Pigeons and Doves - General

By Rick Axelson, DVM

General Informationpigeons_and_doves-1

The domestic pigeon (family Columbidae) includes over 300 breeds, all descending from the Rock Dove (Columbia livia). They originated in Eurasia, but are now found all over the world. They have had a relationship with man since approximately 3000 B.C. There are 4 categories of pigeons. Utility pigeons are raised for meat. Flying pigeons are recognized for their brilliant flying skills (rollers, sky cutters, tumblers, tipplers). Racing Homers are known for their speed and homing abilities. Finally, the largest category is the Toy pigeons, known for their fancy shapes and colors such as the fantails, pouters, croppers, archangels and so on.

"Pigeons are faithful and mate for life."

Pigeons are faithful and mate for life. This sort of commitment may be responsible for its bond to their owner and home as illustrated by their homing instinct. They will often defend mate and territory aggressively. Pigeons come in many color combinations and their plumage can include anything from feathered feet (muffed feet) to crested, maned or hooded heads. These birds have a pleasant personality and quiet nature. They have a peaceful cooing voice. They are generally hardy birds, easy to tame and simple to care for.

Purchasing a pigeon

"Hand raised babies often make better pets since they have been completely socialized with humans."

Pigeons may be purchased from a pet store or a reputable breeder. When selecting a pigeon, try to choose a young bird as it may be easier to tame and train. Older, wild, colony or parent raised birds may prove challenging to tame. Hand raised babies often make better pets since they have been completely socialized with humans. Young birds are easier to tame and adapt readily to new environments and situations. Your new bird should be exposed early to different events (young and old people, males and females, other pets, car trips, visits to the veterinarian, etc.) to help promote a calm, well-adjusted pet. The lively, alert bird that is not easily frightened is more likely a healthy bird. After purchasing your new bird, have it examined by your veterinarian.

Veterinary Care

Pigeons require regular, routine veterinary health check ups. Your veterinarian can perform a physical examination, grooming (beak, nail or feather trim as necessary) and laboratory tests as needed. During these semi-annual check-ups, health, nutritional and maintenance issues can be identified and addressed. Veterinary check-ups help prevent disease and will aid in the maintenance of a long lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.



Basic color is dull grey with white rump and two large wing bars: other colors include white, brown, grey, bronzy-green and black


  • Same as adult but somewhat duller

Sexing Males generally larger, will puff out their chest in display more, strut more and are more vocal

Young are difficult to differentiate

Weigh Average 10 - 20 ounces (300 - 600 grams)

Size Average 10 - 15 inches (25 - 37 cm) in length

Life span 10 - 14 years

Diet Consult your veterinarian. Also see our Pigeons and Doves-feeding handout

Breeding Sexual maturity at 6-12 months

Easy to breed but require privacy

Both sexes incubate

Brood Size 2 eggs hatch in 14 - 19 days, young leave the nest in 5 weeks

Cage Minimum 2 ft x 3 ft x 4 ft long (60 cm x 90 cm x 120 cm) depends on the size of the bird.

Generally, they do better in flights or lofts that allow complete freedom

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