Homing Pigeons!

bug_n_flock

Active member
Jan 2, 2018
1,366
156
Isolated Holler in the Appalachian Wilderness
Parrots
B&G Macaw, Galah, 5 cockatiels, 50 billion and a half budgies. We breed and do rescue. Too many to list each individual's name and age etc, but they are each individuals and loved dearly.
Anybody keep homing pigeons? Mr. Bug and I have been considering adding them to our homestead for a variety of reasons. But before I get into all that: THERE ARE PIGEON BACKPACKS. These little guys are surprisingly strong and can carry 75g of weight each on their backs. :eek: That bit of pigeon trivia I just read and it blew my mind. Serious little atheletes(or however that is spelled)! Isn't it just the cutest thing! Apparently there are even little pigeon drug traffickers and that just makes me laugh out loud. Little bird thugs. :18:


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Me and the ole' ball and chain don't like to carry cell phones much these days(mostly because we don't even get cell signal everywhere on the property), and both think it would be pretty cool to use pigeons to communicate. I think there is a local pigeon keeper, as there is sometimes a flock of them in the field to our North, between us and the next closest farm. There are no feral pigeons around that I have seen, just that one flock who sometimes is around and other times not. Would be cool to know whos birds they are and maybe talk to them about pigeon keeping.



I've had a pigeon and a handful of doves before, but always as indoor pets. Anybody know anything about keeping a flock of homers? It would be super cool if eventually we could take birds on vacation and release them from there to come home, but I have no idea how much training and practice that would take. My mom and in-laws are about 500 miles away, my brother slightly closer, aunts about that distance, and one who is about 1000 miles away. I think the 1000 mile away one is probably too far. But the 300-500 mile away folks? Maybe.



Anyway, I am rambling. Who here has pigeon experience?:D
 
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SailBoat

Supporting Member
Jul 10, 2015
15,124
2,843
Western, Michigan
Parrots
DYH Amazon
Pigeons - have rescued more than my fair share of them on the Great Lakes. Several clubs around the Great Lakes and it is fairly common for them to fly their Pigeons across one of the Lakes. All commonly goes well until a fog bank of size sets in and our boat's deck becomes a safe haven until either the fog lifts or we pull into port.

Some basics I have learned from owners who have traveled to pick their Pigeons up and drive them home.
- They are single direction, i.e. Only back to their coops!
- They can be released anywhere on your property and with the wind from any direction, but they will only fly back to their coops.
- I guess if you are collecting smaller food items they could fly it back to their coops?

Place your phone number on their band, you will need it from time to time, since not all of them are great at determining where their coop is!

Have fun!
 

AmyMyBlueFront

Supporting Member
Apr 14, 2015
6,226
Media
4
1,852
Connecticut
Parrots
Amy a Blue Front 'Zon
Jonesy a Goffins 'Too who had to be rehomed :-(

And a Normal Grey Cockatiel named BB who came home with me on 5/20/2016.
I believe "Homers" were used in WW1 to carry vital intel to the allies.. D'OH!


Jim
 

Betrisher

Well-known member
Jun 3, 2013
4,248
107
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Parrots
Dominic: Galah(RIP: 1981-2018); The Lovies: Four Blue Masked Lovebirds; Barney and Madge (The Beaks): Alexandrines; Miss Rosetta Stone: Little Corella
I kept homing pigeons for most of my teen years and they were so rewarding and exciting! People who race spend a great deal of time acclimatising their birds and giving them longer and more difficult practice flights. You don't just 'home' them and then take them 500 miles away and expect 100% return.

You might take one or two of your best fliers, but it's important to understand the massive risk of asking for a 500 mile flight. That's a long way, even for a good bird!

I had a fifty pairs and kept them simply for my enjoyment. They were released twice a day: once at sunrise before feeding and again in the late afternoon before feeding. The sensation of having one's own flight of birds swooping low over one's head and feeling the downdraught of their wingbeats is a hard one to beat! It's just wonderful! And then, you get to watch your birds, picking them out by name, as they wheel against the blue sky and then swing round to plummet one by one and make their way back to you.

I would acquire a bird and keep it until it had completed its first moult before allowing it out to fly. If you have an established flock, it's easier, because birds will always stick with their own flock. Having said that, though, I have to say there was an evildoer a few streets away whose flock was bigger than mine. He would release his birds at the same time I let mine out in the hope that some of my flock would get mixed up among his. It happened a few times and quite a few harsh words were spoken when I went to ask for my birds back. I think he was hoping to ensnare some of my more exotic fliers (I had a few tumblers , a few fantails and a pair each of jacobins and kanos).

You should probably decide exactly what you want from your flock before you start building it. Do you want to race and compete? Do you want to keep only homing pigeons, or will you branch out and include some more 'exotic' species as well? Will you just be a hobbyist or will you expect to start serious breeding operations and record pedigrees etc?

You have to realise that every single time you let your birds out, you're putting them into harm's way. There are people with guns, hawks and falcons, dogs, cats and other flocks. You will often lose birds and you have to be prepared for that. Yes, the pigeons' homing instinct is strong, but it can be distracted or diverted by things like weather or anomalies in magnetic fields with electrical carriers and things like that. It's not just a hoot to send notes by pigeon: the birds are vulnerable and you need to try and minimise that every time you send them out.

The best way to learn is to hook up with someone local who has a flock which he flies regularly. That way, you can see at first hand how a local person works and what the pros and cons are in keeping a large, middle-sized or small flock. (NB. I don't think small flocks really work all that well - I reckon fifty pair would be the least you'd consider, just for safety's sake).

Then, there are loft requirements and again you need to have an idea of what you want to achieve. For example, fantails are an utter bugger to keep with other species, yet most of us keep a few at some point. You have to make provisions in the loft and with nest boxes, perches and space. If you don't fly your birds every day, you need a really big (REALLY BIG) loft so they can exercise to some degree on their own. Once you have pigeons, you'll have to be at home every single day to let them out for exercise or have someone very reliable to do it for you.

I don't mean to sound negative, but like parrots, a hell of a lot of pigeons have suffered awful neglect and abuse over the years from people not bothering to find out their requirements. Of course, if you don't treat homers well, they'll sometimes just fail to come home one day. But not always. It's kindest and most efficient if you spend a season or so doing your research and then making an informed decision. I'm in Australia, so I don't know any contacts near you, but Google is your friend, eh? :)
 

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