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Creating a Pigeon Palace

Consider the pigeon, the lowly vermin of the sky. Who, at one time or another, ever thought trying to keep and raise a small flock of sky rats for your offseason dog training would be a great idea? That’s exactly where I found myself last weekend, sweating, cursing, sawing and hammering away at a dedicated pigeon pen for all those cursed little birdbrains that I’ve been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to trap. It’s bad enough to repeatedly be outsmarted by a bird I’m not fully convinced has an actual brain, but it’s even worse to realize what that says about me.

Knowing full well the limited extent of my carpentry (and apparently, trapping) skills, I probably should have just abandoned the idea altogether, but with two young dogs needing some bird contacts, and with fall, cool weather, college football, and (most importantly), quail season all still a distant blip on the far horizon, I decided that, for better or worse, finishing that pen would be a priority.

As the old adage goes, birds make the bird dog. Photo by Chad Love / Quail Forever

 

So that’s what I did. I spent all weekend meticulously constructing what I confidently thought would be a high-quality, eight-feet-long pigeon and quail loft. When I finally got finished late Sunday evening, I caught my breath, stepped back to admire my skill, and realized that I had spent approximately $15,000 and 500 man-hours of labor cobbling together a simple, hopelessly out-of-square box covered in rusty wire sitting on a pair of sawhorses. Those figures are rough estimates, of course, but that’s what it felt like.

Worse, I didn’t even have any pigeons to populate this gleaming new ode to incompetence. So I did what every resourceful, self-reliant modern hunter-gatherer does: I went on Craigslist. When I saw a local ad for pigeons at the bargain price of two bucks apiece, I figured if I couldn’t outsmart them, I could at least derive some small measure of satisfaction by buying them at a good price.

And here’s tip number one for buying pigeons: Remember to bring something (Disposable, of course. Trust me, you aren’t going to want to keep it) to put down under the cage in which you take them home. If you don’t, you will be sorry. Very, very sorry…

But eventually, after multiple sessions with the power washer, the back of my wife’s car more or less came clean and I was able to transfer my eight new pigeons to their brand spanking new digs. (After, of course, I was forced to take off and sand down the loft door that had swollen shut because I made it too big for the opening…). Surprisingly, all eight pigeons were still there the next morning. So now I’m in the pigeon-keeping business, at least until they all figure out how to escape. Anyone else keep a small flock of pigeons for their dog training? Any suggestions, advice or warnings you’d care to share? Any pigeon-related training tips? And seriously, is there any bird out there that defecates as often and with as much enthusiasm as a pigeon?

Chad Love writes for Quail Forever (Pheasants Forever’s quail conservation division) from Woodward, Oklahoma. He is a lifelong quail hunter and “bird dog guy” who also writes for Field & Stream, including the magazine’s “Man’s Best Friend” gundog blog.

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6 Responses to “Creating a Pigeon Palace”

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  1. Adam Jaquet says:

    Looks like a nice place, Chad. If you intend to keep birds for a longer term, you might need to add perches and nest boxes.

    Not to toot the horn of my local NAVHDA Chapter, but one of our members shared pictures of his pigeon coop and I found it to be a really nice design built for long term rearing of pigeons. http://www.spoonrivernavhda.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=7495920

  2. Ted G says:

    Tell your family they’re dove.

  3. Mike says:

    Where did you find $2 pigeons .. Here in Colorado they average $4-$5 a bird.
    Looks like a nice little flying rat box.

    Mike

  4. Dave Shumway says:

    Definitely a perch and nest boxes if you’re gonna keep them.
    Also add a door with swinging bobs and a landing platform. Make sure you keep them in the pen for a good month or 2 before you use them or they will fly back to the person you bought them from and then he can sell them to you again. Once they have made themselves at home in your pen they will fly back every time. Let them out to exercise also. As long as they have food, water and shelter, they will come back. And multiply like rabbits!

  5. I found a few guys near the Twins Cities earlier this summer (also via Craigslist) selling pigeons at $8 to $10 a crack. At that price, they should also throw in some steak. – Anthony Hauck, Online Editor, Pheasants Forever

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