Have you seen these old classic movies, where pigeons were used to deliver important messages to people who were far away? I always wondered that how could a pigeon know exactly where the receiver would be, and how would it find its way back home? These incredible creatures are none other than the homing pigeons who are known for their ability to travel miles away from home and yet find their way back! It is due to this quality that they are named so. These pigeons can take extremely long flights―1,118 miles being a record! Amazing, isn't it?
How to Raise Them
Many people believe that homing pigeons are extinct, however, this is not the case. The belief has probably resulted from a confusion between them and passenger pigeons, where the latter is the extinct species. It would be very easy to find this bird at a local bird shop, but make sure that the place from where you purchase it is trustworthy when it comes to dealing and shipment. White homing pigeons are probably the most popular ones in the market.
People raise them for various reasons including hobby, breeding, or even racing! Yes, they are very popular for racing purposes, where the trained ones can fly up to 600 miles and return home safely. There are people who are training these pigeons right from a young age for racing purposes only. Even if raised for hobby, these birds are amazing pets because you really don't have to put much efforts and they can never get lost. No matter what the reason be in your case, mentioned below are some important points regarding their training and raising.
Start by getting 2 pairs of homing pigeons so that they can start the mating process, if you want to breed them for the purpose of racing. The pigeon house should be airy enough and have an elevated loft which should be caged or wired initially, so that they don't fly away. It also acts as a protection against predators such as raccoons or cats. Make sure that their coups are clean and safe enough to keep the eggs. Also, try to include clean sand with small shells and stones so that they can do some picking. There is no specific space requirement, just make sure that their shelter is spacious enough for them to live comfortably.
You don't really have to take extra care when it comes to their feeding requirements. Give them regular whole grains, corn, rice, soybean, sorghum, or legume seeds. However, you must not feed them superfine or powdered grains. Also, make sure that the food is free of mold, pest, or any other hazardous element. Keep a corner where you can place the grains for them, so that they can feed all the time, especially, the young ones as they need a lot of food to grow.
Water is needed for drinking and birdbaths. These birds love to take baths. It also helps them keep cool and clean in the summer season and minimizes their chances of developing diseases. Keep a bathing container at least 7 to 8 cms deep so that they can enjoy their bath to the fullest. Giving them baths at least 2 to 3 times in a week is good.
If you want to train them for racing purposes, then you must do so when they are about 6 weeks old. Train them in a place that you want them to register as 'home'. Once they get used to the place which is now their home, you can start on with the training process. The first step would be to teach them to enter the loft using a trap door entrance. Gradually, take them a mile away from their loft and watch them fly back home. As time passes, increase the distance. You can also wait for them near the loft and treat them with their favorite food.
Some Interesting Facts
The homing pigeons have been one of the most popular species right from history. They were used to send important messages from one point to another, which is why they are also known as carrier pigeons. The section below consists of some interesting facts which would help you know about them in a better way.
- Homing pigeons are monogamous, meaning, they have only one mate for their entire life. However, in case of the death of their mate, they do find another one.
- A pigeon named Cher Ami was honored with the French Croix de guerre for its amazing heroic service in World War 1. This pigeon delivered 12 important messages in spite of being injured.
- People also use white homing pigeons in 'Release Dove' ceremonies. These ceremonies usually take place at occasions such as weddings, sporting events, and funerals.
- These birds look very similar to wild pigeons. The only difference would be that they seem to be more muscular than the latter, and probably have a mark on their leg.
- The females lay about two eggs at a time, the care of which, is taken by both the father and the mother in turns. The male incubates the eggs during late mornings or afternoons, and the mother takes charge during the rest of the time. The eggs hatch in about 17 days.
- Carrier pigeons were used as messengers almost 3,000 years ago by the Egyptians and Persians.
- Researchers believe that these birds have a natural magnetic mapping technique in them which helps them find their way back home, no matter how far they are.
After knowing so much about these amazing creatures, you would definitely want to get one for yourself, right? Make sure you have a vet nearby who can help you in case of medical emergencies. Also, if you are planning to keep quite a few, get them in pairs, one male for one female. Also separate the weak ones from the healthy ones, as one sick pigeon can affect the others as well. Take care of their food and hygiene and provide them with the basic necessities, that is all they want and need.