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Wild or domesticated pigeons for meat and poop

 
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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I've had an interest in pigeons for some time as a source of food and fertiliser, but have never come across much detailed information on how to do it.

Lawton mentions the use of dovecotes in arid areas in order to collect poop, in some of his videos.  Mollison discusses this briefly here:

from http://burlingtonpermaculture.weebly.com/uploads/4/2/8/9/4289790/bill_mollison_pdc.pdf


Like other environments, it is very easy to rapidly increase the animal resources in the desert. For every one of these caves that we artificially construct, we will get an occupant. Homing pigeons and even domesticated pigeons are originally desert rock pigeons. You will see them at home in dry India and in dry Iran, living in those little holes in the rocks. You will see them on sea coasts and wherever there are any eroded rock holes. All you have to do is chisel more rock holes to get more pigeons, because there is just any amount of seeds in the desert, and there is enough water for animals with such light demand. So pigeons are number one desert domestic livestock.

Some of you may have seen pictures of the pigeon habitats built in Egypt. They are grandiose things, like little castles, all penetrated with thousands of holes, and enormous quantities of pigeons live in these pigeon castles.  Pigeon manure is the best desert fertilizer. It is the highest market value manure we know. The Egyptians make the nesting hole big enough to lay two eggs, but to hold one young, so as they grow, one is pushed out and falls. Anyone can go and pick up all the fallen one. The other one grows. So the nests also are self-cleaning systems. All the wastes and the spare pigeons drop outside. There are also the eggs that may be harvested. One great advantage of growing pigeons in the desert is that, because of their nesting habits, they are almost predator-free, except for some hawks, and hawks are not very plentiful. So pigeons are a good and useful resource.



I don't live in a desert exactly, but it is a hot environment with lots of wild (sub)urban pigeons in my area and often wonder about them as a food source.

Questions:

1. Are wild birds safe to eat?  I know about the psittacosis disease they may carry which can affect humans.  Should there be any concern with the quality and safeness of food they would forage in a suburban environment?  Are there ways to assure the quality?

2. How to build a pigeon roost and how to attract pigeons to it and make use of them?

3. If wild birds aren't an option, how about farming birds?  This seems less permaculture to me as they would need to be fed grain, and the whole point is of them being foragers.  Thoughts?
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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In an effort to answer my own questions I found a few resources that may be useful.

1. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/07/does-pigeon-mea/

This article wholeheartedly suggests we eat urban pigeon, but doesn't really do any thorough investigation of the health and nutrition concerns.


A food source that lives on our trash that is so reproductively prolific that we can’t kill it off?

That’s green tech at its finest! Pigeons are direct waste-to-food converters, like edible protein weeds, that leave droppings that could be used as fertilizer as a bonus.

And yet we expend energy trying to get rid of them.



2. http://www.gourmet.com/food/2008/09/eating-pigeons

This article talks a bit about the nasty stuff that pigeons tend to ingest in cities.


Milt Friend, a wildlife expert from the National Wildlife Health Center, says that city pigeons are notorious for having large amounts of lead in their bodies. They accumulate lead not only by breathing polluted air, but also by ingesting everything from paint chips to roadside dust, which also includes such nasty stuff as cadmium particles from vehicle tires.



3. http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/field_manual/chapter_10.pdf

More worryingly, this:


The feral city pigeon is the most common carrier of Chlamydia sp. within the United States.



So, perhaps the answer is no
 
                                                  
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Why don't you pick up a copy of the only modern work on pigeons for squab -- "Squab Health" by Dr Rob Marshall, 772 Pennant Hills Road, Carlingford 2118, Australia?

I had to annotate the margins of his chapter on what to expect in each month of the year when raising pigeons for squab, because  your years are upside down.

Get your birds from a reputable source. It's not hard to keep stock healthy and clean if that is what you start with, but it's nearly impossible to clean up infected stock.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Thanks for the resource info Sarra.

I am considering adding more animals to my system at present, but I don't think pigeons will be one of them.  This thread was really about whether I can utilise the feral pigeons or keep domesticated ones in such a way that they would find their own food.  I'm not interested in what basically amounts to a pigeon feedlot.

I am considering rabbits and muscovy ducks, and will be starting separate threads to get information on those soon, as I have the time to research it.

I have also started another thread more specifically about how I can deal with my wild pigeons, which seem to be more prevalent and perhaps problematic this season:

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/10470_0/permaculture/feral-pigeon-problemopportunity
 
                        
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Wild pigeons, such as are found around barns in the country are as safe to eat as any other wild animal, and quite tasty but urban pigeons are a different story. Because of their junk food diet and the environment they are host to quite a few diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to humans. I wouldn't recommend them.
 
Mother Tree
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This video, which is taken from Tales From the Green Valley, has some good stuff about preparing and cooking pigeon.



Starts at 7.24 and continued at 8.48, 11.00, 12.04

Though the bits in between, and indeed the whole video, are well worth a watch.
 
gardener
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Location: Clarkston, MI
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I'm interested in this also. While designing my food forest I am trying to create as many ~100 sq ft paddocks as possible, current design has 16. In those paddocks I plan to raise rabbits, pigeons, and possibly quail. I am going to secure a pipe in the ground in the middle of the paddock and make the pigeon cote movable so I can take it from one paddock to the next. To keep the pigeons in and the predators out I am planning on draping a net over the paddock. The pigeon cote will be in the center and hold the net up like a tent pole, if necessary I will place a few more poles surrounding the cote to keep the net elevated. Each paddock will be enclosed with 4' tall chain link fence, I will attach the net to the top of the fence line with clips so the net and cote can be easily moved from paddock to paddock. I would free range them but, I really don't want pigeon shit everywhere or to piss of my neighbors, or to let them forage in the restaurants trash that's near my house.

Some quick sketches of my idea.

Pigeon-paddock.JPG
[Thumbnail for Pigeon-paddock.JPG]
Pigeon-paddock-2.JPG
[Thumbnail for Pigeon-paddock-2.JPG]
 
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
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I've been keeping pigeons for a couple of years, and currently have four in a pot on the stove...

We live in a terraced (row) house in a suburban type neighbourhood, but in an rural area, if that makes any sense. We arrived at pigeon keeping because we have prettty limited space and thought it would be a good way to produce some of our own meat. I liked the idea that they could be free ranging and forage for some of their food. with hindsight I don't think it was the most practical idea and we probably wouldn't do it again (though we are still keeping a couple of pairs).

My impressions:

Domesticated pigeons are used to eating grain, and lots of it, and I agree that that isn't very permie.

I don't know for sure, but I have the impression that they are very much less efficient at turning food into meat than chickens, rabbits or pigs.

Domesticated pigeons will learn to forage. This would be an advantage if you could situate them in an area where they wont do too much damage, but isn't great if they're near your veg garden. We now refer to ours as flying goats because they eat everything from the obvious peas and cabbages to potato leaves and marigolds- and because they're such little vandals. For example, they nibble all the onion shoots off right at the base, but don't really eat them, they just leave them lying.

The amount of work involved in 'harvesting' them is probably about the same as for a chicken, but produces far less meat.

On the plus side, mine are totally free ranging and we haven't had any complaints from the neighbours, though we have lost a couple to cats (we don't have a lot of predators around here, but that would be a consideration in other areas).

They do make great poop. It allegedly has the best NPK ratio of any manure.

They don't scratch everything up like chickens.

They look pretty flying around the place, and are generally quite charming.


If anybody does decide to keep pigeons, it's worth considering the following:

Pigeons like to fly. Personally, I wouldn't keep pigeons in an enclosure where they couldn't fly, although many people do. The exception to this is that when you first get them you will need to keep them in for awhile or they will go home. Different sources will give different amounts of time that you have to keep thim in- I think we kept ours in for a couple of months (in an aviary).

Pigeons are small and vulnerable to predators.

I don't think moving them around is a practical idea, as they will probably go back to where they were.

When building housing for them, remember that each pair needs two nest boxes, because they will start sitting eggs while still raising the last lot.


I think that it would be interesting to try and attract a wild population to a dovecote in a suitable area (zone 4 or 5- maybe 3?) or to naturalise some domestic birds in a situation like that. I think that with some effort to create the right situation it would be possible to do that and to be able to harvest meat and manure from them with minimal input. I would first try to naturalise some suitable fodder in the area, and then introduce the birds.




 
Posts: 96
Location: Mediterranean-Temperate transition zone
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I looked into pigeons a few years ago and decided that they were an experiment worth conducting.  My interest in the birds is solely as a nutrient magnet for my property.  They forage far and wide but I provide them a permanent water supply (pond) and a safe home, so they can nest there and leave me fertiliser.

The design I came up with for my dovecote thus focuses on easy maintenance, scalability and easy manure collection (with a tractor).  Scalability was a concern due to the unknown impact they would/could have on crops and managing neighbour's perceptions/acceptance of the birds.  A central steel pole, 10m high, stabilised with guy wires at the top, acts as the primary support.  A "layer" of nesting boxes consists of four boxes at 90⁰ intervals, each connected via a 'spoke' to a central hub.  The hub is made up of two half-rings that can be bolted together.  Internal diameter is a few millimetres larger than the pole, so the two halves of each new layer can be clamped around the pole and then hoisted up.  A steel cable and hand winch at the bottom of the pole (with a pulley at the top of the pole) is all that's required to do the hoisting and lowering.  So the process is: Lower the existing nesting boxes, add another layer to the bottom, check condition of existing layers, perform maintenance as required, hoist everything back up again.

There are no flat horizontal surfaces in the nesting boxes.  Everything slopes to direct poop out and down.

An inverted cone is affixed to the pole at head height to thwart predators climbing the pole.  Each guy wire has a disc a third of the way up for the same reason.

The ground underneath the dovecote is completely clear, with plenty of clearance for the tractor to come in with a loader and scrape away the poop and add it to the compost piles.  (Although I haven't accumulated enough to warrant doing that quite yet.)

A small amount of mixed bird feed was all that was needed to attract existing local pigeons to the boxes.  Took about three months for them to make it a permanent home.  Then weaned them off the feed completely.  No feed provided after nine months.

The occupancy rate seems to be one mating pair per two nesting boxes (i.e. one pigeon per box / four pigeons per layer).  This is in-line with what others report.

Starting with a small dovecote (2 layers/8 boxes/4 mating pairs/8 pigeons) was good because it didn't attract attention.  Adding a layer or two every year is the plan.  The neighbours will acclimatise to the slowly-increasing pigeon population that way.

One thing worth mentioning:  If you harvest rainwater from your roof, then don't have your dovecote anywhere near your house or you'll end up with poop where you don't want it.  It's impossible to completely protect a roof using 'bird spikes'.  One thing that does work, however, is having a cat run make its way up to the roof, so your furry feline friends can help keep your roof pigeon-free.
 
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