Many of us are used to seeing poultry like chickens and ducks in backyards and on our farms, but have you ever seen pigeons being kept as pets or as a hobby?
While less common, there is a large community of enthusiasts who keep pigeons at home for various reasons. Pigeons are not only smart animals but also relatively easy to care for and beautiful when kept properly. They can be a great hobby or a great source of meat.
So, how do you prepare to keep pigeons at home?
First, you’ll want to prepare a living area for the birds. Decide if the pigeons should live indoors or out. Choosing a breed is also crucial as not every pigeon is suited for your intended purpose. You could always speak to experienced pigeon breeders to know what breed fits your requirements best.
From breeds like the ice pigeon to the racing homer pigeons, there are a variety of pigeons that you can bring home to care for. If you’re not keen on purchasing pigeons from breeders due to ethical beliefs, numerous adoption establishments should also have flocks of rescued pigeons who deserve a forever home.
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How to Keep Pigeons
Pigeons are uncommon animals to keep at home or on the homestead and not nearly as widespread as other poultry. This, however, has not stopped the aviary enthusiasts from keeping selected pigeon breeds at home. And it seems more and more pet lovers and farmers are finding joy in pigeon keeping.
If you’re looking to keep a pigeon at home as a pet, here are the three steps to get you started:
Choose the Right Pigeon Breed
Start by understanding how different breeds should keep. Ask on online forums or speak to your local pigeon breeder or pet store. You may even have an older family member who used to keep pigeons back when it was a popular hobby among young boys. They should be able to provide you the advice on the ideal breed that fits your requirements.
Racing pigeons are different from show pigeons, so if you’re looking to keep your pigeons for specific reasons, you should always be upfront with the pigeon breeder. Judges may also decide if your pigeon fits in the right breed for bird shows, therefore it’s important to choose your breed properly beforehand.
Here is a comprehensive list of the most popular pigeon breeds. If there are no local breeders near you, you may have to contact trusted pigeon breeders outside of your region to buy one.
As pigeons need careful transportation, shipping can rack up a hefty cost, so you should be prepared with a larger budget if you are looking for breeds that are not available in your area.
Prepare a Home for Your Pigeons
The next step is to prepare a home for them. Do note that your pigeons will need space to stretch their wings. So if you keep them in an aviary, you should provide an area free of obstructions and which has plenty of ventilation.
Remember that your pigeons need to be safe from predators, so you’ll want to build them a home where predators – including friendly neighborhood cats can’t get to them.
Aviary or Free-ranging?
Whether you want to keep your pigeons in an aviary or roaming free, you will want to prepare the right home for them.
An Aviary requires maintenance. It should provide shelter, nesting boxes, water, perches, and be of appropriate size relative to the number of birds. Read this great article on building and preparing a pigeon aviary. An aviary is a preferable solution if your neighbors will dislike the occasional feathered visitor to their patch of homegrown peas.
Personally, I prefer to keep free-ranging pigeons. That does mean you will lose some birds to predators and other causes from time to time. But there is a certain joy to watching them fly freely and observing them live their lives the way they do in nature.
Free-ranging also saves you some effort as you don’t have to build and maintain an aviary. All you need to do is set up a pigeon house or loft, which can be very elaborate or simply a breeding box for each couple.
Remember, however, not all breeds can free-range as some are more likely to fly away, so choose your breed accordingly.
Feeding and Caring for Your Pigeons
Once you’ve completed the first two steps above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a bona fide pigeon keeper. Your final step is to care for your pigeon and keep them fed.
Pigeon feed can be bought at the feed store, but they will also do fine on a combination of barley, wheat, and layer feed for chickens. During the breeding season, your pigeons will require a high protein diet. If you have a racing pigeon, however, you’ll have to swap its feed for high energy feeds that contain more carbohydrates and fat.
Pigeons are ground-feeders and you can provide feed on plate two times a day. Only give them what they can eat as you don’t want to attract rats. If you keep pigeons in an aviary, remember to provide grit for the gizzard. Free-ranging birds are able to find what they need in nature.
To care for your pigeons, you’ll want to ensure you keep their homes clean. Where possible, do give the loft a wipe down daily, effectively eliminating possible odors and the risk of bird diseases from its droppings.
Should your pigeon look ill, you should immediately bring it to a vet who has experience dealing with birds. With proper care, pigeons can typically live between 5 to 15 years or even more.
Why Should You Keep Pigeons?
For the uninitiated, it may seem weird to keep pigeons. After all, they have gotten an undeserved reputation as pests. Granted, keeping birds at home isn’t common practice, but more and more pet enthusiasts and backyard farmers have now begun to see the value in keeping and breeding pigeons.
Below are several reasons why you should consider keeping a pigeon as a pet:
Pigeons Are Easy to Care For
Unlike many other pets and domestic animals, pigeons are easy to care for and you don’t need to let them in or out during the day. They can mostly care for themselves – save for times when you need to feed them or if you wish to train homing pigeons. You also don’t need to purchase toys, and food for pigeons is relatively cheap.
Pigeons Are Quiet Animals
In comparison to other birds like parrots (not to mention chickens), pigeons are much quieter pets. If you live in a neighborhood where noise control is important, a few pigeons will fit not bother anyone. They often coo in the day and keep silent at night, so you won’t have to worry about your neighbors complaining.
Pigeons Are Smart and Can Be Trained
There are reasons why pigeons were once used as messengers, with the main reason being that they are smart and can be trained. Pigeons can pick up tricks easily, making them an entertaining pet to have at home.
While it can take some time and patience, you might find it highly enjoyable to train your pigeons to do tricks for shows or even to show off to your friends and family.
Pigeons Make Great Show Birds or Racing Birds
Thanks to their demure outlook, certain breeds of pigeons make great show birds. Although this only applies to some breeds, many people will often keep pigeons for show birds to enter contests.
Subsequently, selected pigeon breeds also make great racing birds. Most pigeon owners who wish to keep their pigeons as racing birds would care for breeds like the Racing Homer. Although racing matches don’t get much public attention these days, you’ll often find a local local pigeon racing club.
How does Pigeons taste?
While pigeons are not commonly consumed, they are considered delicacies in many countries. Pigeons taste deliscious. The meat is dark, juicy, and tastes slightly gamey. Somewhat like quail but with a stronger flavor and a hint of beef.
Pigeons are relatively small birds and you will probably want to serve one bird per adult.
Although some owners often change their minds about cooking their pigeons, some breeders may specifically care and breed pigeons to sell and cook as a prime ingredient.