First loft, pigeons, and training! Advice?

LamarshFish

Songster
5 Years
Mar 26, 2015
843
1,437
246
Their nest is FULL of poop. We were thinking of taking them out, cleaning it out and putting new straw/sticks in there?
Could you let some show pigeons walk/fly around your yard while you're out there or would they be easy prey? Any recommendations on pretty show pigeons?
When owning pigeons you have to make the difficult ethical decision as to whether to keep them in a cage (a nice one with an aviary, of course) and never give them the freedom of flight, or whether to permit freedom of flight. On one hand, keeping them in the loft at all times prevents them from being killed by a hawk, yet they never will have the freedom of flying, something pigeons love.

The risk of hawks is always present. The simple fact is that domesticated pigeons are just not wired to be wary enough of avian predators, and when they are out flying they are naive and ignorant to avian threats and will eventually loiter on a roof or something similar, and end up being an easy target no matter how you look at it. So unfortunately, it's just a dice roll when you let them out, plain and simple. And, at least where I live in Michigan, when the hawks migrate it's so bad that I don't let them out at all from about mid October through the end of February.

That being said, picking a breed can change the risk, but not eliminate it. Tumblers/rollers are notorious for being easy targets, as their rolling and tumbling naturally attracts predators. Homers are super fast flyers and can easily out fly a hawk, but are no match for a hawk or falcon that targets them loitering on a roof and dives on them. Ornamental breeds like fantails IMO are a great choice because they rarely fly much farther away from your yard, and hawks rarely will encroach on your yard with you present or a dog present. If you opt for a fantail, I would strongly consider the garden variety that is not so altered in physique that it cannot fly (i.e., retains it's natural bird shape to some degree so it actually can fly a bit), but rather is just a homer shaped pigeon with a fan tail. This type of fantail should be somewhat easy to find.

Another way to reduce the likelihood of losses is to keep common and drab colors. For one reason or another, the blue bars and blue checks with white rumps (common homer, common feral type) are targeted less than some of the obscure and cool colors. All white pigeons are the easiest targets. There has been some research that avian predators will seek out and target off colored pigeons in a flock, i.e., a flock of mostly blues will have its few reds or white birds targeted more easily.
 

LamarshFish

Songster
5 Years
Mar 26, 2015
843
1,437
246
As for training your birds, I'm going to paste an explanation I sent to a guy who I gave some squeakers to for him to start a loft. I hope it helps!


Below is some explanation of how you can settle and train your young birds in two main training stages.

As I mentioned, you really have to build an aviary. With young birds not born in your loft, you already sort of have the odds stacked against you in terms of losses, so you want everything going in your favor. You'll also want to build a settling cage and landing platform, which is simply a removable cage that you can place over the bob door. It is extremely difficult to train young birds with out them.

First step, settle the birds. I would plan on a 2-3 week settling period, where you do not let them out. This is a time for them to get used to the loft, and download images of the surroundings by viewing from the aviary and settling cage. Ideally, your bob door and settling cage will sit just above your aviary, thereby making the top of the aviary your landing board, but it's not a big deal if you can't build it like that, it just makes it easier if it is. Once you notice your birds freely entering the aviary on their own to look around at their surroundings, I'd let them continue to do that for about a week. At each interval of this training process, your birds are memorizing what they are looking at, literally "downloading" images into their photographic memory of what "home" is. Next, train them to use whatever door (be it a bob door or open door) you want them to be able to enter in and out of the loft with by using a settling cage over it (i.e., the cage covers the outside so they are able to go in and out of the door, but they won't escape because the settling cage blocks them). Do this for another week. (If you use one-way bobs, at first keep the bob wires all the way up, then after a few days drop just one bob wire, get them used to that (it gets them used to touching the metal as they go in and out), then drop a few more bob wires, until you get them to the point where you can drop all of them, at which point you'll actually have to place them into the settling cage from outside since they can't get in with all bob wires down--at this point, they will be forced to use the full bob door in order to get back in the loft. That's also the reason you want to build a small door on the outside of your settling cage.) Make sure you have evidence that all of them understand how to exit and re-enter, and also have evidence that each youngster has spent some time in the settling cage. If just one bird isn't confident using the bobs, that could keep that bird outside in the future, and may be lost. If you notice some aren't going in there, you might step in and put them in yourself, forcing them to learn to re-enter the loft through the bobs.

Second, first freedom. Next, you should let them out by simply opening the door. This is very important. With birds born in your loft, you should be at this stage early enough that they aren't strong on the wing enough just to take off, but since you got young birds elsewhere, you need to be careful since they WILL be strong on the wing. I recommend soaping their wings the first 2-3 times you give them freedom (see YouTube vids of it, just a light soap and water solution in a 5 gal bucket, dunk their wings for 20-30 seconds until soaked). Because you have to do this, you can choose whether you soap the wings and place them back in side and let them exit on their own time, or you can simply place them on the landing board yourself, right after you're done soaping their wings. With wet, soapy wings, stead of being able to fly, they should just flutter about. They likely won't have the confidence to just take off yet, but if they did there is a good chance they'll fly too far and not come back. They will likely stay on your landing board (you should have a landing board attached to your loft entry), or at most hang on the roof of your loft. This is good, because they continue to download images of home, as well as get bearings of where the door is when they flutter about their surroundings. After a few days you'll notice they might go a bit further, such as the telephone wires or maybe the roof of your home if it's close to your loft (but sometimes they may stick around for a week or so, just be patient, it's different for each bird). Keep letting them out (evening, with 2-3 hours of light left of the day is best) each evening until you start noticing they gain confidence to fly around fast around your loft. Then experiment with giving them more like 4-6 hours of time out there. You know you're ready for basic training to be over once you notice that they disappear out of sight for more than 30 minutes or so, and still come back to home, at which point you can be pretty sure they have become dialed in and are ready to be true homers. This is because they have flown up high and literally downloaded images of everything, for miles, or at least should have. At this point, if you want to, they should be ready to be trained on tosses at 1 mile, 2 miles, 5 miles, 10, 20 and so on. For safe measures, you might loft fly them a few more times, but in theory, after one trip of disappearing for some time, they should be ready for tosses. If loft flying is all you want to do, you can just keep doing that with them. If you want to train them on tosses and use them in traps for dog training remotely, away from home, make sure at each mile interval you do a few tosses as a group, and then also release them in singles a few minutes apart from each other, so they have individual confidence flying alone, because when you use them in the dog training traps, they will be released individually, so they should be ready for it.

So, basically it is this:
(1) settle to aviary and settling cage
(2) train to use bob doors
(3) train to sit on landing board and observe, without being strong on wing
(4) train to loft fly strong on wing
(5) train remote tosses

Even with what I've said above, even if you do it all right, you might still have some losses. It happens. My experience also is that losses are greater if you get the birds from another loft and they aren't born in your loft, even if you get them at the right age where they still have the yellow fuzzy down feathers on them. But the above steps should greatly mitigate losses. I would avoid flying much past September, unless it is in your yard and you have them trained to trap back quickly, as hawks get bad, and stay bad through winter. End your year with at least 4 or so so you can have babies in the spring and really get things going.
 

Tedster0219

In the Brooder
Aug 4, 2020
39
57
40
When owning pigeons you have to make the difficult ethical decision as to whether to keep them in a cage (a nice one with an aviary, of course) and never give them the freedom of flight, or whether to permit freedom of flight. On one hand, keeping them in the loft at all times prevents them from being killed by a hawk, yet they never will have the freedom of flying, something pigeons love.

The risk of hawks is always present. The simple fact is that domesticated pigeons are just not wired to be wary enough of avian predators, and when they are out flying they are naive and ignorant to avian threats and will eventually loiter on a roof or something similar, and end up being an easy target no matter how you look at it. So unfortunately, it's just a dice roll when you let them out, plain and simple. And, at least where I live in Michigan, when the hawks migrate it's so bad that I don't let them out at all from about mid October through the end of February.

That being said, picking a breed can change the risk, but not eliminate it. Tumblers/rollers are notorious for being easy targets, as their rolling and tumbling naturally attracts predators. Homers are super fast flyers and can easily out fly a hawk, but are no match for a hawk or falcon that targets them loitering on a roof and dives on them. Ornamental breeds like fantails IMO are a great choice because they rarely fly much farther away from your yard, and hawks rarely will encroach on your yard with you present or a dog present. If you opt for a fantail, I would strongly consider the garden variety that is not so altered in physique that it cannot fly (i.e., retains it's natural bird shape to some degree so it actually can fly a bit), but rather is just a homer shaped pigeon with a fan tail. This type of fantail should be somewhat easy to find.

Another way to reduce the likelihood of losses is to keep common and drab colors. For one reason or another, the blue bars and blue checks with white rumps (common homer, common feral type) are targeted less than some of the obscure and cool colors. All white pigeons are the easiest targets. There has been some research that avian predators will seek out and target off colored pigeons in a flock, i.e., a flock of mostly blues will have its few reds or white birds targeted more easily.
Thats understandable. A fantail seems like a good fit as well. I will see if I have any in my area. Thank you so much.
 
Oct 18, 2018
3,042
12,679
607
GREAT post! Well done! There were a few things I disagree with.
All white pigeons are the easiest targets.
this has not been my case. Although this is commonly heard, I'm not sure why. You see, the white birds DO attract more hawks, but once the hawks have examined the flock before making the attack, they opt for the natural colored food, as that is the 'safest' option. A pure white bird isn't something seen in the wild, so they will choose a weaker, smaller, younger, natural colored bird.

I have had 8 hawk attacks total. some have resulted in kills, others not. 6\8 of them have been blue bars\checks attacked, the other white one just happened a few days ago. As It was the only one on the ground. The seven natural colored birds that have been attacked were flying with white birds, except for 2 of them.
Ornamental breeds like fantails IMO are a great choice because they rarely fly much farther away from your yard, and hawks rarely will encroach on your yard with you present or a dog present.
Interesting! My hawks here are braver. They will hang on the Windows while I'm in the loft, and they know I'm there! All but a few of the attacks I have been standing out there. The others I witnessed while watching inside. You see, they don't care if you're there. The most we can do legally is scare them.and they can fly and we cant, so it doesn't even scare them that much! Fantails are hawk bait. Fantails don't stand a chance against a hawk, even if there ten feet from you. They take several second to get in the air, there that weak!

Again, the off-colored birds attract the hawks, but once there, the hawks will choose a natural colored options. If there are none, they will give it a try. So in a flock of fantails, there are no natural looking options, so they will choose any of them.
 

Tedster0219

In the Brooder
Aug 4, 2020
39
57
40
As for training your birds, I'm going to paste an explanation I sent to a guy who I gave some squeakers to for him to start a loft. I hope it helps!


Below is some explanation of how you can settle and train your young birds in two main training stages.

As I mentioned, you really have to build an aviary. With young birds not born in your loft, you already sort of have the odds stacked against you in terms of losses, so you want everything going in your favor. You'll also want to build a settling cage and landing platform, which is simply a removable cage that you can place over the bob door. It is extremely difficult to train young birds with out them.

First step, settle the birds. I would plan on a 2-3 week settling period, where you do not let them out. This is a time for them to get used to the loft, and download images of the surroundings by viewing from the aviary and settling cage. Ideally, your bob door and settling cage will sit just above your aviary, thereby making the top of the aviary your landing board, but it's not a big deal if you can't build it like that, it just makes it easier if it is. Once you notice your birds freely entering the aviary on their own to look around at their surroundings, I'd let them continue to do that for about a week. At each interval of this training process, your birds are memorizing what they are looking at, literally "downloading" images into their photographic memory of what "home" is. Next, train them to use whatever door (be it a bob door or open door) you want them to be able to enter in and out of the loft with by using a settling cage over it (i.e., the cage covers the outside so they are able to go in and out of the door, but they won't escape because the settling cage blocks them). Do this for another week. (If you use one-way bobs, at first keep the bob wires all the way up, then after a few days drop just one bob wire, get them used to that (it gets them used to touching the metal as they go in and out), then drop a few more bob wires, until you get them to the point where you can drop all of them, at which point you'll actually have to place them into the settling cage from outside since they can't get in with all bob wires down--at this point, they will be forced to use the full bob door in order to get back in the loft. That's also the reason you want to build a small door on the outside of your settling cage.) Make sure you have evidence that all of them understand how to exit and re-enter, and also have evidence that each youngster has spent some time in the settling cage. If just one bird isn't confident using the bobs, that could keep that bird outside in the future, and may be lost. If you notice some aren't going in there, you might step in and put them in yourself, forcing them to learn to re-enter the loft through the bobs.

Second, first freedom. Next, you should let them out by simply opening the door. This is very important. With birds born in your loft, you should be at this stage early enough that they aren't strong on the wing enough just to take off, but since you got young birds elsewhere, you need to be careful since they WILL be strong on the wing. I recommend soaping their wings the first 2-3 times you give them freedom (see YouTube vids of it, just a light soap and water solution in a 5 gal bucket, dunk their wings for 20-30 seconds until soaked). Because you have to do this, you can choose whether you soap the wings and place them back in side and let them exit on their own time, or you can simply place them on the landing board yourself, right after you're done soaping their wings. With wet, soapy wings, stead of being able to fly, they should just flutter about. They likely won't have the confidence to just take off yet, but if they did there is a good chance they'll fly too far and not come back. They will likely stay on your landing board (you should have a landing board attached to your loft entry), or at most hang on the roof of your loft. This is good, because they continue to download images of home, as well as get bearings of where the door is when they flutter about their surroundings. After a few days you'll notice they might go a bit further, such as the telephone wires or maybe the roof of your home if it's close to your loft (but sometimes they may stick around for a week or so, just be patient, it's different for each bird). Keep letting them out (evening, with 2-3 hours of light left of the day is best) each evening until you start noticing they gain confidence to fly around fast around your loft. Then experiment with giving them more like 4-6 hours of time out there. You know you're ready for basic training to be over once you notice that they disappear out of sight for more than 30 minutes or so, and still come back to home, at which point you can be pretty sure they have become dialed in and are ready to be true homers. This is because they have flown up high and literally downloaded images of everything, for miles, or at least should have. At this point, if you want to, they should be ready to be trained on tosses at 1 mile, 2 miles, 5 miles, 10, 20 and so on. For safe measures, you might loft fly them a few more times, but in theory, after one trip of disappearing for some time, they should be ready for tosses. If loft flying is all you want to do, you can just keep doing that with them. If you want to train them on tosses and use them in traps for dog training remotely, away from home, make sure at each mile interval you do a few tosses as a group, and then also release them in singles a few minutes apart from each other, so they have individual confidence flying alone, because when you use them in the dog training traps, they will be released individually, so they should be ready for it.

So, basically it is this:
(1) settle to aviary and settling cage
(2) train to use bob doors
(3) train to sit on landing board and observe, without being strong on wing
(4) train to loft fly strong on wing
(5) train remote tosses

Even with what I've said above, even if you do it all right, you might still have some losses. It happens. My experience also is that losses are greater if you get the birds from another loft and they aren't born in your loft, even if you get them at the right age where they still have the yellow fuzzy down feathers on them. But the above steps should greatly mitigate losses. I would avoid flying much past September, unless it is in your yard and you have them trained to trap back quickly, as hawks get bad, and stay bad through winter. End your year with at least 4 or so so you can have babies in the spring and really get things going.
Thank you so much for putting time out of your day for this. This is truly helpful. This all seems pretty doable and I can't wait to put it into practice.
 

Tedster0219

In the Brooder
Aug 4, 2020
39
57
40
GREAT post! Well done! There were a few things I disagree with.
this has not been my case. Although this is commonly heard, I'm not sure why. You see, the white birds DO attract more hawks, but once the hawks have examined the flock before making the attack, they opt for the natural colored food, as that is the 'safest' option. A pure white bird isn't something seen in the wild, so they will choose a weaker, smaller, younger, natural colored bird.

I have had 8 hawk attacks total. some have resulted in kills, others not. 6\8 of them have been blue bars\checks attacked, the other white one just happened a few days ago. As It was the only one on the ground. The seven natural colored birds that have been attacked were flying with white birds, except for 2 of them.

Interesting! My hawks here are braver. They will hang on the Windows while I'm in the loft, and they know I'm there! All but a few of the attacks I have been standing out there. The others I witnessed while watching inside. You see, they don't care if you're there. The most we can do legally is scare them.and they can fly and we cant, so it doesn't even scare them that much! Fantails are hawk bait. Fantails don't stand a chance against a hawk, even if there ten feet from you. They take several second to get in the air, there that weak!

Again, the off-colored birds attract the hawks, but once there, the hawks will choose a natural colored options. If there are none, they will give it a try. So in a flock of fantails, there are no natural looking options, so they will choose any of them.
I see…I guess I'll have to lock my birds up for the bad seasons and just hope for the best. In the end if I lose a bird It'll be sad but I will have prepared myself. I'm going into the hobby knowing the risk '\_('-')_/'.
 
Oct 18, 2018
3,042
12,679
607
I see…I guess I'll have to lock my birds up for the bad seasons and just hope for the best. In the end if I lose a bird It'll be sad but I will have prepared myself. I'm going into the hobby knowing the risk '\_('-')_/'.
that's a great attitude! so you decided you are going to fly them?
 

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