Barometer of health : The pigeon’s crop

We as fanciers are sometimes not too sure how to gauge a pigeon’s health during the racing season.

The digestive tract is one of the most important systems to monitor (for us anyway). If you monitor this system and ensure good health you are on your way to success.

Pigeons that have undigested food left in their crops in the morning is not a good sign. All is not well with their health.

I use this as a test to understand what state of health my birds are in.

Empty crops where you can feel no food is a very good sign. The birds are well.

There are numerous reasons for having undigested food in the crops:


Pigeons that returned late from a race / training could have food left in their crops the morning after the last feeding. Best medicine is to give them is time to recover. They should also get enough food to replenish their reserves and will be fine within a day or two. DO NOT TRAIN THEM UNTIL FULLY RECOVERED.

Crop Canker (Trichomoniasis)

Delayed emptying due to a thickened crop wall. Canker treatment should resolve this issue. It’s easy to test for canker using a crop swap and microscope.

Viral infections like Herpes/Circo/Adeno

Vomiting and diarrhoea normally follows. This is the dreaded young bird disease (YBD) syndrome as we know it nowadays. Antibiotics should only be considered to control secondary infections (if any). The virus will run it’s course through the loft over a 7-14 day period without you having to do much. Try to boost the immune system by giving pro-biotics. Liver protection products will also be beneficial and limit damage to vital organs. Positive diagnosis should be made before assuming it’s YBD.

Candida infection

Fungus overgrowth causing the crops to not empty. Normally found during the racing season when those ‘klein botteltjies’ are being consulted. Jokes aside – antibiotic treatments could trigger Candida infection because of the absence of the good bacteria. A diet with a lot of sugary substances will also promote fungus growth because they thrive on sugars. It is fairly easy to control candida infections. A range of products is available. The acidification by using apple cider vinegar etc. will also assist in keeping fungus levels controllable. I doubt that it will cure an overgrowth condition but can assist in preventing it. Test using a microscope to identify fungus.

Bacterial infections (eg. E-coli etc.)

Antibiotic treatment should resolve this but be sure to not shoot in the dark by giving antibiotics without a proper diagnosis. Positive diagnosis should be made before using antibiotics.

Feeding poor quality food

Food contaminated with bacteria, fungi, or toxins could lead to a slow crop. Ensure that you are using good quality food. Get your food tested when in doubt.

Pigeons feeding babies

Food in the crops due to thickened crop walls. This is normal and nothing to worry about.


Consult your vet when in doubt.