Race Day Concerns—The Effect of Heat and Humidity on the Racing Pigeon

Race Day Concerns—The Effect of Heat and Humidity on the Racing Pigeon

Because racing pigeons do not possess sweat glands, control of their bodies’ heat and hydration is regulated through their air sacs. Cooling occurs during respiration as moisture is evaporated from the lining of the air sacs. As the pigeon uses its moisture, or fluid, to cool itself, the loss of fluid can lead to dehydration. In this article, we’ll discuss the effects of race day heat and humidity and how to keep your racer hydrated.


When the racing pigeon works to keep itself cool, it begins to pant. This panting increases the air flow through the bird’s air sacs, evaporating the moisture and cooling the bird. The resultant loss of moisture can soon lead to dehydration if the bird does not replenish its fluid stores through drinking water.

If there is no water available, the bird can’t replenish its fluid stores, so it can’t cool itself. A condition called “secondary hyperthermia” soon develops. This condition will rapidly lead to death.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

The effects of dehydration can be seen when your racing pigeon is even just 5% dehydrated. This level of dehydration can occur within twenty-four hours of 25C (77F) temperatures. When the bird is 5% dehydrated, it becomes quiet and fluffs up. Fluffing is the bird’s attempt to cool itself by raising its feathers away from its body to increase air circulation.

At a dehydration level of 10%, the bird becomes increasingly quiet and even more fluffed.

When dehydration increases to 15%, there is reduced blood flow circulating to the vital organs, including the brain. The racing pigeon’s level of consciousness becomes impaired. There is a risk of death at dehydration levels of 15% and beyond.

Environmental Conditions to Watch For

As a racing pigeon fancier, you need to be watchful on race day for weather conditions that can increase the risk of dehydration in the racing bird.

  • Temperatures higher than 25 C (77 F) result in rapid dehydration in the absence of water.
  • Low humidity increases the rate of fluid loss as less moisture flows through the air sacs.
  • High humidity decreases evaporative cooling, increasing hyperthermia.
  • Head winds cause extra exertion which increases the CO level of the blood. This increases the rate of respirations which increases the amount of fluid loss. This, then, leads to dehydration.

Prevention of Hyperthermia and Dehydration

The number one prevention measure you can take to keep your racing pigeon cool and hydrated is to provide water. Offer water from the start of basketing until arrival at the race point the next day. This way you will have a fully hydrated bird at the time of the release.

And provide water upon the bird’s return. The bird will readily drink, especially if there was no water along the race route. Drinking upon return will quickly restore lost fluid, re-establish hydration and cool the bird.

The Pigeon Racing Insider


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  1. #1 by Alister murray on January 13, 2011 - 5:09 am

    One little tip that I have found helpful is to train your young racing team to eat and drink when in the baskets. Part of my young bird training is to let them spend time in the tossing baskets together so they get used to being closed in together. I’ll place food and water next to the baskets,as my baskets have dowels around the sides to let in plenty of air,and they can also stick their heads out and get to the food and water. Once they have become familiar with their baskets and eating and drinking when in their baskets I find when racing starts and they get locked up with strange birds in the club baskets they will come forward quickly and get their share when offered food and water. I have observed birds owned by other fanciers that stand back,and miss out on the food and water in the club baskets because their birds are not familiar with eating and drinking once in the baskets. Remember this is the birds last chance to top up the tanks before a race so you dont want your birds to miss out. Give this a try,it may help prevent losses.

  2. #2 by Ronny Henderson on November 28, 2010 - 4:33 pm

    Very good information.. I had no idea of what kind of problems that would occur..

  3. #3 by mostafa on September 28, 2010 - 9:54 am

    I want to know preparation grit pigeon??????how????

  4. #4 by mostafa on September 27, 2010 - 7:03 am

    thankes to the wonderful informations you are very good but I WANT TO INCREASE THE INFORMATIONS

  5. #5 by sakkie on July 19, 2010 - 1:21 pm

    Anyone else observed that lighter coloured pigeons are doing better when temperatures are high or is this just coincidence of family related.

  6. #6 by john glemser on May 3, 2010 - 11:03 am

    You can put some woodpellets on the floor to keep the humidity down air in low and out high keep the air moving it will be ok dont over treat

  7. #7 by Tony Harte on May 3, 2010 - 6:35 am

    I live in Malta and the humidity can be 80% or more, our racing season is from November until May. Can anyone advise how to combat the excessive humidity and its effect on health as cocci, canker & respiratory are all problems with high humidity.

  8. #8 by Ahmed on April 12, 2010 - 5:26 am

    sun light is fine it will not affect the birds Its good
    ur pigeon seem to weak due to lack of antibiotics

  9. #9 by Raja on April 2, 2010 - 10:07 am

    Hello floresito, ur pigeon seem to weak due to lack of antibiotics. u better treat them with tetracyclin for 3 days. u will find remarkable change.

  10. #10 by john glemser on March 29, 2010 - 7:12 am

    You can give it pediatric electrolyte to stop it from dehydration dont take no birds in that loft. give baytril for 7 days or enroflaxyn tablets or call 1-888-374-4366 tony will ship it out asap.

  11. #11 by floresito on March 29, 2010 - 6:36 am

    what will i do to a pigeon that is already weak and not eating at all,it only drink lots of water and then after an hour the pegeon vomit all the water and start to go in the corner…pls do write me back right away so i still can do anything to save my pigeon thanks

  12. #12 by D.A on March 2, 2010 - 9:14 pm

    Is there anything besides giving them drinking water to help them not to suffer from dehydration? any conditioning method or supplements that we can be assured that they have the exact amounts of h2o that they need? I’m from Philippines and we got a very hot weather here… i am not sure if the truck that delivers our pigeons give water to the birds before they let em loose… that’s why i am so concerned right now because lots of birds from our past races started this summer didn’t returned maybe because they suffered from dehydration… pls help me… tnx to all…

    respectfully yours

    • #13 by Lee Fessenden on January 20, 2011 - 12:27 am

      Yes there are a couple of things that you can do to improve the birds stamia and to ensure that they will not lose all there water needed for a race. If you know that your birds are going to race in harsh conditions like high humitity and hot tems.
      The first thing that I would suggest is to go to your local feed store and pick up a bag of water soulable electrolites that you put in the birds water and make sure that they have water up till you drop them for shipping. You may also want to go to a 2% rice mixture during your race season, this will help them to keep more water in there system. It is vey important that you use the electrolites in the drinking water no less than 12hrs but 24hrs is best, before shipping them out to a race and use the feeding and drinking while in the release baskets not only when they are young but once they get older too it means they will fight to get thier share of food and water when it is offered on race day. Hope this helsp you out. God Bless, Lee

  13. #14 by john glemser on February 24, 2010 - 7:57 am

    The right temp is /10/30 celcius and humidity 65 or below buy. A thermo hygrometer and check your loft you want to keep the humidity down and the temp can be 50to86 fahrenheit.

  14. #15 by terry on February 23, 2010 - 6:24 pm

    On a hot tough day of racing I like to have natural honey in the water (warm)when the birds arrive home, although I will wait about 15-20 min before I let them drink. I want them to settle down an rest a bit first.If you do use honey, no longer than two days, then applecider for a day to counteract the sugar.Pigeons who race in the warmer weather should always be watered before being released, and the trailer or truck should be vented properly (skylights w/vents or open outer doors of trailer) so the birds do not over heat.After all folks we are respondsible for their well being an health.


  15. #16 by PigeonMasters on February 23, 2010 - 9:30 am

    What does temperature over 250C means? If it means 250 degree celsius – it doesn’t make any sense since water/blood will boil at 100 degrees celsius at 1 atmosphere of pressure.

    • #17 by jeff barnfield on September 8, 2010 - 4:00 am

      hi, I believe the writer meant over 25 degrees celsius, could be written as 25C or 25oC The o should be up higher on the 25 only most key standard key boards do not allow one to do this.

  16. #18 by john glemser on January 21, 2010 - 9:34 am

    Don, Its ok to breed a round off them. Then i would let them out of the cage for the next Round. If you dont have any place to put them, can you make a fly pen in the gararge window? Two foot x two foot just for air and sun.And let them get a bath and flap thier wings. Call me if can 856-227-4196

  17. #19 by Don Campbell on January 20, 2010 - 7:52 pm

    John, If breeders are in a gararge in just a wire cage with a window say from march to end of june is that ok for them.

  18. #20 by john glemser on December 30, 2009 - 5:33 pm

    Daylight or sunlight will not affect the birds.Its all good. The thing is to keep the air flow fresh air in and stale air out.If you neen help email johnglemser@verizon.net

  19. #21 by pigeonloft on December 29, 2009 - 9:47 am

    just want to ask if the heat inside the loft coming from the sun at daylight will affect the condition of our pigeon?

    • #22 by terry on February 23, 2010 - 6:12 pm

      sun light is fine, watch the heat level thats the dangerous one. Like John said check your ventilation.


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