The Pet Pigeon

Pet Pigeons – a new and exciting hobby…


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I was not prepared for what was to come. Involving myself in the ‘pigeon hobby’ for years, raising pigeons for show, breeding pigeons for sale, and learning about what it takes to be successful with show pigeons, you would think I would be prepared. But when I decided to hand raise a pigeon and keep it as my pet, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Putting it mildly, raising a pet pigeon is an adventure.

What I learned is that we have two very different pigeon hobbies. We have the ‘traditional pigeon hobby’ with the focus upon breading, raising and caring for a group of pigeons for a particular purpose. The key word here is ‘group’ of pigeons. Then we have the ‘pet pigeon hobby’, which deals with raising and training one pigeon only for the purpose of becoming a pet, for companionship and personal enjoyment. While there are some similarities to raising, feeding and care of pigeons in both hobbies, it is important to recognize the major differences between these two hobbies before making a commitment to raising and keeping pigeons as pets.

In the traditional pigeon hobby the focus is on breeding, raising, showing or flying various pigeon types in some sort of loft type (group) setting. With pet pigeons you raise one pigeon at a time, usually housed in the home, or very near to where you live because the bird is after all, a member of the family just as would be a cat or dog. Your efforts and concern are for only one bird, instead of a flock of birds. Below I have compared the major differences between raising what I call ‘loft pigeons’ and ‘pet pigeons’.

Socialization: I spend a lot of my time in my loft, just watching the interaction of my birds ‘doing what pigeons do’. This is a very interesting and entertaining pastime, an important part of the lure of the traditional pigeon hobby. In contrast, my time spent with my pet pigeon is interacting together, one on one. Sometimes I think that my pet pigeon does not know she is a pigeon. She enjoys human contact, human pastimes like watching TV in the evenings, or taking morning walks with me in the sunshine. She longs for my attention, and seems to watch and anticipate my every move. She prefers human companionship.

Attachment: While I have a personal attachment to my ‘flock’ of pigeons, out in the loft (some of them seeming more special to me than others), if I lose a bird to sickness or some kind of accident, I become upset, but I soon recover and move on. After all, loss of a pigeon now and then is just part of what happens in a working pigeon loft. If, on the other hand, anything happens to my pet pigeon, I am devastated. My personal attachment to my one and only pet bird is huge. When I raised expensive parrots, the loss of a bird I felt financially, but whenever I lose a pet pigeon, I suffer a great personal loss. This sort of attachment you can expect when you decide to raise and keep a pet pigeon.

Domestication: The traditional pigeon hobby relies upon the natural tameness of pigeons as part of the hobby. This basic temperament seems to be built into the birds, and can be encouraged more or less. This tameness is part of what makes pigeons so attractive to the pigeon hobbyist. But the ‘basic tameness’ of pigeons is not what we are talking about when we examine the behavior and attitude of a hand raised pet pigeon. Here we have something altogether different. Webster defines ‘domestic’ as follows: ‘to make suitable for use or a place in the home’. Here we see the biggest distinction between raising pigeons in the traditional way and raising a single pigeon as a pet. A pet pigeon can be extremely tame and also be domesticated for the home. A flock of pigeons can be tamed, even touched, but not truly domesticated for the home, because as a group they will continue to act as a group. A pet pigeon becomes tame and domesticated because it can learn and grow without influence from other pigeons. Later, if you introduce your pet pigeon to the ‘life’ in the loft, you will notice, after some time, your pigeon will lose its domestic qualities and begin to prefer the company of other pigeons. But as long as your pet pigeon is not allowed to become part of the flock, it will remain extremely tame and domesticated, devoted entirely to you.

Before going further with this topic, I would like to attempt something that has been on my mind for a long time. Each time I try to tell someone about why pigeons make such great pets I find myself stumbling over ‘words’ that somehow never convey the real meaning of the topic.

What makes a pet pigeon so special?

If you are thinking of getting a pet pigeon then what I am about to say will be of interest to you. I will give you what is true for me when it comes to my pet pigeons (I have had quite a few pet pigeons over the years), and that is all I am giving you, my opinion.

Pet pigeons, right from the start are adorable. Even as adult birds they are adorable (that’s more than I can say for some humans). I describe them as adorable and lovable.

Raising a pet pigeon often involves hand feeding. During this stage you will notice that the young bird begins to display ardent affection toward you, preening you hands, your hair, your cheek, displaying love and affection. Adoration is another word I would use to describe the pet pigeons behavior toward its owner. As the bird grows and develops, each time something is learned for the first time, you can see how ‘proud’ the little creature is in the accomplishment. Quick to learn, you usually only have to show a pigeon something once, from then on it understands and remembers’forever.

Attachment to you as the owner will be forever apparent. Pigeons are not fickle, they accept you unconditionally, and show their affection outwardly.

Dependence upon you is a given. If bonded to you, a pet pigeon will acknowledge you as the head, the leader and the provider of all things good. So there are expectations of you, and perhaps this is part of the charm of having a pet pigeon.

There are differences in having a hen (female) pet or a cock (male) pet pigeon but what ever the case may be, you have a life long friend, companion and adoring pet.

We are at the end. I was told that ‘life is a game, where something is more important that something else’. All activity springs from this concept. If you decide to get a pet pigeon, you will really learn about the game of life. There will be challenges, and opportunity, there will be success and failure. But I can say without reservation, your life will be enriched and you will never forget the experience of sharing life with your pet pigeon.

Want to read more about pet pigeons? The stories we are working up cover a wide variety of pet pigeons. Some are feral pigeons, rescued from the brink of death. Others are about hand raised pigeons, right from the egg. They all tell the story. Click here if you wish to read more.

Carl Gulledge (aka BigBird)
July, 2001
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