Powdered Droppings

I saw the title above first while reading Wendell Levi's book "The Pigeon". In it Wendell recommends
      (864) Hygiene; Cleanliness - Dryness (707; 737) and proper hygiene in the loft and flypen are absolute essentials. Without either, sickness of some form will appear and usually in more than one form, complicating diagnosis. When the loft is dry and hygienic and one follows the other simple fundamental requirements, diseases of all sorts are reduced to a minimum ...
      Floor of Loft - The floor of the loft should never be scraped. The days of 'scrape, scrub, and spray' are over. The droppings should be allowed to accumulate until they form a protective carpet of dry powder from one to four inches thick...This covering is dry, odorless, and moisture - absorbing. The moisture of fresh droppings is immediately absorbed in it with germicidal action against most germs. This powder is clean! ..."
There is obviously some disagreement about the definitions of "clean" and "hygienic" of Dr Levi and those of our city health inspectors but then again it may be an insult to Wendell Levi to mention those guys in the same sentence as this respected authority.
Please note that great emphasis is placed upon the moisture absorbing property of powdered droppings. Sucking up the moisture of fresh droppings provides an unfavourable environment for continuing development.
Let's have a closer look at each of these organisms whose life depends on finding and invading a suitable host:
Ascaris columbae

Male and female adult worms live inside the small intestine and are attached to the mucosa from which they suck nourishment. This action is what causes anemia and emaciation in the host. A female ascaris can produce up to almost one quarter of a million eggs per day and these leave the bird in the feces. Fertile eggs develop outside the host and become infective after 18 days to several weeks, depending on the environmental conditions. Moist and warm soil favors this process. Development from fresh egg to adulthood takes 2 to 3 month in total and the adults have a life span of one to two years.

The eggs of roundworms are relatively large and have thick walls. While fresh eggs are not infective, developed ones infect the host readily. Should environmental conditions be unsuitable for development, these eggs remain viable for many years and are destroyed by heat more easily than by cold.

Considering the treatment options available in the past, we are fortunate to have better anthelmintic medications available today. Imagine having to give a bird carbon tetrachloride and the like. All too often the bird used to die from the treatment given.

But what was a fancier to do as he noticed his birds loosing weight despite an initially increased appetite and a faster loss of weight later when the appetite decreased due to some toxic effects of a large worm burden. Anemia and emaciation eventually led to the demise of the bird.

Roundworm infection should NEVER be allowed in our pigeons and a simple flotation with a concentrated salt or sugar solution can let us check sample droppings periodically with a microscope. Should that not be available, your veterinarian will gladly do this for $25.- (2004 in Edmonton) and it would be preferable to a "blind cure".

Capillaria sp.

While roundworms are visible to the naked eye and look similar to spaghetti pieces of ¾ to 1½ inches in length, hairworms are much finer and can barely be seen with the unaided eye. However, their presence can also be detected with the same brine float used to check for Ascaris and by looking for a smaller egg than that of the roundworm. In addition, the egg has characteristic bipolar plugs and is not species specific. Other birds may very well be infected with the same species of hairworm or Capillaria sp. As a consequence, pigeons may become infected by sharing the environment with other birds. The species infecting pigeons is usually C. obsignata whose life cycle is direct. The excreted egg needs to undergo development outside the host for 8 to 14 days, is take up by the pigeon, hatches and completes its development in the bird's small intestine. Further development takes place so that adulthood is reached in about 3 weeks. Hairworms invade the mucosa and cause severe damage due, in part, to the inflamation present. An infected pigeon will show obvious signs that not all is well about 12 days after infection. It usually sits huddled in a corner, apart from the flock, with severe diarrhea due to excess mucus production and ruffled feathers to conserve energy. The bird will have little appetite with often a fatal outcome.

Different production systems in poultry have been shown to be affected to different degrees by worms. The highest infection rates were found in free range and deep litter systems and very little infection was found in chickens reared in battery cages. I am sure that deep litter in chickens cannot be compared to the dried droppings as advocated by Dr Levi because of the size of the dropping. It would take a long time to dry out a chicken dropping and it is in this time that the worm egg finds optimum conditions for development.
And yet, many of you would prefer a system where we could prevent our pigeons from being exposed to worm eggs at all. Since we need to give our birds periodic freedom for exercise, battery cages are certainly not an option for us.

Eimeria sp.

Clinical coccidiosis is caused by one species or a combination of species of Eimeria and can have a fatal outcome. However, one would question the immune status of the afflicted bird because immunity to the various species of Eimeria can be attained. It takes broiler chickens 3 weeks to develop complete protective immunity to E. tenella, E. maxima, and E. acervulina under continuous exposure and such immunity can be enhanced through the use of probiotics. Since enhanced immunity due to a probiotic keeps the excretion of oocysts 20 - 26% lower, the oocyst count appears to be a reflection of the immune status of the bird. Expressed in another way, it is a bird's deteriorating health condition which makes the count rise and not vice versa. The administration of a coccidiostat as an attempt to lower the count is treating the symptom rather than the disease.
Many fanciers would still prefer to keep re-infection by coccidia to a minimum and spend all kinds of effort to keep the birds' environment clean and bone dry. Dryness is thought by many to suck the moisture out of those oocysts and prevent them from developing. Think of that Australian study on bovine coccidial oocysts which disintegrated within 72 hrs in the dry tropical winter weather and this would fit with the common assumption that "dryness is next to godliness", at least as far as pigeon lofts are concerned. But there is another study which comes from Sweden and which would dispute this concept. Litter of different moisture contents were mixed with oocysts. Those mixed with the driest wood shavings sporulated the best! The factor which helps sporulation the most appears to be oxygen which is more readily available in dry shavings than in wet ones. A British study concluded that shed oocysts in poultry-house litter started to disintegrate after only 24 hrs although an occasioanl one survived up to 54 days. These oocysts are therefore not as long lived as round worm eggs and degenerate rather rapidly, even in good environmental conditions.

Perhaps some of us would wish we could exterminate these organisms from our lofts or at least strive for keeping the count of coccidial oocyst in the birds' droppings at a very low level but such may be inconsequential for our birds. Consider the study in broilers exposed to identical environments save different concentrations of coccidial oocysts in the litter. It wasn't the broilers raised in the cleanest litter which performed best. It was the ones with an intermediate level of "contamination" who out-performed the others, measured as weight gain. One could argue that broilers derive some benefit from a medium level of coccidial presence and the same may be true for pigeons as well.

This page was last up-dated on January 28, 2004

Below are your comments:
Tuesday July 27, 2004
David Reynolds
Malvern, Worcestershire UK
There is a much simpler alternative to making you own probiotic from pigeon faeces. We make a product called FlightPath which contains the entire avian normal gut flora. This product will prevent paratyphoid and E.coli infections in the gut. We don't sell in Canada as yet - just UK, Eire, Holland and Portugal.
Monday November 14, 2005
sammy stewart
lanarkshire, scotland
very interestinf article just a pity that your results /tests could not be reported in a weekly paper for all the fancy to see would like to know a lot more on the final outcome thanking you . sammy
Thursday January 25, 2007
Johnny Hutcheson
Augusta, GA
A great web page the best I have come across
Tuesday December 23, 2008
helu daraban
northamptonsire, england
Learn,learn,very informativ THANKS!
Wednesday April 17, 2013

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