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Raising and keeping Pigeons


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I am tossing around the idea of raising and keeping some pigeons for training purposes.  I really have no idea where to start as I haven't done this yet.  I know that my breeder keeps some, so I will be calling them.  Is there really much to it?  Any suggestions on plans for a coop and how or where to get birds?  I live in South Eastern Pennsylvania.
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The Lion Country Supply Coop plan works well, easy to build and 15 or so birds to well in them.  Your best bet is to look for a pigeon racer in your area, sounds strange, but it's more common than you might think.  I'm sure you could get a good coop started with a handful of "racing culls", but ideally, you'd ask for 3 breeding pairs.  Keep the originals in the coop, and once they start producing, use the offspring for training....eventually, you'll be able to use the originals.

Find a good quality feed, feed and water daily, and your in business.

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braque du upstate
roof rats are cheap. a bit of homwework and you can get them for free. homers are kinda messy ,but much more interesting. many people have a harder time killing pigeons they raised.
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Crazy4Hunting

Pigoens are awesome.  Keeping pigeons is what you make of it.  Keep the coop clean, keep them healthy, feed them well, and fly them and you'll get years of great service.  Personally, I find it very rewarding. I don't shoot mine. I have access to game birds for that, but I use them liberally with the pups and even with the adults.  They are so easy to keep and care for that it's almost crazy not to try it out if you have a bird dog.

Couple things to keep in mind...

#1.  The coop should be clean, dry, free of drafts, and the appropriate size for the number of pigeons you intend to keep. I find coops with an aviary where the bird can see the skyline helps them home, could be just my perception. Most health issues are due to a filthy, damp, overcrowded coop, and\or soiled food and water.

#2.  Feral pigeons will more often than not fail to re-home to your coop, so if you let em out, shoot them.  Otherwise wait till they breed (cause they will), band the squabs, and fly them when they are old enough.  (by feral I mean wild, trapped pigeons)

#3.  Feral pigeons should be treated immediately for everything (foys 5-in-1) follow up with a probitotic right after treatment.  Never mix feral pigeons, or newly aquired pigeons with your healthy pigeons.  Quarrantine them, treat them, and then integrate them.

#4.  Grit is more important that people think. Make sure they have fresh, clean grit. Don't feed cracked corn, I know a lot of guys swear by it, but its low in nutrition, doesn't help very much in the creation of pigeon milk, and wreaks havoc on the pigeons crop lining. In certain situations you can feed cracked corn, but make sure you get them the better feed as soon as is practical.

#5. They will mate, A LOT, especially if you end up aquiring already mated pairs, and you will loose a lot of squabs. Mated pairs in the same coop with young birds and unmated pairs is disasterous. Especially if you provide nest boxes and nest material.  If you intend to allow them to procreate, plan to create an isolated enclosure inside your coop for weened young birds to fully develop safely without getting the crapped kicked out of them by the adult males, do this especially if you see a young birds head pecked and damaged, and use it as a quarrantine when you have a sick bird, and use it if you detect the mated pairs are about to mate.

#6.  Don't bother trying to sex them, if you do decide to sex them, band them so you know which is which. Sexing pigeons is not rocket science but it's tricky.  I lost a couple young birds because I used the mother and didn't realize she was sitting her squabs, the male didn't take over, and no one stepped up to foster.  She didn't rehome right away (sat on top of the coop for about a week) and the squabs died.

#7. Water needs to be changed daily when the temperature drops below freezing.  If you can work out a way to heat the coop, and the water so it doesn't freeze its less work for you in the long run.

#8. The LCSupply coop is great for a small number of birds, and a perfect way to get started.  The general rule is 4 square feet of space per breeding pair so keep that in mind when deciding how many birds to keep.

#9.  You will loose birds no matter what...predators, disease, runaways etc.  It's inevitable.

#10.  They s%$t everywhere, and often.  So plan your feeders and waterers accordingly so they stay reasonably clean.

#11.  A couple times a year, take them out, wash and sanitize the interior of the coop, let it dry and put them back.

#12. If you keep the feed outside, keep it in a metal trash can with the lid on tight.  

#13.  Where you find pigeons and squabs; rats, raptors, and mice are likely not far behind.  Snakes in many cases too. Keep the coop up off the ground, and reasonably predator proof.  Watch for signs of rats and mice.

#14.  Don't give antibiotics, probiotics, or treatments to a female who's about to mate, or already mated and about to lay.  

Take what you can use out of all that and leave the rest.  Good luck!

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JK, I just started pigeons this year with the LCSupply loft. And can't believe I waited so long. They are so convenient for training. I have 7 that are homing back great. Starting a coop is well worth your effort.

Crazy4Hunting, thanks for the informative post. I have a couple of questions for you. You mentioned to keep the coop free of drafts. It gets pretty cold here this time of year and I've been leaving the door open to the avery all the time so they can get food and water. Should I be keeping the door closed? I'd rather not have to keep the food and water inside because of fouling.

The next question is do you have any ideas to keep the inside of the coop cleaner. The LCSupply plans just have a wood bottom with no sort of poop tray.

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traveller2926

JK, two years ago I started a coop and have never looked back -- it has been great.  And, I do not want to be viewed as the UJ Compliance Officer, but I did learn of something important.  My state requires a "dog training" permit; the coop must have a defined square footage for each bird maintained in the coop; and the size of the property used to train must be five acres or more.  To avoid any problem, check your game laws.

The permit is simple...  I send in $10.00 per year with a map showing the location of the coop with a copy of the permit to train on the property .

Good luck.  Trav

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I've been racing pigeons for years and using the slower birds for trainers.  Most racers keep 2-4 buildings, separating young birds, racing, breeders and widowhood racing.

As for keeping them I would suggest looking up the nearest pigeon club.  You will easily find someone who will give you birds.  I would suggest the best time to get them will be Arpil - June, after the racing birds are raised for the upcoming season(sept-oct).  

I would not get fully grown birds but youngsters/squeakers.  Prisoner birds will be a pain for you so they don't get out.  

Most of the loft designs will work.

Depending on the size you want you could go with the Lion Country design or step up one notch to the Red Rose style loft.

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All great advice but I have to add that you must "fly" them regularly.

When you first get them, keep them in the coop for a week or so, then take them out one by one and just show them how the door bobs work by pushing them back through the bobs. Do this for about a week while still keeping them in the coop.

When you take them out for training, tether them the first couple of times and see that they fly back towards the coop from about 40 yards or so. Then increase the distance over time...you now have "homers" that you can use with launchers from about a 1/2 mile away or more :)

Even if you are just going to use them for kill birds, skip the steps above but still tether them and let them keep their wings strong or they won't fly good after awhile and set you back in training more than they do you any good.

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I have never kept pigeons, instead I just trap ferals and keep them for a few days.  But I've always wondered about keeping pigeons coops clean...couldn't the bottom be 1/2" wire screen?  Would that be too drafty on them?  It sure would keep a cleaner coop, I would think.
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I have never kept pigeons, instead I just trap ferals and keep them for a few days.  But I've always wondered about keeping pigeons coops clean...couldn't the bottom be 1/2" wire screen?  Would that be too drafty on them?  It sure would keep a cleaner coop, I would think.

That's what I use in my coop and there doesn't seem to be any draft issues, my birds do fine all winter long here in WI.  However, I think a good portion of the turds get hung up and dont pass through the screen, so you still need to scrape it out every so often.

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I put straw down on the bottom of my coop.  Couple scoops with the shovel, and it's cleaned up and ready for a fresh layer.
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I have never kept pigeons, instead I just trap ferals and keep them for a few days.  

trust me, how do you trap them? When we had a silo on the farm we'd use a fishing net and flashlight but it's gone now. There is a grain elevator near by that has 100s of pigeons but no allowed access to the roof. Is there a net trap or box trap available?

Edit: After doing Google I can see there there lots available. Which ones work the best?

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I made my own, then borrowed a store bought model.  Placed side by side, the store trap will out produce my home effort by about 1.5:1.  

My homemade trap uses doors cut from 1" square screen wire with a 1" gap at the bottom and a 1" vertical slot in the middle to let them get their heads started inside.  The store trap used the traditional bobs.  Virtually no other difference.  Both traps are roughly 32" long, 18" wide, and about 10" high.  Not exact, but close enough.  Here's my setup:  http://my.att.net/p/s/community.dll?ep=87&subpageid=200268&ck=

Place the trap in an established feeding or loafing area, rooftops are best.  Trap must be placed in a wide open area so the birds feel safe and can see 360 degrees.  Try to bait and check the trap at times the birds are elsewhere as they don't seem to tolerate a great deal of disturbance, and I've also noticed that as you whittle away their numbers, the survivors will get more and more trapshy.

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