Willem Mulder

Willem Mulder

It’s still winter. But time is moving fast. Faster than you think. In a month, the clock will be set back an hour. And then we all get nervous again because the new flying season will soon be here.  If the weather is good, and the pigeons are healthy,  we will have begun the preparation of our pigeons. Naturally, breeding, of course, is still at its peak.

Around breeding time, the vitamins come are brought out, to improve the condition. The vitamin jars? Well, perhaps not so crazy yet. Sometimes pigeons need a small push so that the metabolic process can get back on track. Especially the B and E vitamins often do well in this regard.   These deliver better metabolism and better fertilization. Fanciers who say they never give vitamins to the pigeons unconsciously often do so without realizing. “we never give by-products, only brewer’s yeast once in a while” aha, they contain the B vitamins. Garlic in the water? B and C vitamins. Cod liver oil over the feed? Aha: Vitamin A and D.


Vitamins don’t necessarily have to come out of a jar. For example, we can germinate the grains. And thus get more vitamins out of the feed. If we took the time to sprout the grains for 2 to 3 days and provide them to our pigeons 1 to 2 times a week, we would hardly need any other vitamins. The amino acids are also significantly increased and made more easily digestible. Vitamins from sprouted seeds and grains multiply rapidly to a few several times the normal levels. Vitamin A can increase to 300% and vitamin C up to 600%. The E and B complex vitamins are also multiplied. Also, biotin is increased by 50%, which significantly improves metabolism.


That’s a question not quickly answered.  There are many opposing opinions and research studies, calling many long-held assumptions into question. I’m almost afraid to answer it. What’s certain is that everything moves at a fast pace nowadays. Crops are fed by adding nutrients through the water or through fertilizer. Crop varieties are also improving and give higher returns. The disadvantage is that by using pesticides, farmers can now use varieties that can no longer protect themselves against insects, animals, etc. (such as flavonoids or bitter substances). These plants are very vulnerable but do not contain elements that adversely affect the digestibility of the plant.


RDA, or recommended daily amounts of minerals and vitamins are often published. I do have some difficulty with the recommended amount. Top athletes on average need again as much as those of us who are more sedentary. During periods where much is required of our feathered athletes, it is better to keep in mind the needs of human athletes.


Scientific research is kept track of, in the Netherlands by the (NEVO), and their data is available online. According to British and American researchers, 43 crops have been examined for the levels of 13 different nutrients. Data from 1950 and from 1999 was used. They found overall a significant decrease in 6 of the 13 nutrients studied. The reductions ranged between 6% and 38%. However, at the individual crop level (i.e. analyzing each crop and each nutrient separately), few significant differences were found. Moreover, the difference in nutrient content found was just as often an increase as it was a decrease. The British study showed a decline in iron, copper, and magnesium in vegetables and a reduction in iron, magnesium, and potassium in fruit.

Let’s take a study from the Alterra Institute of the Wageningen University, Netherlands. The difference in vitamin content varies from 300 to 400% depending on the crop size, maturity and climate. Unlike vitamins, minerals are not formed by the plants themselves. If there are sufficient minerals in the soil, crops will contain adequate minerals. Agricultural practices in Western countries are aimed at preventing soil shortages by the use of soil adapted fertilizers. Only, in regions where there is no animal husbandry, and therefore little, or no aminal manure is used, and where intensive crop production takes place, using a lot of fertilizer on relatively poor soils, could there be a shortage of minerals.
The conclusion is that we cannot draw any general conclusions.


Natural vitamins can be found in many plants, herbs, tubers, seeds, pods etc. The sun is can also make vitamins. Through UV radiation, e.g. provitamin D is converted into vitamin D (in the unfeathered parts of the bird such as the skin, head and legs). However, this Ultra Violet radiation is stopped by plastic. Only birds that are exposed directly to the sunlight can form vitamin D. According to the latest scientific developments, UV can also pass through glass and make Vit A, although glass absorbs a large amount of the UV.

In winter, especially if the sun does not come out for more extended periods, a lack of Vit D can occur. It would then be advisable to use some cod liver oil. Cod liver oil contains a lot of Vit A and D in a natural form. You can imagine when we darken our youngsters how it affects their Vit D uptake. We should not forget to add this vitamin, especially during this time, to the feed.

Vitamin A is found exclusively in products of animal origin. In plants only provitamin A, carotene occurs. After conversion in the intestinal wall, the provitamin has a vitamin A effect. Provitamin A can be found in red corn varieties, roots, flaxseed, milo corn, nettle, dandelion, St. Johnswort, blueberries, onions etc. There is only a limited amount of provitamin A in yellow corn.

  • B vitamins naturally occur in peppers (B1), peas, onions, green cabbage, purslane,  carrots, wheat, barley and oats.
  • Vitamin C can be found in peppers, lemon, rosehip, black currants, blueberries, nettle and birch leaf.
  • Provitamin D occurs in wheat, barley, hazelnut, walnut, carrot, onions, lemon etc.
  • Vitamin E is found in rye, wheat, barley, toasted soybeans, sunflower seeds, and many vegetables.   
  • Vitamin F is present in sunflower seeds and toasted soybeans.
  • Vitamin K in spinach, hemp, nettle and cabbages.

Each vitamin has a specific function and is necessary to keep our pigeons healthy. However, many of us prefer to supplement our pigeons with ready-made vitamins out of a jar.


Practically all commercially sold vitamins are of synthetic origin. Vitamins  A, D, E and K are the fat-soluble vitamins and are stored in the liver. If the liver has to store too many vitamins, poisoning can occur. If that happens during your racing season, you might as well fold your tent. Intoxication does not take place too quickly, and I’m exaggerating a little.

Vitamin E is known as the fertility vitamin. It is also a potent antioxidant.
Its natural form is officially called alpha-tocopherol.  The synthetic form is d, l-alpha-tocopherol. It is distinct from the natural by the letter ‘l.’ It is preferable to use the natural Vit E because it is absorbed two times better than the synthetic variant.

Vitamin B and C are water-soluble vitamins. The pigeon’s kidneys and liver can produce Vit C. Both are stored in the liver. Under extreme stress, there may be a deficiency. However, the average pigeon fancier does not read the ingredients on the package, and if everything went well on the previous race, they might add an extra scoop to the drinker or over the feed. That’s how things can for from bad to worse.


An advantage of natural vitamins is their positive effect, but they also have a cleansing effect. Exactly what is a cleansing effect? Sometimes we hear of an old farmer chewing on a willow branch. Why would the farmer do this, you might ask? He probably had a headache or sore muscles. The willow branch contains the same substance as some headache tablets (salicylic acid), but naturally. Even if the farmer ate an entire willow branch, it wouldn’t make him sick. What would happen if he swallowed an entire container of aspirin, he would feel pretty bad that evening. The chemicals that lessen or eliminates the headache have a positive effect, but not a cleansing effect. Parrots like people eat willow branches. That’s because those birds are high strung, and the salicylic acid calms them down. That’s why they like to eat willow branches. The natural salicylic acid, therefore, has a positive and a cleansing effect.


Some vitamins prevent oxidation. Oxidation is comparable to iron rusting. Viruses can easily penetrate cells and make the host sick. Vitamin C and E are antioxidants. They stop the oxidation process and ensure better health. There are a variety of antioxidants. There may be 400 to 500 substances that can act as antioxidants. Many are still unknown, and further research is required.


If pigeons are going through periods where they are heavily taxed, such as moulting, growing or racing, one can administer vitamins. If possible, I advise you to apply the vitamins on the feed. Vitamins pollute the drinking water. Many products we put in the water leave a taste and are not readily taken up by the birds. The pigeons don’t get enough water and will try to find water elsewhere. The vitamins in water may also evaporate when left in the loft all day, or break down when the temperatures are high, or the drinker stands in direct sunshine. The pigeons don’t get the benefit expected benefit. Wasted money.


Has any research been done on the vitamin needs of the pigeon? Yes, there has.
The vitamin needs of a pigeon during performance periods are per 25 birds weighing 400 grams each (just under lbs.) are:

Vitamin A: 3000 IU, Vitamin D3: 700 IE, Vit C: 10 mg, Vit B1: 2mg, Vit B2: 20mg, Vit B6: 2mg, Vit B12: 5mcg, Niacin: 20 mg, Pantothenic acid: 3 mg, Biotin (VitH +B8): 20mg, Folic Acid (Vit. B. C.): 300 mg, Cholin: 700mg, Vit K: 2mg, Vit E: 20 mg, Citation: Curt Vogel. The birds’ needs are only half of the above during periods of rest.


It is not my intention to elaborate on any health issues that may arise by a shortage or too much of a particular vitamin. That is a question for a specialized veterinarian. Nor do I want to expound on all the facets or action of every vitamin. That would significantly decrease the readability of this article.


Vitamins are vital as they aid in the conversion of food into energy. They also have a task in the growth and recovery of tissue and also help build a robust immune system.

Vitamin supplementation will not produce miracles. They are protective agents, not turbo engines. One should not exaggerate vitamin supplementation. However, it may be beneficial to add some extra vitamins now and then, e.g. after a hard race and during the moult.

It is best of the pigeons can obtain their necessary vitamins every day during periods of stress or rest during the entire year. And would not create any peaks or dips in their blood levels. 

Good luck

Willem Mulder