Raising Pigeons & Doves
Are More Popular Than Ever!
The number of people who are keeping and breeding doves and pigeons in many countries around the world has increased substantially in recent years. Many of the newcomers to raising doves and pigeons were already breeders of other types of game birds who wanted something new and different to care for and interact with.
Like quail, many of the doves and pigeons can be kept in relatively small aviaries or cages which makes them an attractive choice for city dwellers who want to breed birds but have close-by neighbors with whom to contend. Doves and pigeons, particularly of the seed-eating species and breeds, are generally easy to care for day in and day out, thus adding to their desirability as aviary birds.
Doves and pigeons are in the same family, the Columbidae, with the only distinction between them being size–doves are the smaller members of the family and pigeons the larger ones. They come in many breeds and in many colors.
There are many species and breeds of pigeons and doves available to choose from. My personal favorites include the Blue Ground Doves, the males being a lovely sky-blue and the females a rather delicate brown; Silver and White Diamond Doves, which are small, yet exciting and just perfect for those of us who live in the city; Bronzewings, with their gorgeous, shimmering green, blue, and red plumage patterns; and Emerald Doves, which have shimmering green wings.
Bleeding Hearts lend a truly exotic presence to any aviary with their flaming red or rich yellow breast patches and snow-white breasts. In my experience they are best kept one pair to a cage as the males can be aggressive, sometimes even towards their mates.
I especially enjoy the Mountain Witch or Crested Quail Dove which inhabits deep forest areas of Jamaica and is particularly numerous in the Blue Mountains of that country. I think the species was named as such by the locals because of its mysterious sounding calls. The size of a common domestic pigeon, it is a quail-like ground dove that walks with a peculiar bobbing motion. It has the curious habit of “freezing” when it senses danger. This dove tames quickly and will take mealworms right from your hand. Its plumage has flashes of blue, green, and purple when the rays of the sun hit on the feathers at just the right angle. Mountain Witches can become fairly prolific breeders and usually are quite reliable in feeding their young. I have found that they are quite agreeable in their temperament, even when several pairs are maintained in the same enclosure.
If a colorful plumage is what you are looking for, try Greenwings from India. They have an astonishing red beak and the lovely green wings. Swift on the wing, they are always lively in the aviary. Greenwings are often reliable breeders and dependable feeders of their youngsters.
Other much sought after and admired members of the Columbidae are the large and imposing fruit pigeons, many of which have fantastic coloration. The plumage of these birds is usually leaf-green with astonishing patches of blue, red, and brown, depending upon the species.
It is, of course, the goal of most people who acquire doves and pigeons to get them to reproduce. When we are successful in propagating and maintaining genetically viable captive populations of the different species, we are at the same time ensuring that they will be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
Like many other game birds, doves and pigeons living in nature are subject to hunting, trapping, deforestation of habitat, etc. So we should do everything possible to build up numbers sufficient so there is a surplus to replenish depleted stocks in nature if that should become necessary. In this noble cause, those breeding exotic doves and pigeons, as well as other game birds, will find great pleasure and reward.
But one must realize that breeding many of the exotic types of doves will not be as easy as if you are working with domestic pigeons whose tameness greatly facilitates their handling and breeding. Unlike the domestic breeds which have been in close association with man for centuries, many of the exotic varieties, even though bred in captivity for a few generations, still have retained wild instincts and must be managed carefully and according to the proven propagation methods often written about by successful breeders in the pages of the Gazette. Particular requirements of nutrition, housing, fostering, etc. should be studied before acquiring particular species. Doing so will help ensure that your birds are healthy, produce fertile eggs, and that the young are successfully reared by their parents, a foster parent, or by you, if necessary!
Most dove breeders seem to prefer the seed-eating varieties which can do well on a commercially available dove mix consisting of various seeds, such as small and large millet, niger, canary, milo, etc. I’ve found that pyracantha berries make a nice addition to the diet. Some chopped, hardboiled egg can replace the insects or other live food doves often eat in nature.
To ensure that the birds are receiving all the vitamins and minerals they require, you can add Vionate or other such supplement. Mineral grit and crushed egg shell can be provided and daily fresh water is a must. Adequate shelter and protection from the elements must be provided in housing doves and pigeons.