Pigeons and oxygen consumption

We have a set of basic rules in pigeon racing that cannot be stressed enough. Every time you bring up the subject people will say: “That’s old news, I already knew that!”

However, when you take a look in an average fancier’s loft you often notice that they do not put theory into practise, although they are aware of the basic rules, which are common knowledge. They think they have nothing to learn from others. One of the basic principles in education has always been: repeat, always repeat, until it has stuck in your mind. You probably understand that this article does not have any sensational revelations, as far as there are still secrets in our sport. We will focus on a few familiar aspects of pigeon racing but with a different focus.

There is one thing all experts agree on: an overcrowded loft is one of the most common reasons for failure for a fancier. We could put it differently: in a loft where the pigeons do not have enough air or oxygen you will never be able to get good results.


To increase ventilation you can install small tubes on the roof, possibly with a ventilator

A pigeon needs relatively more oxygen compared to other animals. It was calculated that a single pigeon needs a daily portion of 660 litres of pure oxygen to be in a perfect health. In other words a loft that houses ten pigeons must have a dimension of at least 6.6 cubic metres, which equals a space of 2m x 2m x 1.65m.

It has already been said but we want to point out once more that air ventilation is vital. If you were to house ten pigeons in a loft of 6.6 cubic metres that is hermetically sealed off your pigeons would suffocate within 24 hours, since all of the oxygen would be consumed. No living creature can survive in an environment that contains nothing but carbon dioxide and used air.


A basic roof window; a somewhat old fashioned model

Of course no loft is completely airtight but ventilation through cracks and small holes is definitely not enough. Any fancier knows that his loft should have a constant input of fresh air through a simple ventilation system. It is important though that your pigeons are not exposed to draught: this is unhealthy for a pigeon, just like it is unhealthy for people.

Most readers know why pigeons need so much air relative to their body mass. The reason is that pigeons, just like all birds, do not have sweat glands. This means they can only regulate their body temperate through a very regular respiration. This results in a high consumption of air, especially because the inhaled air passes through their lungs twice.


Unsealed tiles guarantee good air ventilation without causing draught in the loft

The best way to verify if your loft is sufficiently ventilated is by measuring the temperature and the degree of air pollution in the loft in the morning (before the pigeons are released), after the loft was closed during the night. As soon as you notice a smell it is obvious that something is wrong with the ventilation in the loft. It is important to improve the situation as quickly as possible.

Oxygen is most precious to pigeons. It costs nothing and that might explain why pigeon fanciers do not pay much attention to it. We think it is a good approach to consider the natural resources first, including a good air supply. This is much more valuable than spending money on artificial products to enhance the performance of your pigeons. You should first of all provide good air supply.


More modern models

From oxygen to carbon dioxide

You breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Oxygen is diffused into the blood via the alveoli in the lungs; this process is called gas exchange. When the oxygen is used, carbon dioxide is transferred from the blood, back into the alveoli. This is the gas you exhale. When you inhale the air passes through your nose or mouth. Then the air passes through the windpipe, which branches off into smaller pipes, the respiratory tree. If you magnify this respiratory tree you can see each pipe end in small air spaces, the so called alveoli. The blood vessels sit right next to these alveoli. When you breathe in the air, the oxygen is transferred to the blood vessels. Oxygen particles pass through the walls of the alveoli, after which they enter the blood. The blood is then transferred to the heart, which pumps the blood rich in oxygen to all parts of the body. When the blood returns to the heart it carries carbon dioxide particles. Eventually the blood brings the carbon dioxide back to the lung alveoli. Now the same process takes place as with air intake, but in the reverse order: the carbon dioxide particles pass through the walls back into the alveoli. These two processes take place simultaneously in the body: oxygen enters the blood; carbon dioxide leaves the system.