I began working with homing pigeons back in high school as my mom preferred
birds outside to the rats and mice I kept in the house for my school projects. I
began breeding them for certain traits and also began entering them in races
with the local racing club. I won a few races and eventually had won the club's
overall average speed award -- not bad for a kid, competing against adults
who'd been training and racing their birds for years. I gave the birds away
before entering college, but have always maintained an interest in them.
I have a degree in Animal Science and with my prior experience, and continued
interest in birds, I decided to build a loft and raise homing pigeons when I
moved to Florida in 2004.
My current stock of birds originated from the purchase of 10 whites from a loft
in Minnesota. Those ten birds acclimated to this location and they and their
descendants make up my current flock of birds.
My birds live with our two Labradors, two rescue cats, and four chickens... It's
almost a zoo, but thankfully one where everyone gets along.
Pigeons (doves) are one of man's earliest domesticated animals. They share an
honored place in all of our major religions. They have served man in war and in
peace. Reuters News Service wouldn't exist today without pigeons, as delivering
the news with homing pigeons was the "technological break- through" that set
Reuters ahead of the rest when the company was founded.
These birds mate for life and are extremely dedicated parents, sharing in nest
building, incubating the eggs and raising their young. They have elaborate
courtship behaviours which they maintain during their lifelong relationship.
The hen lays two eggs, but incubation doesn't begin until the second egg is laid
-- so both babies hatch at the same time. Unlike most other birds, there is no
favoritism, both babies are treated and fed the same. Also unlike other birds,
pigeons (doves) feed their newly hatched young a substance very much like
mammalian milk. This milk cause the young to grow and develop rapidly. The
babies in the nest bowl to the top left are 7 days old. The bottom picture is of a
20 day old baby, almost ready to leave the nest.
At seven days of age, all of my birds are banded. The sealed bands fit over the
feet at that age, and within a day or two the legs and feet have grown enough
that the bands couldn't be removed unless they were cut off. These bands are
numbered and allow me to identify the bird and trace its pedigree. They also
enable the birds to be returned to me should one ever get lost or injured.
Once the birds leave the nest, they begin venturing outside the loft. After a few
timid flights they become acclimated to their home and will always return to it if
able -- regardless of the distance they must travel.
Doves / pigeons are derived from the Rock Dove. Hundreds of years of selective
breeding gave us the Homing Pigeon. These birds were used for racing and
delivering messages all over the world.
My birds are the result of additional selective breeding. Today's "White Doves"
are smaller than homing pigeons, but retain the strong homing ability. They are
larger than most doves so they have the muscle mass to fly hours on end. And
of course they are white in color.
The birds are pure white, but not albinos (which could be blinded in direct
sunlight). They have dark chestnut eyes and are only lacking pigment in their
feathers. My birds are housed in a special insulated loft where they have ample
room inside and a covered aviary to exercise in when they aren't flying free.
They are fed a special diet and receive vaccinations and medications as needed.
My birds are trained by releasing them from greater and greater distances to
strengthen their homing ability.
The birds are an expensive proposition and require a lot of care, but watching
them raise their young, engage in their antics and mostly watching them in
flight makes it worth all the time and every dime.
These special birds can add such beauty and memories to your special day.
|Southwest Florida White Doves