How (and why) raise pigeons

Discussion in 'Pigeons and Doves' started by CARS, Jul 26, 2009.

  1. CARS

    CARS Songster

    Pigeons... I went to a fellow BYCer's "hobby farm" on Friday to pick up some silkie chicks. She had some of the most beautiful pigeons I have ever seen. I love the sound they make and can't get it out of my head.

    So this morning I have been trying to do some searching on the subject. Not a whole lot of clear, concise information so I thought I would start a new thread.

    What are some of your uses of pigeons? How do you house them?? What do you feed them??? Do they "stay home" if allowed to come and go out of a loft???? Any other questions I should be asking?????

    Last edited: Jul 26, 2009
    Rezbird likes this.
  2. Mary Of Exeter

    Mary Of Exeter Songster

    Apr 10, 2009
    Rowan County, NC
    There are many uses for pigeons. They lay eggs of course, so those are edible, although they do not just spit them out like chickens. They lay two to a clutch, and must be given time to recover and get some more calcium in them before laying again (if you take the first eggs).
    There are utility breeds like Kings and Carneaux that grow big squabs, which are a delicacy in most countries.
    Me? I race mine [​IMG] I love my racers (homing pigeons), and the sport is quite enjoyable.
    Another thing you can do with homers, is the white dove release business. You need pure white homing pigeons, but they don't have to be racing or show quality by any means. They just have to be smart and have the homing ability to get home from the church.
    You can also show any of the hundreds of recognized breeds.
    Many people simply keep them as a backyard pleasure; no competition intended. But there a lot of neat breeds to choose from. Like Rollers, who execute several continuous backflips in flight, before straightening up and fluttering off again. There are also Parlor Tumblers/Rollers who roll in the same way, but on the ground. They'll tumble down your lawn for several feet/yards.

    If you're only planning on getting one or two birds, they can easily be kept in something like an outdoor rabbit hutch. In fact, I have one now that I use as a breeding cage for one of my pairs.
    If you'd like to have more than that, or allow your pair to raise babies (cause they gotta go somewhere, right?), then it's best to keep them in a loft. Basically a chicken coop with an aviary stuck on the front of it.
    Here's a picture of my first loft, which used to be a chicken coop ( the small section where you enter, is still used for the chickens to get in and roost/lay eggs.)

    Basically anything will work, as long as they have enough room, some perches, nest boxes for the pairs, good ventilation but not so much to where it gets drafty. Sounds a lot like what chickens need huh? [​IMG] The aviary added on the front lets them get some sun and fresh air, without it being on the ground where things can bother them or they might pick up parasites. They love aviaries, but it isn't required of course.

    As for what to feed them, I feed a pigeon mix made by Brown's.
    Pigeon pellets also work (chicken pellets are fine if no pigeon feed is available around you). Wild bird seed mixed with scratch feed would work as well. But what is really important is the grit. They need a mix of crushed oyster shell (for calcium) and crushed granite (for digestion aid) at least. We get red pigeon grit, which has all of that, plus charcoal bits for a healthy system, and coated in a pink supplement. Some people have red grit locally, others have a hard time finding it. But if you're close to someone with pigeons, chances are, they can help you out a lot with where to find what.

    No matter what breed, pigeons will come home to roost, eat, drink, and lay, like chickens do when allowed to free range. Homing pigeons are the only exception IF they are too old to be re-settled to your loft. If you choose homing pigeons, get some under 5 months old. Birds 1-2 months old are the best age, since you'll only have to keep them as 'prisoners' for 2 or 3 weeks until you can let them out. Birds over 3 months, should be kept in for a month before releasing. And those over 5 months can be very iffy. It's best to play it safe in that situation, and use them as breeders, flying the babies.
    Any other breed can also be released after 2 weeks of settling inside the loft, no matter what age they are. But with all flying breeds, it is best to get them as young as possible. Older birds will be "strong on the wing", meaning as soon as they come out, they're gonna want to fly a lot. In a new home, they may accidentally fly too much, too far, and get lost. But with younger birds, they won't be as flighty, and by the time they get flying good, they'll have their surrounding memorized so they won't get lost as easily [​IMG]
    Most fancy/show breeds don't fly much, especially the big bulky feathered ones, or those with big tails (fantails) or big muffs on their feet. So any age is safe for them, since they won't fly a whole lot anyways (or well, not very far. They'll flutter about the yard though [​IMG] )!

    One thing I would like to point out though. Hawks love pigeons. Even more than they love chickens. That's probably because pigeons are smaller than most chickens, and they fly, so therefore a larger variety of hawks can more easily catch them, plus they get the thrill of chasing them in the air.
    With homing pigeons, all hawks will have some issues catching them, simply because they are so fast! But the smaller, woodland hawks like Coopers and Sharp-shins, are masters of sneaking up on pigeons and catching them off guard.
    Fancy pigeons basically have no chance against a hawk normally.
    So because of that, it isn't advised to let your birds loft fly (fly around the loft as they please) all day, but rather for maybe an hour in the morning, and an hour in the afternoon. The rest of the time, or any time you are not able to be outdoors keeping watch, they should be inside the loft where they're safe. It's best to feed them twice a day (morning, afternoon), and release the birds to exercise before you feed them. That way when it's time to come in, and they hear the food hit the pan, they'll come running because they're hungry. Makes it a whole lot easier to trap the birds in when they're on the hungry side.
    Amos-Moses, Tuhmu, Rezbird and 4 others like this.
  3. Mary Of Exeter

    Mary Of Exeter Songster

    Apr 10, 2009
    Rowan County, NC
    Oh and....just to let you know...when it comes to answering pigeon questions, I tend to answer them to the best of my ability, which can get a bit lengthy in order to tell you everything I think you should know. So it may look long and too much trouble, but really keeping pigeons isn't much more complicated or hardwork than keeping chickens [​IMG]
    Depending on what you're aiming for, you may be in for more time, money, or work than is needed, but you're in control of that. If you want champs in showing or racing, of course that would require a little more on your part that just keeping them for the fun of it.
  4. CARS

    CARS Songster

    Wow! Thanks for taking the time for such a great write-up [​IMG]

    That is exactly the advice I was looking for.

    When I referred to a loft, I was talking about my barn's 35'x65' hay loft. I only use a portion of it for hay and before I replaced all the broken windows I use to have wild pigeons flying in and out all day long. They could/would have alot of fly space but it would be indoors. Not sure if that is healthy or not.

    Racing Homers are released a few miles away and find their way home right? That sounds like fun for the family!

    There are hawks around the county. Not too many around my farm, but I see them on my drive to work all the time.

    Are there any good books on pigeons or should I just keep reading on the forum?
  5. Lady_Cluck

    Lady_Cluck Songster

    Jul 17, 2009
    Northern Illinois
    Years ago, I had around 20 roller pigeons. They were a blast to watch tumble and dive as they flew through the air together. And I would often get people pulling up in my driveway to ask about "all those birds flying circles over the house"!


    For the most part, they took care of themselves. They had free range of the yard and rooftops, flew all they wanted during the day, and at night they would return to the barn and perch in the uppermost rafters (move fast and don't look up!).



    I put nest boxes up in the rafters and they would hatch their young and go about their own thing. For food, I would lay out some pigeon feed...but most often they would just eat the chickens' food (and the chickens would find a way to eat their food, funny how that always works). The pigeons loved corn, and would fly right down in to my lap to eat it. Quite a few of them were very tame, and I loved it how they would circle my head and shoulders and fly around and around me just to let me know "Hey, I'm here! Pay attention to me!"

    They also love water. I would put out a few small pans of water in the yard and they would drop whatever they were doing to play in the water. They would splish and splash like ducks! When it rained, they would sit on the rooftops, lay on their sides, and raise a wing -- taking a shower, I guess! It always made me laugh!


    Mary Of Exeter is right, though: hawks LOVE pigeons. I had most of my hawk problems when I had pigeons. During the winter, I would leave the barn doors shut so the pigeons couldn't get out...they hated this, but in the cold the hawks were even hungrier for pigeons.

    Still, even with the threat of hawks, they were some of the most enjoyable, entertaining creatures that have ever let me take care of them. I hope you get some and see for yourself! [​IMG]
    stuckinthecity and jak2002003 like this.
  6. seedcorn

    seedcorn Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    NE. IN
    I started w/rollers. Nothing in world to compare to a kit that performs in unison a roll. Hawks were terrible so I got out.

    Then we had helmits; their personality was great but once again hawks cleaned me out as I free flew them.

    Thinking about white homers but I want them to free fly and I hate hawks.

    Hawks do love to eat pigeons.......
  7. I was delighted to see this post. Just had a young fellow telling me about his racing pigeons, and that he would help me and my 8 year old get in the racing club and give us our first pigeons to get us started. . .sounds like so much fun!!! Who else races? I also think raising Doves for weddings and the like would be a blast too!!! I love messing with stuff like this, and we have soooooo many weddings around here and the surrounding area, that i bet it would take off too!!!!
  8. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    When I referred to a loft, I was talking about my barn's 35'x65' hay loft

    You have room for about 500 birds!

    Here's where I keep my King Pigeons. They are quite tasty, as well as pretty to look at:





    I had about 40 last time I counted​
  9. CARS

    CARS Songster

    Quote:You have room for about 500 birds!

    Ya, well lets not go that far [​IMG]

    But does anyone have a great idea for a space that big? The ceiling is probably 25' high.

    Also, how exactly does the release and capture work? I see the wire doors for them to get in but I keep reading of automatic releases and other training devises.

    (I bet Mary has a link or two on loft products [​IMG] )
  10. Sillystunt

    Sillystunt Master of the Silly

    Jul 11, 2008
    Winter Haven, FL
    Do you have to let them fly? Can they be in a avairy and fly around in that? I love them but we have tons of hawks here in FL!! I say ones that were a irredescent blue, beautiful birds and he liked the lady said, he did [​IMG]
    biophiliac likes this.

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