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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.

P1030552The other day we received a very special boy at my work – a 1 year old feral pigeon that had been hand-reared and was very tame and human-oriented. The pigeon, called Sebastian or Coo-face (very sweet!), is a very healthy specimen and has a great character. The person who had raised him thought it was time to see if Sebastian would find a mate and to also give him a better quality of life – which we hope to provide.

First we need to see how Coo-face reacts to other pigeons, then, if the outcome is good we’ll rehome him to an aviary of tame and disabled pigeons with the hopes he’ll pair up with a lovely lady pigeon and start his journey to becoming a pigeon.

If, however, he doesn’t seem very interested in other pigeons we’ll have to rehome him to a home that can give him the personal attention he needs. I have to admit I want to smuggle him home with me (to see if he’ll like Georgie) – but we tried that before, with Minnie, and it didn’t work out at all (see: Minnie’s new home). But I’m still eager to find Georgie a mate, however, maybe a human-imprinted pigeon isn’t the best bet since Sebastian will probably only be interested in us not Georgie!

One day I hope to have a special aviary suited for Georgie and her mate if we ever get to find one for her. There’s bound to be a pigeon out there that finds her irrestistible! In the meantime I might introduce Georgie to Sebastian just to see if he’ll take to her, however, it’ll have to be at my work since I don’t want to upset Elmo in any way (what a spoilt boy he is!).

Sebastian loves to spend time on my shoulder at work, which can be very distracting because all I want to do is cuddle him, and when he’s in his cage he coos away at me to get my attention! I shall soon try him in the resident pigeon aviary to see how he reacts to other pigeons and I’ll post my findings.

Doesn’t Sebastian boy look like a bigger version of Minnie? :)



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!

It comes with the job of being an animal care assistant at a wildlife rescue centre to fall in love with some of the animals brought in. You can’t help it – not when you’re looking at a small badger cub (that looks like a panda!) or at the open gape of a baby magpie, begging for food. You resist the urge to cuddle the baby wildlife or sneak them home under your jacket. That wouldn’t do at all!! Not when they’re meant to be released back into the wild when they’re ready.

However, occasionally you come across an animal that isn’t releasable, no matter how hard you’ve tried to get them up to scratch. It could be that the animal has a deformity that will hinder their success in the wild or they have become imprinted on humans. In these cases you really only have two options: euthanasia or keep it in captivity. (Releasing such an animal is tantamount to animal cruelty since they would most likely die of starvation or get into trouble around human beings.)

These two options are not something to be taken lightly. Keeping a wild animal in captivity can cause it to be distressed if its captive environment isn’t suitable, however, euthanasia is final and not an easy decision to make.

In the case of Malcolm the tiny feral pigeon, euthanasia is out of the question.

Here’s his story to date:

Baby feral pigeon that fell out of its nest at a railway station.

Admitted to a rescue centre on the 22nd October 2009.

Railway station staff named the pigeon ‘Malcolm’, however, its sex is unknown.

Was ill on two separate occasions and therefore was isolated from other pigeons. During this time Malcolm became very tame.

Went into an outside aviary on the 8th January 2010 with a group of young feral pigeons to learn how to be a pigeon.

Malcolm’s status on 11th March 2010: imprinted to humans, tame and non-releasable.

Weight on the 11th March: only 260 grams

Here’s the special little boy (his neck full of peanuts!):


I would LOVE, absolutely LOVE to have Malcolm living with us. He is such a sweet little pigeon (he’s so small it’s amazing) and just loves to be in the ICU with the staff instead of being in the aviary with other pigeons. Unfortunately having three pigeons in the house has proven to be a bit too much for me, I’m sad to admit. … … But maybe I’ll give it another go!! :D

Here’s a video of Malcolm having a bath with me splashing the water:

Ps. I think that Malcolm may have been pushed out of his nest since he’s unnaturally small and was ill. Parent pigeons are quite intuned with any oddity in their babies and will reject ones that aren’t viable in their eyes.


Let me out of this aviary!



A few people have asked us why we have pigeons as pets. I know it seems an unusual choice when you first hear it but actually there are many people out there who have pigeons as pets, be it because they found a baby pigeon and hand-reared it, they have pigeons in aviaries for show or simply for the love of having them, or, like me, they work at a rescue centre and end up taking some of their work home. :)

Having non-flighted pigeons living in your home is a bit different than having flighted pigeons. We had a flighted pigeon, Dora, living we us for a while and it was a completely different scene. You have to be extra careful about windows, you have more droppings to pick up at higher levels (e.g. bookshelves, cabinets, down door frames) and you may have more feathers and featherdust floating down at you.

Non-flighted pigeons are restricted in their movement and I find that they are easier to clean up after and to keep an eye on. I’m not advocating in any way that you wing-clip or harm your bird to make it unable to fly. Flying is a born right for all birds (except, of course, the non-flighted species) and it is cruel to take that away from them (I guess it may be the equivalent of a person being wheelchair bound).

The reality of keeping any animal is that you will need to care for them constantly. It is not something to take on lightly. My husband and I have previously cared for dogs, cats, mice, snakes, rabbits, chickens, tortoises, fish, pigs, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, budgerigars, cockatiels and hamsters in our childhood and teenage years. Each species have their own needs and requirements but the principle is there: daily fresh food and water, clean bedding, proper housing and temperature, exercise (where applicable. Fancy taking a fish for a swim!) and human company.

However, I have to say that tame and imprinted pigeons are one of the most demanding animals I’ve had. Since both Georgie and Elmo are imprinted on humans they think that we are the same species. That means they aren’t happy unless they are in our company. If we were to put both Elmo and George in an aviary with other pigeons they wouldn’t want to be there; they’d be scared, lonely and become depressed. This means that we have George and Elmo living in our flat, sharing our sofa, floorspace, laps and food. And we do this gladly!

Anyone who meets Elmo thinks he’s the coolest pigeon alive. How could they not when they see him prancing excitedly up to them, cooing, bowing and fanning his tail out in greeting? Who couldn’t fall in love with him?! :)

So when people give me a weird look when I tell them I have two disabled pigeons living with me I simply smile and invite them to come meet them. They’ll soon change their views.


Elmo is an imprinted pigeon and thinks I am his mate. Here he’s trying to mate with me: