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Pigeons and Doves – General

General Information

The domestic pigeon (Columbidae) includes over 300 breeds, all descending from the rock dove (Columbia Livia). They originated in Eurasia and are now found all over the world. They have had a relationship with humans since approximately 3000 B.C. Pigeons come in many color combinations and their plumage can include anything from feathered feet (muffed feet) to crested, maned, or hooded heads.

There are four categories of pigeons:

1. Utility pigeons are raised for meat.
2. Flying pigeons are recognized for their brilliant flying skills (rollers, sky cutters, tumblers, tipplers).
3. Racing homers are known for their speed and homing abilities.
4. Toy pigeons, the largest category, are known for their fancy shapes and colors such as the fantails, pouters, croppers, and archangels.

Behavior and Personality

Pigeons are faithful and mate for life. This sort of commitment may be responsible for the pigeon’s bond to its owner and home, as illustrated by its homing instinct. It will often defend its mate and territory aggressively. Otherwise, these birds have a pleasant personality, quiet nature, and a peaceful cooing voice. They are generally hardy birds that are easy to tame and care for.

Purchasing a Pigeon

Pigeons should be purchased from a pet store or a reputable breeder. When selecting a pigeon, try to choose a young bird, as it may be easier to tame and train. Older, wild, colony or parent-raised birds may prove challenging to tame. Hand-raised babies often make better pets because they have been completely socialized with humans. Young birds are easier to tame and adapt readily to new environments and situations. Your new bird should be exposed early to different events (e.g., people of different ages, males and females, other pets, car trips, visits to the veterinarian, etc.) to help promote a calm, well-adjusted pet. A lively, alert bird that is not easily frightened is more likely to be a healthy bird.

After purchasing your new bird, have it examined by your veterinarian.

Purchasing a Dove

There is a wide variety of pet doves that make wonderful pets. Doves can be very colorful, like the bleeding-heart dove, and can be fairly large, like the ringneck dove. With time and training, doves can be tamed to sit on one’s hand or shoulder. Like other bird purchases, these birds can be found from a reputable breeder and in some pet stores. Proper caging and diet are essential to maintain a healthy, happy pet.

"With time and training, doves can be tamed to sit on one’s hand or shoulder."

Veterinary Care

Pigeons require regular, routine veterinary health checkups. Your veterinarian can perform a physical examination, grooming (nail or feather trim as necessary), and laboratory tests as needed. A yearly fecal examination is essential for pigeons kept outdoors, as intestinal parasites are very common in these conditions. During these semi-annual checkups, health, nutritional, and maintenance issues can be identified and addressed. Veterinary checkups help prevent disease and will aid in the maintenance of a long-lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird. Vaccinations against paramyxovirus and Salmonella paratyphoid are highly recommended.

It is not advised to keep wild-caught pigeons as pets because they may harbor both external and intestinal parasites, chlamydia, and several viruses that can affect other birds.

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