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Dove Care Tips

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Welcome To Our Dove Site


Caring For Your Doves

Seed Eaters.  Doves eat seeds.  They spend a great deal of time in nature walking around looking for seeds.  Unlike the hookbills (keets, parrots, etc.), they do not husk their seeds.  They swallow them whole.  This makes it easier to tell when they need more food.  They leave no trays of empty hulls as keets will.

Dove Foods.  Commercial dove foods are not as readily available as other bird foods.  If you can’t find their food, the best substitute we’ve found is vitamin-fortified parakeet food.  Doves will switch instantly to pelleted foods.

Treats.  Of course doves enjoy a change of pace in their diets.  Keet foods have quite a bit of variety in them, but doves will appreciate different treats – even a little bite of bread or cracker.  Greens, bits of fruit, and other little snacks go down smooth.

Insects.  In the wild, doves come upon and devour an occasional insect.  They like bugs.  In captivity, crickets, mealworms, and dried flies fill the bill.  But their main food is seeds.

GritBecause they eat their seeds whole (with the husks on), doves may need grit.  They use it to grind up their food in their gizzards.  Sprinkle a little bit of grit on their floor or provide a small cup of it -- as opposed to mixing it in their food.  Let them decide how much grit to consume.  Actually, they get along quite well with no grit at all.  However, calcium grit will help put calcium into their system.  Egg-laying females need extra calcium.

Appearance.  Bright eyes and an inquisitive look make the dove an appealing bird to most people.  They seem to look to their owner for attention.  Doves also quickly bond to their owner and like to follow you around.


  Cooing.  People also like the cooing sound the males make. The phrase “billing and cooing” comes from the mating activities of this particular group of birds.  They coo to attract their mates.  The cooing sound also seems to attract humans.  

Mating.  Doves prefer to pick their own mates.  However, most are not what you would call picky.  One male plus one female usually results in a breeding pair.

Nests.  Since they are such terrible nest builders, many doves will quickly take over their food bowl as a better nest than they could ever build.  If you feed yours from a five-inch ceramic bowl, don’t be surprised to find your female setting on a clutch of eggs in the food bowl.  Some will even lay eggs on the cage floor.  A few randomly placed twigs complete their nuptial suite.

Hatchlings.  Not all the eggs hatch at the same time, because the female lays them on different days.  The babies are small, poorly feathered, and helpless.  (They are also ugly.)  She is an excellent parent, but not protective at all.  You can lift her up and scope out (or scoop out) the eggs and youngsters without upsetting her much.  Both the female and the male feed the babies.  The babies stay in the nest until they are almost as big as their parents.  This process takes less than six weeks.

Baby Food.  Both parents feed the babies “pigeon milk.”  The parents eat and partially digest their seed diet, then regurgitate it into their kids’ open beaks.  The babies grow quite rapidly on this special diet.  You can assist the parents by giving them extra “nestling foods” at this time.  Any extra nutrition always helps.

Big Cage.   Because of their wide wing span, prefer a larger cage.  Something in the range of a cockatiel cage works great.  You can house them uncomfortably in a 14x14 cage.  Much better – a 24x24-inch rabbit cage.   They really like bigger cages.  If you keep them in a small cage, they absolutely need an exercise period.

Clean Cages.  Usually a weekly cleaning will handle the situation.  doves are not particularly messy -- except for their loose feathers.  Nor do they throw out their seeds for entertainment as much as many small birds do.

Mites.  Cleaning the cage on a regular basis will prevent most pest problems.  Adding one of the “cage protectors” also helps.  It repels them like moth balls.  Maybe that’s why they smell like moth balls?  If your bird does get mites (evidenced by a scaly beak or feet), you can eradicate them easily.  Mites are not much of a problem these days.  Cage spray works.  As does Ivermectin in serious cases.

Cage Cover.  You don’t need a cage cover.  However, it could make your life easier.  If you tire of their cooing, that’s where the cage cover works.  It literally turns your  dove off like a light switch.

Avoid Drafts.  Cool temperatures will not harm your  dove.  Drafts will.  Keep their cage away from open windows on windy days, from furnace and air conditioner outputs, and from fans.


 Provide Roosts.  Although  doves spend a lot of time walking on their cage floor, they still need roosts.  It always helps to give them a variety of roost sizes.  They cannot climb all over their cage wires like the hookbills do.  And position their roosts far enough away from the cage walls to not “ruffle their feathers.”  Tail feathers, that is.

Clean Roosts.  Use one of the little wire brush roost cleaners on an as-needed basis. Soaking them in a bucket of bleach water also helps.

Exercise Time.  Doves need “outside time.”  They really appreciate flying around on a daily basis.  Doves don’t actually try to escape, they just like to “try their wings” to keep in good shape.  You won’t need to trim their wings like you do on most birds.   doves just do not try to escape.

Inside Birds.  Of course, you don’t want your  doves to “try their wings” outside.  They could fly away.  Escapees have a very short memory of where they came from.  Escapees also have little chance of surviving in the wild.  Cats don’t even have to sneak up on them.  s are just not afraid of predators.

The Sun.  Like all animals, doves appreciate the sun (or its equivalent).  Naturally, they can’t take full-time exposure to the sun anymore than we can.  If you do build an outside aviary, make sure they get mostly shade in addition to sunning areas.  However, with all the wild bird diseases out there (Nile fever for one), outdoor aviaries are losing their appeal.

Artificial Sun.  Many manufacturers make artificial sun light these days.  These are the exact spectrum of sunlight but not at the same harmful intensity.  They keep the birds healthier and more colorful.

Bathing.  Healthy birds preen their feathers daily.  Many like to take a daily bath.  Doves like a daily misting.  It helps them preen and clean their feathers.This keeps them sleeker and, of course, cleaner.

Water.  Forget water bottles.  Doves drink from water dishes.  Change their       water daily because they insist on defecating in it.

Molting.  Doves molt (shed old feathers and grow new ones) once a  year – in the warm months.  Baby doves usually molt their initial feathers several weeks after birth.


Basic Care Plan for Doves

  • Cages should have a minimum of 2 cubic feet per bird
  • Separate dominate males in different cages
  • Clean cages daily & replace floor papers
  • Exercise birds daily by letting them out of cage to fly around
  • I used to Feed a balanced diet of KAYTEE Dove Mix Seed and Whole Wheat Bread
    I tried pellet feeds and they did not work out well for us, seed is best.
    (I use about 275 lbs of seed in a year)....
    I am now feeding Wild Bird Seed with a little Wild Game Chow added to it for the vitamins. The birds seem to be doing fine on this mixture and they also are breeding well. They hatched 5 chicks in a week.
    Another suggestion is to feed Purina Nutrablend gold or green Pellets, ground slightly, augment with wild bird seed. This didn't work well with my birds however.
  • Provide fresh water for drink and bath* each day
  • Provide different levels of branches or perches for dominant birds to help prevent fighting or separate birds
  • Allow access to sunlight or Vitagrow Lamp light Daily
  • Provide nesting boxes (4x6 to 6x6) filled with straw or shredded paper.

* without providing a large bowl of water to allow the nesting parent doves to bathe in, the dove eggs can dry out and suffocate the unhatched chick, especially in dry climates such as in Montana according to the WSU School of Veternary Science Ornithology Professor, Dr Starbuck, whom I called to ask why my dove's eggs were not hatching the first year I tried breeding white doves. Since then I have bred well over 150 birds from the original 4.

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Dove Facts...

White Doves are actually a variety of Ringneck Dove and not a separate species?


Dove Colors...

CLICK HERE for a listing of each color mutation/combination of  doves along with a picture.


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