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Caring For Your Doves

Page 2

Care and feeding Tip # 2.
Personal Hygiene: The personal hygiene of doves and pigeons includes a bath followed by sunning and preening themselves. Some like to bathe while others prefer a shower, and then there are some who like a dust bath. A shower can be accomplished with either a hand held sprayer or a hose with a fine spray head and lukewarm water. Wing clipping is not necessary and is not recommended for doves and pigeons. Unlike the parrot families, these birds cannot climb to safety and depend on flight.

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Nutrition Tip #2. 

In the wild doves and pigeons feed on seeds, berries, fruits, green leaves and shoots, spiders and other insects. The birds we are describing here are the seed eaters in the subfamily Columbinae.

The fruit eaters are in the subfamily Treroninae, but are not often seen in captivity probably because feeding them is much more difficult. The seed eaters fall into three categories; those that feed only in trees and shrubs, those that are ground feeders, and those that feed in both places. Fresh water must be provided every day. Doves and pigeons drink water by sucking it up and swallowing it rather than throwing their heads back like other birds do. One of the best ways to provide water, and to keep the birds from soiling it, is to use a so-called 'automatic' waterer, an upside down container that feeds into a tray type base. Foods available for doves and pigeons include seed only diets, formulated diets that are either pelleted or extruded, and commercial mixes generally consisting of seed, cereal, and legumes. The commercial mixes and the seed only diets require supplements for complete nutrition. Though formulated diets offer the same nutrients as commercial mixes as well as the necessary vitamins and minerals, they have been found to cause loose stools. This is probably because of the addition of molasses, but because of this problem they are not widely used today. A dove and pigeon diet consisting of a basic commercial mix supplemented with greens rich in minerals is generally regarded as suitable. Greens can include such things as lettuce, endive, chickweed, clover, watercress, and spinach. Some fruits are berries, apple, and pear. For smaller doves and pigeons you can use a budgie or canary mix. The smaller birds will also enjoy millet spray. Because they eat seeds whole doves and pigeons need grit and gravel. The little stones and the grit help grind up harder seed in the gizzard. Vitamins can be added to the water or sprinkled on food in a dry form about once a week. Offer calcium in the form of crushed oyster shell, grit, and even cuttlebone for the small birds. Some folks like to occasionally offer game bird crumbles, water soaked dog biscuits, and water or milk soaked bread as well.

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In all cases the size of the dove or pigeon determines the size of its home, they must be able to flap their wings without hitting the sides. Small birds such as the Diamond dove can be housed in a cage. The medium and larger sized birds will do much better in an aviary. Birds that are allowed free flight will need a dovecote. Unlike the larger birds, many of the small doves have very poor homing instincts and will not do well if released outside. They are not good candidates for free flight housing.

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     Generally a rectangular cage is better than a square one and the bar spacing must be small enough that the bird cannot get its head through. Because many of these birds spend a good deal of time on the ground, a wire bottom cage should have part of it covered with paper or even grassy sod. They also prefer a partially enclosed or box-type cage for a sense of security. Keep the cage in a bright draft-free area but not in direct sun. Normal room temperatures are fine with humidity at 50-70%.

     Some people wish to cover the cage at night. This is not necessary unless the cage will be in an area where the lights will be turned on and off at night. A cover in this case can help keep the bird from getting frightened.
     Aviary: An outdoor or breeding aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can be heated and cooled where necessary. Orienting the aviary to the south or southwest helps as these birds need good daylight and will avoid dark areas.
     The shelter should be taller than the flight area as many of these birds will seek out the highest place to roost for the night. A good shelter size is about 6' (2 m) square and 8' (2.5 m) high. Provide a flat shelf mounted as high as possible for roosting and for nest building, as well as some regular perches or natural branches. Provide some nest boxes for those birds that prefer an enclosed nest. A platform with a rim, mounted about 3' above the ground, is a good place for food and water.
     The flight area is a good place to provide a shallow pool for bathing and will need perches. You can provide nesting boxes in the flight if you locate them in areas where there are trees and bushes close by so the birds get a sense of security. Leave plenty of room for flying. Flight areas for small birds can be about 6' (2 m) long, 3' (1 m) wide, and 6' (2 m) high. For medium size birds it can be about 9' (3 m) long, 6' (2 m) wide, and 6' (2 m) high. For the large birds it can be 15' (5 m) long, 6' (2 m) wide, and 6' (2 m) high.

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     Free flight birds will need a dovecote. For many years doves and pigeons have been allowed free flight. 'Dovecotes' or 'pigeon lofts' were included as an integral part of many buildings throughout Europe. Originally these were built for utility purposes and later became more ornamental. There are many examples of these still today. This is a natural way to keep these birds as many have a homing instinct and will return to the dovecote each evening. If you wish to provide your birds with free flight, probably the most important thing to consider is safety. Free flight birds can be at risk from a variety of predators. Birds that are not use to free flying are especially at risk.
     Free flyers must first be accustomed to their home before allowing them to fly. If they are new to the dovecot, you can put a mesh cover around it until they become familiar with their accommodations. Once they know their home and where their food is they will return in the evening. It is recommended that you feed them sparingly in the morning, providing the bulk of their feed in the evening to encourage them to return.
     The larger birds are ideal for free flight, especially the acrobatic flyers. They enjoy it and it is good for their health. For a small number of birds a wallcote is probably the most practical. Built against the side of the house, preferably facing south or southwest, a wallcote is a waterproof shelter consisting of compartments and a porch or landing board. The compartment size is dependent on the the type of bird. For a medium sized pair of birds a compartment can be about 26" (67 cm) wide, 18" - 20" (46 - 51 cm) deep, and 16" (41 cm) high with an entrance that is about 5" - 6" (13 - 15 cm). The landing board can be about 8" (20 cm) wide and can also serve as a place to put heavy crocks for food and water. You can add more compartments as the number of birds increases.
Another type of dovecote is the polecote. This is a shelter and landing platform mounted on a free standing pole. This type of cote is often more decorative than practical however. An aviary that is opened up and allows for free flight is sometimes referred to as a garden cote.

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     The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes and bathing bowls. Weekly you should wash all the perches and platforms. Periodically disinfect the entire cage and accessories with a mild bleach solution. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened such as old dishes, nests, and perches.

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Social Behaviors:
     In the wild all doves and pigeons are known to flock, some do it only seasonally while others flock year round. Most species will live together peaceable if they are given plenty of room. In too small an area they can be very aggressive as well as during breeding season. All doves and pigeons can be somewhat territorial, and there are some species that are extremely so and very aggressive. Be sure to research the behaviors of the birds you want before putting them together with others.
     Be very careful about adding a new bird to a cage with existing birds. Most doves and pigeons are territorial by nature. They may be protective of their space and will not appreciate a new roommate, possibly even killing the newcomer.
     Many species can be house with other birds in an aviary, such as finches and parakeets, but aggressive species should be housed separately. Doves and pigeons do not mix well with cats, nor do they do well with dogs.

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     Young birds that are raised in an aviary can become very affectionate once they get used to their home and their family. This is the ideal pet as it will become quite tame and devoted while wild doves and pigeons generally remain cautious and on their guard. The wild birds will be shy and reserved and will seldom become overly affectionate.
     When you first bring your bird home, give it about a week or so with very little disturbance and don't let it out of its cage. There is much for it to become familiar with just being in its cage. Give it a chance to know you and get comfortable. After it is comfortable with you and its accommodations, then you can let it out to start exploring the rest of the home. Doves and pigeons enjoy time out of the cage daily. A pet dove can become very people oriented.

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Most doves and pigeons are seed eaters and thus ground dwellers. They like to walk around and will roost higher up. Some are free flyers that like to travel around. All these birds will need flight space. If you keep your bird in a cage they will need time out everyday to fly or walk about.
When resting, doves an pigeons do not tuck their head under a wing like many birds do, rather they hunch down pulling their head between the shoulders.

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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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