The Nitty Gritty
Many dog trainers purchase pigeons and use them almost immediately, and so diet, or even the inclusion of grit, is not a factor. However, if you are going to keep pigeons for more than two weeks, a little grit will help keep your birds healthy. Healthy birds fly better.
When you have birds with swollen butts and the squirts, it is a good bet they need grit. Especially if you are feeding whole grains such as corn.
Grit can be purchased in small bags at farm supply stores for outrageous prices. However, some fine gravel from the side of the road will work just fine in a pinch. Better yet, take a few feed sacks down to your local quarry and purchase a little fine gravel. It's called "gravel dust" around here. A sack should run you about 25 cents and will last a long time. You can mix a little grit in with the feed - say a quarter cup to a quart of feed - or use a separate grit bowl. I use old electricians 4x4 boxes because they are heavy and galvinized and already have drain holes. The birds will select the size they need and toss the rest, so don't worry about that - you just paid 25 cents for the sack, remember?
Got a great coop or pen? Or a good tip? Send your ideas and photos
for inclusion in a future article to Bill Fawcett:
I use limestone grit because that's what is available. I'd prefer granite, as sometimes the shells are so strong the birds cannot pip their way out of the shell because of the calcium. The simple solution for that is to provide water for bathing at least every few days. The birds will bathe, and their wet feathers will raise the humidity making the shells softer. Of course, if you are not breeding, don't worry about it. On the other hand if the shells are too weak, you might need limestone or oyster shell.
Bill Fawcett resides in the Shenandoah Valley of
Virginia with his wife, Cindy, and his Smythwicks
Springers: Jenna, Beebe, and Drake. He is a
hunter, field trialer, breeder and member of the
the ESSFTA. He maintains a public FB ESS
pedigree database at smythwicks.org.