COVID-19: Pigeon fanciers turn to ragi to feed their birds

Lack of pigeon feed supply may be the least of the problems in these times — not for these enthusiasts though

Published - March 26, 2020 04:37 pm IST - Chennai

The grain shop in Mint is run by the couple, Mohammad Ali and Jamila, for more than three decades.

The grain shop in Mint is run by the couple, Mohammad Ali and Jamila, for more than three decades.

Against the backdrop of widespread uncertainty, which includes worries about reaching essential supplies to people in the next three weeks, at the least, feed-supply for homing pigeons certainly looks as big an issue as the size of a single grain.

For pigeon fanciers though, this concern is big enough to crease their brow with a thousand worry lines.

With exclusive pigeon-feed shops having to down shutters as part of the lockdown, pigeon fanciers are turning to ragi to feed their birds.

In Chennai, there are only three well-known pigeon grain shops found in Seven Wells behind the existing bus terminus in Mint, and pigeon fanciers beat a path to these shops.

All three pigeon-feed have been closed and in contrast, pet shops and pet clinics are allowed to function during the shutdown period as essential services.

J. Rajinikanth, a seasoned pigeon fancier from Mint, is among those who are adding generous amounts of ragi to the feed mix in the feeder-boxes.

"Due to closure of the pigeon feed shops, we depend on a few grocery shops that sell ragi,” says SVS Vasantha Kumar, Secretary, Star Pigeon Society. Vasantha Kumar has more than 300 racing birds at his loft at Tondiarpet.

This is the only way they can keep the feeder-boxes stay filled with feed.

The feed-mix for homing pigeons will include Bengal gram, green gram and green peas, along with corn.

Now, in these times of the novel Coronavirus, pigeon fanciers will stick to just ragi, as it is cheap, and more significantly, can be bought from the grocery shops.

“We have advised our members to have an adequate stock of feed their birds during the lockdown. Ragi can be added in the existing feed mixture for,” says Rajinikanth, who is the secretary of Royal Pigeon Society (RPS).

At present, the city has 14 pigeon racing clubs with each club having around 50 members. Each member, on an average, has 50 to 100 homing pigeons.

Every day, pigeons are fed twice — in the morning and evening hours — and corn constitutes 60 per cent in the daily feed mixture. On an average, at least 50 kilograms of feed mixture is needed for around 100 homing pigeons for a month.

The “plate” for a homing pigeon may include wheat, bajra, roasted Bengal gram, soyabean and oil seeds like Saffola, sunflower, linseed and hempseed. Mohammad Ali (55), who runs a pigeon grain shop in Mint for more than three decades, says, “With many wholesale grain traders having shut down now, our supply of grains is cut off. So, even if we were open, the going would have been tough for us.”

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