Do Pigeons Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know!

Birds are beautiful and fascinating. They come in different sizes, not to mention colors. And let’s not forget about their songs! If you’ve been debating about adding a new pet to your household and have been thinking about making it a bird, obviously, there’s a lot to choose from. But what about pigeons?

Do pigeons make good pets? Absolutely! Pigeons have been kept as pets for centuries and have been used for racing and as messengers.

We’ll go over why they make such great pets, as well as some information on some of the basic requirements to take care of a pigeon before you bring one home.

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Before We Begin

We’ll start by looking at some of the misinformation and negative images surrounding the pigeon.

First of all, pigeons are commonly called “rats with wings,” which comes from believing that they are filthy and disease-ridden. Of course, like any living creature, pigeons do carry diseases, but they don’t carry any more than any other animal. And most of the bacteria and viruses that make them sick are not contagious for humans.

Of course, pigeon poop is full of bacteria and potentially deadly diseases, but again, no more than anyone else’s. The feces for all species are capable of carrying dangerous bacteria.

As far as cleanliness, pigeons, like all animals, can be vulnerable to ticks, fleas, and lice, but just like our beloved cats, pigeons groom themselves and take baths.

Much of the attitude the general public has towards pigeons is not accurate. Consequently, “rats with wings” is not only untrue but it’s unfair for the poor, maligned pigeon.

pigeon resting on wire

Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

Why Pigeons Make Good Pets

There are a number of reasons why pigeons can make great pets.

1. Quiet

At least compared to many other popular bird species, such as parrots and cockatoos, pigeons make a gentle cooing sound.

2. Long-lived

While pigeons don’t live as long as the average parrot (which can be up to 80 years!), they can live for 15 to 20 years with the proper care.

3. Personality

Pigeons are pretty laid-back for birds. They enjoy spending time with you, will hang out on your shoulder, and are known to be loyal and affectionate.

4. Intelligence

It might surprise you to know that pigeons are considered one of the smartest species. They can count just as well as primates and can recognize words.

5. Easy to Look After

Once you have everything set up, pigeons are quite easy to care for.

These are just some of the few reasons why pigeons can make great pets. We’ll go over some of the basic requirements a pet pigeon will need.

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Indoor Housing

If you would like to keep your pigeon indoors with you, you’ll need a large cage. Keep in mind that pigeons do better with company, so either keep them in pairs or prepare yourself to spend a lot of time with a single pigeon. They should also spend time outside of the cage. While they will probably fly, they are more likely to spend time walking around.

For two pigeons, they will need a cage that is big enough for them to move around and flap their wings without hitting the bars (approximately 3.5’ W x 2.25’ L x 2.5’ H). They also do better with small platforms over stick perches, which also work well for nesting.

walking pigeon

Image Credit: Rajesh Balouria, Pixabay

Cleaning the Indoor Cage

Obviously, the most challenging aspect of owning pigeons is the poop (but that can be said for all pets). If your pigeons are indoors, you can invest in “pigeon pants,” which are a kind of diaper for your pigeon. These diapers come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and are surprisingly cute! Your pigeons will leave your house poop-free but should be changed about once every 3 hours.

  • Daily: You should change the cage liner, spot clean the surfaces, and clean the food and water dishes every day.
  • Weekly: Scrub the grate, wash the bottom tray, and clean the platforms once a week.
  • Monthly: The entire cage will need a good scrubbing, including the bars every month.

Outdoor Housing

If you prefer to keep your pigeons outside, you’ll need to opt for an aviary, which should be a minimum of 4’ W x 6’ L x 6’ H for four pigeons.

The aviary should be very secure against predators (cats and hawks, for example) and rodent-proof with at least 16-gauge mesh on any small openings. There should be shelter provided against the rain and sun. If you live in a colder part of the world, you might need to bring your pigeons indoors or ensure you’ve provided a source of heat in the aviary over the winter months.

pigeon resting

Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Cleaning the Outdoor Aviary

You’ll want to have a liner on the bottom of the aviary that can be litter or paper. If you opt for paper, it needs to be changed every day, and litter must be raked once a day and changed every week.

  • Daily: Clean the water and food containers with soap and water.
  • Weekly: Wash the perches and walls with soap and water.

And that’s it!

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Enrichment for Your Pigeons

You should provide your pigeons with nesting material that can be used for breeding but also gives them a place to rest.

Nesting material possibilities:

  • Pine needles
  • Shredded paper
  • Twigs
  • Tobacco stalks
  • Nest felt
  • Straw

Each one of these nesting materials has advantages and disadvantages, so do some research in order to figure out which kind will work best for you and your pigeons.

You should also invest in some toys to help keep your smart pigeons mentally active. Many of these toys can be bought at any online pet store.

Best toys for pigeons:

  • Bird swing
  • Something to climb (frame or ladders)
  • Mirror
  • Pack of bird toys
  • Open weave balls

Keeping your pigeons entertained will help to prevent boredom. Just be sure to clean the toys as well.

Pigeon Diet

Ideally, your pigeons should be fed once every morning. If you give them the right amount, it should last until evening and is replenished the following day.

The recommendation is to start with 2 tablespoons of food for each bird (which is generally too much). Start reducing the amount until the food has been eaten by evening.

You can feed your pigeon:

  • Pigeon mix: You should opt for all-natural without added chemicals. It should contain a mix of cereals, grains, legumes, and seeds, and also safflower.
  • Fruit: Apples, pears, berries, grapes, etc.
  • Veggies: Spinach, clover, watercress, lettuce, chickweed, endive, snap peas, bell pepper, etc. (Serve 3 to 4 times per week.)
  • Grit: You can sprinkle a small amount of crushed oyster shell or grit that’s safe for birds on their feed. This helps them to digest seeds with hulls.
  • Treats: Try giving your pigeons occasional treats such as hemp seeds and plain peanuts that are not roasted or salted.

Also ensure your pigeons have access to fresh, clean water at all times and clean the water dish every day. You can add apple cider vinegar to your pigeon’s water once a week as it helps prevent certain pigeon diseases by increasing gastrointestinal acidity.

Pigeon Health

Pigeons tend to be healthy birds but keep an eye out for changed behavior and appearance. You know your birds best of all, and you’ll be able to tell if something is wrong.

Signs to look out for:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Thinning feathers
  • Skin taking on a bruised appearance and milky eyes
  • Lethargy

Make sure you find a good vet that has experience with birds (and hopefully, pigeons as well).

Breeds Best for Pets

Some of the more popular breeds of pigeons for pets are:

  • Tumblers
  • Homers
  • Kings
  • Fantails

Try to find a reputable pigeon breeder when you’re ready to take the next step. You should be able to find one online that is local.

You can also consider adopting a pigeon that needs a home. There are rescue organizations, such as Palomacy, which is located in Northern California. But there are many rescue groups devoted to doves and pigeons scattered around the world.

pigeon on wood

Image Credit: wendy CORNIQUET, Pixabay

Conclusion

Now that you know what you need to take care of a pigeon, we hope you might take the plunge. Pigeons will make a wonderful addition to your family and will keep you company for quite a number of years. If you’re interested in adding a bird to your household that can be just as smart, affectionate, and loyal as a dog, you can’t go wrong with the pigeon.

Jack Benz

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