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It's been two years now since member BlueCheck, aka Frank, sent Rocky to us and we've been having a great time with him. He's become a true member of the family.

Rocky lives in a large, two-story, four-level Ferret Nation cage indoors and spends a couple of hours hanging out with us in the living room every evening. (We lock the two big dogs out for that, but the Chihuahua is allowed to stay in and Rocky is learning not to try to mate with him.)

Rocky also has a nest to defend. It's a dog bowl with strips of newspaper in the bottom. I put two fake eggs in there and it really calmed him down when he was going through his "terrible teens". I think Rocky was about four months old when we first got him, so he's about two and a half now. I leave the eggs in there most of the time, but lately started wondering if I should remove them every month or two. I used to do that, but he seemed kind of agitated without them. I just wonder if it's hard on him to sit on those eggs all the time.

We also built a 10x5 flight pen outside where Rocky can bathe, sun himself, and hang out listening to the tweet birds a few times/week. It would be more often, but we've had terrible heat here in Texas and we only leave him in the pen if we're around to supervise.

Rocky responds to many handy commands like "come" and "go home". If I bribe him with seeds, he'll respond to "left foot", '"right foot", "circle", and "clockwise". [That last one is because he always turns counterclockwise when I tell him "circle".] He also knows to "do your business" when I first take him out of the cage and hold a paper-lined tray under him.

Rocky is our first pigeon and my son and I have had a lot to learn. We give Rocky red grit and oyster shell. He has chicken crumbles always available, but I don't think he ever eats much of that. I give Rocky a dove mix from the feed store. I worry that he's only eating the junk food because he spends hours sorting through and throwing seeds until his feed cup is left with mostly peas and popcorn and other larger seeds. We offer greens, fruit, etc, but can rarely get him to take any. Rocky goes nuts, however, for hemp seeds. I think I could teach him to change the oil in my car if I offered him hemp seeds for it. Any suggestions what I can do to get him to eat better? He always responds when I "peck" at a food with my finger. He'll take a bite or two, but then usually tosses it away.

We took Rocky to the vet early on b/c of watery poops. Vet said he looked great and gave us wormer that we used w/ a two week gap, but nothing really changed. The vet said it's possible that, because Rocky was rescued being kicked by some misguided kids, he might have some permanent kidney damage causing chronic polyuria.

Rocky's health has been consistent the whole two years we've had him. Negatives: not a lot of stamina (gets out of breath if he's been flying around the house a lot); still has pretty watery poops--the only time they look "right" is after he's been sitting on his nest for hours; still has what seems to me a prominent keel bone.
Positives: his eyes are clear; mouth looks pink and healthy. When he bathes, a nice white coating floats on the water (I read this was called "bloom" and is supposed to be a good thing?). He is interested in exploring everything. He tries to court every new visitor to our home and every time he sees my feet in an unfamiliar pair of socks, he struts over saying, "Hey, Baby, are you new around here? Wanna come up and see my etchings?"

We want to transition Rocky to living outside. My persistent health problems have delayed our building him a loft and aviary, but we're hoping to get that going soon. Is there a time of year that is better for this? He'd still get his evening family time inside.
Also, we think it's time (ok, well past time) for us to find Rocky a mate. He is so smart and social, it would be good for him to have more interaction. We'd like to get another rescue bird. I'm thinking it should be a large hen who can give him what for when he gets too aggressive. Do you see any potential problems with this? Do males ever become friends or is a hen our only option? Is is even guaranteed that he and a random rescue hen would bond? It would be terrible to have to keep them in separate cages if they didn't like each other.

Last thing: Rocky flies to me or my son the moment his cage is opened. He comes when I call him 90% of the time. If I haven't called him, but simply walk into the living room when he's free, he immediately drops whatever he's doing and flies to me. One of our favorite games is for him to chase me or my son from room to room. Rocky enjoys flying so much. He's very bonded to humans in general; in fact, that's why he can't be returned to a feral flock. Would it ever be possible to allow him to fly in our garden for short exercise periods? I'm thinking late afternoon, having a bribe of hemp seeds to get him back. I don't want to risk him getting lost or eaten, but I watch feral pigeons fly and think how this is what he was born to do. Any thoughts?

If you read this far, thanks. I read this forum all the time and value the supportive culture you have all created here.
Thanks,
Claire in Tx
 

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Regarding picking through the seeds, you should try feeding him once or twice per day at set times and give him enough food to eat at that time. If he is hungry, and there is no alternative, he will eat the seed mix given him. I don't have experience with a hand raised/ human bonded bird.....others here will give you better advise on that.
If he has not seen other pigeons for a long time, he may not even recognize them as the same species as himself. However, for his and your mental well-being, it probably is worth a try. Best to keep her in a cage near him for a while (not allowing contact immediately), and to introduce them on neautral territory. It may take a little time, but they may become quite bonded to each other in short order.

Enjoyed reading your story. Good job with him and good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks so much for your reply, Woodnative.
It's been some time since I tried feeding Rocky on a schedule. My inexperience made me lose courage and start worrying that he wasn't getting enough of the right stuff. Then, after a few days I would give up and go back to free feeding him. Do you know of a resource for pigeon nutrition i.e. which seeds are better/worse? Sounds like I need to just buck up, stick with the schedule, and get him hungry enough to eat what's good for him.

Also, approx. how much should one bird eat per feeding? Maybe I've been overestimating how much he needs. I worry about that keel bone of his, but really, I have nothing else to compare it to.

I forgot to mention that there is a big mirror in Rocky's cage. He spends a lot of time in front of it, so at least he'll know the approximate size of a pigeon. Come to think of it, maybe that's why he's so enamored of hands, feet, dog toys, and the chihuahua--they're in the right size range. :)

It also sounds like I'll need to build a separate cage for a hen when we get one so that they can have neutral territory to bond slowly.

Thanks again for the advice. We'll get on it!
 

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I'm sure people will disagree with me, but a pet bird thinks of the humans as his flock and doesn't need another bird for company. He has you. You don't need to get him a mate or a buddy unless you want another bird.

I would be very skittish of letting him fly free. He'd probably come back, but what if he got lost and didn't know his way back? He can fly around in the house for exercise.

Pigeons sort through their seeds for the ones they like and go back to the ones they don't like as much when all the favorites are gone. I fill Maggie's dish once a day when I clean her cage and she ends up eating it all by the time I get around to cleaning it the next day, but she flings seeds everywhere, even on the floor, and goes hunting for the rest after her favorites are gone. I give her about a half cup a day and she gets treats, too. I can't get her interested in veggies or other people food much, but she'll peck at it politely when I offer so she eats a little bit here and there.
 
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