Unusual Pets: Pigeons

Although most people see pigeons as those rather grayish birds that mess on town hall statues, they come in many varieties and forms and have clubs devoted to their care and showing.

Pigeons are the world’s oldest domesticated bird. Most of the pigeons you see are true wild ones, also referred to less commonly as Rock Doves. A domestic, or pet bird, can often be distinguished by one or more bands on its legs. Others are exhibition breeds, distinguished by their unusual appearance and sometimes odd flying behavior (as in the Tumblers). Some breeds are kept for flight competitions. The lifespan of pigeons is 10-15 years. 

image source

Purchase and Selection

Pigeons can be acquired many ways. They typically are not sold in stores, but may be purchased at pigeon, or bird, shows and exhibitions. Pigeons are sometimes sold via auction where pet chickens, peafowl, and other birds are sold (this would be at a livestock auction market). Additionally some breeders of birds may offer pigeons for sale through a catalog.

A beginner would be wise to buy from a reputable source (not a lower quality auction where sellers are anonymous). They should select birds marked by breed and gender. As when purchasing any pet, the animals should look healthy and robust. Care should be taken not to buy too more males than females as fights may occur when extra males are present.


Generally pet pigeons are kept in an outdoor loft. Quite often this is a smaller building, or shed, with attached flight areas. The flight is very important especially if one is going to allow their birds to fly free at any time. It shows them the outdoor area as a way to familiarize themselves with where they live. Additionally it allows ventilation which is important. The loft should provide a minimum of two square feet per bird. For nesting purposes nesting boxes should be fitted on the walls. These can be simple wooden fruit boxes with a low board across the front to hold in the bedding. Straw is the best bedding for the nesting boxes. The loft itself may have a floor covered with wood shavings (not cedar shavings) and/or sand. Other keepers prefer to have a wooden floor and to scrape it clean daily.

The outdoor area can be easily made from 2×4’s and chicken wire. Stucco wire is even stronger and longer lasting, but certainly more costly.

Feeding and Care

There are commercially prepared pigeon feeds available. These may be tricky to find. Local pigeon clubs often sell food themselves, or it may be found at some livestock feed stores. These feeds are either a mixture of grains or can be a pellet. If grains are fed grit must be provided to aid in digestion.

If pigeon food is unavailable, chicken feed will do in a pinch.

Some people leave food for their birds all the time, others feed twice daily, putting only enough food out to last the birds for 20 minutes. The food should be in a feeder that does not allow them to mess in it. Clean water is very important. Special waterers (as for chickens) are available and should be used to help keep the water clean.

The loft should be kept as clean as possible. If daily cleaning is not possible, it should be done weekly. Overcrowding will result in more mess and stressed birds so care should be taken not to get more birds than you have room for. Pigeons should be wormed 2-3 times a year.

.image source

Occasionally pet pigeons will not return on their own if set loose. They become what is known as “feral” pigeons.

When a person first lets their pigeons fly free, they must consider that some birds may not return, only a few go feral, others become prey for hawks, owls, cats, and so on.

Pigeons pair up and generally lay 2 eggs per clutch. These take 17-19 days to hatch and the young are fed by their parents. In 5-6 weeks they are old enough to look after themselves.

Liked it


User Comments
  1. ken bultman

    On October 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Well put together article. I never knew anyone who kept pigeons as pets or as a hobby and the common pigeon were considered pests and disease mongers on the farm. Is this perhaps something more common outside the U.S.?

  2. lillyrose

    On October 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Lovely Article. We once had a stay racing pigeon turn up at our stables, he was tired and lost. We took him in the barn and gave him water and some corn, he had a ring on his leg and we phoned the racing society. They said that when it was rested it would fly back home, after a day of so we let him out. He hung around on the roof for a few days and then flew away. I hope he got home okay.

  3. cutedrishti8

    On October 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Good piece of write…Some cute snaps also

  4. Chris Stonecipher

    On October 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Your article is very interesting and informative. I love the pictures too. Retweeted and dugg your article.
    Bless you,

  5. Brenda Nelson

    On October 10, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    I kept 3 pigeons this summer – unfortunately at least 2 were male which made for problems.. sold them and will get a for sure sexed pair next summer – good info Mark

  6. Lauren Axelrod

    On October 10, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    My grandpa had an outdoor loft that I spent many afternoons in. This article brought back memories.

  7. Lostash

    On October 11, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Not a cat in sight, therefore I approve!!

  8. Ruby Hawk

    On October 11, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Around here they are considered pests. We have them everywhere. I have heard of keeping them for pets though.

  9. papaleng

    On October 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    In our place, many young boys are hooked to growing pigeons. A well-presented article.

  10. raptor22

    On October 14, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    My uncle had racing pigeons but I never considered them as being pets. Great article.

  11. Jan Paganoni

    On October 25, 2009 at 12:15 am

    How long do we need to keep pigeons in before we let them out when we have bought them from another breeder

  12. Mark Gordon Brown

    On October 26, 2009 at 10:22 am

    to Jan
    I would suggest keeping them in for about a month. You must have a flight area for them so they can see their surroundings before letting them out. Ideally if they have started laying they will stick around too.

  13. petersteel

    On February 3, 2010 at 4:08 am

    that was really nice to read that.. that was really great… that’s great..

Post Comment
comments powered by Disqus