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Pigeon Facts

Raising Homers

Training with Homers




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Griffonpoint
Dedicated to the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Pigeons

I like to use Recall birds and Homing Pigeons in training our Griffons for hunting.  They are not as good as using wild birds, but what you loose, you gain in the ability to use controlled situations in training.

Pigeons are easy to keep, even if you live in the city you will be able to use pigeons.




 

 

 
 
       
 

 


Pigeon Facts

The earliest record of man keeping domestic Pigeons is 3000 BC Egypt. Pigeons are strong fliers and have been widely used as emergency carriers at many times in our history as they will instinctively return to their place of birth.  It is this ability to fly and the instinct to return to the coop that we draw upon when we use Pigeons for the training of a hunting Griffon. 

Pigeons and Doves are monogamous, they mate for life, but on the death of a mate, they will re-mate in time.  During courting, including head-bobbing, cooing and "kissing" the two will build a nest anywhere they can find a ledge. When the time is near for egg laying, the male will chase the female to the nest and force her to stay on the nest.  The female lays 2 white eggs and both the male and the female Pigeon take turns incubating the young.  Generally the male sits from the late morning to the afternoon, and the female will sit the rest of the time.  Incubation is about 17 days, the young will care for the young in the nest for another 17 days, both parents feeding them "pigeon milk" which is secreted by the glandular walls of the crop. As the young get older, small seeds will be mixed into the milk, and eventually the adult pigeons will feed a mixture of pure seeds, water and grit. Parents will frequently set another clutch of eggs once their first has hatched, and thus will raise two sets of young at a time, incubating the younger.  

 

Once a squab is old enough, it will leave the nest to walk on the ground and learn to feed and drink water from its parents. Young pigeons (Squeakers) lack the white skin saddle (cere) between the bill and forehead and emit a high "squeak" and so are easily distinguishable from the adults.   A Squeaker can be taken from its coop, and will then instinctively home to wherever it is raised.  Once a bird is an adult, if moved to another location it will need to be wing clipped in order to stay in a new coop. 

 

 

 

About 28 days after hatching, training to home can begin, with the first lessons being how to enter the coop through the trap door.

 

To raise enough pigeons for our ongoing dog training, we keep a "breeding coop" of racing homers that are not permitted to fly free. These birds breed from March to September, and often produce eggs this entire time, even during their molt.  The breeding coop consists of a coop and a flight pen, made with wood and plywood, with wire chicken mesh stapled on the flight pen.  The coop (you can purchase the plan) has a feed bin and nest boxes and exits to the flight pen with a covered with a porch (equipped with more nest boxes).  The flight pen contains a water fountain, a feed and grit box, and a perch.  Nesting material is available - straw and hay mainly, pigeons are not always great nest builders, but some do their best if they are provided with  materials. Every spring, before egg laying begins, the nesting boxes are cleaned.  Do not breath the dust from pigeons, you can get very sick. Once breeding begins, it will not end until fall, with pigeons breeding non stop. Good quality food is necessary so as not to deplete the breeding birds.  A mixture of commercial laying mash, seeds and grains, or a commercial pigeon mix are all good ideas.  Pigeons also need salt, grit and oyster shell.  Water is essential, as well as for drinking, Pigeons need to take a daily bath, especially when sitting on eggs (moisture).   

Our other coop is for our fliers (our training birds).  These are pigeons that have been removed from the Breeding coop as squeakers, so they will home to the flying coop once they are adults.  Once they have learned to go in and out of the trap door they are taken progressively further from the coop to practice homing.  The outside wall of the flight pen has a trap door with bobs which hang down, allowing the pigeons outside to enter while preventing the pigeons inside from going out.  The trap door also has a solid predator door that closes over top, preventing predators from coming in after the pigeons.  Sometimes the bobs are propped up, allowing the pigeons to come and go at will especially in the mornings, this extra flying will help to condition their wings and make them strong fliers.  You must be careful that no cats, hawks or owls are feeding on your pigeons, so leaving the bobs up or the predator door open is not normally a good idea, as predators can also enter your coop, and can kill many birds in just a couple of days.

 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION:  coming soon:  Training methods

Homing Pigeons will fly home over many miles, allowing you to train in different fields and if you have quality racing homers, you will even be able to train across the country.  Unlike Game birds, a homing pigeon will simply fly home once they are released from a sock or a launcher, this is excellent when breaking a young dog to stop to flush. 

When we plan to train, we make sure our pigeons are not let out in the morning. We take a 100 or 200 airline crate into the coop and set it up on it's end, the door at the top.  By netting or grabbing pigeons, we place the pigeons into the crates.  When the crate is full, the door on the crate is latched and the crate is carried out to the training area. 

There are many ways to use pigeons.  I will mention just a few of them here.  

First, there is my favourite.. the electronic bird launcher.  This type of unit allows you to hold a pigeon in an the launcher, then when a button is pressed on the transmittor, the launcher is activated, instantly throwing the pigeon 8 feet or more into the air, where he can fly away.  The launcher is the simplest way you can train using pigeons, chukars, quail or pheasant where you can control the timing of the flush.  

Another piece of equipment is the sock, which holds the pigeon's wings against its body, to be released by you picking up the bird and tossing it into the air, or rolling it onto the ground to fly away at will. 

Then there is the harness, mainly to control the bird while you are doing yard work, but we have also put a harness onto a flexi-leash which allows the bird to fly up for a ways, then come to the ground when he reaches the end of the string.  The same can be done with a pop bottle, cardboard etc., with this method, you need to be sure that there are no power lines or trees around to get tangled in. 

And... braiding the wings.  Pigeons have amazingly flexible wings and you can restrict them from flying without wing clipping simply by bending one wing over the other (see photo).   This allows the pigeon to walk but he cannot fly. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 
       
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Thank you for visiting.

For further information, contact


Griffonpoint Kennel

Katy Steuhm katy@griffonpoint.com
California - USA

Shannon Ford shannon@griffonpoint.com
Alberta/British Columbia, Canada

 
 
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All Rights Reserved. Copyright ¬© Shannon Ford 1997 - You may copy this page for personal use only, providing it is not changed, and that credit rests with the author, Shannon Ford.. ¬©Shannon Ford 1997