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Has no one thought to keep pigeons?

 
Lynn Garcia
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For those looking for a small animal to keep that produces a high powered fertilizer I say take a look at pigeons.  Their manure is a horticulturalists dream manure. It is high in nitrogen, potasium and phospherous. It also sells at a higher price than any other manure out there. Pop it in your compost (however you compost) and it will work wonders for you. 

Each adult pigeon of normal sized breeds eats about an ounce of grain a day (though the Utility Breeds will eat more, being about the size of a bantaam chicken). Pigeons raise their own young, often with two different nests growing up at a time. Most of the care you must do as their keeper is feeding twice a day, changing water and setting out some bath water every other day for a short period, then clean out their housing of the manure once a week.  The pigeons will do all the work of rearing their young and the squabs grow super fast.  Female pigeon lays two eggs and 14-18 days later they hatch.  A squab goes from hatch to fledgling in about 28 days.  At 25-28 days the squab can be harvested.  This is the ideal time to harvest as the flavor goes very gamey after they are fully fledged.  About 10 days after the first set of eggs is hatched the female lays two more in another nest while the male keeps busy feeding the other nest.  While most of their squabs are produced in spring and summer, they will keep going all winter provided they have enough food to eat.  Most pigeons will produce squabs that are around 8 ounces after processing. Utility pigeons produce squabs that end up around 12 ounces and are the most prolific breeders of all pigeon breeds. 

Obviously they won't replace chickens or ducks as egg producers, nor produce as much meat.  They are however a constant source of meat for a small family with a good price point for feed. Many other small livestock are much longer of a wait to harvest, and you end up harvesting all at once and freezing most. Once your loft is in production mode you will be harvesting 2 birds per every other nest every month of the year.  Often you will end up harvesting every week as your birds will be spread out on egg laying times. 

For smaller squabs most people can eat 1 1/2 to 2 per meal but the Utility breeds one per person is plenty.  They are also just incredibly tasty.  They are a dark meat which has a definite berry like flavor.  The adults can be eaten as well, but tend to be gamey.  Pigeon pie is about the only way the adults are worth eating. Best results will be harvesting squabs since the adults are so good at raising them quick. 




 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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While the pricepoint on feed may be a good one the price for utility pidgeons themselves has been ridiculous in my search on the subject.
 
Lynn Garcia
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I agree that the pigeon breeders that you can find on the net are way overpriced there are small scale keepers out there.  I know there are several in Washington who keep Kings. You just need to find them.

If you can't then racing homers are easy to source for much less.  They are larger than most pigeon breeds, though not as large as the utility breeds.  Homers also can be an earning side business.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Any advice on 'just finding' local breeders?
 
Royce Shipley
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Location: United States. Middle of Montana
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Try checking with your county extension agent to find out if any of their 4H families raise pigeons or show pigeons at the county Fair.  They should have contact information.
 
Lynn Garcia
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Any advice on 'just finding' local breeders?


I am trying to find the web page where I found the breeder in Washington, but it's no longer in my bookmarks. It was from a list of breeders but can't for the life of me find it now.  IF I can find it again I  will post it.

I would recommend looking through local classified ads, I am always seeing adds for racing homers.  Pigeon keepers often know one another so they may be able to point you in the right direction.  Another way is to look for the racing clubs in your area.  They probably won't have Utilities but they will have racing homers that are rapidly overpopulating their loft. The clubs will list members who have birds for sale.  Other breeds that might work are high flyers as they are decent sized and prolific breeders. Stay away from the fancy pigeons and show breeds since they are likely to be horrible breeders. Lucky to get two nestings a year with show breeds.  Also show breeders have pretty much ruined all the Utility breeds besides Kings so avoid the following like the plague for squabs; Carneau, Giant Runt, Giant Homers, and Mondaines.  All of those were once great squabbing breeds, all now useless due to show breeding methods. Texas Pioneers (an offshoot of Kings that are autosexing) MAY still be acceptable for squabbing but ask many questions of the breeder.  Do they SHOW their Pioneers? If so pass.  Ask how many squabs they produce each year and ask to see documentation.  IF the answer isn't at least 10 pairs a year DO NOT BUY.

The info about show Utility breeds above is specific to the USA.  Much of the rest of the world could probably source any of those breeds as sqyabbers still.  Australia has good Kings and Carneau still.  Europe has more than a few still as well.
 
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