Pigeons and squabs can be profitably raised on the small homestead. Although they require good housing, they can be raised anywhere in the United States and almost anywhere in the world.
You should begin breeding with not less than four pairs of mated breeders. (Pigeons mate for life and are sold in pairs.) Buy good stock from a registered breeder. You might be able to find a breeder in your area by checking at a local feed and grain store.
The following breeds are recommended for beginners. They are good producers and raise large, broad-breasted squabs: White King, White Carneaux, Giant Homers, and Giant Runt.
Twenty-five pairs of breeding pigeons may be kept in a pen and loft. The loft must be dry and draft-free. Pigeons need sunshine, and a flying pen is usually constructed in the front of the loft, extending up to the roof, so the pigeons can fly and sun themselves. A pen 6 by 10 by 7 feet high is sufficient. The loft and pen must be mouse and rat proof. Use fine wire mesh.
The loft floor should be smooth so it can be easily scraped. Put two inches of fine gravel on the floor. Open-front lofts can be built in warmer climates, but lofts with opening windows for summer ventilation should be provided in cooler climates.
Never give the pigeons nesting material. It is useless and messes up the floor. Cheap nesting bowls, made of pulp and available at a feed store, will keep eggs and squabs together. After a few months’ use they may be discarded and replaced with new ones.
Each breeding pair will need two nests—one for the current squabs and another for the start of a second nest when the first squabs about two weeks old. Orange crates stacked on top of each other with plywood between serve well as nest boxes and are cheap to place.
Pigeons are very clean and love to wash; a large pan filled with three inches of water should be placed in their flying pen on mornings. After several hours, remove pan, empty, and wash. Pigeons kept in a loft and allowed to bathe regularly don’t attract pests. Keep the floor clean and nesting boxes of manure at least every month.
If you can’t raise your grains for feeding, buy whole, unmixed. These are cheaper than commercial feed. Use whole yellow corn, wheat, red sorghum, peas, or vetch. Never feed table scraps, and feed lettuce or greens occasionally. Pigeons need grit in their diet to help them crack grains. Keep small boxes of red pigeon grit available in the pen. They need a constant source of fresh, clean water. Make sure they cannot get their feet into the water supply, or they will bathe in it.
Pigeons mate at six months, females lays two eggs. The male helps with the nesting, sitting on nest from early morning to late afternoon, the female sits during the rest of the day. This pattern may help in sexing pairs, also tends to be more aggressive, larger and a coarser appearance.
During incubation, a substance “pigeon milk” forms in the crops. This is fed to the young for the first five days after they emerge. After their first day, they are able to digest grain which is fed from the crops of the parents. Since the best characteristic of this tree is that its ears comparatively heavy in its early years, you won’t have to wait forever to enjoy the fruits of your labor.