As I mentioned we started out with 3 breeding pairs that started laying in March, we now have 28 birds.
We would like to get about 40 breading pairs. I have found that they lay eggs 2 sit on them about 20 days raise the young for 12 days then lay more eggs. Our kids love to play with them, best pet in the world as they recognize individual people and are playful.
We feed 1/2 oz of food per day per bird. 40% cracked wheat, 40% black sunflower seeds, 20% pea screenings.
As I am sitting on our deck overlooking the pond typing this message I have about 14 birds flying figure 8's over head.
I would like to get some Kings or Giant Homers.
What sort of housing do you have for your 28 birds?
One reservation that I have is that we use all of our roofs for rain catchment, and can't really afford to have a bunch of pigeons pooping on the roofs. Is this a problem with your birds?
Housing: We moved an old shed from a foreclosed on home (Thanks Bank of America and "F" off) it is 12 x 8 we added a exterior fly for them for when we do not wish to let them fly. I am thinking we could have as many as 70 birds in this space.
Poop: Yep they like roofs and leave proof behind to prove it. I have not seen one ever sit in a tree, We are blessed with a stream, water ram, 4k in storage and shallow well for water not to mention 39 inches of rain a year. So rain collection is not our thing. I was looking online for some King Piegons I would like to try them but am not willing to pay the $90 shipping and $50 a bird. The pigeon market is booming we will try to sell some next year if the $ is still working.
First of all, squab is very delicious, and I'd be interested in a squab recipe share if anyone else is interested. It is good stuffed and baked, braised, seasoned with a good teriyaki sauce and grilled, and especially succulent when it is lightly smoked. Last summer when we smoked salmon, we brined and smoked a couple squab and had a genuine treat. As a dark poultry, it goes well with fruit-based sauces.
I have a very small, personal use loft of Silver Kings in my backyard here in Anchorage. It is experimental, as we're trying to see how well they do in this climate. Wild pigeons do winter over up here, but my eventual dream is to have a smallish commercial flock to supply the rapidly growing local food movement here at the end of the food distribution chain. A few years of personal-use will allow me to determine whether or not this is a viable ambition.
If you are thinking of going into squab raising, be aware that meat animals taste like what they eat. That is, if you are out in the country where they can forage clean fields for seed and tender veggies, you will get succulent and delicious meat. If you are in a city where they dine mostly on dropped sandwich crusts and other garbage, well, you'll probably get garbage. Because I'm in a city, my birds do not forage for themselves, but I provide ample daily fresh greens from my garden and from weed patches here and about. Chickweed is a favorite.
Another consideration is predators. In Anchorage, even well within the urbanized old part where I live, there is an active eagle nest about a half-mile away. Rats are not a problem, but the neighbors' cats had to endure a couple of squirts from the hose before they decided that there was easier prey. Magpies and ravens have shown a little interest in the flypen but have not bothered to try to worry the wire loose. Yet. If I catch any in the act, they will get a solid squirt also. Weasels from the stream in the nearby park are another potential predator. Pigeons don't have a strong smell, so we have not had bear predations, but we do need to be alert during spring and fall when the fish are not running and the bears do prowl. These will be even bigger problems when we're out in the country. I'm glad there are no native snakes in Anchorage!
My loft is eight by ten feet, six feet floor to ceiling. The whole thing is insulated, even the underside of the floor, and ratwire goes under the floor framing and up the sides about two feet. The flypen is about the same size, ratwire on the floor and sides, and with an opaque white corrugated roof. I didn't want to have to explain to Fish and Game why their eagle was stuck in the roof of my pigeon loft.
While there are poultry with higher feed-to-meat conversion, the fact that pigeons are not noisy, do not produce stinky "hot" manure, and raise their own young, more than makes up in convenience for the higher feed needs. Most days it takes less than ten minutes to check the birds, feed them, make sure the loft is tight and in good shape, and take notes. Once a month I scrape poop, which can go directly on plants in summer, or into compost in the winter.
There are very few printed sources for squab producers. The best one still is "Making Pigeons Pay" by Wendell Levi. It was first published around 1950, hasn't been revised since sometime in the 1980's. It's spendy, even used, but worth the cost. Of course, the reader has to give quarter to the times in which Levi wrote for his references to things like DDT... thank goodness we have moved beyond that. Some good books have been published in Australia, but for the most part, contemporary pigeon books say little about squab production, and a lot about pets, performers, show birds, and racers. Dies and medications that are favored for performing pigeons are simply not appropriate for birds raised for human consumption.
The male will begin a nest, which the female will help build by tucking pieces of grass under her as she sits in the structure. She lays two eggs, and the psrents take turns incubating them until the chicks hatch. The male usually takes the morning shift, mom has them most of the rest of the time. It takes about ten days to incubate a pair of eggs. Once the babies have hatched, mom does most of the brooding until the squabs are about two weeks old. By then, Dad will have built a new nest, and at that time, Mom moves into the new digs and leaves Dad with the teenagers. This staggered brooding seems to be a survival technique, because pigeons are fairly defenseless birds.
I have eighteen nest boxes about 1 cubic foot square ("pigeon holes!" on the wall of my loft. The pigeons use the same two or three nests in rotation. Nests are built with a coarse understructure, and a finer grass or hay lining. I provide purchased tobacco stems for the coarse material because they are harmless to the pigeons and they discourage parasites. However, pine tags, brush, and all sorts of other small twigs will work. My second choice for nest material is bracken and fiddlehead fern stems, mostly because they grow wild in this area. Pigeons do not make tidy nests.
Pigeons feed their babies on crop "milk", a partly digested slurry they carry in their crops. That is why squabs can't be raised like chickens, they need crop milk until they wean when they are fully fledged. Pigeons like any small grain including milo, millet, wheat, cracked corn; and they need legumes such as vetches and field peas. I use a pelletized, medication-free feed from the local feed mill because my loft is so small, but if I had a commercial loft I would use a "cafeteria" system in which each grain would be made available in a separate bin and the birds would pick from each as they chose. Caution regarding corn, if you feed whole corn, the babies may become "crop bound" because their little digestive systems can't pass such a large grain. Pigeons kind of like black oil sunflower seed, but it is not a necessary component of pigeon feed. They do love tender vegetables such as lettuce and chickweed. Use whatever grows in your area. They will leave the ones that are not good for them alone. Pigeons also need a steady supply of ground oyster shell and grit, which should be available at any good feed store. This is for calcium for eggshells, and for the grit in their gizzards.
It takes four to maybe five weeks to bring squabs to harvest size. You know they are ready when the feathers under the wings are fledged out, but the squabs have not flown yet. If everything goes absolutely perfectly, you will get two squabs every three weeks or so - about thirty to forty a year. However, all sorts of things can go wrong, so expect twenty to thirty. A dressed squab weighs about a pound. A serving is usually a whole squab, because there is a fair amount of plate waste. However, I seldom can eat a whole one at a single sitting and am usually satisfied with a half.
Thank you for all the valuable info ... I'm in Ireland and have been unable to find anyone raising squabs or even any info locally, some pics would be really helpful on housing etc.
I also must look out for the book, thank again.
You"re welcome. A good source for the book is an international online book mall called abebooks.com which is where I found my copy of Levi's book.
One caution for you, me, and anyone who lives in a cool, damp climate. While pigeons are remarkably hardy and adaptable birds, their original habitat was dry cliffs. They are most productive and healthy when they are in a dry environment. Wet floors, deep litter, and other situations that may promote dampness won't work where it is humid.
I'll try to get a picture of my loft on line. I'm not real skillful at putting up pictures. I may start another thread about pigeon lofts, but not right now - I'm on lunch hour at work.
Perhaps thats why info is so hard to find, they (squabs) may not do so well in this climate ... yet another reason to pack my bags
Looking forward to the pics.