Pigeons diet - Pigeons feed

The pigeon is a granivorous bird, which means they prefer eating seeds and cereal grains, oil-seeds, especially mixture of corn, wheat, barley, millet, peas, and sunflowers. The proportion of each kind of seed depends on the season (for example, in winter they need more oil based seeds), race (there are different kinds of pigeons, or breeds and they have different needs; a pigeon that is grown for meat needs more food than a roller pigeon which has to be light and agile), utility state (a pigeon that participates in a competition, racing competition, needs different food according to the nature of the race), physiological state etc. The food mixture will have a different composition during the molting period compared with reproduction period and raising squab period. A pigeon that has babies needs more diversified food in order to feed its babies. A pigeon baby is called a squab.

In principle, a well-balanced ration should contain 45-50% grain crops (corn, barley, oats, wheat, rye, etc.) 8-10% oil seeds (sunflower, hemp, rape, etc). A pigeon on average size eats about 30 grams (some authors recommend 10-20% of the pigeon body weight) of grains every day. Racing pigeons needs a special attention regarding food. There are many theories about feeding racing pigeons and all are true in particularly. What might work for a pigeon, it might not work for another one. However the same principles are applied!

European researcher discovered that for the first 30-60 minutes of flight, a pigeon uses the white cells from the muscles and then the pigeon starts using the red cells of the muscles. The white cells of pigeon's muscles use carbohydrates for fueling the pigeon's effort while the red cells of pigeon's muscles use the fat reserves of the pigeon. The red cells are used for the next part of the race (flight). It is known that 85% of the pigeons cell's muscles are red cells and only 15% are white cells. Definitely fancy pigeons require a different approach.

Pigeons have to be feed in some kind of special feed trough. It is totally unhealthy for pigeons to eat from the floor. The feed troughs are flat, 40-100 cm long (or longer, according to the number of pigeons) and they are provided with metal bars which allow the pigeons to introduce their head in and eat. On the top, the feed trough has an access door used for filling up the feed trough.

Read below what every kind of grain from the pigeon's diet is useful for and why it should be part of the pigeon's diet. Based on this information and the information you read above you will be able to create a perfect menu for your pigeons.


Cereals are the main component in pigeon's diet. Cereals contain about 70% carbohydrates, 8-12% protein substances, 3-8% fat and 2-4% mineral substances. Cereals are very rich in vitamins E and B but poor in vitamin A (corn is an exception, it contains vitamin A).


Wheat is highly appreciated by pigeons, but must be given with precaution, because it is rich in carbohydrates (which will lead in "fat pigeons") and male sterility.


Corn is also an appreciated cereal; it has a very high energy value, it is rich in proteins and carbohydrates and it increase the appetite and digestibility. The corn has a high caloric value and given in large quantities leads to weight gain.


Oat is not very appreciated by pigeons but it is a rich ferruginous feed. The oat is easily assimilated and has a great contribution to the formation of feathers quality (smooth and greasy). The oat is recommended to be given in the winter; it helps pigeons to stay light but with strong muscles. The oat is also a restorative for blood and nervous system. It has a slight breaking effect of laying eggs, so in the laying eggs period it should be administrated in smaller quantities.


Barley is usually administrated in pigeon's food after competitions or laying eggs period. Mixture of barley and oats is a good food for January and February when the weather is colder. Young pigeons can get their digestive tract injured by the sharp peaks of grains. Better to avoid feeding of youths with this kind of grains. Shelled grain of oats and barley, are recommended in pigeons food because it neutralize the excitement effect produced by some seeds. Barley, especially, has calming action on the stomach and stops intestinal fermentation, combating diarrhea.


Rye has a lower nutritional value than wheat or corn and it is not really a delicacy for pigeons.


Pulse are especially rich in protein (22-40%) but low in fat (1-5%) have more minerals than grains, they are particularly rich in phosphorus and calcium salts, they contain large quantities of B vitamins, especially vitamin B1, but less carotene.


Peas contain 22-26% protein, 50-52% no-nitrate substances, 0.1% to 2% fat and 4%-5% cellulose. It is highly digestible; it can be part of pigeon's food in a ratio of 15-20% and in mixture with some other grains even in a higher proportion. Being rich in minerals it has, along with the corn, favorable action on pigeon's organism development, increases resistance to efforts by reducing the fatigue. Note that peas have diarrheic action.


Vetch has good influence over the nervous system. It can make 20% of the pigeons food although some fanciers introduce it up to 80% in pigeons diet (but in mixture with other grains that are rich in fat). Vetch has to be introduced gradually in pigeon's diet. Without preliminary preparation, vetch produces bowel, excrements become viscous, sticky and bad-smelling. Vetch is not recommended in young pigeon's diet because it can cause intestinal congestion.


Soy is very rich on proteins, but it is not recommended to be used in pigeon's food, as it can cause disorders, usually manifested by lameness.


Lentils have a high nutritional value, 30-32% protein, being very rich in minerals (calcium, phosphorus, assimilable iron etc). Lentils can be part of pigeon's food in a ratio of 5-10%, it has a refreshing action over the tired pigeons.

Peas and lentil contain a high amount of proteins (23%-26%) but a low level of fat (just about 1%) despite the fact that they are a very valuable energy source.

Oil seeds

Oil seeds are rich in fat; oil-seeds contain about 34% fat, 24% proteins, 23% extractive substances (which don't contain azotes) including carbohydrates and vitamin A. These include hemp seeds, flax, sunflower and rapeseed. Oil-seeds are recommended to be administrated during the molting period because it stimulates the growth of feathers which helps to shorten the respective period. Because of this favorable action on the feather growth, these seeds are given to pigeon prior the participation in exhibitions because it gives to pigeon's feather a shiny look. Oil-seeds stimulate the laying eggs process and increase the percentage of fertility and hatching. They have slightly laxative effect, so they are given as depuratives. They can enter in pigeon's diet in a proportion of 5-7%. Given in excess these seeds can produce some disorders such as: malaise, fever, liver congestion, etc. Highly attention is required especially during the competition period.


Sunflower is rich in protein and oil with sulfur content easily digestible, it has a very favorable action in feather growth, as such, it is recommended that during molting period to be present in the the pigeon's diet in proportion of 5-6 percent. Sunflower and hemp seeds contain lots of proteins and have a high level of oil (32% – 44%). These seeds are a very important source of energy for pigeons and they should be part of their daily diet.

Canary grass

Canary grass (Phalaris canariensis) has relatively high protein content (17%) and medium fat content (6%), therefore, it has an average energy value.


The rape seeds are used in pigeon's food because of the highly content of calcium, magnesium, phosphoric acid, assimilated sulfur, and fat (about 38%). Given to pigeons in small quantities (3-5% of the food mixture) it has a stimulating effect, refreshes and increases the activity of different vital functions.

Red rape, although contains less sulfur and phosphorus, it stimulates the nervous system and increase the flight's power. It has to be given in small quantities (just about a quarter of thimble per day per pigeon). Give it to your pigeons before the competitions for about 8 to 10 days. Don't forget that the rape molds very easily. Keep it in dry places and small quantities.


Pigeons like hemp seed very much. These seeds are rich in protein, lipids and minerals. Hemp seeds are given in a proportion of 3-5%.

Based on the above information, now you can create a diet for your own pigeons according to their breed, purpose, state of mind etc. Bear in mind that your pigeons are unique and they have different needs.