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With the weather being a bit on the wet side (did someone say we’re experiencing a drought in Kent? LOL) we haven’t been able to take Elmo or Georgie out in the garden for a good old sunray-soak. But there was a break in the rain this weekend so Richard decided to try Elmo with the harness in the garden. (Georgie is sitting on eggs and left a note on her cage ordering us to leave her alone.)

And, predictably, Elmo tried to run away from the harness. A bit hard to do when it’s attached to you, but Elmo gave it a shot. With a little bit of love and reassuring, Elmo calmed down and we were able to have a little walk in the garden. A few feral pigeons even came down to see what all the fuss was about. :)

Of course, Elmo only tolerated the harness for about 5 minutes before he wanted to go back inside. But at least he got a few minutes outside before the rain started up again.

I love this first photo of Elmo. He’s looking down at the harness as if to say, “What in the world is that?!!”

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Despite not having the strength to fly properly (lack of flight muscles for sustained flight), Elmo likes to flap his wings to exercise:

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It has been a fabulous week of sun and clear skies. After so many weeks of rain and mud it’s a welcome break.

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I took the pigeons out on Friday for their first real time out in the garden this year. They each had a turn in the pen in the sun. We cannot trust Elmo nor Georgie out in the garden without some form of protection. Georgie, being mostly blind and unable to fly properly (she usually ends up flying backwards), has a habit of taking off suddenly if spooked – which is what can happen in the garden with the strange environment and sounds. Elmo, being an ex-PMV sufferer, cannot fly properly either. He hasn’t got the flight muscles nor coordination, however, he can fly up quite high for short bursts if frightened and potentially end up in an undesirable place (e.g. over the hedge onto the railway track that’s on the other side of our garden). We therefore have two options when taking Elmo and Georgie outside: 1) put them in the enclosed wired pen, or 2) put a flight harness on them.

When we first got Elmo we used to take him out without a harness or putting him in a pen. We thought that since he could see and was unable to fly properly, he wouldn’t get himself into trouble. We soon learnt how stupid we were and how dangerous the situation really was (read: Fly, birdie, fly!).

What used to happen with Elmo is that he’d spend some time with us in the garden. He’d be pecking at the dirt and grass – as happy as Larry – then suddenly he’d decide he’d had enough and walk over the pebble path back to the front door round the corner of the building. He’d wait there until Richard let him into the flat (which would be fairly quickly since we didn’t like him being out of our view). On one occassion Richard and I were in the garden, lying on the grass, when all of a sudden a little Jack Russell terrier appeared by our heads. It was our uncle’s dog, Minnie. Luckily, we had already put the pigeons back in the flat so there was no danger, however, it really sunk into my mind that had Elmo been free in the garden at that moment, Minnie would have attacked him in a heartbeat. And what if Elmo had gone to the front door at that moment, out of our view when Minnie came over? It’s too horrible to think about. We immediately stopped letting Elmo roam free in the garden and got the pen and harness for our pigeons.

Yesterday Georgie had a refreshing bath after her time in the sun, however, Elmo wasn’t interested in the water.

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Georgie bathing!

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Georgie in the sun

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Georgie falling asleep

When I placed Elmo in the pen he shook like a leaf – he was very excited and I think a little scared of the new environment. I had to bob my head to divert his attention, which worked, because then Elmo calmed down and started pecking at the grass and enjoying the direct sunshine.

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Elmo in the pen

A single feral pigeon came down to look for seed on the ground and Elmo was quite curious. He stared intently at the pigeon until the pigeon noticed him, and then the feral stared back. Funny.

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Feral pigeon staring

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Elmo staring. Poor boy looks like he's in jail!

We also had a sweet little robin visit:

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It snowed quite a bit last night and this morning we woke up to a white-washed world of coldness and peace.

The fox had obviously visited (as you can see from the paw prints in the first photo) and throughout the morning I watched blue tits, great tits, coal tits, dunnocks and robins visit the feeder (I had to go out to clear the snow off of it first). I also left a tray of seed for the pigeons but they didn’t come down to eat. Even the squirrels seemed reluctant to approach the seed tray, so I then had to stamp out an area flat and spread the seed on the ground for them.

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Elmo was very restless this morning and he seemed excited about the change in the landscape. Richard held him up to the window so he could see out and Elmo was shivering a bit as he looked curiously at the snow. We could see that he wanted to go out to explore this weird stuff, so later Richard put the harness on Elmo and took him out. As you might already know, Elmo doesn’t particularly like the harness and so he wasn’t impressed with having to wear it – he tried to run away from it when he was indoors and kept pecking at it. Only once he had relaxed did Richard take Elmo out into the garden.

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Once out though, Elmo didn’t seem to understand that he’s too heavy to stand on the fresh snow so he freaked out a bit when he kept sinking into it and had to be quickly rescued (as you can see in the video).

When Richard took the harness off of him, Elmo quickly came over to me and sat next to me on the sofa. It was quite funny actually to see how quickly Elmo took refuge in me rather than Richard. I think Elmo was upset with Richard and so he came over to me for comfort. … Don’t worry, he forgave Richard a few minutes later – but only after Richard had thoroughly apologised with head bows, cuddles and peanuts.

The squirrels, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy burrowing in the snow and leaping about. It’s so lovely to watch. I also love watching dogs play in snow – they have so much enthusiasm and joy – and they really seem to appreciate the fun in rolling about in the wonderful stuff.

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I have to admit, I get very home sick when it snows this much in England. It takes me back to white Christmases, sauna, ice skating, skiing, sleighing and snow-ball fights! Although Finnish winters can be very brutal in its darkness and coldness, there is a special beauty and wonder in seeing the world blanketed and muffled on a crisp morning – especially if you’re by a lake and have the opportunity to walk across it. Ice swimming is an activity that everyone should try at least once in their life! I’ve only ever braved ice swimming twice, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It is definitely something I want to do again. I just have to figure out how to entice my husband to join me. (A bit about ice swimming: Ice Swimming Safety)

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Richard likes to play a little game with Elmo: The Running Game. He’ll run away from Elmo and Elmo will run after him. When Elmo has caught up with Richard, he’ll turn around and chase Elmo, who quickly legs it across the living room away from Richard. Then Richard will run away with Elmo hot on his heels. It’s so funny!!

When Elmo runs he holds his wings out slightly (for balance). He has a slight limp and it is more visible when he runs. I find it all very adorable.

When Richard played the Running Game yesterday, Elmo was so eager to get to him that he started flapping as he ran and then actually flew after Richard!! Since Elmo doesn’t really fly very well – he can hover for a bit and do a somersault but cannot really fly forward intentionally – this was a very big surprise for us. We couldn’t stop laughing. Elmo had flown after Richard, did a bit of a “loop de loop”, then landed on Richard’s hand – cooing and bowing his head like mad as if to say, “Finally, I’ve caught you. Now will you stop running away from me and give me a cuddle!” We were in stitches.

Here is the cute boy all cuddled up and happy:

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And as we all know, Elmo is such a curious thing and has to be in on the action and centre of attention (just see: Photo shoot and Elmo boy photos) that he hopped into Richard’s tool box while he was busy sorting it out:

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Now, we mustn’t forget about Georgie! She’s been a very good girl and hasn’t been up to much lately, which is why I sometimes find it hard to write about her (see: Secret George). So I’m simply going to share with you a lovely photo of her out in the garden with her bright blue harness on:

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This summer has been so nice. Sunshine and hot weather – perfect for taking pigeons out into the garden for sunbathing and playing in the grass.

I slipped the harness on Georgie with minimum fuss (hooray!!) and took her out. Georgie is getting used to the harness, however, she still tends to stand still for a while before she makes her move (preen, sunbath, fly).

Here’s my girl out in the garden today:

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Panting in the heat

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Sunbathing time!

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Are you one of us?

It was quite funny actually how quickly the feral pigeons flew down when they saw me carrying Georgie into the garden – it was their cue! I put her down near the peanuts and the pigeons warily, but quickly, started gobbling up the peanuts around her. Georgie wasn’t sure about them at all and you can see it in her posture in the video – and the ferals weren’t sure about her either – keeping an eye on her as they got closer and closer.

I’m still waiting for a handsome male pigeon to coo and dance to her! Surely she’s pretty enough to attract some male interest?!


Today, as I was flicking through some photos I saw one of a pigeon in a pigeon nappy and it reminded me of the bird harness we had bought for Georgie and Elmo a while ago. As I wrote in Pigeon nappies?, it wasn’t a success – Georgie wouldn’t co-operate and Elmo was scared of it – however I was thinking about when we finally take the road trip through Europe and Scandinavia to Finland we will need Georgie and Elmo to be in a harness when we take them out for a stretch when we make pit stops. We cannot risk them flying away accidentally! So I thought we’d give it another go in putting first George in the harness.

And here’s the pretty girl all kitted out:

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At first George was not happy with it on, which is understandable since she’s not used to wearing things (what bird is?!), but after the initial walking about like a drunkard Georgie found her harness-legs and didn’t seem too bothered by it. You can imagine our delight!

Here’s her first steps with the harness on:

We were overjoyed with her acceptance and quickly took Georgie outside into the garden. I placed her on the grass and she walked about a bit then decided she wanted to be on me so she flew up into the air and hovered a bit until I placed my hand under her outstretched feet for her to land on. We did this a few more times just to test how safe the harness and lead is and it is now a big success!

Of course we cannot take her out for ‘walkies’ like a dog – and that’s not why we bought the harness – it’s just a safety measure to keep George safe in case she flies up and the wind catches her. Now George and I will be able to sunbathe together in the garden! :)

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We now need to try Elmo in the harness, however, since he’s a bit scared of it we’ll need to get him first used to the sight of the harness before we put it on him. After a week or so of the harness near his nest he should realise it is nothing to be afraid of and then we’ll see if he’ll accept the harness on him. Somehow I think he won’t be as accepting! (especially since the harness is blue!)

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I think the most common question we get when we tell someone we have pigeons living in our flat is “Don’t they poo everywhere?”

The answer is “Yes”, of course. One of the most frequent complaints against feral pigeons is that they damage buildings with their droppings, so it’s only fair to assume that they’d do the same indoors. But we’re talking about two pigeons, not a hundred. Once you’ve wiped the poo away (with the help of a carpet cleaner spray) there is no stain left and our floors and furniture remain clean. I have to admit it does take a bit of energy to be on constant ‘poo patrol’. Nothing gets on my nerves more than stepping onto a poo booby trap, however, to us it is a small price to pay to have two wonderful animals living with us. Having pets always has drawbacks (e.g. less free time, more expense during holiday time, vet bills, death) but we cannot imagine living without animals – they are such an important part of our lives.

Anyway, back to pigeon poo. After surfing the net for pigeon related things I stumbled across a website that has pigeon and chicken nappies (a.k.a. diapers). I had heard about nappies for parrots but I didn’t think anyone had made any for pigeons. The website advertise an array of nappy designs and boasts success in their use, but I’m a bit sceptical. Why you ask? Well because we previously bought a bird harness with a lead so we could take Georgie and Elmo out for a ‘walk’ without them flying off and getting lost or injured, however, neither pigeon would co-operate with it on.

First we tried Georgie. After figuring out which wing goes through which strap we fitted the harness and stood back to admire it. It’s bright blue, fits around the wings and under the body and not that intrusive, but Georgie just laid on her side like dead wood. She didn’t move for a while and when she eventually did she flopped about like a fish out of water – a very strange behaviour to us but it was clear that she was not happy with the harness. So we took it off and didn’t try again till a few months later, however, with the same results.

Elmo had a similar reaction. First he was stock still, then he looked down at the harness and tried to run away from it. Hard to do when the thing was strapped to him but he made a good attempt. We then put the harness on Dora. She wasn’t impressed either and kept getting her foot stuck as she tried to wriggle out of it.

So the harness was a huge failure much to our disappointment. Since Elmo cannot fly properly we can take him out for a while but have to watch him carefully. Georgie can fly up in the air but not intentionally forward, however, we have to put her in a wire run just in case (Georgie is known to take off suddenly and very quickly so we cannot risk it).

With the harness scenario in mind my thoughts on the pigeon nappy aren’t hugely optimistic. It would be great if Elmo and Georgie didn’t mind having one on for a few hours a day but somehow I doubt that’ll be the case. We may order a pigeon nappy just to satisfy our ‘what if?’ thoughts. More on this if we do.

Ps. For those of you who are curious about the pigeon nappy, the website I found is: http://www.birdwearonline.net/index.html