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pigeons Is Health Grit Necessary?
By Robert J. Mangile

American Racing Pigeon News
December 1971, pages 52 & 53


During the fall of, 1969, I cared for a friend's pigeons while he was away on vacation. About 60 birds in all, most were Racing Homers, with a few pairs of Giant Homers and Modenas.

For the previous two or three years they were held captive in a wire-topped, wire-floored cage, with nest boxes supplying a north wall for the coop. The grain ration was usually a flexible, day-to-day mixture of whole yellow corn, milo, and wheat. High protein grains, such peas, were seldom if ever fed. Water was available. but the birds were able to foul it. The stickler here was that absolutely no form of mineral mixture was used or available to the captives.

After much personal prodding from me, the fancier brought home a 25 lb. bag of "crushed granite grit" before leaving on his trip. Keep in mind. no other ingredients - only "granite grit."

The first feeding proved quite interesting. The three-grain mixture and a pot of "crushed granite" were placed in the coop. Lo and behold - the flock refused the grain and swarmed over the grit like a school of hungry piranha fish after a chunk of raw meat! I refused to offer the third pot or grit after the flock gobbled up the second pot in a matter of minutes.

The same thing occurred the following day and again the next day. About the fourth or fifth day the birds seemed to have been generally satisfied, for some rock would be remaining at the following feeding.

Conclusions from this experience are only "foggy notions". Some feed companies claim grit is not needed when a well prepared pellet is fed. The Farmers Bulletin No. 884 entitled "Squab Raising" on page 11, states: "Workers at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, however, found that a mineral mixture consisting of 95% chick-size oyster shell and 5% salt gave as good results as a more complex mixtures."

The Army Manual, TM 11-410 entitled "The Homing Pigeon" page 23. gives a recipe that includes granite grit, oyster shell, crushed limestone, charcoal, hematite and salt. Various books and articles give a wide variety of choices to include in grit. I've read of plaster and crushed house-brick being used also. I know several fanciers who use no grit but the birds have access to the ground; some release their birds, thus making it possible for them to find their own random choice of grit. One report said that birds have been held on wire bottom coops for over ten years without grit but with oyster shell and pellet feed, and still produce well. Interesting to note, however, is the overwhelming fact that none of these fanciers who do not use grit complain about poor production.

My question - still unanswered - remains: is health grit necessary in a pigeon culture, and if so, why? What need does it serve?

Two most likely answers are: (1) the grit provides minerals essential to good health, and (2) the small stones or shells are used to aid in digestion by grinding food in the gizzard, thus offering assistance to the digestive juices.

Now, go over some of these conflicting reports. Consider all the various aspects that contribute to the much needed answer. Now, try again! Can anyone supply us with a solid stepping stone to the solution of this controversy?

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