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This blog is called “Pigeons as Pets”. I just want to clarify what we mean by this.

We are not advising or advocating taking pigeons from the wild and keeping them as pets in an aviary or cage. Not at all! Healthy, flight-abled pigeons in the wild should be left to live their life naturally.

If, however, you find a baby pigeon that needs hand-rearing then of course this needs to be done (preferably by the experts) – with the aim that it can be released as a wild pigeon when it is ready. This is not always possible, as many of you know. Sometimes the baby is injured and cannot be released because of it; sometimes the baby becomes tame and bonded to humans and therefore unreleasable (especially if it has no predator avoidance instincts). In these cases the baby pigeon would need to be housed in a safe and suitable environment for the rest of its life. This also applies to adult pigeons that are disabled (e.g. blind or cannot fly).

  • Safe environment = safe from predators such as cats, dogs and sparrowhawks. Safe from the elements (e.g. severe weather).
  • Suitable environment = an area where the pigeon can fly (if it physically can), walk about, have suitable food and access to drinking and bathing water. Also, preferably, an area where it can have a mate. Pigeons are gregarious and require company.

Disabled adult pigeons may learn to tolerate your presence or they may become tame over time. Each pigeon is individual in its behaviour and character. The key is to understand what it needs and to not force anything.

  • Feral pigeons are one of the most common pigeons you’ll see and are perfectly capable of living in the wild in a variety of environments around the world. They can become very tame around humans if fed regularily.
  • Fancy pigeons are human bred pigeons and many would not know how to fend for themselves in the wild. Some have physical features that make them dependent on humans.
  • Racing pigeons are also human bred but if they become lost and hungry they usually find food in people’s gardens and may even join a feral pigeon flock instead of flying back home.
  • Wood pigeons are a completely wild species and adult woodies generally do not cope well in captivity (there are always exceptions). Hand-reared wood pigeons may remain tame and friendly.
  • Collared doves are also a completely wild species and are in many ways similar to woodies in their relationship with humans.

Since pigeons are largely monogamous, if a flight-abled pigeon bonds with a non-flighted one then it will stay with its mate despite its disability. Some people would be tempted to release the flight-abled pigeon, however, you would then be seperating two bonded pigeons, which I consider to be an unkind act. Most feral pigeons are happy as long as they have a mate, food, water, shelter, room to fly and a place to nest – whether this is in the wild or in captivity. This does not mean that you can justify taking pigeons from the wild – I stand by my belief that healthy, flighted pigeons should live in the wild in their natural state. What I am trying to say is that if you have nursed a flight-abled pigeon back to health but it has bonded with a disabled pigeon then you can keep the two together in a safe and suitable environment.

Then there is the question as to whether you should release a flighted tame pigeon. I think the answer to this is whether the tame pigeon knows enough about predators and has predator avoidance instincts. If it does not then it should not be released since it would be easy pickings. Some tame hand-reared pigeons have no predator awareness – some don’t even know what a predator is.

So what do we mean by “Pigeons as Pets”? We mean tame, imprinted or disabled pigeons that would not otherwise survive in the wild.

Georgie hasn’t laid an egg since the beginning of April. That’s about 6 months egg free!! Incredible!!!

A year ago I started recording when she lays eggs, and since April 2009 she’s laid 11 clutches (2 eggs per clutch, therefore, she’s laid 22 eggs in a year). For some reason Georgie has decided to stop laying eggs, however, her mating behaviour has stayed the same. She still presents herself for mating and does her “I got lucky!” dance afterwards (see video: Bonded Georgie), however, she hasn’t laid an egg in 6 months – which is a big surprise for us. I’m not sure what’s going on.

In a way I am very happy – because I always worry when she starts laying eggs (takes a lot of energy and calcium, etc.) and Georgie also gets very moody and a bit difficult when she’s sitting on eggs. However, I’m also a bit bemused as to why she’s not laying any eggs now. I guess I should count myself lucky that she’s giving her body a break! :)

Continuous egg laying can be a real problem for bird owners since the health of the female bird can deteriorate over time as the demands of producing and laying eggs takes their toll. The danger of egg-binding (the inability to pass an egg that has formed) also becomes more prominent. Egg-binding is a life-threatening condition and the vet should immediately be consulted! (Read more on egg-binding: Eggbound symptoms)

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Georgie was eggbound last year (Georgie eggbound), however, it is something that scared us a lot and not an experience we’d want to repeat. So I will take Georgie’s lack of eggs as a good sign and not encourage her too much in her mating behaviour. … Now that I’ve said this I bet she’ll lay eggs this month. :)

Georgie girl is bonded to me and she gets hormonal and broody often. If she’s in one of those moods and I pat her back she thinks she’s getting lucky and dances about in appreciation. Silly girl!

Here she is in mating mode:

Yesterday I added a post on how to tame a pigeon. Today I want to write a bit on how to care for an indoor tame pigeon. As mentioned, feral or domestic pigeons in captivity can live a long time (up to their early 20′s) and require the same love and care that any other animal needs.

So what does this love and care really mean?

Well, in my eyes it means understanding what the pigeon needs to thrive and be happy and then providing it. Simple! :)

Let me first just point out that in no way is this a definitive list of care instructions – it’s just a few points. If you are thinking of caring for pigeons then, on top of reading what I have to say, please add to your bank of knowledge information from books, pigeon forums and advice from experienced pigeon keepers.

All birds that are flighted should be allowed to fly, the more hours permitted, the better. Keeping a pigeon in a small cage for the rest of its life is cruel. Even if the pigeon cannot fly, as is the case with our two disabled pigeons, they should be allowed time out in your home to exercise and explore. Pigeons are inquisitive and like to roam about looking for food, bedding material or other items of interest.

Having an outside aviary or pen to allow the pigeons to walk or fly about in is also good – direct sunlight allows the pigeon to absorb vitamin D which is required for healthy and strong bone development (if they don’t have access to direct sunlight you’ll have to give them some vitamin D and calcium supplements as well as UV light). Fresh air and rain are also good for pigeons – and many enjoy having a shower during light rainfall.

Providing the appropriate food, housing, temperature and fresh water are a given. If you didn’t know this then you need to do a LOT of reading on animal care before you purchase any animal!

If you have a flighted indoor pigeon ensure that windows and doors aren’t left open for it to escape through, unless your pigeon knows how to return to your home (but there is always the risk that a predator, such as a hawk or cat, will catch your pigeon if it is let out, so be aware of the risks!). Many indoor plants and other household items are also dangerous or poisonous to birds so you need to read up on the dangers. For example, leaving the toilet seat up is a hazard. These two sites provide good advice: Pigeon Safety and Plants/foods that are toxic/poison to pigeons.

So apart from catering for the pigeon’s physical needs there is also their emotional or psychological needs that you must provide for. A tame pigeon may like the company of people as well as pigeons, in which case you can have many pigeons that can keep each other company, however, an imprinted or bonded to humans pigeon may only want your attention and company. They will bond to you and may not tolerate another pigeon in your care (especially if the other pigeon gets close to you).

If you are the pigeon’s mate, so to speak, then you must understand that when you leave for long periods of time (such as going to work, holidays) then your pigeon will miss you and will wait for your return (then you’ll be greeted with great enthusiasm). So don’t play with his or her emotions by not being around to give him/her your company. However, in all honesty you will probably fall head over heels with your pigeon and won’t want to leave him/her alone for long. Trust me.

I’m probably missing a whole range of other things here but I cannot mention them all. The best way to gather information, other than from pigeon books (pigeon books can be quite expensive to buy), is to join a pigeon forum and read what other pigeon lovers have to say. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there!