Crowned pigeon on cover of the Game Bird GazetteMore On Keeping &

Breeding Doves & Pigeons

From the Game Bird

Gazette Magazine


Dove And Pigeon Housing RequirementsRingneck doves featured in a recent issue of the Game Bird Gazette

Doves and pigeons are usually kept in wire or netting enclosed aviaries, with so-called permanent shelters attached. Check out the pictures in the upcoming issue of the Game Bird Gazette for more examples. The latter are solidly roofed over, and in colder climates furnished with doors and windows, providing suitable protection from storms, heavy snows, cold and rain. To prevent mice, rats, and other marauders from digging under the aviary wire, a cement foundation may be used sunk 18 inches or so into the around, or else the aviary wire may be set as many inches into the soil. To keep mice, etc., out of the aviary, a mesh sufficiently small is usually effective. The size of the entire aviary, of course, depends on the available space and on the number of pigeons and doves, and perhaps other fowl, it is meant to accommodate. Doves can do well in relatively small quarters as shown at right, while larger pigeons will require a greater amount of space to live comfortably. Usually length and width are more important than height. If the enclosure can be planted with low shrubs and bushes, it will enhance its appearance considerably by making it more natural. Moreover, the shrubs, small trees, etc., may furnish nesting sitdoves in aviaryes and roosting places for the doves. Some dove fanciers, who have the welfare of their feathered charges very much at heart, will use roofs of glass or certain plastic material since they prevent cats, birds of prey, and other dove-enemies from troubling the aviary occupants from above. For perching purposes, smooth boards, six or eight inches wide, may be fixed horizontally in different locations off the aviary floor. For nesting purposes, open-top wooden boxes of various sizes depending on the variety of doves they are to accommodate, or else baskets made of wire or other materials, may be hung in more or less secluded locations in the wire-flight as well as in the permanent shelter. Most doves prefer to nest in the open flight. In other words, the furnishings of a dove-aviary are very simple and inexpensive. For nesting materials, most doves use bits of hay or straw and the larger species, twigs and sticks. Usually they build rather flimsy nests, which on occasion their keeper may wish to re-enforce with hay or straw in order to provide a softer and firmer foundation for eggs and young. He can do this usually if the doves in question are fairly tame and tractable. Drinkers and feeders used should be so equipped and so situated in the aviary that they cannot be easily soiled by dropping.

Feeding And Nutritional Considerations

As mentioned above, providing a good diet for seed eaters is quite simple. The smaller varieties including Diamond, Cape, and the many small so-called ground doves thrive on a diet of millet, both small and large, wild-bird seeds available at most poultry feedstores and some fine bird-grit. Medium-sized varieties including Tambourine, Blue Ground Doves, etc., will in addition take milo and larger doves such as Bronze-wings, Squatter Pigeon (pictured at top left of page) Bleeding Hearts, etc., will feed freely on milo and whole corn. Popcorn, which is not too large, is ideal dove feed, taken readily. In nature wild doves feed not only on seeds but also on grubs and worms, especially so at breeding time. Hence, it is advisable to give captive doves also some soft food, preferably in the form of live mealworms which are relished especially by the medium and larger-sized varieties. The number of worms may range from half to a full dozen per day per bird, either thrown on clean ground or else placed in a dish from wdoves with squabshich the worms cannot escape. So calledmynahor mockingbird food slightly moistened with grated fresh carrot and topped with chopped apple or grape is very good for foreign doves of most kinds and readily taken by them once they are fairly accustomed to it. This writer mixes the soft food with grated longhorn cheese, which his doves eat readily. While some fanciers ad- vocate the use of greens for doves, he has not found a liking for them among his varieties. Incidentally, the various seeds may be given all mixed up, or else each kind in a separate con- tainer, so-called cafeteria style, which has the advantage of letting the keeper know which seeds certain doves prefer. They may be given in quantities to last a week or longer, provided, of course, that they are kept clean and not soiled by droppings or dust. So-called health grit should be kept before the doves at all times; also, of course, fresh, clean water.

Many pigeon and dove breeders keep their birds in pairs in their own aviary. As to whether doves may be kept with larger fowl, such as quail and pheasants, is a question not easily answered. This has been debated and covered quite extensively in the pages of the Game Bird Gazette. If the enclosure is very large, enabling the doves to get quickly and easily out of the way of, for example, pheasants, which may dislike them, the combination may work. There must, of course, be suitable hiding places on the floor of the aviary for the doves, especially for their young, should they leave the nest early, drop to the ground, and be at the mercy of the larger fowl, which have been known to injure and kill them. Assuredly, the most practical way to pigeons or doves, especially if one wants to breed them successfully, is to give each pair a pen or aviary to itself. During the breeding season doves should not be transferred to other quarters, since it takes them at times long to accustom themselves to their new surroundings.

Aspects of Breeding

dove on nest with eggSuccess in breeding doves and pigeons, next to proper housing and feeding, depends very largely on keeping healthy, vigorous, true pairs. In warm climates, as in California and Florida, they may breed the year round, with but short rest periods. In other climates, spring and summer are their principal nesting times. During these periods they should not be disturbed. Frequent inspection of the next is not recommended as it may cause them to desert the eggs and young when so interfered with. You'll find that there are good breeders and feeders among pigeons and doves as well as indifferent ones. Some species will lay some fertile and some infertile eggs. At times they may lose interest in their squabs and stop feeding them, even though these are still quite young and helpless. For such doves, the fancier makes it his business to keep one or more pairs of tame ringneck doves on hand which are to serve as dependable foster parents for the young foreign doves. Ringneek doves will usually accept eggs or squabs from foreign doves and raise them successfully, provided they are the same age as their own. If very young squabs are to be fostered, the breeding condition of the foster parents must coincide with that of the true parents so that the former will have "milk" in their crops ready to feed their foster children; otherwise, the squabs will die.

At breeding time, many doves become more or less aggressive--that is, they fight off other doves that come close to them or their nesting sites in an effort to protect their breeding territory, just as they would in the wild. That is why in a small aviary one should generally not keep two pairs of the same species together, since there is bound to be trouble sooner or later. Some males at breeding time will chase their mates all over the Bronzewing dove on nestaviary, pecking at them unmercifully, and at times even killing them. For such pairs it is essential to provide ample hiding places so that the female can get away, at least for a time, from her over eager mate. Brush placed in corners of the aviary may serve this purpose well. In extreme cases the pair may have to be separated for a time.

Sexing mature doves is not so difficult since at breeding time the male will coo and display before his mate. This display is a sure sign of maleness. Thus, in the case of species, both sexes of which look almost alike, one simply has to wait until nesting time. Usually, the male is somewhat larger than the female; moreover, his plumage is usually more colorful; of course, these sexual differences apply not to young stock, which often looks like the mature femal eof the species. It should be emphasized that if one is in possession of a true pair of doves, one which breeds and feeds well, one should by all means keep it as a precious stock pair. Especially among the rarer varieties of doves such pairs are almost priceless.

Most foreign doves lay two white eggs, which they incubate from twelve to eighteen days. They feed their squabs by regurgitation as do domestic pigeons, and these stay in the nest much longer than do the young of tame pigeons, which is a -real advantage. Some of the larger species, such as cuckoo and other doves, lay only a single egg at each setting. Thus, the Luzon Bleeding Heart lays two eggs each time, whereas the Bartlett Bleeding Heart dove lays but one. The reason for this difference is not known.

The young of foreign doves should be left with their parents quite a few weeks after they have left the nest. Usually the parent-birds not only tolerate their offspring at that time, but continue to feed it. Should, however, fighting occur between old and young, then the latter must be transferred to their own pen or aviary. This writer has found Bronzewing, Greenwing, Ruddy Ground, Blue Ground, Australian Crested, Diamond Doves, and Key-West Quail Doves to be dependable feeders and rearers. Foreign doves show much individuality. Each species has its own way of flying, cooing, feeding and breeding. It is these differences, aside from beautiful plumage and lively behavior, which makes the keeping of foreign doves so fascinating, and which enable him to specialize according to his whims and the facilities at his disposal.

Some Popular Dove And Pigeon Breeds

The beginner in the dove and pigeon fancy can do no better than to start with a truly popular breed, such as the Diamond Dove or the Ruddy Ground Dove, both of which are prolific producers and steady feeders. These are charming little birds which become fairly tame in a reasonably short time, if treated with patience and considdoveseration. Popular also is the Zebra Dove, a graceful, slender dove slightly over eight inches long. It derives its name from the narrow black lines, with which the main part of the brownish-gray body is covered. The female is somewhat smaller than the male and less reddish in the region of the occipital bone. Another favorite with many fanciers is the Blue Ground Dove: the male is blue, the female, brown. It is about eight inches long. The young are colored like the female parent; after a few months, the males change to blue. imported originally from Africa, round and compact in shape, is the TambAijrine Dove, easilyrecognizedby its white face, breast, and belly, and its dark-brown back. The breastof the hen is gray and her back light-brown. This lovely dove, a fast flier, is rather shy. An excellent breeder and feeder in the writer's aviary has been the Indian Greenwing Dove,which is about ten inches long. It is sometimes called Emerald Dove. Its color is a striking bottle-green, the male having streaks of white above the eyes, on the forehead and the shoulder butts. Thebillof this very attractive species is bright red. Owing to their gentleness, the Australian Bronze-Wing, measuring from thirteen to fourteen inches in length, is a favorite with many fanciers. It is a compact bird with short legs that stays on the floor of the aviary during the day. The male's wings are adorned with highly metallic feathers, showing colors of green, copper, and blue, which "light up" in brilliant sunshine. The female is less colorful. The writer's pair would breed the year round. It relished angle and mealworms, in addition to the usual seed diet, A species usually slow to breed is the Bleeding Heart, whose habitat is Luzon in the Phillipine Islands. Its name derives from an irregular, blood-red parch appearing in the center of the upper breast, which is snow-white. In the hen, this patch is usually smaller and less brightly colored. An allied species is the Bartlett Bleeding Heart, whose plumage is much darker than that of the Luzon species.

This page is updated regularly so please check back soon for more and different information and pictures on pigeons and doves.The reader should keep in mind that there is much difference between the various kinds of doves and pigeons, so far as their breeding and other behavior is concerned. This applies also to individual pairs of a given species. For this reason, generalizations relating to the behavior of this or that species, or this or that individual pair, are rarely applicable. It is this individuality, however, which makes the hobby unusually interesting! Newcomers should start out with some of the more common species and gradually work up to other breeds as you gain knowledge and experience. Read the information on keeping and breeding pigeons and doves that is available in each issue of the Game Bird Breeders Gazette magazine and visit the aviaries of as many successful breeders as you can. By doing so you will gain the knowledge and confidence that will result in success, gratification, and a good profit in return for your time and efforts if this is important to you!


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