacerations are often caused by collision with overhead wires and if prompt veterinary aid is sought, recovery, in most cases, can be remarkably rapid and be well worth the expense involved.


This is not a disease at all, but a condition which only too often causes the untimely death of a valuable pigeon.


Gradual wasting, failure to respond to any treatment, sparse droppings, gradual decline ending in death.


Pigeon picking up and Swallowing sharp objects such as wire nails, pins, Small pieces of wire netting, staples, tacks, etc., probably dropped by the owner when building or extending the loft.

The grinding action of the powerful gizzard muscles causes the sharp end of the foreign body to pierce the gizzard wall, and the contents escape into the abdominal cavity, setting up peritonitis.


None possible, But when working on the loft always be careful not to drop nails, etc. on the floor or fly-pen. They are attractive to pigeons.

An Outline On Breeding

Good breeding and good feeding are essential ingredients to a successful loft. Many publications have been written on pigeon breeding and genetics and many knowledgeable geneticists, fanciers and breeders have very set views on the subject.

While one could have bred the best racing pigeon in the world, it will win no races if it is not fed to full potential. Good breeding will do so much-management, training and feeding must do the rest.

Why is it that some fanciers pay up to f5,000 for a breeding cock? The answer lies primarily in the breeding of that bird.

The genetic variation of a bird, i.e. his constitution, can best be

described in terms of heritability, which is a measure of the ‘i’

performance of parent birds, passed on and exhibited in their offspring.

Heritability is measurable. Preweaning mortality and number of eggs hatched for example, have a low heritability. On the other hand, body configuration, good feather properties, eye Colour etc., have a high heritability. One character that cannot necessarily be passed on from one generation to another is performance. Performance is only measurable in racing and although dependent on good breeding from good lines, every descendant cannot and will not inevitably win.

The choice of stock birds therefore is important, remembering that the hereditary constitution of a bird is established at the time of fertilisation of the ovum by the sperm and this decides to a great part, the future characterisation or quality of the bird.

Once a breeding programme is underway, it is important to test the progeny thoroughly. Any traits will soon become apparent, this is why it is important to choose good stock birds and to breed from those birds that produce the best qualities. Successive generations, if bred back to the main line, may eventually produce the constitution looked for, while still retaining the “hybrid vigour’ of the family.

The qualities looked for however, may be apparent in a first cross and the increased genetic variation produced can be retained in successive generations. The chances of obtaining good performance are increased many fold with the selection of good quality stock birds. Select carefully therefore, and breed from the best.

Good breeding, good feeding, an efficient loft management, combined

together, will produce winners. Remember however, that even potential winners cannot succeed with subclinical disease.

Paul L. Duke, B.Sc.

Water Proofing

The investigation and evaluation of waterproofing racing pigeons was carried out at Cardiff University during 1972. Further work including field trials with birds under normal conditions was carried out early in 1973. This research was largely possible because of the work in progress in connection with the decontamination and rehabilitation of wild birds affected by oil pollution. Rehabilitation included the waterproofing’ of seabirds after treatment with oil solvents had denaturized the feathers. It was therefore a logical step to study the possibilities and advantages of waterproofing’ racing pigeons having regard to the recognised casualties resulting from the birds flying Continuously in rain, low cloud or sea mist particularly over water.

Pigeons may be affected by the increased burden of accumulated moisture in the down feathers and by the deterioration in the insulating properties of the feathers when they have been flying in a water laden atmosphere. Of the two problems the deterioration of insulation is the more important, although any increase in weight is an added handicap.

Heat is energy. If the birds lose heat because the feathers fail to provide proper insulation, as is the case when moisture is accumulated, the birds lose energy and the outcome is all too apparent-the birds go down. If they are lucky they fall on the ground from where they will most likely recover unless they are unfortunate enough to be killed while too exhausted to keep out of trouble. Many fall into the sea where hundreds of racing pigeons end their days every year.

It has been suggested that using some artificial aid to protect racing pigeons from the hazards of uncertain weather is not natural and should be discouraged. The answer to this might be that modern pigeon racing is not natural-and if each week throughout the season thousands of racing pigeons are despatched hundreds of miles away from their lofts and encouraged by every means available to race back in the shortest time then the least that can be done for these courageous birds is to give them whatever protection is possible from ending up in the sea or becoming easy game for predators as a result of complete exhaustion.

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