400 Mixes – Part 3

Here is the third part of the 400 Mixes article. Part 4 will be posted next week.
In particular read and remember the half life of muscle protein is 200 days, this should be a guide to the recovery time required for pigeons that come home flown right down.




A large part of the pigeons’ body is made up of protein (15%). Since the bodies proteins are not the same as the proteins in the feed, we have to pay particular attention to the proteins provided in our feeds. Proteins are indispensable for every living organism. Proteins are a group of substances that have a complex structure (amino acids) and have many varieties. Scientifically proteins differ from carbohydrates and fats in that they contain nitrogen (average of 16%).

In a living organism the bodies proteins are regularly broken down and rebuild. The half-life (the time in which half the protein is renewed) is different for each protein. For example: for enzymes the half-life is from one to ten days, for muscle protein the half-life is about two hundred days. When the feed is changed to include a desirable amount and quality of protein the body can repair the proteins with a short half-life in a very short period of time.

The main function of protein is the building and forming of new cells and tissue. Animals build proteins for the body out of amino acids, which are released by the food during the process of digestion. The bodies proteins are build up out of the various amino acids provided by the food.

Proteins are formed by a number of amino acids. Some amino acids can be produced by the body, thus, these do not have to be provided at all times by the diet. There are twenty different amino acids that can be used in many combinations to form the different proteins. Off the twenty amino acids there are ten that are necessary or essential. These are the amino acids the body itself cannot manufacture and therefore, have to be provided in the diet.

Lysine and methionine/ cysteine are the two amino acids that the pigeon has the most difficulties finding enough of in the feed. Usually these are the amino acids which fall below the amount needed by the bird. These are called first limiting.

Not all proteins can be stored in the body; a regular supply via the diet of these proteins is necessary. Protein that provides all the essential amino acids needed by the body in the proper amounts are referred to as proteins with a high biological value, these are in large part easily used to build body protein.

The process of breaking down and rebuilding of proteins usually provides a fluctuating amino acid reserve. (about 1% of the body weight) Protein serves as an energy reserve only when all the carbohydrates and fats have been used up. The burning of protein as an energy source uses a lot of oxygen and leaves many poisonous by-products behind. These are difficult for the body to deal with. With heavy protein diets the pigeon has to use protein as an energy source with the result that the liver and kidneys have to work overtime to rid the body of the harmful by-products.

Proteins are very necessary at breeding time, because the pigeon is one of the fastest growing animals, giving a need for a good source of protein during the growth period to ensure proper muscle and organ development. Older birds need less protein, except during the molt, when laying eggs and during the production of crop milk.

After a very heavy flight it may be necessary to feed protein rich feeds, because, after the fat and sugar were used up the bird may have burned its muscles as a source of energy. These birds have earned a long recuperation period to rebuild their muscle and replenish their fat and sugar supplies.

Protein Use

The function of protein in sports nutrition seems to be more involved than is usually acknowledged. Proteins cannot be stored in a depot like fats and sugars. A protein reserve does not really exist except in the form of the powerful large muscles.

The amount of food a pigeon eats is regulated by its need for energy. That is why the energy food we offer to the birds has to be balanced by the proper amount and quality of protein needed along with the other nutritional products required. Not only the amount of protein but, the presence of the first-limiting essential amino acids and the proper variety of amino acids are crucial in feeding. A large amount of unnecessary protein in the feed is difficult to digest. Feed with the proper amount and kind of protein is more efficient and gives better results.

The quality of protein is determined by the amount and the proportion of essential amino acids. A protein of high quality contains for a particular animal species the necessary essential amino acids in the proportion necessary for that animal. The need for amino acids is different for every animal species. If, a particular amino acid is not present in the proper amount in the feed, or the body reserves, then protein synthesis comes to a stop. The amino acid consumed by the animal can no longer be used. When this happens, then out of necessity, more feed is consumed. The bird will eat till the amount and type of amino acid present in the system will allow protein synthesis to resume. This causes the digestive system to be heavily taxed. The extra carbohydrates and fats consumed also lead to unwanted results. The amino acids required for protein synthesis to take place are called, first-limiting amino acids. For feeds heavy in protein methionine/cysteine are the first limiting amino acids. For mixes light in protein lysine is first limiting.

A mature pigeon, not moulting, according to Brody and Scott has a daily requirement of about 0.7 grams of protein. To replace this amount of protein, if the protein provided has a digestibility of 55%, the bird needs in its feed 1.3 grams of protein daily.

For the renewal of feathers a pigeon requires extra protein. On average the pigeons’ feathers make up six to seven percent of the total body weight. Feathers are made up of about 80% protein. According to Brody and Scott a pigeon requires approximately 55 grams of raw protein to renew all of its feathers.

If we know the length of the moult and the time and length of the heaviest moult, we should theoretically be able to calculate the amount of protein required through the different phases of the moult. At the height of the moult the amount of protein needed can be assessed at circa 4 grams per day. This has to be provided by the birds’ daily meals. Besides extra protein the moult also requires extra minerals. In order to provide all the nutritional requirements a top quality, varied mix is necessary.

Similarly, extra protein is required during the breeding season. The young pigeon is one of the fastest growing species of birds. During the first six days of life a new born pigeon grows from, a birth weight of 15 grams to 110 grams. The amount of feed needed ranges from the first day of life, 5 grams or 35% of its body weight, the second day 12.5 grams or 70% of its body weight, the third day 21 grams or 75% of its body weight.

To gain one gram of weight the baby pigeon during its first five days of life requires 1.3 grams of crop milk. Therefore, crop milk has to have a very high nutritional content. The composition of crop milk provides for rapid growth. It is made up of, 14% protein, 8.5% fat, 74% water and all the required vitamins and minerals. The rapid growth is possible because of the protein content of the crop milk which in turn is only possible if the parents producing the crop milk are provided with an adequate diet.

Let’s do some arithmetic. During the first six days of life, a young pigeon grows 95 grams. For every gram of growth, 1.3 grams of crop milk are needed, a total of 125 grams. At 14% protein in the crop milk, the total needed is 17 grams of digestible protein. If a pigeon can digest about 55% of the raw protein in its diet, then we have to provide over 30 grams of protein. Including the parents own needs, which comes out to an average daily raw protein requirement of 6.5 grams.

At the height of growth, the young bird grows 20 to 25 grams per day. To provide for this rapid growth, it is fed circa 30 grams of crop milk containing 4 grams of protein. Providing for its own needs the parent requires 8.5 grams of protein in its own diet. For the parents a normal diet will not provide this amount of protein.

Feeding a straight legumes diet (Peas, beans vetch etc.) will be required.

The function of crop milk therefore is, to provide a source of highly digestible protein for the squeaker. Milk production begins during the last week of the brooding period. The crop milk produced at this time is stored, to be used later. Crop milk production reaches its peak when the youngster is three days old, it’s needs are so great, that at this time the parents cannot produce enough and the reserves are used up in a matter of days. At this time the youngsters diet begins to be switched over from milk to grain. It should be apparent that at this time a mix heavy in protein and varied in its composition is necessary.

Written by: A. Coolen

Translated by: Nick Oud

To be continued

This article has been reprinted with permission of the “Neerlands Postduiven Orgaan” now defucnt.
The original was written by “A. Coolen” in Nederlands.
Translated by “Nick Oud”

400 Mixes Part 1
400 Mixes Part 2