Temperature and Humidity Control

To protect the fit racing pigeon from losing form, the temperature in the loft must be above 10 and below 30 degrees Celsius, and the humidity kept below 65%. These are the conditions that favour continuing health and known as the thermo-neutral zone for the pigeon.

In most lofts, it is the humidity, more than the temperature, which determines whether the birds rest or not at night. Humidity measures the amount of moisture in the air, irrespective of the air temperature, but it is the high humidity (greater than 65%) associated with a temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius that most affects the pigeons ability to rest. The pigeon loses form and becomes susceptible to illness when it does not to get adequate rest.

The droppings in the loft are the best indication of the humidity levels. In the healthy loft, a low humidity (less than 55%) gives a consistently nutty brown dropping, whereas a higher humidity (greater than 65%) will produce green watery droppings. At night-time, when the pigeons need to rest, there is always a rise in the humidity, because as the temperature drops the humidity rises. This explains the droppings turning wet and green the morning after a cold humid night, but which then turn nutty brown by the afternoon as the day warms up and the humidity drops. No two lofts, even if they are identical, will have the same humidity levels, because the humidity inside the loft relates directly to the humidity outside the loft. The controlling factor of humidity is the location (or geography) of the loft. Often fanciers will re-create their previously successful loft design when they move from one house to another but find that they are no longer successful flyers. The only difference is the location of the loft.

High humidity risk lofts:

  • Lofts near water (ocean, lakes, rivers, waterways, drainage channels, swim pools).
  • Lofts adjacent to large open low lying areas (grassy areas, foggy areas).
  • Lofts without sunshine to dry the ground (under trees, in valleys, on the wrong side of the hill and no sun until late in the afternoon).
  • Lofts in high rainfall areas.

These lofts require a loft design that stops the outside humidity (moisture) entering the loft.

Insulation is the first step to controlling fluctuating temperatures and high humidity inside the loft. It is the moisture drops of condensation appearing on the inside of uninsulated walls and ceilings that increase the humidity inside the loft to the very high levels that predispose the race birds to restlessness and respiratory illnesses. The insulation of the walls and ceiling will stop this condensation and allow you to control respiratory diseases with the minimal use of medicines.

In high humidity areas, shutting the loft up at night or when it is raining is a good method of controlling the humidity inside the loft (louvres are commonly used), but the air circulation and the air quality inside the loft must not be compromised. Too often the loft is completely shut up with no thought about air circulation. The resulting stale loft makes the race birds lethargic due to lack of oxygen.

Heaters at night are beneficial for the race team. The healthy team remains in top form when the loft is closed at night by keeping it warm and dry. However, it is better to have a very open loft in flocks recovering from respiratory disease to prevent the “respiratory” germs accumulating inside the loft from re-infecting the race birds.

Oil based bar heaters are safe and effective to use when the temperature drops below 12 degrees Celsius and are used to prevent a loss of form by keeping the air and dry. Dehumidifying machines are also available, but the noise may prevent the birds from full rest.

Hygrometers can be installed to monitor the humidity within the loft, but often the salts in the grit or mineral powder are equally effective in monitoring humidity above 65%. These salts attract moisture. For example, F-vite darkens and becomes granular when the humidity is too high and grits become dark and wet with moisture.