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Why Have a Pigeon as a Pet – Part 1

I had never considered having a king pigeon (or any pigeon) as a pet until I met a tame one, Gurumina, who had been surrendered by her owner to SF Animal Care & Control. I was there doing my volunteer shift socializing the rabbits and rats and guinea pigs and she kept bouncing up and down in her stainless steel cage. She sounded like a bowling ball in a clothes dryer. Shelter volunteers usually don’t handle the birds but Gurumina wanted attention and when I opened up the door to her cage, she stepped out on to my arm, surprising me both with her weight and her charm. Rather than let Gurumina be euthanized (which is what usually happened to king pigeons), I decided to find her a home. At the time, I had two parrots, two cats and a dog and was feeling full up (ah- the good old days), but figured I could foster her until I found the right adopter. With Mickaboo’s help, I did. Her adopter, Shafqat, has this to say, “Having a king pigeon is a nice alternative to having a more demanding pet. My Gurumina is low  maintenance and independent. She quietly follows family members around the house while we go about our business and is lovely to look at on top of that. I’m very glad I have her in my life, she’s a peaceful and pleasant presence.” Since meeting Gurumina, I’ve adopted six and fostered almost one hundred pigeons. So beware, pigeons can be addictive.

Kings pigeons are domestic and can’t survive in the wild. They’re bred to be eaten as squab and so are big-bodied for maximum meat yield and white (white feathers are a byproduct of the pink skin consumers prefer in meat birds). Bay Area animal shelters get quite a few in (several a week in SF) because they get away from backyard breeders or people see them for sale in live food markets, feel sorry for them, buy them and set them ‘free’- a gesture most don’t survive (and that only rewards the breeders). Once free, king pigeons stand around, not sure what to do or where to go and are quickly killed by hawks, dogs, cats, and cars. The few lucky survivors make it to shelters where adopters are scarce and euthanasia likely.

As a breed, king pigeons are calm and very adaptable. They’re alert but not prone to panic. Their energy level is much lower than that of parrots and they tend to have really great leisure skills- lounging and napping and watching more than being busy, busy, busy. I think of parrots as being hot and spicy while pigeons are cool and mellow, maybe even boring to some. Pigeons will interact with you and some like ringing bell toys or adopting cat toy balls as surrogate eggs. They don’t talk and while they are flashy strutters, I don’t know of any that dance. Pigeons are quiet with the male courtship cooing/moaning being the main vocalization. They do coo or trill at you sometimes but they never scream or yell. While quiet and mellow, they are still full of opinions and personality and each is an individual. Like when adopting any bird, you have to accept them as a cherished guest in your life and not try to change them or force them to be something they’re not. Most of my pet pigeons will give me some quality snuggle time when in the house but prefer not to be handled when they’re outdoors (like it’s our little secret). Louie, who I’ve had for almost two years, does not want to come indoors or be handled ever and I respect that wish. I leave her be and am content to love her from afar.

Elizabeth Young, MickaCoo Pigeon and Dove Coordinator

MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue

www.PigeonRescue.org

 

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