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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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How to stop a pigeon from laying eggs

As a proud owner of a female pigeon there is one subject that crops up nearly every month, and that is the subject of egg laying. More specifically, how to stop a pigeon from continuous egg laying. As any person who owns a female pigeon will know, pigeons are prolific egg layers. They don’t need to be mated in order to lay eggs. They just need to feel it is the right time and that they have the right mate and nesting area (although the latter isn’t always the case – many of us have seen photos of pigeons who have laid an egg on the exposed floor!). The right mate can indeed be human. Many pigeons will bond with one human in the household and will court and try to start a family with that human. This behaviour may amuse us, but it is serious business for the pigeon. They want to have babies and will go through all the feelings, hormone changes, and behaviours associated with breeding and nesting. A lack of result, e.g. no babies, may be frustrating or even sorrowful for the pigeon.

So what should we do about this? Do we find a pigeon mate for the pigeon and let them breed? (This won’t solve the problem of chronic egg laying but may help the pigeon psychologically.) But what will happen to the babies? Considering the breeding efficiency of pigeons, you may soon be overrun with their offspring.

In general, feral pigeons can breed throughout the year, as long as there is enough food and shelter for them to do so. Some pigeons take a break during the winter months, some don’t. Feral pigeons will lay two eggs at a time. They incubate for about 18 days, then the squabs will be fed by both parents until they are ready to leave the nest when they are 30 days old. By this time the parents may have already produced another clutch of eggs (at around day 20), and the cycle continues.

So after considering a pigeons breeding efficiency your pet pigeon could be laying 24 eggs a year! (at least!) All this takes a lot of time and energy, and the female pigeon will need to be well fed and have access to calcium and vitamin D for egg production and laying (calcium is taken from the body to create the egg shell). Too many eggs without enough calcium will cause egg-binding or deformed eggs (see photo below for a smaller sized egg my pigeon once laid).

P1100176Left: normal sized pigeon egg. Right: deformed smaller pigeon egg

Chronic egg-laying can cause a number of serious health problems for birds, and can ultimately lead to the death of the female if left untreated.

“Chronic egg-laying in the pet bird poses a significant threat to the health and behavioral well being of many pet birds. When a hen lays repeated clutches or larger than normal clutch size without regard to the presence of a normal mate or confined breeding season, a myriad of secondary problems can follow. Ultimately, functional exhaustion of the reproductive tract poses risk of metabolic and physiological drain on the bird, particularly on calcium and energy stores. All of these ultimately predispose the hen to egg binding, dystocia, yolk coelomitis, oviductal impaction, oviductal torsion, cloacal prolapse and osteoporosis.” Ask an Expert: Chronic egg laying by Dr. Brian Speer, DVM

“Chronic egg laying will deplete calcium, thus causing myriad health problems. One of which is the condition known as hypocalcaemia – With calcium at a low level, the uterine muscles are unable to contract and push the egg out resulting in egg binding. Hypocalcaemia can also cause seizure-like activity and brittle bones, which can be easily fractured. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to prevent excessive egg laying. The first step in treating chronic egg laying is to put your bird on a complete diet. A bird that is on a balanced diet is in little danger of the health problems associated with chronic egg laying.” From: http://www.avianweb.com/egglaying.html

The following article has good advice about egg-binding:

“Calcium is used by the body to not only form the shell of the developing egg and maintain strong bones, but is also crucial in the proper functioning of the muscles. While it does take a large amount of calcium to form an egg shell, the hen also needs calcium for the muscle action needed to expel the egg.

“Vitamin d3 is crucial in the absorption of calcium. Without it, all that good calcium we offer our birds passes right through the body without being absorbed. In outdoor flights, our birds are able to produce d3 via a chemical reaction to sunlight. In indoor flights, they are unable to do this. Sunlight through a window is not sufficient. The ultraviolet light needed does not pass through window glass. Full spectrum lights can help but some studies have shown that the ultraviolet is only at sufficient levels at less than one foot from the light source. For inside birds, a d3 supplement is almost always helpful.” Egg Binding by Carol Heesen

The solution

In order to help reduce the strain egg development and laying causes the female pigeon, it is probably a good idea to discourage egg laying altogether. There are different thoughts on this and some methods may work for your pigeon, while for others it may not. It is up to you to ensure that your pigeon is healthy physically and mentally. Please read the following recommendations:

All about reducing the laying of eggs by the racing pigeon

Diet

Seed availability in the wild is generally only high during breeding season, so an abundance of seeds in the diet is a stimulus to breed.

• Providing a good quality, balanced diet with restricted seed will not only help to reduce laying, but provide better nutrition to keep her healthy and better prepared to lay eggs and fight disease.

Day Length

In the wild, birds generally breed in spring and summer, a time of increasing day length.

• By covering the loft or the windows in the evening at about 6pm, the hormones that stimulate laying will be reduced. As well as reducing mating/egg laying behavior, this will help to ensure a good night rest for your pigeons, which is very important.

Presence of a mate

Pigeons do not need to mate in order to lay eggs. They do usually need to think that they have a partner. A lot of the individual attention the pigeon fanciers will give to the pigeons can be interpreted by them as partner stimulation, and as such it needs to be minimized to the strict minimum.

• We recommend that you don’t cuddle or stroke your pigeons below the neck.

• Training basic obedience and trick training is a great way to interact with your pigeons in a healthier manner.

Nesting Site

Pigeons are more likely to lay eggs if they have a nest. This may be a nest or box, newspaper or material at the bottom of a cage.

• Do NOT provide any nesting material for a pigeon if you don’t want her to lay.

Presence of eggs

• If your pigeons does lay eggs, leave them in the cage for the normal incubation period – approximately 3 weeks for most strain.

• The presence of eggs in a cage stimulates hormones in your bird which decreases the chances of more eggs.

(From: All about reducing the laying of eggs by the racing pigeon)

More information on discouraging egg laying in birds: Egg laying in birds

10 things you can do at home to stop your bird from laying eggs

1. Put your bird to bed early, by 5 or 6:00 p.m. A long day length is one of the most important environmental cues triggering egg laying in birds. By allowing your bird to stay up late, you are mimicking the long days of spring/summer, making your bird think it is time to breed. An early bedtime will help to turn off her breeding hormones. Note that she will need complete darkness and quiet for this to be effective (covering the cage while the radio or TV is on is not adequate!).

2. Keep your bird away from dark, enclosed spaces. Most parrots are cavity nesters, which means that instead of building a nest out in the open they look for dark, enclosed spaces in which to lay their eggs. In order to stop your bird from laying eggs it is essential that she is kept away from such areas. Nest boxes should be promptly removed. Birds can be ingenious when looking for a nesting site (under a couch, behind the microwave, even in the dryer!), so it is important that she is under close supervision when out of the cage.

3. Keep your bird away from other birds to which she is bonded. Having a mate is a strong stimulus for your bird to lay. This mate may be a member of the opposite sex, another female bird, or even a bird of a different species. Separating your bird from the other birds in your household will help turn off her hormones.

4. Discourage breeding behavior in your bird. Some birds will display breeding behaviors with their favorite person, such as vent-rubbing, tail lifting, or regurgitating food. Discourage these behaviors by putting your bird back in her cage for a “time out” whenever she displays them. Don’t pet your bird on her back or under her tail, as this can be sexually stimulating.

5. Remove your bird’s “love-toys”. Some single birds will display mating behaviors with objects in their environment, such as food cups, toys, perches, or mirrors. Mating behaviors include regurgitating food, vent rubbing, and tail lifting. If your bird engages in these behaviors with an inanimate object, that object should be permanently removed from her environment.

6. Rearrange the cage interior and change the cage location. Your bird is more likely to lay eggs in a cage that hasn’t changed in a while. Putting your bird in a different cage and/or changing the cage location can help discourage laying. Changing the arrangement or types of toys, dishes, and perches in the cage can also be very helpful.

7. Give your bird optimal nutrition and provide full spectrum light. Producing and laying eggs robs your bird of the vitamins, proteins, and calcium she needs to stay healthy. It is especially crucial during the breeding season that she is on a complete and balanced diet, which in most cases will be a pelleted diet. A seed diet supplemented with vitamins is not adequate. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a pelleted diet for your bird. Full spectrum sunlight is necessary for your bird’s calcium metabolism, and can be provided by unfiltered sunlight or by a full spectrum flourescent bulb.

8. Avoid removing the eggs which your bird has already laid. Sometimes the easiest way to turn off the egg-laying cycle is to allow your bird to sit on her eggs. If your bird lays a few eggs and then sits on them, leave the eggs in the cage for 21 days or until she loses interest. If however she does not stop at 3 – 4 eggs and continues laying, this strategy may not work, and you should call your avian veterinarian for further suggestions.

9. Ask your veterinarian about hormone injections. In certain cases of excessive egg-laying, your veterinarian may recommend hormone injections in addition to the above environmental and dietary changes. Hormone injections are relatively safe and can help reduce egg-laying in some birds. The effectiveness of hormone injections varies from bird to bird and can not be accurately predicted beforehand.

10. When in doubt, ask your avian veterinarian. If you have questions or concerns regarding your bird’s health, or if the above changes do not stop your bird from laying, please give your avian veterinarian a call.

Author: Hilary S. Stern, DVM

From: http://www.forthebirdsdvm.com/pages/discouraging-breeding-behavior-in-pet-birds


Elmo has calmed down a bit, however, I have to put a big cushion barrier on the sofa to stop him from attacking me when I sit there. But at least he’s not following me around trying to chase me off.

Georgie still hasn’t laid any eggs and is now not showing any signs that she will. Maybe she thinks that Elmo has stolen the show so why bother being broody when Elmo is already doing it? If only we could somehow combine the two – make Elmo and Georgie fall in love then they could be broody and moody together!

Elmo has tucked the harness into the nest around the eggs and has a few feathers sticking out too. I think it is so funny that he’s not afraid of them now and sees them only as nesting material. I bet you anything that after his broodiness he’ll be scared of them again!


So yesterday I reported that Elmo has gone all broody on us. We are still unsure what to do now because his behaviour has changed quite a lot. He’s over-protective, moody and angry.

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Proud daddy on his eggs

When we left this morning for work we put Elmo’s nest and his fake eggs in the bedroom so that he didn’t get frustrated about being seperated from them during the day (usually his nest stays in the living room). Richard kept an eye on him on the webcam and he saw that Elmo spent most of his day sitting on the eggs. Sweetheart!

Upon our return Elmo hopped off his nest, walked past me into the living room and helped himself to the peanut jar on the sofa. He didn’t say a word to me – not a coo or a dance in greeting. Now that’s a first!!

After he’d had his fill of peanuts he then proceeded to attack me. And this he did the whole time I prepared and tried to eat my dinner. Elmo was relentless! He ran after me as I walked about the flat – attacking my feet – and when I sat down to eat he jumped onto my lap and attacked my hands. He would not give up! In the end I had to put him back in the bedroom so that I could eat my dinner in peace. When I let him out he wasn’t too pleased with me at all and began his hate campaign against me. I think that now that he’s gone broody Elmo thinks the whole flat is his and is trying to chase me out.

We’re worried that he’ll cause himself harm with his obsessive attacking – we’re not sure if we should take the eggs away from him or let him sit on them for a few days to get it out of his system. I’m inclined to let him sit on them for a week. I don’t like the idea of pulling them just when he’s getting started, however, I don’t like to see him stress out about my presence. Short of me actually leaving the flat for the week (there’s some really nice hotels in the area!), there’s nothing I can really do to stop him from attacking me. If I interact with him and try to push him away he just gets even more aggressive. Richard will just have to keep Elmo occupied whilst I’m around.

I think I’m painting a rather negative picture, however, at the moment Elmo is not bothered with me as I type this up at my desk. I hope that once he realises that I’m not going anywhere – and if I don’t look or go near him – he may calm down.

A weird thing about Elmo’s broody behaviour – it seems to have made him rather fearless!! As reported previously, Elmo is scared of feathers and the harness, however, now Elmo thinks they are both excellent nesting material!! What a funny boy!

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Some brilliant videos of woodpigeons – parents and their young:


I had a good day at work today with the wild, rescued and resident pigeons. Although it was a bit cold at times, today was sunny and clear and one of those days where you know you’ll get things done. One of the jobs I’ve been meaning to get done was to redo Pidge’s aviary, the aviary that houses tame and disabled pigeons (see Dora’s friends).

After the prolonged snow we had in December and again in January the roof of Pidge’s aviary caved in a bit and we had to relocate the pigeons into a smaller aviary. Unfortunately the original aviary had to be dismantled because it was old and worn down. We are planning on building a bigger aviary for the tame and disabled pigeons, however, we’ve had some setbacks so the pigeons are having to stay in the smaller one for a while still. They don’t seem to mind, they are so preoccupied in courting and nesting, but the hutches and perches needed redoing. And today was the day I was going to get it done!

So, first I had to locate another hutch and then needed to make some modifications to the existing ones, and then the aviary and hutches needed a total clean, and then I had to put in some logs and perches in the right places (to also allow the flightless pigeons to get up off the ground). And then fresh bedding material and fresh food and water was needed. Phew, hard work all this. … Ok, I’m making it sound as if I did all the work. In reality all the hard grafting was done by a strong volunteer, but I did all the brain work and organisation!!

And here’s the result:

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I think it looks great. I had to make do with what was lying about my workplace and think a bit what would be best for the pigeons – by dividing the hutches up I’ve made more nesting places so all the pigeon pairs have a spot, and it will reduce any fighting. And now that the legs of the hutches have been removed Dora won’t be able to hide away to lay eggs – I can keep a better eye on what’s going on in the aviary and find eggs easily. When the new aviary is built I’ll get proper pigeon lofts built for them so it’ll look neater and be more appropriate for the pigeons.

Here’s a video of them in the new surroundings. At 1:15 you’ll see Stanley (white pigeon with grey patches on back) run into frame to woo Dora who flew down with Pidge hot on her heels. Stanley is very happy with the new hutches and logs because now he can get higher and follow Dora about more than he used to, although he still wants to get to the top perches but can’t because of his broken wing.

The other day a man brought in a friendly feral pigeon that had been hanging about a care home. The residents there were looking after the pigeon in their rooms, however, the warden had to remove it because of health and safety reasons (yeah, like the pigeon is going to kill all the people in the care home! Beware of the pigeons!).

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The warden was very nice and obviously liked the pigeon. I think he was sad to have to remove it, but he was happy to hand it over to us for rehoming (we’ll later mix it with other ferals and have them released as a flock at a later date). There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s only very friendly, and funnily enough it looks exactly like one that comes to our garden. Today I put my hand in the cage and it started dancing and cooing at me and then running up to my fingers and pecking at them. Sweet!

And finally, I captured these ferals having a lazy moment at my work after a bath in the garden:

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P1020059So we dragged our pigeons into the garden again because it was such a lovely day today (hooray for sun!). The feral pigeon flock came down again to eat while we were there. It was quite funny really because one minute there weren’t any pigeons about and the next minute Richard alerted me to their presence on top of our roof – staring down at us like something out of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Scary! :D

Georgie was in a happy mood and doing an unusual thing she does when she’s in nesting mode: she kept picking up leaves and twigs but was unable to put them down. Weird. It is as if she forgets that if she simply opens her beak the item will fall out. Instead she shakes her head and scratches at the item to make it come out of her beak. It’s as if she really doesn’t want it there, however, as soon as the item falls out she will go looking for another leaf or twig to pick up and carry for a bit before she wants it out. What a funny girl!

I captured one of the moments on video:

This has happened before but we cannot figure out why she does this since George knows how to line her nest with shredded tissue. Sometimes she carries seed to her nest and puts it around her eggs. I’m constantly amazed at her behaviour and character. Georgie is really a very sweet girl and I could watch her all day.

And then there’s Elmo and his weird behaviour. Check him out trying to woo a plastic cup in our garden:

Although Elmo is utterly devoted to my husband we have caught him wooing socks, shoes and bottles before. Not sure what he sees in these items but he certainly makes a song and a dance about them. And who knows what the feral pigeons were thinking when they saw Elmo courting a plastic cup. Probably thought he’s a bit confused! :)

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Georgie with a twig

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And now a leaf


After Georgie laid her first (of the normal 2) egg on Saturday, we managed to capture her laying her second egg on Monday on video! :)


Elmo is generally a happy pigeon. He’s content laying in his nest (a guinea pig nest) twitching furiously at me for the most part of the day / evening, occasionally wondering around the flat and calling me to what he considers ideal corners to roost in.

Sunday wasn’t one of those days. Elmo is a little put out that we have a new pigeon in the house (Malcolm / Minnie) and hasn’t been behaving like himself. He’s very aggressive, and very territorial!

On-top of this we discovered something we thought was hugely entertaining. If we showed Elmo the blue underside of his nest he went absolutely bananas! He’d rush up to it to attack it, wing slap it, and vigorously peck at it. Most unlike Elmo. We may have taken this a little too far on Sunday, and Elmo spent the most part of the afternoon and evening in a foul mood indeed.

On Monday we decided it would be best if we didn’t take Malcolm / Minnie home, to give Elmo and Georgie a break. Elmo is most pleased with this decision and is back to his normal loving self again.


Would a blind pigeon be able to tell the difference between two people’s laps? Regardless of what they are wearing?

Well, Georgie certainly can. My wife likes to wear my fleece. Regardless of who is wearing it, or how you interact with her, she knows who’s who. My wife gets preened, and Georgie snuggles up to her, while I on the other hand get viciously attacked!