Because of its high percentage of fat, soyabean should be considered a cereal rich in fat. On the other hand, brewers yeast is rich in proteins and it is more of a pod fruit. Pod fruit contains more calcium and phosphor compared to cereals but it is usually poor in vitamins. Pod fruit sometimes contains weevils that can eat out the seeds. The best way to check this is by putting the pod fruits in a bucket of water. The pods that rise to the surface are affected by weevils, the good ones stay under water. Pigeons are fonder of pod fruit than cereals, especially after a hard day of racing. They enhance recovery and they are a good way to check if your pigeons are ready to be basketed: a pigeon should have a full stomach before a hard race which means they would not eat the beans or the peas anymore.
All types of peas have a similar nutritional value.
During the racing season they can account for up to 20% of the pigeon feed. They are all very healthy but the green pea is the best choice: it has a lot of vitamins, especially B and E, and it contains a lot of carotene as well, which is an important source for vitamin A. Green peas are our pigeons’ most favourite pod fruit and are more popular than beans. During the season you can give 20% peas; in winter you should only give them about 10%.
Beans have the same nutritional value as peas but pigeons do not like them as much as peas. The colour of a horse bean, also known as pigeon bean, should not be too dark: this means it is already too old. 20% is a good percentage for the long distance pigeons; sprint racers should only have about 10%. Horse beans are especially good for breeding pigeons. Beans will stimulate them to breed, just like any product that is rich in proteins. It is rather easy to digest and it is rich in chalk and phosphoric acid, which supports skeletal growth.
Vetch is an excellent pigeon feed, even better than peas or horse beans. It is as valuable for pigeons as oatmeal is for horses. It is rich in energy but you should be careful with it as it can give a burning feeling. They are also fairly expensive and they do not last very long. Only the so called bird vetch is useful for pigeons; other types contain a substance that forms hydrogen cyanide. Sometimes rotten vetch is still being sold; they do not last long indeed. It is not my favourite pigeon feed; I prefer peas and beans instead. You should not use more than 5% in the pigeons' feed.
This is a popular product yet it can be dangerous if you are not sure it was sufficiently heated during the drying process, which is needed to kill the yeast cells. If not there is too much fermentation in the pigeons bowels, causing digestion problems. So I am not always confident about the quality of the packs sold by manufacturers of pigeon feed. Sometimes there is too much difference in dryness compared to brewers yeast sold in a chemist or pharmacy, which is of course a lot more expensive. It is also expensive as a protein rich feed and as a source of vitamins, since it lacks vitamins A, D and B12. Brewers yeast is in fact rich in proteins but scientific studies have proved that the type of protein it contains cannot be digested by birds and that has a low biological value. If you are willing to spend money on good quality yeast that is completely dry it can definitely be useful after a demanding race.
Note: the so called B12 or animal protein can be fed to pigeons that are confined to the loft simply by giving them some buttermilk or skimmed milk. How much? We would give one quarter of a litre per litre of water. It is important to clean up everything afterwards to avoid acidification or rot. One portion of buttermilk or skimmed milk each month would be enough for confined pigeons.
Oil seeds are not only rich in fat, they also contain a high grade protein, so they should always be part of your pigeons’ diet, no matter what time of the year. They are very important during the moult, as well as in the racing and breeding season. Let me emphasize that fat is the main source of energy during long distance flights. This makes it valuable for middle distance pigeons as well.
Sunflower seeds are a favourite choice, they are one of the best types of pigeon feed available. They are very nutritious, are easy to digest and they have high rate proteins and contain a lot of oil, phosphorus and quite a lot of vitamins, except for vitamin E. Sunflower seeds can account for up to 5% of your pigeons’ diet.
White sunflower seeds
Striped sunflower seeds
Linseed is almost as nutritious as sunflower seed but because of its shape pigeons are less fond of it. If eaten in large quantities it can lead to the formation of hydrogen cyanide. A portion of 1% should be enough, since this is not the only type of seed available.
Despite its hard and indigestible shell this is the most favourite seed among pigeons. It is rich in proteins and fat and it has a considerable amount of calcium, phosphorus and vitamins. However, scientists have found out that hemp seed contains some narcotic substances that might be harmful in large quantities. That is why 1% is enough.
Rapeseed and coleseed
Rapeseed and coleseed contain even more fat than linseed. It will also stimulate them to breed, just like hemp seed. That is why it should not be given during the moult or in winter. There are no other specific characteristics. A portion of 1% is enough.
The benefit of canary seed compared to the previous seeds is that it can be used as a sweet seed. It does not stimulate them, it is not poisonous and it does not rot quickly. It is rich in proteins, fat, calcium and phosphorus, which makes it similar to sunflower seeds. So this type of seed can be easily used as a sweet seed. A portion of 5% in a purifying mixture is perfect. Besides it is a good way to invite your young birds and widowers to enter the loft. In the long distance season the cocks are given a spoonful per ten pigeons after their evening meal. Canary seed does also enhance the moult. The late doctor A. van den Hoeck used to say “you can teach your pigeons to read and write with this seed” in his book Feed, forage, vitamins and pigeons (voeding, voeder, vitaminen en duiven), which I highly recommend reading.