Pigeons on the Homestead

# 957 5 - 6 mins. 3

Pigeons. I know what you're thinking. And if you've read any other articles on pigeons or ever been in a city, you have heard the phrase "rats with wings". I get it. People think they are gross. I used to be one of them. But I have also always secretly thought pigeons were really cool. They look cool with their iridescent neck feathers and their large wingspans for their relatively small size. They're also friendly, and willing to trust people fairly quickly if it means that get something to eat.

But why should we put them on our homesteads even they are 'cool'? Aren't pigeons city birds? The answer is no, they aren't really. Pigeons are well adapted to cliffs and overhangs, which a city just happens to have a lot of in man-made form. And as to why we should have them on the homestead, I have a list!


You know when people discuss the various types of chickens and ducks how they talk about how good of foragers they are? It's a great quality to have if you plan on doing any for of free range with your birds. Now think back to every time you've seen pigeons in the wild. They live in huge flocks and they flourish while foraging all day for their food. Sure, some people feed pigeons which helps, but they are fully capable of taking care of themselves depending on the breed that you get.

Mothering Instincts

Pigeons are still very much wild birds, even despite all of the selective breeding that pigeon fanciers have done over the years. There are a few breeds that aren't great mothers or that have so many feathers that they have trouble fertilizing the eggs, but those breeds are the exception. The majority of pigeon breeds still sit on their own eggs and take care of their babies until those babies are ready to leave the nest. The dads even help incubate the eggs and take care of the babies. Now, they don't lay eggs anywhere near as frequently as a chicken, but if they are given the proper spacing, they can raise up to 20 babies a year. Which brings me to my next point.


Believe it or not, pigeon meat is considered a delicacy. It was once food fit for kings. And it's still the same today as it was back then, especially if the birds are being raised on a homestead where you have a better idea of what they are eating.

Pigeon meat, or squab, is usually harvested from fledgling pigeons who haven't yet flown. These young pigeons take less than a month to grow out from their hatch date, and they are harvested at that age because it is when they have the most fat on them. Once they start to fly, their muscles develop and they lose a lot of their adolescent weight.

And since pigeons can raise so many babies in a year's time, it means more squab for the table. If you want to scale up your production, just let some of the babies grow out to become breeders, or buy more breeders.


Housing for pigeons can be relatively cheap if you have some scrap wood laying around. You could probable even get away with using something like a plastic storage tote with some holes cut in it. Mount it high on a wall and you're good to go. But for most, you are probably going to house your birds in either a loft or a dovecote.


A loft is a lot like a chicken coop. It can be a separate building or a section of a larger building. Some people put their birds in the attic of a barn, while others my just use a small shed. However you do it, the only thing really need in addition to feeders and waterers are perches and nesting boxes. Nesting boxes can be as simple as shelves and perches can just be short peices of 2x2s sticking out of the wall.


From my understanding, lofts are a form of dovecote, but not all dovecotes are lofts. Lofts generally take care all of the birds' needs like shelter, food, water, nesting, and sometimes recreation. A small dovecote on the other hand will only typically cover shelter and nesting. Some of the smallest dovecotes are nothing more than a birdhouse that is sized for pigeons. You see these a lot on the exterior walls of old houses in Europe. Occasionally they are standalone birdhouses mounted on a single fence post. Bigger dovecotes can even be buildings with a door for people to access the interior. But what they all share in common, is that they are a more hands-off approach to keeping pigeons. They are a place for the birds to do their thing and occasionally for people to enter for maintenance and to harvest squab.


So this is a combination of all of the previous points. But for most of us homesteaders, we are looking for sustainability. We are trying to raise our own food and make it something that we can reproduce, year over year, with as little external input as possible. And this is where I really think pigeons shine.

Have you ever heard of homing pigeons or carrier pigeons? They are pigeons that were trained to fly long distances back to a specific location. They can do this because pigeons have an incredible sense of direction. They imprint on their home and always try to come back to it. So, once you have trained your pigeons that your pigeon loft or dovecote is their home, then all you really have to do is harvest the squab when it's ready.

Tags: pigeons


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