Pigeon keeping: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A pigeon fancier with his racing pigeon.

Pigeon keeping is the art and science of breeding domestic pigeons. Mankind has practiced pigeon keeping for about 10,000 years in almost every part of the world. In that time, mankind has substantially altered the morphology and the behavior of the domesticated descendants of the rock dove to suit his needs for food, aesthetic satisfaction and entertainment.

The keeping of pigeons necessitates building specialized structures in which to house the birds. These pigeon houses often contain specially constructed openings to allow the pigeon keeper to give his animals liberty for purposes of exercise while allowing them to re-enter the house without special assistance from the keeper. At the same time these houses are constructed to keep the pigeons safe from predators and inclement weather and give them nesting places in which to raise their young.

People who breed pigeons are commonly referred to as pigeon fanciers.[1] The hobby is gaining in popularity in the United States, after having waned within the last 50 years.[2] Both the hobby and commercial aspects of keeping pigeons are thriving in other parts of the world.


Types of pigeons kept

The Rock Dove, which is generally believed to be the ancestor of domesticated pigeons,[3] was probably domesticated around ten thousand years ago.[4] There are hundreds of breeds of domesticated pigeons arising from this common ancestor which are currently cultivated by pigeon fanciers.[5] Because of the large number of domesticated breeds, pigeon fanciers find it convenient for certain purposes to group sets of domesticated pigeons into larger groups.

In the United States, there are three major recognized groups of breeds[6] of domesticated pigeons:

  • Flying/Sporting
  • Fancy
  • Utility

It is worth noting that pigeon fanciers in other nations use different schemes in grouping domesticated pigeons; for example, a nationwide pigeon organization in Germany [7] uses a far different grouping scheme[8]. The Australian grouping system is similar to the UK/European groupings. For example see: Major breed families of fancy pigeon.


Flying/Sporting pigeons

These are pigeons kept and bred for their aerial performance. Racing homers are a type of Homing pigeon, trained to participate in the sport of pigeon racing, and have been used to carry messages during times of war. Fanciers who fly racing pigeons sometimes win long distance races and even break records.[9] Other flying/sporting pigeons are bred for unique flying characteristics other than homing, such as rolling, high-flying, and diving. These birds, which may be flown in competitions, include but are not limited to Rollers, Tumblers, and Tipplers. It should also be noted that a few varieties, for example, the Parlor Roller, are considered to be within the flying/sporting group even though they do not fly. This is because they compete on basis of their performance and not their appearance. Competitors in pigeon sporting competitions such as pigeon races can win large sums of prize money when their pigeons return home the fastest from a race.[10] The use of pigeons to carry messages is commonly called Pigeon Post. Pigeons can also carry small light-weight packages, and have been used to smuggle drugs into a prison.[11]

Fancy pigeons

Fancy pigeons are pigeons which are specially bred to perpetuate particular features. Examples of fancy pigeons would include Jacobins, Fantails and Pigmy Pouters. Their owners compete them against each other at exhibitions or pigeon shows and judges decide who has the best by comparing them to each other and their respective breed standard. There are many breeds of fancy pigeons of all sizes, colors and types.[12]

Utility pigeons

A pair of white Kings

Utility pigeons are bred for their meat and as replacement breeding stock. The meat of pigeons is customarily referred to as squab and is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Examples of utility varieties include Kings, several different varieties of Mondaines and Carneau.

  • All of the above pigeon breeds may also be exhibited in pigeon shows but true utility pigeons and flying/sporting pigeons are rarely exhibited. This is because true utility pigeons are bred for meat and true flying/sporting pigeons are bred for their aerial performance so that in both cases appearance is usually a very minor consideration.

Pigeon housing

Houses for pigeons are generally called lofts.[13] Pigeon houses are also sometimes referred to as "coops" although the word seems to have originally applied to the breeding pens inside the housing.[14] There are as many different kinds of enclosures used to house pigeons in as there are pigeon fanciers. There are no real constraints on the design of housing for pigeons but there are some things that most fanciers find desirable.

Multiple pens

Many pigeon fanciers build their pigeon loft with at least two pens. This allows a few positive outcomes for the pigeon fancier:

  1. They are able to separate their males from females in order to control breeding.
  2. They are able to separate young, unmated pigeons from mated and settled pairs. This allows the mated and settled pairs to breed better.

Most fanciers have at least two pens for their pigeons and often you'll encounter fanciers with more than two pens or possibly multiple pigeon lofts. Extra pens allow for the keeping of spare, unmated females and males which can be useful to replace existing pigeons which might perish from disease or predation. Because it can be difficult to determine the sex of a young pigeon it is also handy to have extra pens for pigeons that have been weaned but which have not given external indications of their sex yet.

Trap/landing board

A Sputnik trap.

For those pigeon fanciers that fly their pigeons (not all pigeon fanciers allow their pigeons to fly freely outside of their aviary) the pigeons need a means of egress to the loft. A trap or at least bobs and landing board allows the pigeon to get back into their home when they are ready to do so. There are different variations of trap and bobs used.[15] Racing pigeons are commonly trapped home using a bob wired trapping arrangement that the birds push against the bob wires to gain access, but are restricted by the wires when trying to get back outside. Another form of trap typically called a Sputnik trap (pictured) uses an openings set on an angle which are just wide enough for one bird to gain access by dropping through into the loft.


Sometimes pigeon fanciers cannot allow their birds complete liberty due to complaints of neighbors. However, pigeons have much better health and seem to be in much better spirits when they're given room to fly. So most fanciers, including those that let their birds fly, will build a large enclosed area free of obstacles where the pigeons can fly as freely as they wish. This is usually referred to as a flypen.[16]

Nest boxes

Pigeon fanciers will often provide their mated pairs with nest boxes in which to build their nests. Because pigeons are quite territorial about their nesting area[17] pigeons co-exist much more harmoniously when each mated pair has two nest boxes of its own.


Again, pigeon fanciers will often provide their birds (both mated and unmated pigeons) with more perches than the birds need. Because pigeons are also quite territorial about their perch[17] it is best to ensure that every pigeon in the loft has lots of places to perch.

Pigeon fanciers often have their pigeon lofts in suitably modified garden sheds. In Glasgow and other areas of Scotland there has been a tradition of pigeon keepers building their own freestanding urban pigeon lofts, or doocots, standing about 4m high in areas of waste ground close to housing estates. In New York City, pigeon fanciers often build pigeon lofts on the roof of the building.

Portrayal of pigeon keeping in the arts

There have been several portrayals of pigeon keeping and pigeon fanciers in the arts. One of the more famous portrayals of this hobby involved the film On The Waterfront where the main character, Terry Malloy, is a pigeon keeper[18]. There have been portrayals of pigeon keeping in other art forms as well. The artist Zina Saunders has painted portraits of New York pigeon keepers as part of her Overlooked New York project.[19]

Commercial pigeon keeping

Since their initial domestication by mankind, pigeons have been seen as a cheap source of good meat. The Romans certainly kept pigeons for food as evidenced by the fact that they were familiar with the practice of force feeding squabs in order to fatten the young pigeons faster.[20] Pigeons were especially prized because they would produce fresh meat during the winter months when larger animals were unavailable as a food source. In the past wealthy landowners often had pigeon houses and kept pigeons. Strict laws were enacted to protect the inhabitants of these structures.[21] As time passed and storage of winter feed supplies for larger livestock became more practical, it was no longer as important to keep pigeons for food. However, the flavor of the meat of the birds was prized by many people and so organized commercial enterprises marketing squab meat arose.

Improving yield

Ten pairs of pigeons can produce eight squabs each month without being fed especially by the pigeon keepers. For a greater yield, commercially raised squab may be produced in a two-nest system, where the mother lays two new eggs in a second nest while the squabs are still growing in the first nest,[22] fed by their father.[23] Establishing two breeding lines has also been suggested as a strategy, where one breeding line is selected for prolificacy and the other is selected for "parental performance".[24]

Hazards of pigeon keeping

Keeping pigeons has been found to lead to a condition called pigeon fancier's lung in some fanciers.[25] Pigeon fancier's lung is an extrinsic allergic reaction resembling asthma which occurs when a person has been exposed to certain proteins in the dust associated with a pigeon's feathers over long periods of time, usually several years[25]. When a fancier develops this condition, there are several treatments which may help him or her to keep his or her pigeons[25]. However, some cases are so severe that the fancier must avoid close contact with pigeons.[26]

Famous fanciers

See also


  1. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. p. 1. ISBN 0853900132.  
  2. ^ Allmendinger, Lisa. "Pigeons gain in popularity as pets" (Web news). The Ann Arbor News. http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews/2008/06/pigeons_gain_in_popularity_as.html. Retrieved 2008-06-02.  
  3. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. p. 37. ISBN 0853900132.  
  4. ^ Blechman, Andrew (2007). Pigeons-The fascinating saga of the world's most revered and reviled bird.. St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780702236419. http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/book_details.php?id=9780702236419.  
  5. ^ Levi, Wendell (1965). Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. ISBN 0910876029.  
  6. ^ Hiatt, Shannon; Jon Esposito, DVM (2000). The Pigeon Guide. Port Perry, Ontario: Silvio Mattacchione and Company. p. 18. ISBN 1895270189.  
  7. ^ "VDT Online" (in German). http://www.vdt-online.de/main/index.html. Retrieved 2008-04-18.  
  8. ^ "VDT Online" (in German). http://www.vdt-online.de/seite3/index3.html. Retrieved 2008-04-18.  
  9. ^ Crighton, Ryan. "Lifelong dream comes true for pigeon fancier". The Press and Journal. http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/738492?UserKey=0. Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  10. ^ Judge, Chris. "Rocky enjoys national win" (Web news). Fenland Citizen. http://www.fenlandcitizen.co.uk/sport/Rocky-enjoys-national-win.4169335.jp. Retrieved 2008-06-13.  
  11. ^ Wingrove, Josh. "Brazilian prisoners use pigeons to get high". GlobeLife (June 27, 2009). http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080627.wlpigeon27/BNStory/lifeMain/home?cid=al_gam_mostview. Retrieved 2008-07-05.  
  12. ^ McClary, Douglas (1999). Pigeons for Everyone. Great Britain: Winckley Press. ISBN 0907769284.  
  13. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. p. 507. ISBN 0853900132.  
  14. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. p. 537. ISBN 0853900132.  
  15. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. p. 524. ISBN 0853900132.  
  16. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. p. 522. ISBN 0853900132.  
  17. ^ a b Castoro and Guhl. "Pairing Behavior of Pigeons Related To Aggressiveness and Territory" (Web article). The Wilson Bulletin. http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Wilson/v070n01/p0057-p0069.pdf. Retrieved 2008-04-07.  
  18. ^ "On The Waterfront (1954) Overview" (Web article). Turner Classic Movies. http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=4749. Retrieved 2008-05-02.  
  19. ^ Saunders, Zina. "Rooftop Pigeon Coop Guys" (Web article). Overlooked New York. http://www.overlookednewyork.com/pigeon/. Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  20. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. p. 475. ISBN 0853900132.  
  21. ^ Tegetmeier, William (1868). Pigeons: their structures, varieties,habits and management. London: George Rutledge and Sons. p. 38. http://books.google.com/books?id=v-gDAAAAQAAJ.  
  22. ^ Schiere, Hans; van der Hoek, Rein (2001). Livestock keeping in urban areas: a review of traditional technologies based on literature and field experiences. FAO animal production and health paper. 151. Food and Agriculture Organization. pp. 29. ISBN 9789251045756. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=mywom_Ourn8C&oi=fnd&pg=PP12&dq=squab+meat+pigeon&ots=NQdY3oxBSQ&sig=HnTWoDj9SFn_yiEpmrYI6NiyAbw#v=onepage&q=pigeon&f=false.  
  23. ^ Bolla, Gerry (2007). "Squab raising". New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/213221/Squab-raising.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-03.  
  24. ^ Aggrey, S.E.; Cheng, K.M. (1993). "Genetic and Posthatch Parental Influences on Growth in Pigeon Squabs". Journal of Heredity 84 (3): 184-187. http://jhered.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/84/3/184. Retrieved 2009-09-03.  
  25. ^ a b c Bourke, Stephen; Boyd,Gavin. "Pigeon fancier's lung" (Web Article). BMJ. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/315/7100/70. Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  26. ^ "Pigeon Lung" (Web Article). British Pigeon Fanciers Medical Research. http://www.pigeon-lung.co.uk/main.html#. Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  27. ^ "Pigeon Crisis For Ferguson". http://www.uefa.com/magazine/news/Kind=1024/newsId=69259.html. Retrieved 2009-04-20.  
  28. ^ 80 facts about The Queen
  29. ^ Cockcroft, Lucy. "Queen gives racing pigeons to juvenile prison". Telegraph UK. http://www.webcitation.org/5ZqUaSYWA. Retrieved 2008-08-05.  

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address