Beginner guide for pigeon keeping
Pigeons have been one of man’s closest associates for centuries as they perform many useful functions in laboratory and research purposes.
In ancient times, the pigeons were used to carry messages especially in times of war flying from ships to nearby land areas; at times they would be engaged in rescue work.
Some pigeons have varieties that have been selected for their fancy colors and interesting appearances. Other pigeons have been selected for their endurance and homing instinct; hence, pigeons enjoy considerable popularity among persons of all ages and walks of life.
Pigeons readily adapt themselves to living under a variety of conditions because they are easily tamed; the noise they make is not loud or harsh which makes it easier to keep them in places like towns, cities and urban areas. Be well informed before embarking on keeping pigeons and should know what you will be breeding them for.
Pigeons are currently bred for:
- Meat production – for the keeper to get tender and very soft meat, it is best to dress the birds when it’s 28 – 30 days of age. Even the body weight is usually very good. Pigeons older than this are already leaving the nest and flight free; making their body weight to decrease and the flesh becomes solid.
- Exhibition and shows – pigeon breeding is usually a hobby, but it can also be a sport; to further the interest in pigeons as a hobby and to establish the competition necessary to make it a true sport, exhibitions and shows are valuable and necessary.
- Racing and homing
Pigeons require little space and can be obtained at reasonable cost; so a good supply of nesting material should be provided for the pigeons.
This could be short straw or coarse hay in short lengths; the best material is tobacco stems because the stems prevent insects from being harboured in the nests; another option would be to use nest boxes made from wood which are easy to construct.
Depending on the number of pigeon pairs to keep, the size will be determined by that number. Have at least 2 nests for each pair and for inception of pigeon farming at least have a nest box sized at 12 inches² (77.4 cm²) which could be mounted on the wall; spacing the nest boxes by 1 foot (30.5 cm) apart.
Another option would be to construct a large pen that is compartmentalized.
pigeons mate in pairs and remain paired to each other for life; when they have gone through the courting stage and mated, they are ready to build a nest and hatch.
They remain true to each other as long as they live or when allowed to remain together.
When it happens that the pigeon mate dies, it will mate with others but it is done cautiously because the consistency would be broken.
Ensure that pigeons purchased are in pairs and preferably a pair with a history of mating. The dealer should show records of the bird’s mating history or rather insist on purchasing an already mating pairs for breeding.
When the male has selected the female he desires for his mate, then it struts around his favourite by cooing her; evidently trying to show her what a grand bird he is. If the female is attracted by the wooer, becomes friendly with him then they bill each other as if exchanging kisses.
When the hen finally lays an egg, she will miss a day and lay again. As soon as the first egg is laid then incubation begins; the hen will occupy the nest from morning until late afternoon, then the cock will take over from that time till the next day at the same time as when the hen left the nest.
How To Raise Pigeons The cock incubates while his mate eats and rests; the breeding process is continuous as the hen will lay eggs in another nest that is why it is best to have quite a number of nest boxes.
Incubation will last for about 17 days until the first egg hatches; usually about 24 hours later another one hatches. The pair can incubate and feed in different nests because the hen can lay eggs up to
The younger birds will sometimes dominate so much that the younger nest mate is deprived of food.
Feeding and water facilities for squabs and pigeons
The old birds begin immediately to feed the young and they grow rapidly. The young (which are known as squabs) are kept well filled by their parents with a fluid called “Pigeon Milk” (which is a combination of secretions from the parents’ crops which is later on augmented by partially digested feed). On this diet the young seem to literally grow while you watch them.
Pigeons’ diet is simple; a mixture of whole grains, some good hard grit and plenty of fresh, clean water is all that is required.
The feed, grit and water should be placed in containers spaced some distance apart; and these containers should be made so that very little, if any, dirt or filth can get into the feed and water.
Pellets are specially made for pigeons; they are pressed clumps of a mixture of finely ground grains and other food particles. Pigeon keepers are warned that feeding pigeon only pellets will make them produce loose droppings.
When you decide to employ cafeteria feeding style (that is placing each feed ingredient in a separate container), it allows the bird to choose and satisfy its own desires. For beginners, it would be best to employ the cafeteria style feeding which prevent waste feeders.
Feeders or other receptacles for pigeon feed must be kept protected from the weather which means they should be placed inside coop or pen rather than outside.
The Group Breeds
- Homers, Rollers, Tumblers – Sporting
- King, Carneau, Mondain, Hungarian – Utility
- Fantails, Jacobins, Modenas, Frills, Pouters, Owls, Trumpters – Fancy.