Pigeons are in this curious group of animals that can generate completely opposite emotions in human beings. While some people consider them an urban pest, many admire them for their remarkable beauty and cognitive abilities best family pets. In fact, raising pigeons as pets has not lost popularity after years of history and tradition.
Despite the prejudices and myths about these birds, the truth is that pigeons are intelligent, sociable and very clean birds . Even poor hygiene of its body or environment can lead a pigeon to get sick easily. Therefore, when adopting a pigeon as a pet, it will be essential to offer it adequate preventive medicine and essential care to preserve its good health.
Do you wonder if it is good to have pigeons at home? In ExpertoAnimal we will tell you more about the behavior of pigeons as pets and their needs. In addition, you can learn our tips to provide excellent nutrition and a positive environment for your domestic birds.
Pigeons and diseases: an old concern
Unfortunately, there are many false beliefs about pigeons, such as that they are dirty animals or urban pests that transmit numerous diseases to humans. But the fact that they come into contact with various pathogens and can, consequently, act as possible vectors of certain pathologies is due to the environment where they live and the food they consume, and not to the innate characteristics of their organism.
Just like parrots, canaries, macaws or any other species of bird, pigeons are naturally clean and can become seriously ill if they do not receive proper hygiene, nutrition and deworming care. When a pigeon is raised as a pet, lives in a clean and safe environment, maintains a fresh, healthy and balanced diet, and receives adequate preventive medicine, it does not represent a danger to humans.
However, street pigeons live in unsanitary conditions and often feed on human waste, such as spoiled food. Then, your body becomes vulnerable to the spread of bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens. For this reason, it is not recommended to collect stray pigeons and immediately bring them to our home. The best thing would be to take them to a specialized veterinarian or a bird rescue center to verify their health and the care necessary to restore their health.
Characteristics of pigeons
The term “pigeon” is popularly used to designate various birds belonging to the Columbidae family , which includes more than 300 species. Currently, there are more than 150 breeds of pigeons that live on all continents, with the logical exception of Antarctica. This reminds us of the importance of knowing each breed of pigeon and its needs well before deciding to adopt them as pets.
The pigeons that we most commonly find on the streets of large cities and that are also the most popular as pets are the rock pigeons ( Columba livia ). In other times, they have been used massively as messengers due to their great sense of direction and intelligence.
In general terms, these birds are anatomically characterized by their very robust chest , their small head and their short, swollen beak. The wings are very strong and relatively large compared to the length of its body. Their legs are short, thin and have four fingers, one of them being opposable (like a thumb). The plumage of pigeons is wide and soft, and can present different shades and color combinations according to the pattern of each species.
Behavior of the pigeon as a pet
Not only dogs and cats can be excellent companions to share our home. Although we are not used to thinking of the pigeon as a pet, the truth is that these birds are intelligent, social and show a very good predisposition to training and interacting with people . But they are also independent birds that need to have their moments of freedom to fly and explore the world around them, and they can get sick and develop behavioral problems if they live confined.
Without a doubt, this explains why pigeon racing is an art that still gains followers around the world. Raising and teaching a pigeon is a rewarding and challenging experience, in which positive reinforcement plays a key role in its training. However, we must emphasize that keeping pigeons requires not only passion, but also patience, time, disposition, space and a certain economic solvency to provide optimal living conditions for the development of the birds.
Many people also wonder if a pigeon can be aggressive and if it is possible to avoid inappropriate behavior in these birds. The truth is that, as happens in all animals, the behavior of pigeons will depend mostly on the environment and the education offered by their keepers. If we want to have balanced and serene pigeons at home, we must provide them with optimal nutrition, adequate preventive medicine, an environment favorable to their development, adequate physical and mental stimulation, and seek guidance from a professional expert in bird training to help us educate them. to our pigeons from an early age.
Basic care of pigeons
As with all pets, pigeons also need to receive certain basic care to enjoy a healthy, happy and active life. In general terms, we can divide the essential care of a pigeon as a pet into 5 items: environment, feeding, hygiene, stimulation and preventive medicine . In the following sections, we will talk a little more about each of them.
Conditioning the ideal environment for your pigeons
All animals need to live in a positive environment, where they find optimal conditions to develop their body and mind. Therefore, before deciding to adopt a pigeon as a pet, you will need to prepare the space where it will live to receive it comfortably.
Although pigeons greatly enjoy being loose and free, they must have their own cages or pigeon lofts where they can take refuge, sleep and rest. Therefore, your first step will be to go to a specialized bird store to purchase the cages or lofts appropriate to the size of the breed of pigeon you chose to care for.
Pigeons are sociable and live in small communities, but you must be very careful not to overcrowd the pigeon lofts , as this could cause coexistence problems. It is generally recommended to have only 2 to 5 birds together in each cage.
To facilitate the hygiene of the cage , we can line the bottom with clean sheets of newspaper or absorbent paper and finish with gravel on top. If we want to condition the cage a little better and provide more comfort to our pigeons, we can also leave some straw and coconut hair, as well as small twigs and light stones. In this way, we can reproduce a little better what their natural habitat would be, and the birds will be able to use these elements when making their nest.
In each cage, your pigeons must find a feeder and a waterer appropriate to their size and morphology. Stainless steel feeders are more reliable and hygienic as they can be easily washed and disinfected. On the other hand, it is recommended to have some extra ball-type waterers (such as those used for hamsters), as they allow the water to remain in good condition for longer, without becoming contaminated with impurities from the environment or heating up quickly.
Ideal temperature and humidity for pigeons
In addition to preparing the interior of the pigeon cage, you should also pay attention to the place where you will place them and how you will prepare this space to receive them. The first thing will be to guarantee that your birds are not exposed to the elements , climatic adversities or possible predators. Then, you will need to sanitize and disinfect this entire environment to eliminate impurities and possible pathogens.
As pigeons usually prefer warm or temperate climates , you should also pay attention to the air conditioning of their environment. Ideally, the temperature is always between 22 and 25 ºC in the mornings, and between 16 and 20 ºC at night. Therefore, during winter, heating will be a basic item to take care of the health of your pigeons.
However, we must be careful so that the air does not become too dry and could cause respiratory problems in the birds. To maintain a balanced humidity using heating, we can spray clean, room temperature water two to three times a day , but we should never spray directly on the cages or on the pigeons’ feathers. The idea is to humidify the general air in the environment and not wet the birds.
Care for pigeons: hygiene
Hygiene is one of the most important care for a pet pigeon, as it will help us keep our birds and ourselves healthy. Birds should not have direct contact with their droppings or live with leftover food and water in poor condition.
At least once a day you will need to wash your birds’ tray, waterer and feeder to avoid the accumulation of excrement or food remains on the bottom of the cage or on objects. It is also important not to leave excess food available in the cage, as it will likely end up wasted at the bottom of the cage. In addition, two to three times a week, we must sanitize the objects, accessories and the cage or lofts.
What do pigeons eat?
Pigeons, like all animals, need complete and balanced nutrition to grow properly and maintain good health. Feeding is essential so that your pigeons have a strengthened immune system and can develop not only their physical resistance, but also their cognitive abilities.
In the wild, pigeons follow a varied diet, based mostly on the consumption of grains and seeds, such as corn, wheat, oats, sorghum, barley, lentils, rice, flax, carob, broad beans, sesame, millet, peas and sunflower. When adopting a pigeon as a pet, it will be essential to provide it with a balanced diet according to its nutritional requirements.
In specialized bird stores you can find commercial mixtures prepared especially for pigeons . These products are interesting, as they contain the balanced proportions of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that pigeons need. However, it is also highly recommended to incorporate fresh and natural foods to complement the pigeons’ diets.
Sprouted seeds and grains , as well as beneficial vegetables and fruits can be offered two or three times a week. We can also incorporate cooked eggs or lactose-reduced, sugar-free yogurt once or twice a week to ensure a good supply of lean proteins. Additionally, you can crush the clean shell of an egg and mix it into your birds’ food once a week to reinforce their mineral intake.
Wheat germ oil is usually recommended as a supplement during the molting season in pigeons, but it is essential that its administration be accompanied by a specialist veterinarian. It is also important to consult a specialized professional about the need and benefits of offering vitamins and minerals in the form of supplements to your birds to improve their immune system.
Prohibited foods for pigeons
Although pigeons can adapt to a very varied diet, there are foods and drinks that can be toxic to their body , for example:
- Human food stuffed, industrialized, fried or with artificial flavorings.
- Chocolate and chocolate drinks.
- Sugary and carbonated drinks.
- Avocado, apple or pear seeds.
- Onion, garlic, leek, and the like.
- Salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners (or foods that contain them).
- Coffee and caffeinated drinks.
- Human candy in general (candy, chewing gum, cookies, etc.).
Pigeon care: physical and mental stimulation
As we told you previously, although pigeons are sociable and predisposed to interaction with people and other birds, they are also independent birds that do not adapt well to confinement or constant harassment. Therefore, it will be essential to have a safe space where you can free your pigeons to fly , walk, interact and express themselves freely.
Do you wonder if pigeons come home? Well, this is a matter of training using positive reinforcement to reward the birds when they quickly return home. Likewise, many keepers only release their pigeons before feeding them, so they can attract them more easily by offering them their food.
In addition to flying and moving freely, it will also be essential to provide an enriched environment that stimulates the pigeons’ minds. Don’t forget that your birds are very intelligent and have very keen senses, which is why a sedentary and boring life is highly detrimental to their physical and mental health. At ExpertoAnimal we tell you everything you need to know about environmental enrichment for birds . In addition, you can also encourage yourself to train your pigeons, using the help of a pigeon fancier to guide you.
Care for pigeons: preventive medicine
Last but not least, we must highlight the importance of offering adequate preventive medicine to your pigeons. In addition to making preventive visits to the veterinarian every six months, it will be essential to vaccinate your pigeons to help prevent the most common diseases in domestic birds , as well as regularly deworm them against internal and external parasites. Although we can use home remedies to internally deworm these animals, such as garlic and pumpkin seeds, it is important to respect their periodic deworming with products made especially for birds.