Space Age Ventilation – Loft Atmosphere

Space Age Ventilation – Loft Atmosphere

On a visit ten years ago the Hungary to the city of Kaposyar, I met the well known German pigeon photographer Gerhard Schlepphorst. Several times we talked at length about which fanciers in Germany or Holland came up with the finest performances. During on of these exchanges the name of Van Ravenstein surfaced. Gerhard mentioned this fancier, week after week, he punished the competition by minutes with several pigeons on top.

Then he added that the loft in which these pigeons are housed with its so called electronic “environmental control” was the best he had ever seen. It was impossible for him to explain exactly what the term “environmental control” meant so he advised me to go and see it with my own eyes.

Promptly I made an appointment and it was on a beautiful day in January that I had the satisfaction of meeting Van Ravenstein in person. This man accomplished an extraordinary collection of victories. The race program put together for the old bird racers embraces 13 races. He had come in 1st no less than seven of these races in 1979, for example , and every one of them had sizable numbers of birds participating, while the distances varied from 150 to 400 miles.

Five times he captured the first six prizes, while in two races he managed to win all of the top ten positions. In my opinion these are remarkable accomplishments and they were won by offspring from super pigeons coming from the ranks of Belgian champion fanciers, mainly Jules Rijcaert and Gust Hofkens.

My host was a little dumbfounded when he realized the stimulus for my visit wasn’t because of these racing results or to examine his pigeons. I told him the purpose and together we went upstairs to his loft and the installed “environmental control”. The integrated installation consists of a collection of popes on top of the loft. A ventilation fan at the loft end constantly sucks air away. The upstairs area has been completely closed off to prevent unwanted drafts and is also well insulated for a more even temperature. The outside air enters the loft by way of fresh air pipes located on both sides of the roof.

To ensure that the same kind of air is present in most areas of the loft, the distance to the “climatic air control duct” has been made as long as possible. There is a heating system in the loft and the temperature all year round never drops below 60 F. As long as the temperature remains the same, the relative humidity will drop, but never below 55%. With respect to the living quarters of his pigeons, Van Ravenstein elects to keep all conditions constant, year round.

Relative Humidity

The relative humidity (RH) of the air is a number which indicates , in percentages, how much of the maximum quantity of water the air is absorbing, at a fixed temperature. Although this may look complicated, it is very easy to read the number off a hygrometer. There are afew things that every fancier should recognize about the RH factor. In the first place, the most favorable RH for pigeons is found between 60 and 65%. It is very important to have an unchanging RH if you want to keep your pigeons in form because when it gets too low ( below 40%), or too high (above (90%) for a period of time, the affect can be harmful to the general health of the birds.

It is crucial to know that the RH is closely related to the temperature. Temperature fluctuations alter the RH. For that reason we should try to keep the temperature in our lofts under control as much as possible. It is a well known fact that there is a linkage of top performances by our pigeons and the ideal temperature. When everything is right they eat less and lose body weight, in other words, they acquire fitness!

Every day the environment in our lofts is influenced by the following factors: the air temperature, the different gaseous ingredients of the air, the percent humidity, and the lighting of the loft.

Next, we should examine which factors help establish a constant temperature in our lofts: The insulation and building materials in the loft construction, the amount of ventilation, the number of pigeons that are living in the loft, the heat their bodies are producing, and the availability of any supplementary heating.

Not everyone is able to bring into their lofts an extra source of heat, but, we can always allow the sun to help us. This will generate a beneficial difference and it will not harm the pigeons. Many of you probably aren’t a great deal interested in the laws of Nature, but, whenever you decide to get to the bottom of something you may as well understand the principles from the start. The purpose of this article and the more technical details to follow later on is to provide you with an in depth study.

Purpose of Ventilation

The purpose of ventilation is to: Make fresh oxygen available to the respiratory system. Remove the exhaled gases and the gases produced by the droppings. Rid the loft of excess moisture so the RH will stay within the permissible levels. Help maintain the temperature at the proper level.

You may have to ventilate year round when you want to provide the loft with new oxygen and at the same time remove the accumulated harmful gases. Especially in the summer, when the temperature outside is high, ventilation is essential to remove the heat the pigeons produce. As the temperature rises the level of oxygen in the air goes down. For this reason we must ventilate more. During the winter, though we ventilate as little as possible by reason of the fact that we want to keep the loss of heat to a minimum. This minimum amount depends on the number of pigeons in the loft and the odor they produce.

Mechanics of Ventilation

A body of air which is trapped inside a closed area will put pressure on all sides whenever the temperature in that area is higher than the outside temperature. Heat is produced by the pigeons, the sun’s rays that penetrate the loft, and when available, other sources of heat. Within the loft the air will layer itself and the warmest layer will rise to the ceiling, while the coolest air is found near the floor. Whenever warm air meets the outside air and exchange will take place. Because of the built up pressure the warmer air will move out from the top of the loft while the colder air comes back in at the bottom, thus replacing the warmer and lighter air inside the loft. This, in brief, is the is the principle of natural ventilation.

Natural ventilation is the result of the temperature differences or a difference in weight between the air inside the loft and the outside air. If the difference is extensive the exchange happens quicker and as a result you have more natural ventilation.

The amount of natural ventilation can also be increased by the so called “chimney effect”. This effect is based on the idea that air pressure differences also depend on the difference in height between the air outlet and air intake. This difference can be increase by way of ducts.

Pressure Caused by Wind

There is more pressure placed on the side of the loft on which the wind is blowing and less pressure on the opposite side. When the ventilation openings are not properly covered, or in some way protected, they will help bring about unwanted side ventilation, because of the wind pressure. Another word for this type of ventilation is drafts. Nobody needs this! The best thing to do is locate the loft in relation to the prevailing winds so that this problem is kept to a minimum.

Ventilation System Requirements

Proper ventilation should: Be able to maintain the correct quality of air. Provide good quality air to all corners of the loft. Never cause drafts. Be both efficient and easy to regulate.

Taking the above points one by one and checking them against the ventilation system of Van Ravenstein, we can see that he scores high on all counts. The incoming air is heated, resulting in a loss of moisture, resulting in a more constant RH. The distance between the place where the air enters and the exhaust pipe opening is of considerable length. The air enters at the lowest possible point, the floor. The amount of air which is sucked away through the pipe openings is the same throughout the loft. It doesn’t matter if a hurricane is blowing, resulting in great pressure, this will not influence the ventilation causing it to suck away great amounts of air. The amount of air to be removed can be regulated exactly with a variable dial connected to the ventilator.

When I was with Van Ravenstein in the loft I experienced first hand the favorable quality of air. By looking at the pigeons it appeared that they were very comfortable in their home. Before the installation of the “climate control”, Van Ravenstein , as many of us, had ventilation problems, or to use the correct term, did not have the right climate in his loft. After the installation of the ” climate control system” the following remarkable changes took place: No matter how many pigeons were in the loft, all signs of respiratory disease of any kind disappeared. Year after year the pigeons had a terrific moult and the loss of down feathers was super all year long. The color of the pigeons’ wattles were much whiter, compared with other years. The speed of recovery after a race improved as well.

Why do birds bounce back so much faster? A racing pigeon uses a lot of oxygen in relation to its body size. In the summer when the outside temperature is usually the same as the inside temperature, not much ventilation takes place. It is a well known fact, a pigeon that is racing, needs a good quantity of oxygen. The lofts interior climate is often decided by the fancier’s person al preference. This isn’t that strange, because when humans don’t feel that comfortable in a certain environment, then the same holds true for the birds.

One has to set the climate control almost daily. Every time the outside temperature rises, the percentage of oxygen in the air goes down, more moisture evaporates, and more ammonia type gases escape from the droppings. I installed in my lofts the same type of ventilation system. I’ve been working with it for over ten years now and the above conclusions were seen in my lofts.

In a loft of less than 126 square feet I have housed 130 young birds. They were healthier than they had ever been before, eager to fly and not the slightest indication of a wet nose or a watery eye. During the ten years after the installation of the climate control system the racing results of my youngsters were really amazing.


Installing such an electrical system and having it set properly is not that simple and better left to the experienced. I would discourage a ” too eager” do-it-yourself approach.

Constructive Guidelines

The total air content of the loft should be replaced 25 to 30 times per hour. This is the highest dial setting when, in the summer, it is very hot outside and you have the maximum number of pigeons in your loft. The ventilator should have a maximum capacity of 25 to 30 times the total loft air content. The regulator or dial, should be step free, sometimes referred to as infinitely variable. The loft has to be completely air tight, except for some air inlets needed to allow fresh air to enter, and these outlets should be located at the lowest possible level, as far away from the pigeons as possible. The ventilator exhaust vent should have a diameter of at least 10 inches. A smaller diameter would create too much resistance and have a negative effect on the ventilator’s capacity. The area of the cross section of the exhaust duct should be equal to the sum of the areas of all the ducts exhausting the air out through the ventilator. The first opening( the opening furthest away from the ventilator) in the duct should be 12 square inches. A smaller opening than this would be inefficient. The larger openings increase in size by a constant feature. Assume that the area cross section of the duct measures 400 square inches. The sum of the areas of all the duct openings should not exceed that number (to make more openings would not have any effect at all). We know the size of the first opening, which should be 12 square inches or approximately 3 inches by 4 inches. Then the following openings should be 4″X4″, 4″x5″, 4″x6″, 4″x7″ etc., until you reach to total amount of 400 square inches. By using this principle you can figure out how many openings you need in the duct and then divide them evenly along the length of the duct. As long as the ratio is correct the system will work.

Space Age Ventalation – Loft Atmosphere By Steven van Breemen

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  1. #1 by whiteflight on March 4, 2011 - 9:21 am

    very good article, i have vents at the front bottom and top back with a extractor fan running on a timer ie hour on hour off when lofts are closed at night. istill dont know if this really works as good has the ventilation chris has posted.
    anyway thanks for the post i am willing to learn

  2. #2 by whamie on December 17, 2010 - 8:16 am

    Menards handles a solar powered roof turbine for attics of entire homes…somewhere around $85.00. No external power needed, they come with the solar generator panel and all necessary parts. I personally have a 12″ wind powered turbine ventilator, I have sliding panels which can be raised or lowered to increase or decrease airflow.

    I live in a farm area where I can get as much corn waste as I want to haul to use as heat. I am planning this summer on installing a corn pellet heat stove system. I will be running 50-60 degree temp with around 50 rH.

  3. #3 by J. Dennis Lathum on August 28, 2010 - 7:11 am

    This was a very imformable article, ventlation is one of the best things we can for our birds health and contioning. Thanks, JDennis Lathum

  4. #4 by jAxTecH on August 13, 2010 - 12:10 am

    I live in Florida and our summer tempatures avarage over 95 degrees and the heat index is well over 105 degrees. Anyway, I feel a cool breeze is a blessing in the hot summer months. I asked a pigeon fancier about this “dreaded” drafts effect on the birds and he explained it to me that a draft is bad if it is cold outside and the pigeons are warm inside. But if it is hot outside and the breeze is cool then it helps the birds stay cool. I don’t see many experts explain it this way but it makes sense to me.

  5. #5 by Nick Demas on April 30, 2010 - 6:27 pm

    Hellow again,
    Sorry, I typed the link to get to the above site to Albertaclassic was wrong. Try this – Please forgive my clumsey fingers.
    Nick Demas

  6. #6 by Nick Demas on April 29, 2010 - 6:19 pm

    Hello all,
    I’m writting to let you all know that I also went crazy to figure this system out. I have found after alot of research on loft ventilation someone who uses this system and explains all.You can fin it by going to http;// .Read the entire article all the way down.He has photo’s which I think are self explanitory.He also shows the reostat he uses to control the speed of the fan. Again scroll all the way down to see everything while reading.
    I have also found a ventilation system called “Forced Ventilation” which pumps air into the loft but, it’s written in Dutch. I had it translated to Enlish but it makes very little sense. I’ll break it down soon and get back to you.
    Thanks for reading and i hope this helps.
    Nick Demas

  7. #7 by Geork on April 7, 2010 - 1:02 am

    Hello everyone,

    I am puzzled too, I am a mechanical engineer and master ventilation systems and even need pictures to fully understand the whole thing. Don’t take wrong but I think it’s a hidden marketing(propaganda).

    • #8 by PigeonRacingFan on April 7, 2010 - 6:32 am

      Hello All,

      I apoligize, I know the article is hard to visualize, I am trying to get pictures and diagrams for you. The real reason for posting the article was to show how sophisticated pigeon racing has gotten 🙂 I assure you theres no hidden marketing here.


      • #9 by Gregory Brooks on April 18, 2010 - 6:50 pm

        I don’t know, Chris…

        Just kiddin

        I’m LOVING these communications! Nice job.

  8. #10 by Nick Demas on March 25, 2010 - 1:02 pm

    Hello again,
    It seems everyone feels the same way I do when it comes to “space age ventilation”.
    It sounds great and I’m sure it is. BUT!, HOW ABOUT SOME PICTURES OR EVEN BETTER
    A DIAGRAM!!!

    Thanks, Nick Demas

  9. #11 by Robert Lynch on March 13, 2010 - 8:09 pm

    I have tried to use power ventilators on the top of my loft to aid in air circulation, but the motor burns out in less than 6 months due to the pigeon dust. Does anyone know were to purchase a power ventilator with a sealed motor that will not be affected by pigeon bloom. If so, please email me with the source.


    Bob Lynch

    • #12 by Geork on April 7, 2010 - 11:25 am

      Hi Robert,

      Stop suffering loss of money, I recommend you to get a 16″ diameter, 1/20 hp axial fan. I’ve installed two in my lofts and never cleaned them up for two years now, they’re working 12 hours a day. When it’s hot up to 6 hours continuously, besides the power conpsumtion is very low.


      • #13 by Gregory Brooks on April 18, 2010 - 6:53 pm

        But your fans aren’t sucking dirty air out, are they? I’m visualizing they’re bringing outside clean air in and there are vent exits either at the top or opposing side- am I right?

    • #14 by Gregory Brooks on April 18, 2010 - 6:47 pm

      Hi Robert
      You can put those spinner ventilators on top that are turned in the wind (turbines) with no motor drive. If you push clean air in instead of suck dirty air out your motor won’t be nearly so effected… make sense? Someone else in here alluded to pushing fresh air in. I went through the same thing you’re talking about and tried to think of better filters etc. Just let your fan move clean air- no problem- oh- except every expert says don’t let your birds be in a draft because that can cause respiratory problems. Still a clean draft is way better than stagnant air full of methane and funk. Our birds are descended from cliff dwellers, not dog house dwellers, so go figure- open cliffs are pretty drafty.

    • #15 by tom on November 23, 2010 - 9:38 pm

      I purchased 2 electric fans at Home Depot 3 years ago, … they are still running fine.

  10. #16 by Gary on March 2, 2010 - 12:54 pm

    I read this article back a year or two ago good article! the air should come in the loft at the bottom of the loft close to the floor and exit out the roof vent could be by skylights or the spinning roof vents. Air should be exchanged as often as possible in the loft more air more oxygen better health!!!! but don’t position the air vents in a way to cause a direct draft other wise your just breeding sickness

  11. #17 by CHARLIE BARBIERE on February 24, 2010 - 10:41 am

    I think pictures are worth a thousand words on the vent.system,along with any additional sources to obtain the products to do the correct job.

  12. #18 by arocesloft on February 16, 2010 - 2:16 pm

    For me give a good example if they have the sketch so that they know what to do..its really a good path for every one..

  13. #19 by Allen Hall on February 1, 2010 - 1:38 pm

    Air exchange is very important get it right and your on your way to the prize table very good article.

  14. #20 by john glemser on February 1, 2010 - 9:47 am

    I would like to see a photo of this so i can make it right thanks john

  15. #21 by Gille on January 26, 2010 - 6:39 pm

    So the air should be changed out every two minutes. I did not realize the echange rate would be that high. Is there a simple way to measure airflow volume?

  16. #22 by Tom Barnhart on January 26, 2010 - 12:15 pm

    Interesting article, but it would have been more useful had he enclosed photos of the actual ventilation system. Right now I am relying on floor-level vents on the front of the loft and a peak vent on the roof, along with peak vents at each end of the loft. This seems to provide plenty of ventilation in the winter, and in the summer the windows are open as well.

    • #23 by Gregory Brooks on April 18, 2010 - 6:55 pm

      Yeah- sounds good- greg brooks, homewood loft

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