Every day dozens of pigeons can be seen in the streets. Some fear them, others adore them, and finally, some decide to have a pigeon as a pet. But is it as simple as it seems to raise and care for a pigeon?
Types of pigeons
European turtle dove
Turkish turtle dove
Spotted turtle dove
What exactly are pigeons like?
Pigeons have had a close relationship with humans for many years. With its 32 cm long, from beak to tail, and a weight of 0.35 kg ., This animal has been used as a carrier pigeon, as a symbol of peace, and as a faithful companion for human beings.
It is an animal whose behavior is usually calm. The most normal thing is that the ones that are seen in the cities are the rock pigeon, a species that is believed to be in danger of its purity due to the multiple crossings it has suffered over the years.
Despite being an animal that does not respond to threats from humans, the same cannot be said of other animals. When there is food in between, they are very violent with each other or with other smaller birds, such as pigeons. This has caused a large decline in some species of some birds, including the pigeons themselves.
Many believe that they also have a very “heavy” character because when someone feeds them, they like to follow that person in search of more food or go to the area where they were fed to get more food. For this reason, they were prohibited in many cities to feed them.
Is it advisable to breed several pigeons together?
In some countries, such as the United States, pigeons are raised from birth in lofts that are located on some buildings. Although these in recent years are disappearing.
At first, pigeons that have been raised in captivity do not usually have the violent feeling of hurting other companions when trying to get food. However, some species of pigeons have a dominant gene, so it is not surprising that when the two species mix they end up facing each other.
But they don’t just fight over food. Two male pigeons can end up facing each other for trying to match a female. Similarly, two female pigeons could fight to get the attention of a single male. So you have to choose the sex of the pigeon very carefully before putting them together in a cage.
How can you tell the sex of a pigeon?
Not all birds are so easy to distinguish. In the case of pigeons, what you have to do is look at the genitals. For example, females have the exit of the left oviduct similar to a ridged mouth of a large diameter, especially if they have previously laid an egg. In the case of males, they have two small red beaks in the area, 1 to 3 mm long.
But after laying eggs, it is possible to determine the sex of the young. An example is that most of the time, the first egg that the female lays is that of the male, with a success rate of no more than 50 %. If the egg is more pointed at one end, this means that it is male. The reason is that being the first, the dilation of the cloaca costs more, which is why it has such a characteristic shape.
In the case of having a pigeon and not knowing its sex from the genital organs, the two fingers at the end can be joined. In the case that these are the same, it will mean that it is a female, but if they are of different lengths, it will mean that it is a male.
When they are young, it is a little easier to differentiate their sex. According to experts, after seven days of life, the roundest chicks are females due to their “sexuality”. But the most famous trick is to wait until the pigeon is three or four weeks old. The chick is placed on the hand, holding its legs, and the chick is gently stretched by the beak. In the case of raising the tail, it is a female, but if the tail is raised, it is a male. This system has a 99% success rate compared to other methods.
Seeing your body shape and behavior also helps you figure out your gender. As in most birds, the males are slightly larger than the females, having a more robust body and a different head shape. Also, the sound made by males is longer and they open their tails in a semicircle at the mating season, while females puff up their plumage. But when it comes to behavior, males often peck at the heads of females, which helps to distinguish them when they are in a large group.
How should the pigeon cage be?
Ideally, the pigeon should be raised in a loft, but not everyone has enough space for it. So you have to raise them in a cage or a modular loft if you want to have different birds. Although, if you have a large garden, you can build a large home loft to keep all the birds inside.
In the case of a single pigeon, a 60 × 50 cage will suffice, 50 × 50 in the case of a pigeon. They should have enough space for you to move your wings. Although if you have enough space, a 100 × 60 loft is better so that you can move inside it.
If you are going to dedicate yourself to breeding, the loft will be large enough to have an apartment for the pigeons that are going to be raised, the youngsters, a third for the males that have been widowed, and another for the females. This will avoid fights and problems with the youngsters while they are growing.
It is necessary to place both grids that separate the different compartments and with the floor, as well as on the walls. The grates should not have very large holes. It is not that the pigeons are going to escape, but if the material of this is not very good if they can tear it little by little with their legs to try to flee.
Once the loft has been chosen, you have to start decorating the interior so that the pigeon feels comfortable inside. Lots of perches are needed, as pigeons really like to perch on you. It is best to remove the ones that come in the cage, since they are not of very good quality, and buy a flat hanger 6 cm long, another made of rope cloth about 2 cm in diameter, and several wooden hangers. All these perches must be located at different heights so that the pigeon exercises within the pigeon. Under no circumstances should mirrors or objects that can reflect be placed inside, as this seriously damages the vision of the pigeons and makes them very nervous.
Near the cage, if the pigeon is going to spend a long time inside, an ionizer and air filter must be installed, which will help to collect the fine dust that the pigeons expel and that can irritate the lungs of people when coming into contact with these birds in your loft.
Pigeons are an animal that lives in warm temperatures, between 18 and 24 degrees, or 65 and 75ºF. For this reason, you will have to install some device that allows you to control the temperature of the area where the pigeon is so that it does not die from frozen or from heat. When summer arrives, a small fountain can be installed inside the loft for the pigeon to cool off. If there are several pigeons in the loft, then you must have at least two. But if the pigeons are trained, you can take them out and let them cool off by themselves in the garden fountain, then they will go back to the cage by themselves.
Choosing to have the cage outside is the best, but whether you are at home or away from it, it is advisable to cover the floor with newspaper or something similar to help make the task of cleaning the base of the loft easier.
Deciding which pigeons to breed is difficult, as this will require the construction of a nest. There are many tutorials on the net, and you can even find artificial nests, but the best thing is to give the pigeons everything they may need inside the loft so that they can place it themselves. To make their task easier, inside the loft there should be a few bricks up high since there will be where they will place their nest.
The drinker must be large, installed outside the cage, and with a large capacity so that the pigeon always has water at its disposal. Although the water will have to be changed very often, especially in summer, since pigeons do not like hot water.
Where should you locate the loft?
Locating a bird like a pigeon can be a real headache. If you only have one, you have to place it in a quiet room where no one is going to disturb it. You have to leave food and water for three weeks and stop from time to time to see how it is, but without manipulating or disturbing it, because they are easily stressed when being in an unfamiliar environment. After this time, you may already be able to establish direct contact with her.
Already accustomed to the human being, it is best to place her in a room where social life is carried out so that she interacts with the environment. It must be in an area wherein the morning the sun rays slightly but it is also a warm area at night so that it does not get cold, as one of the main causes of death of these animals is death by freezing.
At all costs avoid putting them near lamps or televisions, because, like most birds, the flashes that these devices give off are harmful to the eyes and this could cause the pigeon to become violent. In the case of having other animals, special care must be taken that the pigeon is within their reach. Yes, many pigeons get along well with cats and dogs, but these are usually cases in which the pigeon has had contact with the animal since birth. However, when acquiring an older specimen, it is better to be cautious.
If you are thinking of installing a loft outside, just look for an area that is neither very warm in the morning nor very cold at night. Assemble the loft, give him the necessary toys so that he can entertain himself inside and that’s it. You should avoid light areas such as outdoor lamps or that are located near roads, as the sound of traffic can make you nervous. It is best to opt for the back garden.
What do pigeons eat?
Many mistakenly believe that pigeons feed on breadcrumbs. A bad habit created by humans when feeding these animals in the park. But the truth is that this is the last thing these birds should eat.
As a general rule, domestic pigeons have to be fed with a mixture of different types of cereals, legumes, and oilseeds, although they can also be given other types of food. As a general rule, pigeons eat around 30 gr. grain daily, an amount that can increase during their breeding season, both in food and water. Special care must be taken with the quantity since pigeons tend to get fat quickly, so the quantity of food must be weighed so that it is just and necessary.
Like all animals, pigeons require a daily diet, in just the right amount. But if it cannot be fed daily, it is better to make a small feeding system with which the pigeon eats the right amount day by day inside the loft.
It must be taken into account that pigeons go through many phases throughout their lives, especially if they are raised with other birds of the same species, which requires that at each moment of this they be given special food for that stage. Sometimes it is not easy, as in the case of pigeons. Chicks are usually separated from their parents or nurses when they are 25 days old, more or less. This is when they begin to feed on their first grains. The problem is that they are very vulnerable, so access to feeders and drinkers must be made easy for them so that they can easily find the place to feed. It is possible that during the first days it is necessary to help them to eat if it is seen that they are not doing it for themselves so that they learn.
Now, what kind of food should be given to the pigeons?
Cereals: Wheat is the basic food of these birds, with a nutritional value of 76%. Wheat grains have to be plump, regardless of their fatness, having a reddish color. In times when the pigeon has a lot of wear and tear, it is advisable to bet on this type of food.
Dari should be second on the list, with a food value of 80%. It is also known by the name of sorghum and is one of the favorite foods of pigeons. Of course, one of the foods that most help pigeons must not be forgotten; barley. With a food value of 74%, this food helps digestion and rest the digestive system. It has to be heavy and short. It is also good to feed it with oats, with a nutritional value of 63.50%, since its minerals help them to stay healthy, as well as being convenient for the birds’ rest periods. From time to time it is also good to feed them a little rice for its food value of 82%.
Legumes: Although legumes cannot be the basis of the diet for pigeons, they are necessary since they are rich in albumins, a substance that transforms and develops the muscle and feathers of pigeons. They are especially necessary during the growth of the young.
Broad beans and peas, with a nutritional value of over 70%, are just what they need to aid in evacuation especially if one notices that the pigeon is constipated. From time to time it is good to feed the bird one of these foods to help its digestive system to function properly.
In the case of choosing the carob to feed the pigeon, you have to choose those that are gray in color, due to their small size. Although they can also be given a little medium size. Lentils are also very good for their food value of 73.6%. It is best if they are brown or dark brick in color since they are the ones that provide the body with the most nutrients.
Oilseeds: Actually, this type of food should be used as a supplement and not as a food, since excessive consumption of this can affect the liver of the pigeon. But it is important for its great nutritional value.
Among those that can be given to pigeons are hemp, rapeseed, and flax, with a nutritional value greater than 30%. All these must be given in small quantities, since pigeons do not ingest them very well, despite how healthy they are for them. Consuming too much can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea. It is also good to give them some sunflower seeds, but that the grains are striated and small in size.
How should pigeon feed be distributed?
As previously mentioned, the feeding of pigeons will depend on the stage of their life in which they are. If the pigeon is a newcomer or is a pigeon, it is necessary to mix in a 1 kg. 25% legumes (especially peas, carob beans, and lentils), along with 30% corn, 25% wheat, 5% barley, and 15% are. All this well mixed must be fed in the right amount (not exceeding 30% daily).
How they will also need oilseeds to stay healthy, you have to give them 5% of these with their diet. Once the chicks have grown a little, with 10 days, the legumes can be increased to 40% of the total amount, but if it is in the weaning process it shouldn’t exceed 25% of the total.
At the end of the summer, they will begin with the feather molt, their diet must be composed of 25% legumes (especially beans and peas) with 65% bowls of cereal (corresponding to 30% corn, 25% wheat, and a 10% root) and 10% oilseeds such as sunflower.
But when winter is over, which is the end of their molt, their diet should be made up of 10% legumes, 80% bowls of cereal, and 10% oilseeds. At this time of year, it is best to feed them once a day.
What other foods can be given to pigeons?
Indeed, it is not highly recommended to give food to pigeons as bread, but there is another series of foods that are very good for pigeons, due to their nutrients and minerals.
One of these is vegetables. In their natural state, pigeons are granivorous, but they also eat vegetables. In this case, their diet is based on leaves, tender stems, and some flowers that start with their beak. When keeping them in captivity, give them at least once a week some tender vegetables that are previously chopped. The most normal thing is to feed them with grated lettuce or carrot because they are the easiest to digest. Besides, they help prevent worms and weakening of the eyes.
The garlic, which has always been considered a food with multiple benefits for the body, is also very good for pigeons. Thanks to its high content of sodium, sulfur, and ether, it helps prevent heart, lung, and blood pressure problems and fight against parasites. Of course, you only have to give them a clove of garlic, well minced, a week. At most two.
The lemon, which is usually not highly recommended for many animals, whether it is for pigeons. Especially it must be supplied when the pigeon is sick since the vitamin C it contains helps them fight fatigue, cold, or fight any disease. It is best to squeeze the lemon into the water so that the pigeons can drink it.
The honey completes this list of annexes’ food for pigeons. It is one of the most effective remedies to help treat diseases in pigeons, especially when they suffer from bronchial or throat problems. It is a food that should be given to the pigeons throughout the year, in small quantities, especially during the shedding season so that their feathers look shiny.
The diseases of pigeons
That the pigeon gets sick does not mean that it is a bad caregiver, since some may have a hereditary disease or have “caught” it by a virus. The most common that pigeons can have are:
- Paramyxovirus: It is a virus that infects pigeons. One of the main symptoms is that pigeons drink a lot of water, while they eat very little. Their droppings are watery and over time their wings and legs become paralyzed. They tend to walk backward and present blindness. It is a deadly infection for pigeons.
- Salmonellosis: It is also known as paratyphosis. The pigeon suffers from an intestinal infection, although other organs such as the liver or kidneys are also affected. It especially affects newborn chicks that suffer from stunted or thinning growth.
- Trichomoniasis: Due to this disease, pigeons lose their vitality, having little desire to fly. Their stools are watery and their throats are red. It is a disease that can affect both adult pigeons and young pigeons. In the case of the latter, an oblique infection is detected in which abscesses form that can spread to their internal organs.
- Ascaridiosis: During the disease, pigeons may present droppings of different consistencies. The appetite at the beginning of the disease will increase, but it will decrease progressively due to the worms that it will have inside. So you have to help her expel them.
- Smallpox: The symptoms that a pigeon can suffer from the disease will depend on the form in which it is presented. If it is in the “quatene” form, smallpox develops due to the passage of the outer skin to the mucosa in the area of the eyes and the beak, but it can also appear on the legs. Removing this smallpox must be avoided at all costs.
- Contagious rimitis: The lead begins to sneeze and suffer the discharge of a nasal fluid that in more severe cases can be viscous and yellow-brown in color. Little by little, you will lose your appetite and the desire to drink water. It will also not shed its skin and it will not fly. Also, the pigeon will scratch its head and nose, keeping its beak open. If the disease is advanced, its deposits will be whitish in color.
Is it advisable to leave the pigeon loose around the house?
Deciding whether or not to let the pigeon loose around the house is an important decision. They are very scary animals, and although they have become used to being related to people, it is possible that they do not cope very well with moving around the home.
Due to its large size, it is not as easy as letting a parakeet or other small bird loose. She may feel overwhelmed by not having enough space to move her wings through the hallways in the room. If you are going to take it out, it better be from the outside, but with a small string that connects it to its owner so that it does not escape, since at first, it may try to escape.
Gaining the trust of the pigeons is a matter of time, so you have to be very patient.
Paint and ring the dove?
Generally, the painting on the feathers of the pigeons is a symbol that the pigeons have participated in some contest, although many owners decide to paint them a little so that they can be distinguished from the others because they decide that they are released throughout the day to interact with other birds for exercise. It is a good idea if you choose to let it fly around the city or the countryside.
Now there is the next part: the ring. The ring is usually used to identify pigeons by a number, although it can also serve to inform that they have an owner. The pigeon must be ringed when they are chicks, between 6 and 8 days old. To do this, the three front fingers have to be joined, they are inserted into the mouth of the ring, and it is passed gently without damaging the animal’s leg. The pigeon will already grow with the ring on its leg and will hardly pay attention to it.
Rings can be a very useful symbol of pigeon recognition for newbies who have decided to have several at home. As a general rule, the information on the ring has the identification of the breeder and its year of birth, but by buying different colors you can differentiate the males from the females or decide which ones are going to be for competition, for breeding, or for simply take captive.
What are the steps to follow to train a pigeon?
Training a pigeon is not impossible, but it does require constant work. Especially if what you are looking for is for it to participate in competitions.
To start training, wait for the first wing feather to change. With this, the training can begin. The first thing is to fly for a kilometer, accompanied by another pigeon that has already flown previously. You have to repeat this process several times until she can do it alone.
With the first step of your training completed, it’s time to double the distance, up to two kilometers. Although she is already used to flying alone, it is good to accompany her with another pigeon, or group of pigeons. With the third time, you have to increase the distance to 5 kilometers, again being able to go alone or with someone. In this way, you have to increase the amount of distance, always double the previous one, until you can travel 100 kilometers.
The number of times you cover the same distance is at the discretion of your trainer. Some pigeons learn quickly and do not need to repeat the same distance several times. But when they are long distances, the best thing is that they get used to it little by little, and especially that the first time they are accompanied so that they have a guide on the journey.
Is there a trick to be successful? According to experts in the field, a series of requirements must be met:
- One month before starting training, the pigeon must have started to fly in the loft, about 10 minutes in the morning and another 10 minutes in the afternoon, without stopping.
- Subsequently, in the 15 days following the month of this exercise, the flight time must be increased to 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon.
- Having already gotten used to this flight time, it is when the loft must be opened for the pigeons to fly. They must be fed when they return.
- The best time to release the pigeons is in the morning, at 7, while in the afternoon it is best to be around four. The hours can be varied, but they are the best times of the day for them to go flying.
Pigeon mating, what is there to know?
Although the best thing for two pigeons to mate and have young is to leave them to their free will, if you want to “manipulate” the process a bit, there are certain tricks that can be used.
The first of all is to choose a male and a female that do not have defects that could impair the breed. You have to check that they are well dewormed with Vermidel S for the interior and with negubon for the interior. Also, give 1/8 of a tablet of Decuazol. Ready, they should be placed in a separate cage when they show mating indications, such as the male running after the female or both stroking each other.
You have to prepare a nest for the male to place in it, and another for the female. When the first signs of “heat” appear, the female must be placed in the male’s nest. If it has been successful, 8 days after mating they will lay the first egg.
The chick will be born at 18 days, and it is time to start working with it. Once it is 8 days old, it must be ringed, to differentiate it from the rest. After 22 days, you have to start lowering it to the ground in the morning and return it to the nest in the afternoon. From 23/24 days, the chick must learn to eat only from the feeder, with a little help from its breeder, because it may continue looking for its mother to feed. That same day it is good to raise it to the roof of the dovecote or the house so that it knows everything that surrounds it.
With 25 days it is time to separate it from its parents’ loft and put it in the pigeon-house, where it will be during the day. In the afternoon it must be returned to its parents’ loft so that they can help it feed. But if the animal is already capable of feeding on its own, it can be definitively transferred to the pigeon loft.
Between 30 and 35 days of life, the pigeon must be able to leave by itself through the loft window and return when it wishes. More or less this is when you have to start evaluating the training of this bird.
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