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Could pigeons be kept and considered somewhat essential like bees?  RSS feed

 
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So, this may be a dumb question, or one that has already been discussed that I missed.  But, I was reading Edible Forest Gardens 1, and it was mentioned that the once great flocks of passenger pigeons may have been essential to the great forests of old in North America.  That got me thinking that we put a lot of emphasis on keeping bees (which I don't, yet... but intend to), but perhaps we should keep pigeons as well.  I know nothing about pigeons.  I do hunt "barn pigeons" the from time to time and enjoy the meat, and I would like to raise some for meat and manure.  So, can anyone tell me about the various breeds?  Are there some that share characteristics with the (presumably totally) extinct passenger pigeon? BTW, some folks claim to still sight them in the wild.   Could we raise a breed with similar characteristics and slowly establish flocks that could replicate the influence of the passengers?  Considering that there are Permies all over the continent, could we raise birds that could migrate?  I realize these may be dumb questions.  But, we raise mallards.... even if they don't migrate, they still can have a positive impact like wild birds.

BTW, I have no idea how to classify this post! 
 
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The idea of passenger pigeons having a place in the ecosystem is of great interest to me.  I've read things about people spotting them, too.  I want them to be true...

I read a really fascinating post that I don't know how to find again, that went off on the idea that "sky rats" are wild.  Basically that pigeons, now the bane of cities, have lived with humans for thousands of years, and are domesticated creatures that have been turned feral again...but they're not very good at being feral.  Basically that you wouldn't consider dogs and cats in the street wild animals and you shouldn't consider the street pigeon a wild animal, either. 

They adapted to live with people, and don't really fend well for themselves.  Pigeons were kept and domesticated by people who gardened and farmed in 'the old countries' for generations, because their waste built up soil so well.  A traditional method that helped people grow things.  (And of course, they could provide meat, too!  But the soil-building was actually more valued, apparently.)  Having pigeons on one's land was a traditionally important way of maintaining and building soil health for people who depended on what they could grow.

But then it became something looked down on, "old fashioned," with newer farming methods.  And in the USA, immigrants were largely the ones keeping pigeons, and it became uncool.  People forgot about how valuable they are for the soil, etc. 

I found that fascinating, about building the soil, the domesticated relationship with people, and the use of birds for fertility being forgotten, all of it.  To be honest it made me want to keep pigeons.    But I don't think I have room for any birds or animals on my land, much less an entire cote to build the soil.  There are a lot of birds in the neighborhood, hopefully they'll be enough to build the soil.  They like foraging on my lawn/garden.  (But so many are the "invasive species" like starlings, not natives.)

In conclusion: what I read made me think there's a lot more to pigeons than we see on the surface, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're a hugely important part of the ecosystem (whether domesticated, or in the now-missing carrier pigeons and the soil fertility they aren't providing).  Wish I could find the source(s) for you though!  It's a fascinating topic.
 
Wj Carroll
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I honestly don't know anything about pigeons, except that they are tasty and produce a lot of poop.  It would seem to me that anyone who has even a bit of space should consider them as domestic fowl, if only for the fertilizer.  According to what I was reading, the flocks could produce massive amounts of poop, and their eradication may have caused the decline of the American Chestnut.  If flocks were that large, it is certainly not an outrageous suggestion that ecosystems would have developed with pigeons as a facet.  I wonder...
 
pollinator
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Considering the traditional numbers of these birds, there is no doubt that they had an effect on the ecosystem.  Just consider how much chicken manure is prized for it's qualities. Now think of millions of them flying in great flocks, and landing and roosting, and leaving their droppings.  The enormous gains to that area would be difficult to replicate with any permaculture technique.

I knew an older Polish couple, the grandparents of my best friend growing up, who kept pigeons, and it was only for the manure and for the pleasure of having them around.  "They make nice sounds" was what old man, Prusko used to say.  The pigeon poop went into the garden.  Gramma Prusko made the best raspberry jam---better than my own gramma  [but don't tell my gramma I said so, rest her soul, or she'd be back from the grave to grab me by the ear

I'm not sure that they are quite as essential as bees, but they are definitely an asset that I will be considering for my 40 acres.  40 acres and a muled; naw.... 40 acres and a flock of pigeons!

Good on you for starting the thread

 
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I kept pigeons for many years. I don't think you could compare them to bees as for their necessity in the eco system.
However, they are great for making fertilizer and even as a food source. Though I did not use mine for food.
They will live and reproduce very well on chicken feed and laying mash. Even hog pellets will give you very healthy babies.
The wild pigeons you see now are from domesticated stock that has gone ferrell over the years.
And your right they would have to have the gene for migration breed back into them. They tend to stay in the same area
for many generations year round unless forced out by lack of food or predation.
If your looking for a fowl to keep on a small space that will give you fertilizer and a kid friendly pet, pigeons are a great option.
 
pollinator
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It's my understanding that Passenger Pigeons and Carrier Pigeons / Rock Pigeons belong to a completely different genus. In other words, modern wild rock pigeons aren't passenger pigeons that went ferrel  — they're fundamentally a different species. They share the pigeon name only due to sketches and descriptions of their appearance.

Until recently, the relationship of Passenger Pigeon with respect to other pigeon species has been simply speculation based on gross plumage characteristics. However, recent genetic data published in 2010 by Johnson and colleagues (Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57:455) show that, despite the gross similarity in appearance to mourning doves and its relatives (the genus Zenaida), the Passenger Pigeon is not closely related to this group of pigeons at all. In fact, its closest relatives are a group of large-bodied pigeons from the New World in the genus Patagioenas, which includes the western Band-tailed Pigeon among others. Even so, scientists believe that Passenger Pigeon is still different enough from other extant pigeons to remain in its unique genus, Ectopistes. Based on an analysis of the evolutionary tree constructed from genetic data, Johnson and colleagues (2010) hypothesized that eons ago an Asian cuckoo dove crossed into North America and provided the ancestor to both Ectopistes and Patagioenas.


Source

The biggest difference in behavioral — the Passenger Pigeon was a massively social creature. Rock pigeons are not. This influenced their effect on the ecosystem in a similar way that mob grazing does today — massive disturbance followed by complete rest. In that respect, I think techniques like chicken tractors are the closest thing we can implement to recreate the effect of the Passenger Pigeon. It's going to be on a much smaller scale (flocks of Passengers were reported to darken the sky for days), and it likely wont effect ares outside of our ownership, but I'm not sure that raising rock pigeons would have much of a similar effect that the Passengers had.
 
Wj Carroll
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I'll show my ignorance by asking another question.... could homing pigeons be trained to migrate?  Could one of us in the north share a flock with another in in the south, and encourage the flock to migrate seasonally?
 
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Pigeons in the UK are the biggest agricultural pest. Not the type you see in towns which are descended from rock pigeons and probably consist of tame pigeons who have gone feral and bred but the wood pigeon, If you try to grow any brassica over winter you will have to net them to stop the pigeons getting at them if you don't you will get nothing but sticks. The reason for them being such a huge pest is their ability to breed year round as they produce "milk" for their young, and what allows them to do that in such numbers as they do now is overwintering crops such as rape. Each county to itself but I personally would not keep pigeons anywhere near my garden as I prefer not to have bird netting over everything. They do at least taste nice, but for the amount of meat on them and the price of a shotgun cartridge, it's not worth it.
 
Wj Carroll
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Pigeons in the UK are the biggest agricultural pest. Not the type you see in towns which are descended from rock pigeons and probably consist of tame pigeons who have gone feral and bred but the wood pigeon, If you try to grow any brassica over winter you will have to net them to stop the pigeons getting at them if you don't you will get nothing but sticks. The reason for them being such a huge pest is their ability to breed year round as they produce "milk" for their young, and what allows them to do that in such numbers as they do now is overwintering crops such as rape. Each county to itself but I personally would not keep pigeons anywhere near my garden as I prefer not to have bird netting over everything. They do at least taste nice, but for the amount of meat on them and the price of a shotgun cartridge, it's not worth it.


I use an air rifle - Hatsan Striker in .22, with a good scope.... pellets cost around $10 for 500.  That is my go to for all small game.  I have a great old Crosman in .177, too.  But the Hatsan has all but replaced my standard .22 rifle for anything around 50 yards.  It is so quiet and accurate that I can pick them off of a roof or a power line, several in a row, without spooking the flock.  The pellets do very little damage, so you get more meat. 
 
Skandi Rogers
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Wj Carroll wrote:
Skandi Rogers wrote:Pigeons in the UK are the biggest agricultural pest. Not the type you see in towns which are descended from rock pigeons and probably consist of tame pigeons who have gone feral and bred but the wood pigeon, If you try to grow any brassica over winter you will have to net them to stop the pigeons getting at them if you don't you will get nothing but sticks. The reason for them being such a huge pest is their ability to breed year round as they produce "milk" for their young, and what allows them to do that in such numbers as they do now is overwintering crops such as rape. Each county to itself but I personally would not keep pigeons anywhere near my garden as I prefer not to have bird netting over everything. They do at least taste nice, but for the amount of meat on them and the price of a shotgun cartridge, it's not worth it.


I use an air rifle - Hatsan Striker in .22, with a good scope.... pellets cost around $10 for 500.  That is my go to for all small game.  I have a great old Crosman in .177, too.  But the Hatsan has all but replaced my standard .22 rifle for anything around 50 yards.  It is so quiet and accurate that I can pick them off of a roof or a power line, several in a row, without spooking the flock.  The pellets do very little damage, so you get more meat. 


Never tried pigeons with a air rifle plenty of rabbits and one pheasant. I had to leave my little gamo .22 in the UK since it's not legal to have it here, if it was a .177 I could have it.. even if it were way more powerfull, here they have decided for some stupid reason that a .177 is not dangerous but a .22 is.
 
Wj Carroll
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Never tried pigeons with a air rifle plenty of rabbits and one pheasant. I had to leave my little gamo .22 in the UK since it's not legal to have it here, if it was a .177 I could have it.. even if it were way more powerfull, here they have decided for some stupid reason that a .177 is not dangerous but a .22 is.

Gamo and Hatsan .177s are pretty awesome!  Nearly supersonic (and some are), deadly accurate and fairly cheap.  In only use traditional rifles for deer, hogs and bear these days.  That .22 air rifle takes the vast majority of my meat, in terms of numbers.... in poundage, the powder burners probably win out.  Regardless, being able to casually wander into the field or woods, shoot less than 10 cents worth of pellets and bring home supper is really priceless.  
 
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An inspiring thread. I had to look into this,and so far they seem to be really easy to keep, quick to market weight, and very profitable.
Like 16-24 dollars for a 16 oz. dressed carcass profitable....😲
I thought 6 dollars a pound for grassfed rabit was outstanding!

I imagine feeding them pre-consumer food waste in a high tunnel,using deep bedding.
Rotate them out and grow heavy feeders like squash or tomatoes,maybe even corn.

 
Keith Galloway
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The only problem with raising "meat pigeons" which are a heavier larger breed is that the larger
the breed the slower they reproduce. I raised some that were a cross between the typical
homing pigeon and what is known as the "show type" homer that is much larger than the regular
homing pigeon. That gave me a good sized pigeon that I think would be plenty big enough to eat.
And they still breed as fast as the regular homing pigeon.
The pigeon manure is easily as good as chicken manure. Since they are built to eat grain, they do not
graze well on their own. They will graze but not enough to sustain them very well when limited to one yard
or small property. Not when they have been loft/pen raised. But since the idea of having them for us growers
is to harvest the manure, you would want to keep them feeding in the pen to keep the manure available.
As I said in an earlier post, they do very well on chicken layer mash/crumbles. So if your keeping chickens
you don't have to buy a different feed.
Pigeon manure and bananas trees go well together.
 
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I have meat pigeons on my "it would be nice" list. There are currently other higher priorities.

Local to me, here in the UK, we have large flocks of wood pigeons which, as noted above, can be an agricultural pest. They land in fields and strip crops back to the earth in a matter of hours. Most farmers shoot them, or give permission for others to shoot them. If I let pigeons roam to forage I would expect to lose some to shooting fairly often.

As far as feeding goes, the wild birds do plenty well enough without feed. I suspect that I could manage a coop with very little feed costs. The challenge would be selecting for birds over a number of generations that make for decent sized meat birds under those conditions.
 
Michael Cox
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I just found this article about commercial pigeon production...

http://www.fwi.co.uk/poultry/pigeons-come-home-to-roost-in-france.htm
 
Michael Cox
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And this about the traditional UK dovecotes of earlier centuries

http://www.mccannhistoricbuildings.co.uk/truthaboutdovecotes/
 
master steward
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I looked at the link for France . It comes as no surprise as intensive farming is the norm here alas Pigeons and rabbits are both kept well confined at all times :-(
I wonder if quail would be a better bet ?
We have a dove cote here at La Ravardiere (pics in the link below ) but I have no intention of starting to keep them , too much work , mostly I try to keep them off my plants :-)

David
 
gardener
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There’s at least one person in this old thread with practical insights into keeping “free range” pigeons:

https://permies.com/t/10227/critters/Wild-domesticated-pigeons-meat-poop
 
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When I was growing up we raised pigeons for meat. It was a mixed flock and most dressed out about 12-16 oz. but a juicy delight. We kept records for fun and averaged about 16 young per pair/year with 26 from the best pair.

If you want them for the manure, it is about the best manure you can get. According to this site it is about double that of rabbit, 3 x better than chicken and about 10x better than sheep, goats, cows and pigs etc. by weight I believe.

http://www.lundproduce.com/N-P-K-Value-of-Everything.html
 
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Mourning doves at least at one time were considered a very close relative of passenger pigeons, and were also considered possible genetic material for re-establishing passenger pigeons. And they are migratory and very abundant all across North America.

Some people keep them year-round, though, with bird feeders, which could result in the same problem as feral domesticated pigeons' loss of the migratory instinct.

I love pigeons in rural settings (not in cities) because my grandfather raised them on his farm and gave me a young one to raise as my own pet.  Rusty rode with me on my bicycle around the neighborhood and was my pride and joy. Eventually decided he would be happier with other pigeons and returned him to the farm with the others.

One note about doves and pigeons is that they are kind of big, slow and awkward compared to other wild "songbirds." Raising them can mean losses from flying predators, as they're quite an easy target, even in flight.
 
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I love pigeons, they're fun to keep and work with (and as birds go, very long-lived -- the record is 18 years), but they're not something you want to chuck into the ecosystem.

The trouble with rock pigeons is that because they reproduce like rats and have few effective predators, they rapidly become an invasive species and crowd out native birds that use the same resources. (Incidentally not all species of dove are native to all of North America, either. And it's starting to look like the passenger pigeon was introduced too.) Predators, even when abundant, can't keep up. And one of the major predators on urban pigeons is ... rats, another invasive species (rats climb into the nests and eat the eggs and young squabs -- rats, not feral cats, are actually the biggest predator on urban birds of every species). Rats and pigeons, a sure combo if you want to have zero harvest.

Pigeon poop is somewhat corrosive, and as every urbanite knows, pigeons love to poop from a high resting spot. (Some pigeons will sort of housebreak -- they don't like to foul their nests, so confined pigeons often wait til released then poop from the nearest high perch.)

Meat breeds can get over 2 pounds (up to about 1.5 pounds of meat), which is a lot more worthwhile than your standard feral-type pigeon. Some pigeons will lay eggs almost daily, tho the eggs are very small (about the size of your last thumb joint) with small yolks, and not really worth collecting.

If I were raising meat pigeons, I'd wing-clip them to keep them ground-bound, and let them forage in the pasture by day, then get them habituated to coming back into the coop by feeding them there in the evening. Pigeons train easily and once used to humans are easy to handle.

https://articles.extension.org/pages/68928/raising-pigeons

 
pollinator
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I would really like more info on keeping pigeons for meat and manure.  Many poor locals in this village keep pigeons, and allow them to roost INSIDE their houses.  (They keep everything in the house, from chickens to cows, because they are paranoid of thieves taking their animals at night.). I do NOT want pigeons in my house.  Could they co-habitate with chickens in a chicken coop?  What do they need for nesting?  I saw a video of Jeff Lawton showing pigeons in little houses on poles...I think it was one of his greening the desert in Jordan projects.  Anyone have any practical advice on adding pigeons without an additional infrastructure expense?
 
Rez Zircon
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Yes, just make the pigeon nest boxes too small for the chickens, and put the small boxes high up, and they will cheerfully cohabitate with chickens. Or so was my experience (I had chickens that were from a fighting flock, so they were mean). Pigeons do need nest boxes, not just perches. They don't need a lot of flying space. A narrow shelf with plastic bowls nailed to it will work (might put a broomstick across the space to narrow it to keep chickens out). Pigeons prefer not to be entirely enclosed.

If you want the pigeons out during the day, but not the chickens, you could give them a little door at the top of the coop that you open in the morning (if it's in the roof, not near a wall, chickens generally won't try it), and a one-way return gate which is easily made from scrap wire: this is just a pigeon-sized hole with loose wires hanging down (with bits of wood between so they stay aligned) so they can only swing inward -- put a little grain inside and the pigeons will learn to walk through the wires (which won't open from the inside).

Like these:
https://www.amazon.com/pigeon-trap-door/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Apigeon%20trap%20door
easily made from whatever's handy.
 
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Great thoughts here, and considering that human population is going to be constrained by a massive imminent phosphorus shortage, P-transporting birds are going to be of vital importance much like bees are for pollenation. If I remember 9th grade biology, All animals need phosphorus for basic respiration (adenosene triphosphate to diphosphate transformation  is the source of energy for us.
 
pollinator
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In my opinion there's an enormous difference between 'keeping pigeons' (species Rock Pigeon, Latin name Columba livia domestica) and wild birds (f.e. passenger pigeons, species Ectopistes migratorius) flying along.

The same difference there is between 'keeping bees'(which are honey bees, apis mellifera) and wild bees (of many different species) visiting the plants in your garden.
 
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My brother in Law had a breed of pigeons with big breast like Cornish hens, but he would butcher them before the took flight.
He had more than they could eat in a 12' X 12' pin.
Honey-Thyme Roast Squab
Serves 2
2 squab (1–1½ pounds each)
3 T. honey
3 T. balsamic vinegar
1 t. thyme
In a medium bowl, combine honey, vinegar and thyme. Add squab, turn to coat and let marinate at room temperature 30 minutes, or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 day, turning occasionally.
Preheat oven to 400°; place squab on a roasting rack and transfer to oven. Roast until internal temperature reaches 165° and juices run clear, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Photo credit: Vicky Wasik
I do not have the breeds name, but would like to have same when I retire.
 
Wj Carroll
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It is very gratifying to see a topic I started become a long and informative thread - thanks, everyone!  I am going to start with quail, because I have some experience with them and already have a nice hutch.  Pigeons will be a top priority, as well... at least by year two on the new property.  The area is already populated by native quail and doves.  Some wildness may breed into my domestic stock before long.  When I have breeding pars to sell, I'll post here.  Frankly, I see no reason why they should average $100 a pair.  I think the specialists and "trendies" as Mollison would call them, have taken over.  Maybe I'll sell them at market price to non-permies..if I sell any at all.  Being a bachelor, I'm far more likely to harvest quail and pigeons for personal consumption than a larger bird.
 
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The passenger pigeon represents an interesting ecological study. Their extinction may have been due to the fact that they were highly gregarious, social birds known to be colony nesters and when the ecology was unable to support the colonies, the population crashed. This is contrasted with the mourning dove which is a solitary nester. Most commentators think their extinction is due primarily to overhunting and secondarily to habitat destruction. I would personally remove overhunting as a primary factor, put habitat destruction at the top and add ecological shift as the secondary.

The pre-Columbian forests of North America underwent a huge shift following the Columbian exchange. North America experienced the introduction of such disparate invasive species as earthworms, starlings, sparrows, loosestrife, and a host of plants that went from cultivars to being wild. Instead of managing the forests through application of fire (either deliberately by the First Peoples, or naturally by lightning and high-nitrogen excrement from passenger pigeon flocks) Europeans instituted fire suppression as the preferred means of management. Californians are discovering that all suppression does is make the outbreak of wildfires a regular occurrence. Not only were native species displaced or challenged by exotics, but entire ecosystems shifted with succeeding changes from de-foresting during the logging era to the various blights that have decimates foundational species like the American chestnut, elm, ash, and who knows what others. Just as importantly as the number and mix of species is their local distribution. Fire suppression has resulted in vast tracts of mature forest in a nearly unbroken blanket that has reduced the number of ecosystems due to the loss of "edge" and ecological succession. Pre-Columbian forests were a far more dynamic system than what forests are today which has been beneficial for some species and detrimental to others. For instance, when I was a boy, I rarely saw deer and never saw wild turkeys but saw grouse and quail in abundant profusion. Now in Ohio, the situation is reverse with deer and turkeys reaching nuisance level populations and grouse and quail nearly extirpated due to forest management practices.

I would recommend that all permaculturists read "Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier" for one of the most sobering ecological lessons I've ever seen. Although it doesn't address the passanger pigeon question directly, it provides a context that can inform the conversation. It documents the extinction of a population of animals that existed in such profusion they were considered a plague and how their extinction came about. The lesson I took from the book is that there are phenomena that are so poorly understood with regard to ecology that we are sometimes the equivalent of children playing with fire. And not in a good way.
 
Rez Zircon
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Ben Zumeta wrote:Great thoughts here, and considering that human population is going to be constrained by a massive imminent phosphorus shortage,


Not really.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/06/27/there-is-no-phosphorus-shortage-stop-designing-damn-fool-systems-to-recycle-it/#27b2e2fce463
"Here's the numbers on phosphorus from the USGS (link: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/phosphate_rock/mcs-2013-phosp.pdf ). If you look at page two you will see that annual production is 210,000 and mineral reserves are 67,000,000, (both in thousands of tonnes) divide one into the other and you get 300 odd years of reserves left."
[This also doesn't take into consideration that about half of all fertilizer in the U.S. is sourced from feedlot manure.]

Also, speak to China about that waste problem:.
http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2016/finalwebsite/problems/phosphorus.html

Not that it isn't good to recycle and recharge, but we're not exactly set to run out.

Using animals as a fertilizer source is always somewhat inefficient, because they extract and retain some of the nutrients to build their own tissues. I figured out that a friend's sheep were extracting nitrogen from her pasture at a rate of about 40 pounds a year, which is why the grass had gotten thin and poor -- what came out the back end of the sheep wasn't enough to make up for what left the pasture as meat. Applied a standard dose of fertilizer and the grass magically improved almost overnight.
 
Rez Zircon
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Joe Grand wrote:My brother in Law had a breed of pigeons with big breast like Cornish hens, but he would butcher them before the took flight.
I do not have the breeds name, but would like to have same when I retire.

If they were white they were probably Kings. If colored, could have been any of several utility breeds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_%28pigeon%29
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squab_%28food%29

=======

Another theory on passenger pigeons:
https://news.ucsc.edu/2017/11/passenger-pigeons.html


 
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This thread has given me lots to think about.  I live in Fife, Scotland and you can’t go more than a couple of miles in any direction without coming across an old dovecote in the fields, even Aberdour castle has a glorious dovecote in its grounds.  Previous generations around here relied on pigeons as a meat source. I’d no idea they wee such a good source of manure.  However, like other UK residents I have to net all my veggies to keep the pigeons off them (and my hens who would easily escape from Alcatraz) so the thought of having them on site isn’t really a good one.

What are also popular in Scotland is Racing Pigeons.  My grandad used to race them and had his own pigeon loft.  I used to love going in and he’d let me hold my favourite one.  He also grew his own vegetables and now I’m wondering if the doos (as they are called in Scotland) used to eat his veggies or if somewhow these particular birds didn’t bother.  Unfortunately he passed away 20 years ago so I can’t ask him but I will ask my dad next time he’s over.  In the meantime I think I’ll be contacting my local doo racing club and see if anyone has any manure to spare.
 
David Livingston
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I expect carol they will let you come and take it away free :-)
 
Michael Cox
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I think one thing worth putting proper consideration to is the impact of a free ranging flock of pigeons on the local agriculture.

My reading suggests that dovecotes fell out use around 1800 primarily because it came to be seen as socially unacceptable for the lord of the manor (and they were predominantly owned by the wealthy) to have a flock that feasted on the tenant farmers fields. Around here a free flying flock would inevitably be feeding on farmers crops, or my own vegetables! Some of my reading also suggests that the scale of some of these dovecotes was massive - households harvesting thousands of birds per year. Flocks that size would inevitably have a huge impact on the local agriculture.
 
Rez Zircon
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Pigeons make a lot of manure because pigeons eat a lot. Pigeons can need as much as 8 ounces of food per day, if flying hard or raising squabs (less if idle) or if the diet is not real concentrated -- that's a lot of disappearing veggies, or grain as the case may be. When I last kept pigeons -- I fed them dog food, which is much more concentrated, and 10 pigeons ate about a pound a day to stay in good flesh. This was about the same as I fed a dozen chickens that also ran around and ate bugs (but very little of anything else, cuz this was the desert).

The pigeons weren't real fussy and would eat whatever they were given, but after the chickens had dog food, they wouldn't eat chicken food! (And lordy, if you want strong eggshells...)
 
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I read a while back that archaeologists find lots of passenger pigeon bones in colonial era native american middens but they are almost non existent in middens a couple hundred years earlier.  The suggestion was made that like many other species, the enormous flocks in historical times may have been part of a general temporary 'rebound' of various species when 90% of the native american population died.  If that is the case, the enormous flocks may not have been an anomoly caused by european contact rather than the steady state situation.

I am curious if pigeons and doves carry bird flu.  In the event of a disease event, a free roaming flock you are in close contact with might put you at risk.  It might not be a problem though because, from what I read it seems that most of our new variations of bird flu seem to come from ducks or chickens.  So pigeons might be a safe bet.  Someone else probably has more insight on this and I would be curious to hear it.  I've read that the reason the diseases come from ducks and chickens is because huge #s are raised crammed together and we interact with them, which is an ideal situation for a disease to jump species boundaries.  They generally claim the diseases start in Asia.  It must be so because our local industries would never raise thousands of birds crammed together in unnatural and unhealthy living conditions (thinly veiled sarcasm). 

Even though you are adding birds that may go after your own or your neighbors crops, those birds will be in competition with wild birds filling the same ecological niche and probably a minority compared to the existing population.  The niche will be filled by something, (unless someone is offering small amounts of money to children with air rifles for dead niche-filling birds).  You might as well have a harvest from that niche.  If your neighbors object, that is a separate issue.  Good relationships with neighbors are valuable and probably worth more than a few pigeons.  The wild birds are probably scattering manure already, although with pigeons you get the bulk at their nesting site so you can put it where YOU want it.

If there aren't any neighbor problems, I don't see why a dove cote wouldn't be worth while. 

If you are penning them it seems to me that you are duplicating your chicken niche.  You have to bring them food, clean out their manure and they are probably less efficient feed to meat converters, unless you prefer the meat.

On a personal note, when I was a kid we used to go out on family drives and my dad would stop periodically and shoot a dove off of the power line until we had enough for dinner.  (It was out of season, but there were lots of doves, we had lots of kids and my dad didn't make a lot of money.  All of us kids were warned that if the game warden stopped us, we were to be quiet.  We would joke that one of my brothers who was incurably honest, prone to outburst and not always quick on the uptake would shout "We have a whole bunch, look in the cracker box!")  As I recall they were very good eating.

I might raise them even in a pen because my wife is allergic to all things chicken.  I'm currently looking at moving in a year or so, so no new projects.  When I land in my new spot, maybe.
 
Wj Carroll
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I live in the hot, humid American southeast.  "Weedy" areas can quickly become jungles if neglected... sometimes it seems like the privet and Virginia creeper grows nearly as fast as the kudzu.  Keeping these areas from encroaching inward from the property edges has literally been exhausting in the past. I'm wondering if on the next property I were to overseed these areas with heavy seed bearers - sunflowers, amaranth, sorgum, maybe pigeon peas, vetch, some grains and such - if the ravenous appetited of the pigeons could be an asset.  Perhaps if they fed in these areas (which are dangerous for chickens),  they could find most all of the forage they might need and be less likely to do crop damage?  If those plants could crowd out the "weeds", perhaps the pigeons could eat enough to keep everything in balance.
 
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