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Pigeon towers, dovecotes

 
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I just came across these amazing structures in the book 'Architecture without architects', by Rudofsky Bernard

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dovecote

Apparently they were built with the sole purpose of attracting pigeons to roost in their tops. Then once filled with dung, they were smashed open and the dropping were used as fertilizer.

This seems like an amazing way to increase the fertility of small farm. Why go through all the trouble of collecting manure from off-site, when you can have the birds fly it to you!

Has anyone had any experience with this?
 
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I love the idea of having a dovecote, but I can't see it happening any time soon. Here are a few titbits of info.

  • Pigeons feed on crops. They don't differentiate between the farmers fields or a small vegetable garden. They can eat a fresh planting of beans down to the ground in hours. In this area pigeons are a major pest and huge flocks of them can descend and obliterate a large portion of a crop in hours. Farmers shoot them, or allow hunters to use their land.
  • The dung was definitely used for fertiliser, but they were not "broken open" - they usually had a small door and access into the central space. In the central space you could reach into any of the nest holes. Thus the farmer could harvest the squabs directly from the nest before fledging, and easily collect dung.
  • A baby pigeon that is about to fledge for the first time is known a "squab"- they actually LOSE weight once they start flying, and have most meat on them at this stage.
  • Pigeons mate for life. The keeper can control this to some extent by closing them up together until they have bonded, and allowing only one or other to fly at a time. Many dovecot designs have doors hatches that can be opened and closed from floor level using strings.


  • I'm not sure that the benefits of having a dovecote outweigh the potential harms they cause to local crops.



     
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    To be fair, the pigeons themselves were often caught or shot to be eaten. It wouldn't matter too much if farmers shot them as the pigeons would most likely have been in profusion.
     
    gardener
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    During the pandemic I have often made excursions to the villages in my county.
    I have two interests when I visit those: Traditional Bavarian cottage garden and historic dove cotes.

    I need to sort through my pictures and upload them, because they are very pretty to look at. As far as I could see there are non currently in use but they are still standing in the courtyards of stately farmhouses.

     
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    It was an interesting practice indeed in days gone by, from England to Iran.  I suspect the pigeon would have been a specialized variety that may no longer exist.  They would be birds particularity adept at earning a living off the countryside.  There are hundreds if not thousand of pigeon varieties created by humans for various purposes.  I have homing / racing pigeons.  They travel all over my 30 acres to graze but I have to feed them daily as they have huge need for food.  I do harvest great manure from them.  I think I once read it is 3 X stronger than chicken manure.  At one time I thought it would be an interesting to try the dovecote thing but today one would have to develop a pigeon strain that works with the system.  It could be done as pigeon are very quick to mutate and adapt to the needs of the keepers.
     
    Anita Martin
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    Bill Astell wrote:  I suspect the pigeon would have been a specialized variety that may no longer exist.  They would be birds particularity adept at earning a living off the countryside.


    I am not sure which variety was living in the countryside. It might have looked similar to what in German is called "Stadttauben" (city pigeons) - the flocks found in cities consist of former country pigeons that escaped and found a new home.

    The pigeons in the countryside did indeed eat crops, but building dovecotes was an easy access to meat for the poorer population and a way to produce the prized fertilizer (before Guano was imported), and also a measure to control the population (by removing/replacing eggs and eating the young doves).

    Here is a picture of a wooden gate dovecote. I like the functionality and the looks. I made a photo of the explanatory board but can't find it right now.
    It is located in a private farmhouse museum which houses historic farmhouses and buildings (dovecotes, beehives etc.) from our region. It is not as old as I thought, maybe 80 years old. Will have to look again.

    Here in my village there is at least one person who is raising pigeons. He has special entrances in the attic of his house and you can see the white/grey doves go in and out.

    Ebersbach.jpg
    Historic gate dovecote, about 80 years old
    Historic gate dovecote, about 80 years old
     
    author & master steward
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    I had never heard of these until I found this thread. It got me curious, and I found A Book of Dovecotes by A. O. Cooke online. It's a free PDF at Wikimedia Commons.

    A Book of Dovecotes
    book-of-dovecotes-cover.jpg
    [Thumbnail for book-of-dovecotes-cover.jpg]
     
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