By Elizabeth Young of Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions
Pet lovers are embracing the joys of adopting dogs and cats from shelters in ever greater numbers, but few people realize how many birds there are in shelters and rescues needing to be adopted.
Pigeons Make Great Pets — And They Need Our Help
I started Palomacy (originally named MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue) in San Francisco, CA when I discovered domestic (unreleasable) pigeons were being killed in shelters for lack of homes. Pigeons such as Kings, Fantails, Tumblers and Homers are smart, beautiful and gentle birds. They’ve been selectively bred and tamed and, while they can’t survive in the wild, they thrive as pets. Many pigeons (and other birds as well) wind up in animal shelters, either surrendered or found as strays, but they need adopters to get out alive.
Pigeons make great pets both indoors as part of the family or outside in a rodent and predator-proof aviary.
Pigeons as Pets in an Outdoor Aviary
Rescued pigeons can’t be safely flown (they are easy targets for hawks and cats) and so, when outside, must be protected in an aviary. It needs to be predator-proof (sturdy and securely built all the way around including top and bottom), rodent-proof (use 16 gauge or better hardware mesh with openings half inch or smaller) and include a sheltered corner that will stay shady on the hottest days and dry during the rainiest. No one has ever wished for a smaller aviary so make it as big as possible. Minimum size for four birds would be at least 6 feet long by 4 feet deep and 6 feet high.
Pigeons excel at the leisure arts and spend their time bathing, preening, lounging in the sun, foraging for favorite seeds, watching the sky, napping, showing off and courting. Every four to five weeks, mated couples will lay a pair of eggs (which need to be replaced withfake eggs for pigeon birth control) and take turns sitting on them. Pigeons are extremely devoted to their family and mate for life. They require fresh food and water and a quick poop-scrape daily and a thorough aviary cleaning weekly. Pigeons are beautiful, peaceful and full of personality. With time and attention, most can be hand-tamed. All can be befriended. It’s easy to create a charming, attractive and safe aviary for rescued pigeons.
Pigeons as Indoor Pets
Pigeons can also live inside with the family. They need a big cage for their home base (a double-flight cage or an extra large dog kennel is a good size for a pair) with daily out-of-cage time to stretch their legs and wings and have some fun. They’ll walk around more than fly and will pick out some favorite spots for hanging out. Pigeons are smart, easy going birds that quickly learn household routines. They do fine in homes with other pets and can live peacefully and unafraid with dogs and cats as long as they are kept safe. Pigeons are very emotional and do need a BFF, whether another bird or a human with whom they can spend the day. (Home all alone in a cage isn’t a good life for a pigeon.)
Using Pigeon Pants for Indoor Birds
The main inconvenience to having pigeons as indoor pets is probably their droppings. Healthy pigeon poop is odorless and not too hard to manage with hardwood or tile floors or with strategic placement of liners. Pigeons can also be potty trained or they can wear pigeon pants! Pigeon pants are adorable little harnesses with a diaper to catch droppings. The pants are easy to put on and pigeons tolerate them well. Once dressed, they can walk and fly around the house and sit on laps and shoulders poop-free. The diaper, lined with half a panty-liner, should to be changed every 3 hours.
Share the Word: Pigeons Need and Deserve Good Homes
I absolutely adore hearing my pet pigeon Frances pitter-pattering around the house on his little pink feet. He’ll do his own thing for a while (lounging in the sun or strutting in front of a mirror) and then come looking for me and always brings me a smile when he comes.
There are lots and lots of beautiful, sweet, innocent domestic pigeons like Frances in need of homes. Lacking survival skills, they cannot be released into the wild and, if they aren’t adopted, they are killed. Please share this story with everybody you know. Most people are completely unaware of the plight of birds in shelters.
Additional materials on pigeons and doves:
[Originally published on the Palomacy website. Reprinted with permission.]