How to Breed and Raise Pigeons
Many people ask “Why don't you ever see baby Pigeons?”. In truth you do see young pigeons but because they grow to maturity so fast you cannot tell them apart from adult pigeons.
Pigeons are a common bird in most cities, but many people keep them as pets, raise them as food, for racing, or show. Pigeons have been domesticated for 10,000 years, and are descended from the Rock Dove.
Pigeons are old enough to breed at 5 months of age. They should be prevented from breeding all year as this will exhaust their bodies. Either separate males and females for 4 months in the winter, or let them sit on fake (wood or plastic) eggs. Note that some pigeons will start laying while they are already caring for one set of hatched birds.
Pigeons can breed year round, although in colder areas they tend to only breed in the spring and summer. Pairs will form (and often bond for life), with the male often picking the nesting site. Be sure to have more nesting areas than you have pairs of birds.
photo by author
The female pigeon will lay lay two eggs (usually laying the eggs two days apart), then the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs to incubate them. Male pigeons often sit on the eggs in the day, usually from 10 am to 5 pm. The incubation period for pigeons is 17 to 19 days; sometimes only one egg will hatch, sometimes both, and occasionally neither. The parents feed their young “crop milk” food they produce naturally because of hormones. Crop milk does not contain lactose.
The young pigeons are full grown and old enough to fly at 30 days. The only difference between them and adult birds is that the youngsters may have a little less luster on the iridescent areas of their neck.
photo by author - about 10 days old
It is fairly hard to tell males from females, however the males do tend to have slightly more iridescence, and may be slightly larger than females.
How to Hand Feed Baby Pigeons (Squeakers)
If you raise pigeons, or live in an area where there are many wild ones (and one falls from the nest), you may find you have to hand feed them. In some places you can find prepared mixtures for feeding baby birds and should look for these. Using one made for Cockateils is fine if you cannot find one for pigeons. For young birds you will also need a small 1 cc syringe (get one from the vet) and have an attached rubber tube. Wet the tube (or lubricate with Vaseline) before putting it into the bird's mouth, but make sure it goes over the tongue and into the crop. For 1 – 3 week old birds a 6 cc syringe is better, after 3 weeks they will need a larger syringe and will take 30 to 55 cc of food per feeding.
The baby birds need to be fed three times a day for the first two weeks, then twice a day until they are roughly 4 weeks of age. At three weeks of age start offering pigeon feed. At four weeks feed them only once a day for a few days; make sure they are eating the proper pigeon food, and then discontinue feeding the formula. The feeding process is best done with two people, and the birds held tilted back. Feeding equipment must be washed well between use.
Note that if you have found a baby pigeon that has fallen from its nest, you can touch it and return it to the nest – the parents will not reject it.