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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Thanks to all! (We have eggs!)

Hi all!

Just wanted to say thanks for all the information on this site. Thanks to you guys I've become smitten with a white pigeon lovingly called Hopeless.

Apologies for the long story but some of you may be bored enough to enjoy it :)

I had no experience with birds at all until the day I found this bag of bones in the garden, under the raised birdhouse installed by the landlord. Many generations of white doves have been born up there but I've never come closer than watching flying lessons etc. To be honest I wasn't very interested.

When I found the little one, I put him back in the nest but the parents wanted nothing to do with him, and kept scooting him out again. He wasn't moving at all but I could feel some very shallow breathing. I have no idea how long he'd been out there. From the photos I've seen here I'd say he was no more than 2 days old.

A frantic surf of these forums later I warmed him up first and he slowly went from half dead to moving to being extremely excited. Next came bits of water and soon he was moving around as best he could.

Feeding him became one of life's great difficulties but we got the hang of that too, and the little one would go crazy for it. I used ingredients reccommended here and soon Hopeless looked much healthier, if still a bag of bones, but now the fluff started appearing and on the 3rd day I had him his eyes opened.



As you can see there is some serious splay leg going on. Knowing nothing about these things, I got concerned when he would just drive himself around in circles. Both legs were to the side and behind him, just kicking at nothing all the time. Another panic surf on these forums and I knew it was splay leg. I don't think he got it from being in my care, there was always a blanket under him, so it may have happened in the nest.

So I took more of your advice and made him a contraption to keep those legs gently together, fearing the worst, but he soon learned to hop around. He was suddenly mobile, even with his legs taped up. Previously he just flopped over onto his crop and kicked those legs out sideways. He also learned to use his stubby wings to balance on, so he'd hop around on his feet while leaning on things with his wings to stay upright. All this seemingly without any complaint, in fact I think he liked being mobile for the first time. His toes seemed very undeveloped and hardly moved at all so I'd balance him on my finger for a while every day and sure enough he soon got the hang of it, and then those legs and feet suddenly grew very fast. I wonder if they hadn't bothered growing because they'd never been used?

I kept the leg brace on for 6 weeks. I tried removing it after 4, and although the legs seemed much stronger they still tended to want to go sideways. After 6 weeks though, I took it off and Hopeless took his first proper steps. He seemed very excited at this. Almost fully feathered too. I can't believe how fast the feathers grow! I swear I went to bed one night and the next morning there were long, long feathers that came out of nowhere.



At this point I also moved his "house" outside, an old small dog kennel. I'd put the cage (made out of old fridge shelves) in front at night and when I wasn't home. Otherwise I've tried to encourage him to explore a bit. He loved standing on his "porch" and flapping his wings. I could feel them working better every day by putting him on my hand. He'd flap his wings and felt lighter every day. We also had a bath once a week, he loved that. He gets absolutely filthy with the hand feeding. The cutest thing was watching his reaction to something new, like a bee, a fly, another pigeon or even an aeroplane flying overhead.



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He is now a little over 2 months old and flies like an absolute pro. I let him do his own thing, I'm hoping he might reconnect with the others one day. He does indeed visit their loft every day, where another little one is growing up, probably a week away from flying.

Only thing is I couldn't get him to sleep in his house at night. He'd always settle down on top a garden gate/door. There's a security light there, perhaps he likes it. So over the weekend I mounted the old kennel on top of the door. I didn't know birds could display intense happiness until this happened. I put him up there, he looked around, hopped inside and I got my first coo. He puffed up his feathers and coo'd at me non stop, shaking his wings. I think that went down well.

I put a temporary "tunnel" into the entrance to keep the light off him when he sleeps. Excuse the pizza box, it will become a wooden tunnel next weekend. But finally he seems to agree with me that his house is the place to be. It's also out of reach of cats so I don't bother with the cage anymore, he's free to do as he pleases, and he flies really well so can get away from danger. And he IS scared of cats, I've seen him flying straight home as soon as he sees one in the distance.

He now spends his days exploring the garden, eating with the other doves etc. He likes an afternoon nap and then goes for it again. He's fascinated by everything in the garden and I often go outside and call him to have him flying to me from goodness knows where. Far and high though.

I'm supplementing his diet with lots of the suggestions on here. I do think he is perhaps a tad small, he may have actually been lying in that bush for days before I found him. It was the height of summer here in Cape Town so he may have stayed alive longer than expected down there. Nights were also very hot.

His one foot's toes do still seem a bit stupid but he walks, perches, flies and lands like a pro as far as I can tell so he should be ok. I know from picking up the other baby, the younger one, that Hopeless' feet aren't as strong as they should be. The other baby wraps her toes around my finger really tight.

I must say though, Hopeless is still getting stronger every day, especially with what can now only be called a supremely designed diet. I may have taken a bit long to get all the proper things into him at the beginning but I was also learning.

He wants to spend every second with me though, whatever I'm doing! I feel terrible leaving him. And this from someone who'd never even touched a bird before.

There was one day, in the beginning, where I got home and found him lying in a puddle of his own poo, completely covered in poo, on his belly, with those legs again just kicking out sideways, also full of poo, and I swear I nearly gave up. It was quite trying for someone who's never had his own pets. But now I'm so glad I stuck with it. What a rewarding experience. But if anyone else is thinking of doing this... be sure what you're getting into! They really are hopeless in the beginning, you have to dedicate lots of time and energy to them.

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Thanks again, most of what I learnt came from these forums, and I knew nothing!

Next step is going to be to him some pine needles from the forest this evening, I believe they like them to play with too, and I've noticed a fly or two hanging around inside his house.

He gets lots of food, grit (although he seems to prefer the sand in one corner of the garden), clean water with some pigeon vitamin supplement, garlic, crushed shells, spinach, peanuts... in fact I think he eats better than I do.

Any further advice is always welcome, the most puzzling thing so far being this wanting to sleep directly under the bright security light. Now that the tunnel is in place I'll see where he ends up tonight, I'm hoping inside his house. He's in there right now having his afternoon nap so it seems to be working. And every time I go near him he coos.
 

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Amazing...and really...it is quite something you were able to bring him/her back from such a state. Even a very experienced Pigeon Person has only about a 50-50 chance, if that, of rehabbing a baby that young/small...particularly given his condition. So much can go wrong, and oftentimes does.

You have given your friend a very great gift ! Thank you for caring.

You asked for additional advice, so I would like you to be aware of something...since you asked....

Hopeless is a human-bonded Pigeon. Everything he has learned he has learned from you. Yes, he has one foot (actually, probably just one toe) in the quasi-Feral world of the raised birdhouse...but he was not raised by his Parents, so he has never been taught how to really 'make it' in that world.

As such...while indeed it is very beautiful to see him interact with his Feral brethren...it is also quite risky. Because, I assume he is fully flighted, and as such...he can take off and go somewhere where you would not be able to retrieve him. For example, if the 'Flock' spooks, he might follow. If the Flock leaves the garden, he might follow. He might just simply end up 3 stories up, on a building someplace where you cannot retrieve him. He would now be in a context and situation he is completely unfamiliar with. Then, it would be up to him to take the initiative to get back to you. But, he isn't setup for doing that...because his development never has taught him such.

I do not want to seem a wet blanket, but I will continue.... for your consideration.

Predation. His wilder brethren have learned about outside dangers...predators, vehicles, etc. From their parents. He has not. He knows nothing as to what a hawk, or cat, is. People tend to believe that instinctively, birds know. But again, this is more a learned skill than it is an instinct. So, again...should he fly off with the flock...or worse, should a cat or hawk happen upon the bird house....he is at a severe disadvantage...and predators can spot the 'odd man out' VERY quickly.
I will also note that if his familiarity is with a human as much as with a Piegon, he may assume..should he get lost.... it's fine to land on another human. This...oftentimes does not go well, either.

I say all of this only because I have had many friends who have done what you have done (although again, kudos ~ not from so young an age) and they really wanted their Pigeon Pal (and themselves) to have the best of both worlds. The safety and security of a human-companion life, plus the ability to be Feral when they so choose to be. It is a beautiful thought...but it isn't very realistic.

These stories never ended well. It might have worked for a while...a few weeks, a month, maybe several months....but ultimately, the Pigeon either vanished one day, or was.....found (not the way one wants to find him/her).

So, I think you should consider this. IMHO, there is a decision to be made (and an urgent one, at that).

If he stays your companion...then the free-flying (outdoors) would need to stop. He can fly in your place; you can build him a nice Aviary, too. He can have quite the life as a companion Pigeon...and someday you can even adopt him a friend (perhaps another rescued and unreleasable Feral).

If you want him to rejoin his original life...it needs to be determined the feasibility of releasing him. And it should be done using the Soft Release acclimation method. He may, or may not, be releasable...given his history I would lean towards the latter.

There are some stickies on this forum regarding Release or Not, and human-bondedness. I suggest you take a look at that info as well.

Thanks for posting, nice work ! And he/she is quite beautiful. And as I said, you have given your friend the greatest of gifts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thanks everyone for replying.

Jaye, I took your advice and keep him locked up when I'm not around. I do work from home which is hugely helpful, so he spends his time in my little back yard while I work, under my watchful eye.

He loves his house since I put some pine needles, toys and a mirror in there. The difficulty has now become getting him out rather than in!

But yesterday the most amazing thing happened. Another young bird has been growing up in the "proper" nest, and I've watched it learning to fly over the last 3 days (from a distance). I often take my bird for a walk through the garden, and we stop by the nest to say hello to the baby.

Yesterday, when its parents weren't around, the new baby flew over to my bird's house, went inside and is quite clearly not interested in leaving. I ended up locking them both in there last night, totally unable to coax the newcomer out, and besides my bird seems to love the company even if it is of the squeaking variety.

My bird also taught the newcomer to drink from the bowl and the joy of spinach. The new baby also immediately took to seeds, eating about a day's supply in 30 minutes flat and then passing out.

This morning when I opened the hatch, they weren't even interested in coming out. They were snuggled up on the same perch. Changed their water and fed them, and eventually they came out to so some suntanning.

Right now they're both in the back yard, walking around together looking for food on the ground. Perhaps this is something my bird can learn from the "wilder" one.

What an odd pair, but both teaching each other things.

Looks like I'll have to expand their mansion soon.

Spirit Wings: Funny story, it started off as Hope (found half dead, fine now etc). But he was so clumsy and messy that we started calling him Hopeless. It's done with great endearment and actually he always responds much better to "hopeless" than to "Hope"! So unfortunately it seems to have stuck.

As for the newcomer... I'm not sure yet. Seeing as though it basically told its parents to go away, and shunned the excitement of wild living for the comfort and company of a deranged orphan, I'm thinking "Clueless".

One thing that stands out now is how far Hopeless has come. He used to be the clumsy oaf that the newcomer now is. The new bird made me realise how elegantly Hopeless moves around now. It's fascinating watching them develop.
 

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I love it! Hopeless and Clueless! I think you should keep the names. It sounds like Hopeless has found a mate.

I do think you should consider bringing them both inside permanently...or make them a big aviary in the back yard. I worry about predators, and a hawk could be there and gone with one of them in an instant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Hi everyone!

I've had a few requests for an update...

Hopeless and Clueless and both doing great. As far as I can tell they are healthy and happy, and certainly better looking than the flock of ferals they came from!

The House

I'm just finishing up their new home so they have a bit more space to call their own. They are both becoming quite fiercely territorial in their box. Out of it they're all dumb and lovable and perch on my shoulders while I water the garden etc. But in the loft they will peck and hiss at anything that comes inside, including each other on occasion, hence the bigger "house" I'm building. Please do make any suggestions on what I've done here:

They can't get away from one another at the moment other than to go outside. New house is getting painted tomorrow, otherwise pretty much finished. It's just a wooden box but with a feeding section I can access from outside without disturbing them, and some individual hideaways, nest boxes I guess, so they at least have some choice and can claim their own territory if they wish. They will eat through wooden dowell rails so they can stop messing their food and water, and also the young one (Clueless) can eat in peace.

Half the box is completely weather-proof and contains the feeding section with the nest boxes above. The other half is still covered by the roof but has wire mesh sides and perches inside. I'm also attaching a fair sized piece of netting to a seperate door on the side of the box, so they can go "outside" and "fly" a bit, have a bath and catch some sun safely on those days when they don't want to come out the front door into the real world because of a cat or whatever.

Also, and I need some advice on this, I'll probably have to keep them in their new enclosure for some time so they become accustomed to it? How many days does one need to keep them in so they know to fly back to it for food and shelter? It's only 3 meters away from their current box on an opposite wall, but would obviously still be a totally strange object to them at first. I don't want to keep them in for too long, but also don't want them get confused and "homeless" when I let them out.


Here they're chilling out above the duck pond late in the afternoon.

The Ferals

The ferals have discovered their current home (small dog kennel), and they are hell bent on claiming it. There are 3 pairs that have started arriving daily to challenge my two for rights to this pristine piece of real estate with magic automatic food and water.

For a few days I had to physically remove ferals from the wooden box. Once in, they refused to leave, even when I banged on the side of the box. When the box does get occupied by a feral pair, Hopeless and Clueless would come to my window and coo at me to help. It's ridiculously cute. I give the ferals lots of time to leave by themselves but end up having to reach in and gently pick them up, which is easy as there's not much room in there. As soon as I let go they fly away. I know this is probably distressing to them, but they keep returning anyway! I've taken the same pair out three times (the pair that always seem to win the scuffle for the box). So it can't be that traumatic.

For the last few days though, Hopeless and Clueless have learnt to defend their home by themselves, hence the aggressive behaviour even to me when I change their water. The ferals still come but have no success entering the box.

Now I know some of you may not find this agreeable, but I let them do their own thing. There is a feral flock in the area and they interact daily. I have indeed seen my own two birds starting to make the roughly 3/4 mile flight to the river nearby, where the flock gathers every afternoon. I drive down there and spot their bands in the crowd. They spend the afternoon foraging with the flock, pecking at the weeds and shrubs on the river bank, then return home at about 4pm to defend their home from the daily 4pm takeover attempt.

When with the flock, they fly away when spooked. Even at home now, when they are alone, if one flies, the other one goes with instantly, so that's good. And yet when I'm outside they fly right to me. They refuse to come out if there's a cat anywhere in the area, and also stayed indoors the other day to my curiosity until I saw a very large bird circling faaaar overhead. I think they've learnt from their feral friends (family, technically) and would be fine if they got lost or just decided to leave by themselves.

The younger one was in the care of his parents until he flew for the first time, so he's much more "wild" than the older bird, and I wonder if he will actually join the flock at some point. He used to follow Hopeless around everywhere, and would be completely lost and stupid without Hopeless. Lately though he's becoming more independent, and often sits on the roof with one or two of the ferals when Hopeless is inside. Hopeless will never leave, he's completely attached to this place. In fact the younger one, although he flies to me and sits on my shoulder, only does so in the company of the older bird. If Hopeless is not there, the young bird won't let me come near him. He also spends more time outdoors while Hopeless comes in through the window to join me at work.

I'm hoping the new house will convince the young bird to stay, and I hope it's not too late. I think the confined space and the ferals are starting to play in his mind. I have no real clue but they may both be males. Hopeless is boss of the confined space, so the younger one possibly feels like something is missing from his young adulthood. His own territory. This will be fixed this weekend with the new box.

So yeah they're certainly very healthy, and streetwise with their interaction with the flock. It's a very naturally busy block I live on, there are ducks and duck ponds and chickens and pigeons and small doves all over the place every day. It provides them with loads of entertainment and education. Even after they make their trip down to the river, they're always on their own perches by latest 5pm, and at about 5:30 I replenish their food & water as the ferals have left by then and they can eat in peace. On the days they go to the river though, they only eat half as much as on other days, hence my optimism that they can forage if need be.

I close the door at sunset and open it again at sunrise, but they usually don't come out until about 30 minutes later. But they don't move from their porch until I've brought them their morning peanut:


Hopeless, the older bird I rescued, is on the left. Clueless is on the right, the wild bird that flew into Hopeless' house as soon as he could fly out of his parents' nest.

They seem to have such a lovely balance of pet-like behaviour in my presence and wild behaviour when they go on their adventures. None of the other ferals can lay claim to visiting the river AND watching TV on the same day :)
 

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I think it is incredible and very healthy for them to have the best of both worlds. I LOVE your story. It is the exact life I so wish for my own pet Krikky - to be a part of the feral world and yet return home safely to human love and care. Incredible!

Unfortunately for Krikky, I am unable to provide that ideal life for him - but reading yours is truly inspiring. I believe it is achievable. I hope and pray there are no predators out there. Though nothing in life is perfect, and we can't cotton-bubble-wrap our loved ones, but providing them food and shelter while giving them freedom to learn wild instinct is the BEST care in the world. Your two pigeons have intelligence and survival skills of the wild, social interaction with the "peasants" (hehe), and also the health of a well-cared PET. I am so envious!

Your pigeons have a balance in trusting humans (not to a point of being too domesticated and easily fooled) and being wary of predators. I am in awe!

Keep inspiring us with updates on these gorgeous little richies! I am such a fan!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks Miss-Sassypants! Good to hear some positive feedback. Today seems to be the first real winter day here in Cape Town and they still aren't coming out. Just delivered their morning peanut straight to their perches. I feel terrible for not having finished their new home now. I might just take the afternoon off and go work on it some more.

I was thinking last night, after the amount of money I've spent on materials for their new house and on various vitamins and so on, and the hours of reading about pigeon health and well-being, they better stick around!!

Can anyone advise me as to how long they'll need to be kept in the new enclosure so that they accept it as "home"? And should the old box be removed right away when they move into the new one? It will be visible from their new home.
 

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Thanks Miss-Sassypants! Good to hear some positive feedback. Today seems to be the first real winter day here in Cape Town and they still aren't coming out. Just delivered their morning peanut straight to their perches. I feel terrible for not having finished their new home now. I might just take the afternoon off and go work on it some more.

I was thinking last night, after the amount of money I've spent on materials for their new house and on various vitamins and so on, and the hours of reading about pigeon health and well-being, they better stick around!!

Can anyone advise me as to how long they'll need to be kept in the new enclosure so that they accept it as "home"? And should the old box be removed right away when they move into the new one? It will be visible from their new home.
I would think because they are homed to your property that you would be safe to let them out after a week, remove the old box straight away but keep it just incase they do not return to the new enclosure on the first release, That way you could put the old box up to atleast catch them. This is a last resort though, I am sure they would go back into the new home anyway
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Last night, Hopeless threw Clueless out of the box and there seemed to be no way back without a fight. I brought Clueless inside and made a little hideaway on top of a cupboard. He seems to love it but is very skittish around me without Hopeless. I can't pick him up or anything. But he ate an awful lot and then slept like a baby. I think Hopeless might have been hoarding food too.

This morning I decided to bring Hopeless inside too, to try and coax Clueless outside without me having to handle him. But now I'm confused.

Last night they were fighting. This morning they are, well I can only describe it as kissing. They saw each other and their wings wobbled and they kissed. And then Hopeless performed what I can only assume was some sort of dance. Spinning around and cooing at Clueless. Who looked Clueless.

They're both still indoors, seem to have no interest in going outside. I'm off to finish their new house. Goodness knows what goes on in their heads!
 

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When the new home is ready, pictures please!! Don't forget to do a house warming party and treat them to peanuts!

Looks like Hopeless is a dude with all that cooing and strutting. Clueless has probably no idea what gender it is yet. Lol.

Keep the updates coming!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Hmm. Maybe they had a lovers' quarrel.
I think that's the explanation I'm going with :) They seem fine again, tucked up in bed together. Maybe the hotel stay wasn't necessary.

Clueless has probably no idea what gender it is yet. Lol.

Keep the updates coming!
lol! Indeed!

I'll put up pictures of the new house asap (although some of the craftmanship displayed in photos on these forums put my effort to shame).
 
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