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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!

 


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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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


Richard and I went away to Finland to see my family for 6 days but we had to leave Elmo and Georgie home. The cheap airline we used doesn’t take animals, and even if they did, I wouldn’t subject our pigeons to a flight unless they were in a seat next to us. (The thought of Elmo and Georgie alone in a noisy, cold cargo hold, scared and confused, makes me shudder. Couldn’t do that to them!)

Anyway, so we were away visiting family and skiing, skating and sledding in lovely snow-covered Finland, whilst Elmo and Georgie stayed at home with a team of pet sitters popping over to care for them. We really went all out to ensure that they had regular visits during the day and had the interaction they need.

Georgie was sitting on eggs when we left so her care was pretty straight-forward: simply clean out her cage, give her fresh seed and water, and let her out for a few minutes to flap about. She doesn’t like to be away from her eggs for long so I left a note explaining this all (a long note. … Actually it came to three A4 sheets of instructions and info. :) One cannot be too careful when it comes to our animals).

Elmo was the same: clean, feed and exercise, with the addition of play and chill-out time for a few hours. Elmo sleeps free in the bedroom and is allowed to roam about the flat when someone is there. He loves and needs human company, something we made sure he had whilst we were away.

So, with three people roped in to help (mum, my co-worker and a professional pet sitter) we had the 6 days covered. We also had the webcam in the bedroom so we could check in on Elmo. It made our time away much better when we could have a moment to see what Elmo was doing. I advise any pet owner to set up a webcam. Gives you peace of mind! The downfall is that you miss your animals more because you can see them but cannot be with them.

We checked on Elmo one day when we knew my co-worker was coming to spend time with him and Georgie. When Elmo saw her he went bananas! He ran about and did his mad pigeon dance, cooing and bowing away, and when she knelt down by the bed he rushed at her and bumped into her face! He was so happy! It made us very happy to see him greet his pet sitter like that. And we knew he and George were in good hands.

Georgie stayed on her eggs for the first two days we were away, then she decided she’d had enough and spent her time sitting on or near her pet sitters. I was worried that she might act up and they’d not know what to do since Georgie’s behaviour can be hard to read when she’s incubating, however, all went smoothly. Georgie was a very good girl and didn’t give anyone any trouble.

We got home late in the night and Elmo was very happy to see us. Georgie wasn’t impressed with being woken up in the night (she gave me some pecks and cooed angrily), and Elmo was tired, so we quickly gave them cuddles and kisses and went to bed. The next morning Elmo woke us up with cooing which he hasn’t done in a long time. He was obviously eager to wake us up so he could be with us. :D Sweetheart!

Ps. We saw some pigeons in the town of Tampere (see ‘Finnish pigeons’ post dated Feb 12th 2010) which was nice, however, it was very cold and I felt very bad for them. … But they were born in Finland and live there so I’m sure they get by during the winter.

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A feral pigeon is supposed to weigh anything from 230g to 400g, a racing pigeon 400-600g and a woodpigeon 284-615g (figures received from a wildlife rescue centre). In my eyes Georgie is small for a feral pigeon. When we first got her I was worried that she was too thin and small so I gave her fatty foods such as peanuts to help her gain weight. Georgie has now filled out a bit but I believe she’ll always be dainty and petite.

I started recording her weight just to monitor any ups and downs:

  • 295g – 7.4.09
  • 273g – 18.4.09 (She lost weight because when we went on holiday we left her with a friend and I think Georgie got a bit stressed that we weren’t there.)
  • 294g – 14.5.09
  • 318g – 13.6.09
  • 323g – 23.8.09
  • 317g – 27.9.09
  • 344g – 17.11.09 (Georgie was with egg.)
  • 322g – 21.1.10
  • 325g – 10.2.10 (Before we went on holiday. Georgie stayed at home with pet sitters visiting frequently.)
  • 322g – 16.2.10 (When we returned from holiday. Georgie didn’t loose much weight this time, which is good.)

Elmo is a bigger boy and here’s his weight chart:

  • 360g – 7.4.09
  • 352g – 18.4.09
  • 343g – 14.5.09 (Elmo was moulting.)
  • 350g – 13.6.09
  • 357g – 23.8.09
  • 348g – 27.9.09
  • 354g – 17.11.09
  • 358g – 21.1.10
  • 342g – 10.2.10 (Before we went on holiday. Elmo stayed at home with pet sitters visiting frequently.)
  • 350g – 16.2.10 (When we returned from holiday. Elmo gained a lot of weight! He obviously wasn’t stressed that we were gone. He loved the pet sitters [more on this later] but was very glad to have us back.)

Richard has been away on holiday for 4 days, I was away for a day and a half. During the time we were both away my mum-in-law and a woman pet sitter were drafted in to check on our pigeons.

I returned home this morning to find Elmo almost tripping over himself in excitement and happiness in seeing me. Georgie had laid an egg and was a bit more subdued as she was still egg-heavy with the second egg.

Elmo did his mad pigeon dance and would not leave me alone as I wandered about the flat sorting out things. If this is how he greets me, his least favourite human, then how is he going to react when Richard, his favourite person, gets home tonight?!