The moulting ... An interesting period

Posted on 15/08/2018, Author: Pitts

 Why pigeons moult actually has two reasons. On the one hand, their flight feathers are worn out. The beards get loose, the quality of the feathers deteriorates due to the constant abrasion of the air velocity against the feathers and as a result pigeons also get less speed. The feathers also slowly lose not only their strength but also their color. A trained eye can see the difference between the old pens and the new ones. On the other hand, in addition to the flight feathers, our pigeons also lose the tail feathers and the cover feathers and new down feathers are formed in the moult. These must ensure that the pigeons have a thick insulating layer to get through the winter because the cover and the down feathers ensure the isolation of the body against cold. If these are worn, the pigeon will get into trouble in the winter. Now for us pigeon fanciers the moult of the flight feathers is the most important. We judge this most often by color and number and we derive health for a part. Of course, they are also very important in performance. Both pigeons in the moult and pigeons that have flaws in the wing due to a bad moult perform badly. That is why this is so important for pigeon fanciers.


When we examine which factors influence the moult we distinguish 3 major issues. Namely the day length, the hormones and the outside temperature. Now you can not disconnect these things from each other. The outside temperature and the day length affect the hormonal system. The pituitary gland plays an important role in the production and regulation of hormones. The pituitary gland, also known as the pineal gland, is a small brain attachment that some people consider as third eye. It detects the day length and depends on whether or not it produces hormones. For example, it also produces melatonin which is known to man in the regulation of sleep and important in the studies of depression. Now this pituitary gland starts to control other organs by producing more or less hormones, which in turn produce hormones and influence the moulting. This way we know that the thyroid gland is also very important. In this thyroxine is created a hormone that will accelerate the moult. But also the sex hormones are under the influence of the pituitary gland and these also affect the moult and the quality and color of the feathers. However, prolactin is also produced in the pituitary gland, a hormone that is important for the production of crop milk. If pigeons feed their youngsters, the production of prolactin runs at full speed, so the moulting is slowed down. Logically also because to feed the youngsters a lot of proteins are needed and we also need this during the moult. So those two do not go together. Nature or say the hormones have arranged this well. A wonder of nature. And as we mentioned earlier, the outside temperature in all this regulation also has an influence even though it is smaller than the day length, the latter is undoubtedly the biggest factor. And we pigeon fanciers so eagerly use this by obscuring or illuminating the pigeons and thereby influencing the moult. Playing a bit with nature is what it is called.


Feathers are made up of a shaft with a flag on both sides. This flag is then rebuilt with small beards that hook into each other and form the flag. The more firmly these beards hook together, the better the flag is formed and the firmer the flag the better the pigeons have an air cover while flying. You will soon understand that the quality of a good feather is extremely important. The shaft is implanted in the wing on its underside and in the case of young animals and fresh feathers the cell division occurs at the bottom of this shaft. A blood vessel also runs to ensure that minerals and vitamins are supplied for proper cell division. The slightest disturbance there during the growth of the feather will provide a "drawn" feather. These are small stripes in the flight feathers that indicate that something went wrong during the moult or at least that the moult was delayed at the time. This can be achieved by administering a medicament, especially the older deworming products or trichomonas remedies, but also cortisone slows down cell division and you can also see pigeons dripped with the prohibited cortisone eye drops. However, diseases can also slow down moult and especially paratyphoid is a common condition during the moulting period and can therefore also give "signed" feathers. The strength of the shaft is also extremely important. You can see this from pigeons that have flown long distances. The feathers are often folded upwards while they are normally a little bit bulging down. The weaker the shaft the faster the feathers fold up and the less force the pigeon can put when flying. The blood vessel in the shaft will disappear after the pen has fully grown. The blood vessel can be clearly seen at the bottom of the shaft, especially with white pens. Feathers are mainly made up of the protein keratin that is highly mineralized. Especially sulfur is important here, but also, fluorine, copper, zinc, calcium etc ... are minerals that we can find in the feathers.



As you will understand from the above explanation, the moult is quite a radical event on the pigeon body. Especially because the moult happens in a fairly short period. Especially pigeons that were darkened and exposed and then fall in the moult as they have to get a completely new plumage in a few weeks time. This can weaken the body, especially because the pigeons often have a tough season behind them. We also see many cases of paratyphoid, smallpox, streptococci, coccidiosis, trichomonas and other disorders occur during moulting. It is therefore extremely important to keep an eye on this and to cure the pigeons if necessary. Many people cure their pigeons preventively against paratyphus just before molting but this is of course not necessary. If your pigeons are not carriers or your pigeons are strong enough then cures are unnecessary and it contributes to the build-up of resistance within your colony, something that you can be missed. It only weakens your colony through the years. You have to keep a close eye on the pigeons and possibly have a check done at the vet before the moulting period or possibly a vet check and only cure if necessary. On the other hand, there are good products on a natural basis to support the pigeons during this period, but we will come back on this.

Building materials

What does a pigeon actually need to endure a good moulting period? First and foremost energy. It takes quite a lot of energy to replace the entire plumage, which also means that the temperatures drop sharply in the autumn and the pigeons also need energy to keep their temperature up to standard. For this pigeons do need fats but on the other hand they can’t become too fat because that slows down the moult again because of a poorly functioning metabolism. Omega 3 is also important and gives a nice shine on the feathers. On the other hand, many proteins have to be supplied for a formation of feathers. At the level of the shaft, there are many cells that all need amino acids to grow. Sulphurous amino acids such as methionine is an amino acid that should not be absent. Also because it contains sulfur and sulfur contains more than 5% of the composition of keratin. And of course, minerals are extremely important. As we described above, there are a lot of minerals that pigeons need to make strong feathers.


The most important thing for the pigeons is a well balanced diet during the moult with sufficient proteins and fats, omega 3 and barley for a good intestinal regulation and so they don’t become too fat. Most companies have a well-balanced moult mix. We give you an example of a good feed advice during the moult. (see inserted box). In addition, pigeons need amino acids and methionine is an important factor. Especially because methionine is a sulphurous amino acid and also an essential amino acid. This means that it is not produced by the body itself but must be administered externally via food or supplements. Sedochol is undoubtedly the best-known product that contains this amino acid. But you can also find this in aminotonic or B-chol. Minerals can then be found in aescopet or magnesium gold. A product that gives the perfect combination of the two is moulting-mineral. It contains both minerals and essential amino acids and is therefore ready for use. Feeding 2-3 times per week via the feed or water is already sufficient. In addition to this, you must also support the pigeons in a natural way to maintain their own resistance and stimulate their intestinal regulation. You can give products such as hepatoveto where a combination is made between amino acids and herbs to support the pigeons optimally. Kolombocox is very good to give during the moult. It provides the optimal intestinal health, suppresses the harmful bacteria and supports the natural resistance. To be administered 4 to 5 times a week in the drinking water and it saves you a lot of misery.


The moult is an important period, we all agree on that. However, you should not overload your pigeons with all kinds of vitamins and stuff that are unnecessary. A well balanced diet with the necessary supplements added as described above and there is nothing to worry about. No more and no less.

Vet Rudi Hendrikx

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