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Returning home from a holiday can be very stressful. Especially when you have been away from your animals for a week. You dread to think in what mental and physical state they will be in. Thoughts that run through your mind: “Have they missed us? Did they like the pet sitters? Have they lost weight? Did they eat properly?”

The only way to have peace of mind is to find someone who you can trust and rely on to care for your animals as you would. We found two pet sitters to care for Elmo, Georgie and Hugo while we were away. I find that our animals fare better (e.g. less stressed and eat well) if they stay at home and have someone visit instead of putting them in a cattery and cage elsewhere. This way they are in familiar surroundings with only a “stranger” visiting, instead of being in an unfamiliar place where they may be worried all the time.

I still worry, though, which is natural, since I am far away from my dear animals. When we returned home yesterday Hugo cat was visibly glad to see us. He started drooling profusely, which he only does when he’s very happy. Elmo danced about and cooed his little head off, while Georgie girl was a bit more reserved. Only after I had sung to her did she realise it was me (her “mate”) and replied in kind (Georgie’s favourite song that I hum to her is Mmm mmm mmm by the Crash Test Dummies, I kid you not).

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Hugo gives us THAT look.

After the initial show of delight and excitement at our return, our animals settled back into their normal routine. Elmo headed to Hugo’s water bowl and promptly had a bath (much to Hugo’s disgust), Georgie plonked herself next to me on the sofa for a snooze, and Hugo meowed at the back door to be let out to eat some grass and sniff where the neighbour’s cats had been. It was as if we had never been away. :)

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Georgie pigeon relaxed by my side.

I’m delighted to say that despite our animals having missed us they were in good condition and spirits when we returned, so I know they had been cared for properly. Having such unusual pets as pigeons made looking for a pet sitter interesting – as some people are not comfortable with birds, what to speak about pigeons! But once they meet my pigeons, their misconceptions or misgivings are usually won over by our characterful birds. Elmo is such a clown that he makes most people smile with his greeting song and dance, and Georgie is so pretty and delicate that all can admire. … Not that I’m biased at all with this opinion. :D

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Elmo after a bath.

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Elmo having a bath.

When my husband and I were in Tampere, Finland, visiting my family we saw a newly wed pigeon couple at an underground car park. The lighting was bad so I wasn’t able to get a good photo, and I didn’t want to disturb them too much with my flashing lights (like a paparazzo!), but I watched the male pigeon call his mate up to where he thought was a suitable spot to nest: in the wiring that ran along the ceiling of the car park. He cooed and cooed with determination and I thought, “His mate will reject that spot for sure,” since the ceiling was low and the wiring not very solid. Later that day when we returned I saw the female sitting in the wiring and the male pigeon flew over to her with a stick in his beak. It seemed that the place had been approved and the nest building was in full swing.

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Feral pigeon settling into her new nest.

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The male pigeon flies away to gather more nesting material.

At another underground car park I heard the unmistakable squeaks of baby pigeons and found a nest with two little babies begging for food from one of their parents. The other parent was sitting a few meters away on a post (its chest a bit wet from a recent feeding). As soon as they noticed me looking they went quiet to show me their disapproval of my intrusion, so I left them in peace. Oh how I would have loved to have stayed to watch the family for that day!

 


Whenever my husband and I travel abroad or in the United Kingdom we always notice the pigeon and dove species – nothing terribly exotic, mind you – just the common feral pigeon, woodpigeon and collared dove. One day we’ll go to Seychelles and see some more exotic looking species (see: In search of pigeons – in Seychelles).

We recently went to Devon and Dorset (in the South West of England), and visited the pretty town of Lyme Regis. We were walking along the stone walkway by the beach and suddenly heard a distinct cooing noise. We stopped, searched and found the source of the cooing coming from a drain on the stone floor. Worried that there was a pigeon somehow trapped down the drain we tapped at the grill and the cooing immediately stopped. We then noticed a feral pigeon flying from the other side of the wall. Further investigation revealed that a pair of feral pigeons had taken up residence in the hole in the wall and we had rudely interrupted the male’s courtship coos. :D

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Lyme Regis

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Feral pigeon

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Spot the pigeon?

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Feral pigeon

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Feral pigeon

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Feral pigeons on a roof

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Feral pigeons enjoying the sunshine

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Feral pigeons


Richard and I were on holiday recently and we sadly had to leave our two disabled pigeons at home, however, they were in the care of two lovely pigeon-sitters who ensured the Elmo and Georgie had everything they needed. This would usually mean human company as the top priority, however, this time both pigeons were broody and sitting on fake eggs the whole week. So it was an easy job for the sitters to come in and clean and give fresh food and water with Elmo and Georgie snuggled up in their nests (separate! Elmo sadly hates Georgie). I had to warn the sitters that Elmo WILL attack their feet since he gets very protective when he’s broody. I just hope he didn’t scare them away! :)

Upon returning home Georgie and Elmo decided to leave their eggs alone and snuggle up to us instead and so there was a happy home welcoming. And the weather stayed lovely so I was able to take them both out for some more adventures in the garden!

I think Georgie is the Sunbathing Queen!! :)

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I love taking my pigeons out into the sunshine. They really enjoy it and love to explore the garden. I particularly love looking at Georgie in the sunlight. All the little feathers on her head and face shine and are really distinct. They look amazing! And Georgie has such a delicate little face, she’s a real stunner even though she’s not very colourful.

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Since Elmo can see normally, watching him explore the garden is a joy. He peers into the grass to see if there are any clumps of earth he can peck at and eat, he’ll pick up different twigs and shake them about in his beak, and he’ll play with the long pieces of grass. Elmo often ‘tells’ me when he wants to go outside by standing near the front door. If I haven’t noticed him there he’ll fall alseep, and I’ll find him in that position later and take him out for a play in the garden.

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Here’s Elmo playing with a stick:

Georgie preening in the garden:

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The past few weeks have been upsetting for all of us. Elmo has been in a foul mood and nothing Richard and I do seems to make him happy. We don’t know what has happened to upset Elmo so much but we’re trying our best to improve things so Elmo feels better.

Here’s what I do know:

  • Elmo’s bad mood started shortly after we went on holiday.
  • Elmo started moulting during the week of our holiday.

Now I could understand his bad mood if we had left him for a week, but no, we didn’t leave at all! We stayed at home for our holiday, so what’s Elmo so angry about? Was it my constant presence (since I’m the rival)? I know that my pigeons can feel vulnerable when moulting, but Elmo’s behaviour is a bit extreme.

Elmo has now stopped moulting and we have gone back to work, but he’s still not his usual cuddly-cute, happy self. :(

The day we went back to work Elmo did show a bit of his usual behaviour – he cooed to us and greeted us – but that was short lived. He’s a bit better with Richard, no longer pecking him like he was during our holiday, but he’s not showing him the love that he usually does. I’m finding this all a bit stressful since I hate to see Elmo so angry.

All Elmo does now is chase me about the flat to attack my feet. I know the difference from his playful attacking behaviour, and this is not it. He wants to hurt me and he attacks in anger. The last time he was like this was when he was broody and sitting on the fake eggs.

I really hope Elmo feels better soon because I feel he’s also getting stressed about the situation. I’ve been giving him treats and trying to be loving but Elmo does not want me to be around him, so I will try to keep out of his way.

Even the sight of the camera didn’t excite his usual amorous feelings towards it!

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Elmo giving me the evil eye

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Elmo staring me down


We nipped over to Aarhus, Denmark, for a long weekend to meet some friends and as usual my pigeon-seeking eyes were on alert. I saw lots of woodpigeons in the city but only a few feral pigeons. I didn’t have my camera with me so unfortunately I haven’t got any photos to show you.

I was surprised to see so many woodpigeons in the city centre since I never see them in those locations in the UK, only in parks and woodland. There are quite a few parks and trees on the streets in Aarhus so maybe that’s why the woodies were in the centre too. And I was very surprised not to see many feral pigeons. Where were they hiding? I have a little theory: Aarhus is very clean, not a lot of litter on the ground, so not many scraps for feral pigeons to eat.

We didn’t take our two pigeons with us. I’m afraid we had to leave Elmo and Georgie at home, however, they invited a few pigeon-sitters over to keep them company. :)

Since we returned late at night and darling Elmo was too tired to give us his full “happy-to-see-you” dance routine, he couldn’t contain his joy in seeing us in the morning and leaped onto the bed to wake us up! What a silly boy! :D


The internet can be an amazing thing. One day you make contact with like-minded people and before you know it you’re packing the car with pigeons and bags to visit them! :)

Yes, Elmo and Georgie decided they weren’t going to miss out on visiting a Wing and a Prayer Wild Bird and Owl Haven in Norfolk on the Haven’s Open Day (see also their facebook page: www.facebook.com/wingandaprayerhaven).

Getting to Norfolk wasn’t going to be a problem (only about a 3 hour drive) but would we find a pigeon-friendly hotel or bed & breakfast? Some hotels allow pets but after enquiring what species they allow we find out that “pets” really only means cat or dog, pigeons not allowed. :(

However, with the help of our new friend in Norfolk we make contact with a bed & breakfast that sounded perfect. Richard makes the call, asks about availability (yes, they have a room available), and then crunch time; the question we know may cost us the deal (conversation goes a bit like this):

Richard: “We have two pets. Would that be a problem?”

B&B lady: “What sort of pets?”

Richard: “Um, well, pigeons.”

B&B lady: “Pigeons?!” (she said with surprise in her voice) “We have all kinds of animals; hens, sheep,  goats. They’ll love it here!”

Richard: “Ok, great!” :)

The lady at Hengrave Farm was so nice, we couldn’t believe our luck in finding a pigeon-friendly bed & breakfast. So with a room booked, travel plans made, we couldn’t wait to be on our way.

My only concern was how Georgie would feel on such a long journey, since she gets motion sickness. Yep, you heard me right: motion sickness! You wouldn’t think birds could but they can, just like any other animal out there. (Does this mean that some birds are afraid of heights?) Since we want to take our pigeons with us on holidays to Cornwall and possibly a drive through Europe, we really need to sort out Georgie’s motion sickness. So the trip to Norfolk became a test to see how Georgie would handle a long drive.

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All pigeons ready in the car! (Georgie is hidden on the left)

Elmo doesn’t get motion sickness and was fine in his carry-cage as long as he could see us. We strapped the cages to the backseat and off we went (it always amazes me how some people let their dogs stand unrestricted in the car, sticking their heads out the window. Imagine what would happen if the car crashed into something). Sure enough, we soon heard Georgie vomiting. Poor girl. She seemed to have emptied her crop and then stood still for the journey. A few times Georgie had a little preen, which might indicate that she was feeling ok.

When we arrived at the Haven we took Elmo and Georgie with us in their carry-cages. A few people thought we were bringing them in to stay, so at one point I thought it would have been a good idea to put a sticker on the cages stating them as our beloved companions (next time I’ll have to remember to do this).

Wing and a Prayer Wild Bird and Owl Haven is a wonderful place, full of welcoming, nice people and beautiful birds (both free-ranging and ones in the large aviaries). Being the pigeon fanatics that we are, we honed in on the pigeons at the Haven, but they also have different owl species, chickens, ducks, rheas, corvids and songbirds.

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Free-flying pigeons sitting quite happily on an owl aviary

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Disabled pigeon aviary

The people at the Haven were happy to meet us, especially Elmo and Georgie, however, I think our pigeons were a bit reserved because of all the new faces (there were lots of people visiting on the Open Day). So rather than skip and hop about in his usual charming self, Elmo stood still and simply looked about. Later on he emerged a bit and did a little dance but I think he held back most of the time. Georgie was quite quiet too, which isn’t unusual, but I think she was still recovering from her car sickness.

It was a good day and we were very impressed with the premises and the wonderful team at the Haven. They help all sorts of injured and orphaned birds, and need all the support you can give in continuing their essential work (they are funded entirely by donations).

We later drove to Hengrave Farm and met the lovely lady in charge, who showed such sincere enthusiasm towards Elmo and Georgie that we couldn’t help feel we had found the perfect place to stay. The buildings, rooms and surroundings were so beautiful too!

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Elmo looks about the room

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Elmo (left) and Georgie (right)

Elmo and Georgie wasted no time in exploring the room. The clickety-clack of their feet as they walked around (or ran about as in Elmo’s case) was a nice sound. I do prefer wood flooring to carpeting.

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Road to Hengrave Farm

I didn’t waste any time in going to see the lovely sheep, goats and hens at the B&B, although the ram wasn’t very welcoming so I kept my distance. :)

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Stand-off with Mr. Ram

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Swallows

We had a lovely dinner at a nearby pub (The Hainford Chequers, very large food portions!) with the founders and volunteers of the Haven, and the next day a drive to the coast and a quick lunch was in order (Elmo and Georgie stayed at the B&B). Then, sadly, it was time to make our way back home. Georgie seemed less bothered by the journey down and this could be due to the fact that she hadn’t eaten a lot that day (so less food to make her feel nauseous?) or maybe she didn’t feel as ill this time. I’ll be looking into motion sickness in birds to see if there is anything to give to help alleviate her nausea. If nothing helps then Georgie will have to stay behind when we go on holiday next time, however, I don’t like this idea since she does miss me a lot and doesn’t eat very well when I’m away (she loses quite a bit of weight).

All in all we had a wonderful mini-break and we are looking forward to visiting again next year when the Haven have another Open Day.

A big thank you to everyone who welcomed us and made our stay so enjoyable!!

(I don’t like naming people without their permission, but you know who you are! :) )

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The sea, the sea

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Pebble beach

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Mr. Pigeon tucked in for the night

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Elmo trying to feed Richard. Look at his tongue!

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Georgie is a friend of the Haven!

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Elmo shows his support too!


I spent a week with my family at my grandmother’s home in Orosháza (Hungary) and the weather was unexpectedly hot, ranging from 32°C to 38°C! I’m not used to such heat and generally don’t like it but this time it was a pleasant experience. So I made the most of it and spent a lot of time sitting under the shade of the walnut trees in the garden watching the birds.

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Mr. Pigeon enjoying the ride!

At times the heat was stifling (which after a while would drive me to retire to the cool interior of the house), other times there was a refreshing breeze. I felt sorry for the male blackbird who lived in the garden. He looked very hot! He was quite tame – not even bothered by the presence of the neighbour’s dogs (he must have sussed out that they weren’t interested in him) – and would walk near me on his daily forage. Poor bird. He had his beak open most times but luckily he had a tray of water to bathe in to cool down.

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Blackbird bathing

The one vivid memory I have of my grandmother’s home in Hungary is the sound of cooing. As a child I didn’t know what type of bird was cooing (despite knowing what a feral pigeon is). It may be surprising for you to learn that I had never seen a woodpigeon nor a collared dove until I went to the UK. While there are woodpigeons and collared doves in Finland (where I lived before moving to England) I had never noticed them. When I started working at a wildlife rescue centre in the UK I saw lots of pigeon and dove species and soon became acqainted with all the different cooings. So when I went back to Hungary and heard the cooing in the garden I immediately knew what bird species was making the sound: collared doves!! And this time I noticed them. They are everywhere! And they coo continuously – talking to each other.

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Collared dove

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Mr. Pigeon enjoying the garden views

As I sat in the garden reading a book (during this recent visit) I started to notice how often the collared doves visited the garden to drink. There is a big tub of collected rainwater that they drink from. All sorts visit: sparrows, greenfinches, woodpeckers, blackbirds and even the neighbour’s dogs!

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Collared dove at the local "watering hole"

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Taking a long sip in the heat

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Mr. Pigeon wants a drink too

I did see a few woodpigeons (at the local water park) and a few flocks of feral pigeons in the towns, however, collared doves seem to dominate the area where my grandma lives.

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Collared dove relaxing in the shade

I had a lovely time with my family and with the birds there but I missed my Georgie and Elmo a lot! Mr. Pigeon was a comfort though. :)

The neighbour’s very friendly dogs, Pöti and Daisy:

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Pöti

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Daisy


I’ve made it back home from my holiday, safe and sound. Needless to say, Georgie girl is now very happy. Richard took her out of her cage and she perched on his hand while I let her know I was there. I could see her cock her head to one side a bit and stretch out as if to determine that it was really me in front of her! Then as I held her in my hands she started cooing and snuggling into me, I couldn’t put her down; she was too excited in nesting on my lap!

Elmo was very excited too. He ran about cooing and bowing as he does, then he sang to me on the sofa, prancing about my outstretched hand as I tried to stroke him.

Today, as I spend the last free day with them, they would not leave me alone. Elmo and Georgie have been calling to me constantly and I’ve had to give them both attention and cuddles at the same time while keeping them separate so they don’t fight. I guess this means Elmo did miss me after all. :D

Of course Georgie was jealous whenever I gave Elmo any kisses and cuddles (she always makes a bee-line to us when she hears me giving him any attention) and now she’s a bit touchy with me, pecking me every now and then as if to let me know she doesn’t approve of my “cheating”.

I’ve missed my pigeons a lot and am glad to be home with them. Here are the two rascals together, vying for my affections:

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Georgie (left) and Elmo (right)


I’ll be going away for a week and will be back in action on Tuesday 12th July (I’m going to Hungary to see family). Unfortunately I cannot take Georgie with me, nor Elmo or my hubby!

While I was packing, Georgie tried to smuggle her way into the bag:

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"Will mummy notice me?" thinks Georgie

I know she’ll miss me, however, Richard will give her lots of attention and affection (whether she wants it or not). Georgie can be a bit of a pain, though. She has mood swings: one moment she’s sitting happily by your side, the next she’s attacking you! So Richard will have to be careful with his interactions with her. I hope she doesn’t peck him too much!

Elmo, on the hand, will be happy to have Richard almost all to himself!! :) For one whole week he won’t have to share the sofa with me nor have to tolerate (or not! as is often the case) my vain attempts to cuddle him. I just hope Elmo’s not too disappointed to see me when I return.

Georgie made one last attempt to get into the bag, but I can only take one pigeon with me and I’ve chosen Mr. Pigeon as my travel companion.

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Mr. Pigeon and Georgie

I’ll try to check our facebook page and emails, however, I might not have the opportunity to be online every day. Richard will have to keep an eye on things for me.

I hope to see some pigeons in Hungary (I know there’s collared doves at my grandmother’s house because I’ve heard them cooing) and I’ll try to take photos of them. A sort of pigeon-spotting trip! :)


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Pet Pigeon Book

The Pet Pigeon Book is a notebook I bought to fill with all the relevant information about Georgie and Elmo.

It contains the following:

  • dates when we received Elmo and Georgie
  • their hatch-day details
  • their weights each month
  • the dates when Georgie laid her eggs
  • vet details
  • health records
  • any medication details
  • holiday notes
  • pigeon sitter details

As time goes by I add things to Georgie’s and Elmo’s individual pages.

We also have a few laminated sheets with instructions for the pet sitters on how to care for Elmo and Georgie – all the quirks and special things they need to consider. Many people have never cared for an indoor pigeon before so we have to make sure that they know what to expect.

I think it is always a good idea to record little things as well as the big things. You never know when you might need the information.

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Georgie's front page

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Elmo's front page