Electrolytes for the racing pigeons – good or bad?

I read a lot about electrolytes lately, and I tend to consider them a very useful product in this sport, during the racing season. However, there are some opinions against electrolytes. Some opinions that I found interesting are below.

1. Receipt of a natural recuperation product for racing pigeons: Electrolytes are minerals and salts such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc. The administration of electrolytes is especially recommended after the race as promotion of the recuperation. Heavy muscular efforts make the body liquids acid and cause an increased loss of electrolytes, disturbing the acid base. It has been scientifically proved that the administration of electrolytes improves the recuperation after athletic efforts in a natural way.

Diarrhoea causes an increased loss of electrolytes together with an upset of the waterhousehold and the acid-base balance. The administration of electrolytes is an important support in case of watery droppings.

2. Dr Colin Walker:

During exertion, both water and electrolytes are lost from the bird’s system and he goes on to talk of the need to replace lost electrolytes.

3. Dr. Wim Peters:

Pigeons do not sweat – so where is the loss of the electrolytes, that have to be replaced, supposed to come from? It is stated that sodium and other salts are excreted when bound to lactic acid and that the lactic acid forms when the pigeons do anaerobic exercise (exercise in the absence of oxygen). It is my contention that racing pigeons have no anaerobic exercise and therefore conserve their salts.

Unless a pigeon is losing electrolytes in some form, maybe with enteritis or when the kidneys have been damaged by PMV, there is NO need to use them or when birds vomit, have diarrhea and so on. In these cases their use is absolutely essential , but not for healthy pigeons.

I’m against the use of electrolytes in pigeons. Colin Walker, in his latest book has a different opinion. His argument is that the lactic acid, which is produced at the time of anaerobic exercise, bonds with sodium and other salts to facilitate excretion and is thus lost. This causes loss of electrolytes and a prolonged recuperation period. To prevent this state he recommends electrolyte ‘replacement’. Now if electrolytes were lost I would agree with the rationale but does the bird do any anaerobic exercise when flying normally? Some people here, particularly those in the more humid areas, now wish to use them also before a race. (It’s fairly widely believed that the birds will be properly hydrated!). I don’t like it but maybe I’m missing something? I see that Colin W also advises half-strength electrolytes prior to basketing.

Racing your pigeons when the temps exceed 30 degrees C becomes problematical. (I cannot agree with Bob R who states that 20 to 35 degrees is ‘the ideal range’. I’m sure he didn’t mean it like this.)

Pigeons flying in hot conditions can only lower their body temperature by increasing the evaporation rate from the mouth, throat and lungs. Doing so in the absence of drinking water increases the possibility (danger) of dehydration. The alternative is to reduce or stop its physical exertion – flying. This accounts for the slow velocities and high losses whenever such high temps occur on long distance races particularly. Whenever the temperature exceeds 30 degrees problems begin. Of course there are some birds that can handle high temps better than others. It has a genetic background but roughly speaking the heavier birds are less heat-tolerant than the lighter and smaller-framed.

Racing the pigeons in humid conditions reduces their ability to handle high temperatures.

Any hindrance to the evaporation rate creates difficulties. Under humid conditions evaporation is drastically reduced and hot conditions can become unbearable.

In both the above, the position is seriously aggravated when the birds have to battle a headwind. They keep low above the ground (where it is hotter) and have to work harder against the wind pushing up their body temperatures. Results of races on hot headwind days are usually dismal.

I do not believe that the administration of electrolytes is of any benefit

Unless a pigeon is losing Electrolytes there is NO need to use them. Pigeons on a normal temperate day will drink about 50 ml water. On the day that the electrolytes were given it was hotter than usual and the birds accordingly drank more. The fact that there were electrolytes in the water had little to do with their total intake. They had loose bowels because they were given what amounts to a clean-out – as if given Epsom salts. The loose bowels acted as if a purgative had been administered and this action alone would ensure that these birds would drink more water. In fact it could be so dehydrating that they could die if water were totally absent!

4. Gordon Chalmers:

I seldom use electrolytes on my own birds. My general feeling has been not to use them at all (exception – possibly in cases of severe fluid loss as in diarrhea). I just don’t see the point of using them before a race, since, if birds are managed correctly and have access to a wide-ranging mineral mix at all times, their electrolytes should be at normal levels. Adding electrolytes might just induce unnecessary thirst. I have thought that at times, birds could use electrolytes on their return from a race, but even then I’m reluctant to use them. I much prefer fresh water with no additives when they arrive, but later in the day, I’ll add some glucose or fructose. I really don’t like the idea of half-strength electrolytes as advocated by Colin – my view is that it’s better to avoid them entirely ahead of shipping, and let the birds balance their own systems without electrolytes after they return.

During a race any significant alteration to the regular rate of the wing beat at cruising speed (on average, a normal rate of 5.4 beats per second) such as explosive or dodging bursts of speed, pulling hard against the wind, braking to land, etc. can induce anaerobic glycolysis. That results in the production of some level of lactic acid.

5. Bob Rowland:

Re. Wim’s belief that the administration of electrolytes is of any benefit: This could be a true statement if we were only trying to race a pigeon that is in perfect electrolyte balance and in the absolute best optimal condition and the distances were just ideal etc. The reason for having pigeons take the electrolytes is twofold. First to make sure they have enough for the proper balance and second, to consume more water than they normally would so that they will pack their cells with the water and are not beginning the journey without enough water to complete the trip. When we try to believe that all pigeons will be given equal treatment by the convoyer, I prefer to think that if I can give them a head start going in that this certainly can’t hurt much. If I did not help them, did I hurt them by giving them a possible edge?

65 Comments

  1. willy san mateo

    currently, im using electrolytes with vitamins (sagupaan) for my racing pigeon after their training in the morning and clean water at the afternoon to replace water losing from their flying. so far, may pigeons are in good health and good condition.
    before basketing, i let my pigeons eat all they can (flyermix by nutrena products) and give them electrolytes (in 1/2 of empty capsul #4 that can be bought in drugs store).
    at present, my pigeons are always in top 20 here in our pigeon club! that’s all

  2. Al Quezon City

    is it reasonable to use electrolytes everyday? I think its just a waste. Let your pigeon be train naturally so they can adjust themselves to various conditions. Give them only when it is necessary but not everyday though.

  3. marc of alabang

    Currently im using Belgason by Belgica De weerd…my application for this particular product is during race proper only before basketing and after the birds arrival i never use them on a regular basis (loft flying) and trainings (except during hard training)..so far im doing pretty well with it…and also i use them during breeding after the eggs are hatch i gave them from day 1-6 i believe this would
    really help my day old chicks as they battle it out from surviving and plus the fact that we have to consider out climate… and again so far im doing pretty well.

  4. adrian of qc

    electrolytes is very beneficial to our birds i use it 2 days a week in my opinion belgasol is the best electrolytes u can purchase locally administering it 2 times a week on sundays (arrival) i mixed it with b/s but to a very minimal ratio just for prevention of any diseases that our birds might get from the race. i also uses it on mornings before shipping and glucose on the eve. honey is a good source for glucose and fructose for energy needed for the race. as for my experience it is very benificial to my birds as they recuperate in hours after arriving in a 150km toss.

  5. adrian of qc

    to fariz

    muscle can be formed by means of loft flying in regular basis, training tosses, and feeding a higher ratio of corn or wheat. corn produces hard muscles while wheat produces soft muscles.

  6. Pigeon City Loft Bamban, Tarlac Philippines

    No, i don’t use electrolytes at all after a hard flying or race. My birds are in great condition. I always give them vitamins daily when feeding. Besides, when they come back, they are already on their home and can recuperate normally sooner or a little bit later. Never to worry of not drinking because they are already at home. Instead i give them a heavy meal and multivitamins. (0917)788-1798

  7. mike of MMFC

    i would rather suggest using of electrolyte is very beneficial during when the bird got home from a very tough race in able to have a quick recuperation,I also give electrolyte in the morning the day of basketing and glucose in the evening

  8. Jace QRPC

    Yeah, i think electrolytes are beneficial specially after arrival, because we normally have one week to recover our pigeons before sending them out again. I would suggest moderation though, because salts & minerals are also present in the other supplements we give our birds. Up! Up! and Away!

  9. Great article on a subject that as we can see can be supported both against and pro.

    I guess it is up to experience for most of the long time breeders and for new ones, well there is some food for thought.

    Currently I used Beyers Plus Electrolyt Plus with great results so I’m in the “Use electrolytes camp”.

  10. michael

    great article. seems to me those who use and those who don’t have equal success. i guess it comes down to personal choice and not to what our feathered friends actually need or don’t need. what the heck for what it is worth i think there is a place for electrolytes in ones medicine box

  11. Bernard Flores

    yes, i also use electrolytes after race at night i give tea with calamansi extract with sugar for resting, but in daily, i use only plain water, vitamins c water soluble and honey bee.

  12. Eric foreman

    before i thnik electrolites can help the birds recover more quikly ,but now i think buying electrolites is just a waste of money, my birds come from 100-400km with just plain water in there drinkers when they arrived home. as long as the arriving birds have there long rest they will be fine…this is what i have done in the past years….in any type of weather i dont use electrolites or any additives to the water….

  13. Webmaster

    Eirc, I also used electrolytes only for long distance races and some hard midle distance races because we race over the mountains and birds often fly much longer in a middle distance race.

  14. Eric foreman

    webmaster

    Kind sir, allow me to say what i have done in the past… when the my birds arrives i have epsom salts in thier drinkers believing they will recuperate after…. i had my doubt when not all my birds recovered even with electrolites,,, what i did was i give half of my birds electrolites and half just plain water, i did not see any difference in there condition……

  15. Webmaster

    Great experiment Eric, this is how we should act, not just listen to claims. Splitting the birds in two teams for tests is the best and shortest path to the truth! Thank you for sharing.

  16. Double E Loft (MMFC,QCPF,RP-combine)

    ..using electrolyte is good,but its depends in how you use it..some of us believes that the natural cause of losing weight of the birds is poor handling, excessive dose of drugs, etc. with this kind of treatment to birds can cause your bird mainly lost the derby race. Water treatment after the arrival of the birds, is the strongly recommended by others fanciers. as for me natural way to recover the birds are to handle it after they arrive, the next day morning try to fly out your arrival birds as for stretching due to hard course fly or you can also let them bath by the morning to cool down their wings and avoid necessary stiffness..thats all i can suggest.. aim high and fly high..

  17. RAYMOND CADIZ- epfc,psu

    In my opnion i think experience is the best teacher… I use belgasol before basketing for long races and after arrival…as long for what we believe… good luck to all of our pigeon race.. MY FINE FEATHERED FRIEND….

  18. bimbo S of PFC / MANILA,PHILS.

    I’M SURE THERE ARE MANY READERS WHO HAVE HAD STRANGE EXPERIENCE WITH THIER BIRDS..I HAVE TRIED TO COVER THOSE THINGS THAT HAPPEN MOST FREQUENTLY..EVERY QUESTION HAS AN ANSWER SO I BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A LOGICAL EXPLANATION FOR THESE QUESTIONS…OF COURSE ,GOOD LUCK PLAYS A BIG PART IN OUR SPORT AND WE WOULD DO WELL TO NEVER FORGET IT……GOD BLESS…..

  19. melvin t of RIZAL

    nice sharing of thoughts… =)
    nobody’s wrong.. because we’re just doing the things that we think are the best for our feathered friends.. god bless =)

  20. Erwin SUPRA/Raging Goblins

    I have been champion, co-champion ang have placed overall in many races may it be funraces, derby or auction, i have had not one dry racing season at our club SUPRA. As to the use of electrolytes i have tried them throughout the years, one thing i noticed is that pigeons recuperate the same way whether or not you use eletrolytes, so i have done without it for the past few years and have continued to win still. So what’s the point in wasting money for nothing? Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself to believe!

  21. jojo copuyoc of cavite city

    i’ ve been raising fighting cocks and pigeons for 30 years, and honeybee and salts plus glucose and fructose plus calcium was we need to recover from races and fights. sometimes my dad would use anti oxidant teas made by supra to recover cocks

  22. i dont use any vitamins during training below 180km i let my pigeon finish the training without any vitamins.i use only natural such as garlic and honey. but on the last training before derby races i started to give supra pil before bascketing so my pigeon can upgrade their resistance i dont burn the resperatory of my pigeons by using such a lot of vitamins during training it cannot help the bird to do their best wen derby starts … when their resperatory is already burn because u already use a lot of dosage of vitamins when the bird is only in traing tosses.. thats why i start only using vitamins when deby starts… belgasol in the morning after loft fly and in the afternoon i give supra pill before bascketing… and when the derby laps go to long distance tosses i know i can upgrade and giv my birds the vitamins 3 days straight before the long toss i giv calcium and b12 … when the derby is going on to finals… because i know the resperatory of my birds can take the dosage …..

    its already proven 3 years straight im always won money on the long distance derby… 600km and a lot of finisher

  23. i agree… burning your birds with a lot of dosage of vitamins during training below 180 km is not a good move.. ur bird will perform good during short distance but before the long distance starts hmmmh the side effects will feed back and give your birds a poor performance on the long distance tosses….

  24. nox palapal of NUEVA ECIJA FEDERATION

    yes, for me its a big yes using electrolytes after arrival. it helps our pigeon gain their lost powers used in the race. but did you guys know that your pigeons become more thirsty when you give them electrolytes? for me. yes. so i’m not giving my birds an electrolytes before basketing. i tried it. my birds go to rice field to drink a water because of giving electrolytes before the race. they become thirsty. and the best medicine for me is all natural like garlic, oregano, vinegar, brewer yeast, garlic oil, bee pollen. all natural medicines. good luck ta all fanciers out their! by the way i’m only 17 yrs old fancier. good day! Godbless.

  25. Andrei (pigeonmania.com)

    Interesting point of view. Some electrolyte brands even mention that their product prevents thirst if given before the race. Confusing, really. In my experience, it indeed prevented thirst, but I guess it depends on what brand you used.

    Also it is said that rice is good before the race to prevent thirst.

  26. Tanvir

    Someone suggested me to use Aloevera gel to use as a natural electrolyte, plus some vitamins in water after the race to recover in a week for next race, is that a good idea ? please let me know.

    regards

  27. Well!! vit. and minerals supplement on the other hand is good, so with the electrolytes for your pigeons before and after the training but did you know that only 2-5% of the total amount of vits. induced is utilized.The reason why is that minerals are the catalyst of vitamins to perform a specific functions on the different cells and tissues of the body.And it is imperative that the water- based used has a tiny molecular clusters in order to penetrate and absorbed assordingly.Meaning to say even if you give a lot of minerals unless it is a water bound or has the ability to absorbed water(hydrophilic), minerals is useless, only 90-92% pass out of the body because they are not readily available which is true in minerals salts.Thru the advent of the new technology a plant derived organic minerals was developed for a better absorption and 100% bioavailable because plants has the ability to convert metallic minerals into organic minerals forming a tiny molecular clusters for a faster assimilation.Thank u and good luck to all d fancier and happy racing.

  28. Tanvir

    Joel g .

    Thanks for your advices. I ‘ve found some companies who are selling carbo plus, amino build etc to mix with food to recup fast in between races. But those are quite expensive and need specical permission from our govt. as they comes under drug licence. So, i was looking for something available in my country to use them for suppliments.

  29. Ruben of Las Pinas

    Thank you for all your comments guys! all of them are somewhat beneficial, mostly for all the newbies out there that will accidentally fall on this site looking for answers. as for all the old (fanciers) ones, thank you so much! More power to all of you! “aim high, fly high” may all of us experience winning in pigeonsports! God bless!!

  30. dhillon

    hi . we fly pigeon in may nd june . but after 4 or 6 hour they sit down due to some reason . we want to know good medicine or herbal things given to them for long time fly in hot weather .

  31. Crossbreed Loft

    I never used electrolytes untill 2010 and 2011 when we experianced 90 plus race weather and losses from seasoned flyiers ( 50 + years )in my combine had heavy losses and late birds in both young and old birds . I started to use electrolytes and minimal losses healther birds and good recovery as opposed to plain water as in the past . I just don’t believe that this kind of early hot weather in May and June ,pigeons can’t make it on plain water alone . I worked for me and I don’t like to use anything medications or supplaments , but this worked .

  32. Sev Massyn

    The use of some salts have many advantages,why do racing pigeons need ordinary salt and chickens die from it. The manner we treat our birds adding acv and medications to their diet that break down calcium , some fanciers advocate the use of acv to acidify the crop in a fight against pathogens and flagelates . Many supplements make the whole system of these flying athletes acidic. A racing pigeon uses tissue salts ,calcium, potassium,magnesium and other salts as maintenance substances in extreme exercise ,many birds breakdown not because of any other reason but low calcium. I do respect the above vets, but they are partly wrong. Like any sports trainer we also seeks a advantage and forget that animal game sports is a holistic science, the only time wild birds increase their mineral intake is during times of stress like migration. That makes me think racing pigeons do need minerals ans tissue salts during the racing season. Many so called experts don’t score that well – why? Some information you get on the internet is written to promote more use of commercial products and are endorsed by them.

  33. jesus tingson jr

    yes,i use electrolites on my pigeon to replace water losses on thier body and to recover strenght.multivitamins are good two times a week i used b22.and before basketting on derby i give them ideal pills also when they arrive.and i separate them to my loft to take a pull rest.

  34. I’m still observing what is the good effect of electrolytes but usually I used normal water added with salt..Because as I have read from other medical articles it is easily absorbed by our body, water with salt. Have to observed by 3 days then I’ll update you guys with my observations.

  35. I use electrolite…for 1yr in my race”and until now im still using it” because” my racing team want’s it…wen they were routing they fly almost 1hour or more..and if i use water only…they easily return to ther loft..and im only produce lap champions…they are only finish the race…i know i have more to learn about medication for my pigeon…god bless to us and have a north race champions…hehe”’

  36. Electrolites should be 100% natural herbal ingredients.
    Electrolites sources would be fresh fruits extract ….
    like orange, apple, apricot, water melon, milk, grapes, guava, lemon, etc.

  37. You guys are deliriously off. Maybe you can get away with that up north in you clubs but here in Florida I have visited the champion lofts in all the best clubs, Namely GHC, ALL TAMPA, SOUTH FLORIDA COMBINE, SOUTHWEST FLORIDA COMBINE. All the best lofts use electrolytes weekly. Even on the breeders. And I am sure the guys in FEC also use it a lot. Our weather here is always hot, perhaps up north not so much. But, so far with my own eyes what I see is that all the champs here use a lot. I think if you are in the southwest or southwest you better be using it regularly. I don’t know about the north states. Maybe up north not so hot, no so much competition. There is no doubt the clubs I mention are the hardest in USA, at least here in the heat you better be using it. Not to offend anyone but So far that’s what I see.

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