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PIgeons as Pets

Domino out in the aviary.
Domino out in the aviary.
Julie Fraedrich

Pigeons were the forefront of the industrial revolution. Messages in tow, they would spur communication and insider trading which furthered the boom. Companies like Reuters got their start as a pigeon messaging service. Between the era of 1943-1949 war pigeons received more Dickin’s Medals than any other animal serving the Brittish Commonwealth. The Swiss Army used pigeons until the unit was decommissioned in 1994. These noble birds have proven themselves with valor time and time again. They can be bred for endurance as the Tippler, speed as the Homer, or just the genetically bizarre as the Pouter or the Budapest short-faced. As a city street vagrant, they’re adaptable and prolific animals, so naturally people wish to exterminate them.

The stigma as a mangy, disease-ridden city vagabond doesn’t appeal pigeons as a conventional companion animal. Pigeons are domesticated animals that like to have a social life. Youngsters (also called squabs or squeakers) raised around people will often bond to their owners. These gentle birds are usually very quiet, only making noises if excited or startled. Sure many see pigeons cooing on a sidewalk, these are usually males trying to court a female. On their own as a pet, they seldom make a sound (which make them ideal apartment birds). Despite what pops into the imagination when the term “city pigeon” is slung around, pigeons are clean animals. Given the chance they will regularly bathe themselves twice a week. With their gentle nature, lack of any jaw strength, hardiness and larger size, pigeons often make great pets to people who are first time bird owners. Pigeons even have a built-in GPS, even if they only have one way-point that’s always set to Home.

One doesn’t need an elaborate coop to keep a pigeon as a pet. A large dog crate with a shelf usually does fine as a cage for an indoor pij. Pigeons love to be out of their cage and interacting with their owners. With the invention of PGWear, pigeons can be free in the house without the worry of poop.

Several commercial diets exist for pigeons, a good mix consist of: millet, safflower, maple peas, white peas, oats, flax and milo. Corn may or may not be added. With proper care, an owner can expect their birds to live from 8-12 years, pigeons over the age of 16 however, are very common. The oldest pigeon on record was a POW capture (German-born pigeon) named Kaiser. He lived to be 32.

Many rescue groups such as Mickacoo rescue domesticated (non-feral) birds. Some humane societies also have ex-racers up for adopttion. Petfinder even has a few results of birds in shelter waiting for a home.

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