Basic Pigeon Care in Temporary Shelters
DIET: Young birds are fed by the parents until fully feathered and eating on their own at 30 to 40 days of age. Provide constant food supply and extra water to pairs with chicks.
Multiple grain mixes and pelleted rations available, feed what they are used to; often difficult to convert to pellets. Give about 1 pound food for 10 adult birds per day.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are used with grain diets when fed long term.
At least ¼ cup water per bird per day, or 3 cups for every 10 birds.
HOUSING: Minimum temperature 40 degrees, maximum 80 degrees; with adequate shelter from sun or cold drafts a wider range is tolerable.
Flat perches like 1 x 2 inch boards are best for their feet, one foot of perch per bird or multiple individual perches. Tree branches may be used as perches.
Position perches so they are not above food and water dishes or over other perches.
Males may be aggressive and injure other birds, especially if overcrowded.
Avoid mixing birds from different cages; remove any injured birds.
RESTRAINT: The legs are pulled back toward the tail, the
feet are held between the index and middle fingers, and the
thumb and fingers are wrapped around the base of the tail
with the belly resting in the palm of your hand. The bird’s
chest can be held against your chest. Never compress the
chest as it has to move for the bird to breathe.
COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS: Trichomonas: very common; signs are head-shaking and yellow plaques in the mouth, or bird may have trouble breathing.
Upper respiratory infections: various bacterial and viral causes; signs include sneezing, nasal discharge on the shoulders where the birds wipe their nares (nostrils).
Chlamydia: redness or discharge from one or both eyes both or upper respiratory symptoms. Contagious to humans. Report all suspected cases to veterinarian.
Coccidia: weight loss, lack of appetite, diarrhea. Most pigeons have coccidia present in the gastrointestinal tract, may cause disease in young or stressed birds.
Diarrhea: may be E. coli, Salmonella (paratyphoid), parasites, viruses.
Paramyxovirus: watery droppings, loss of coordination, twisted neck.
Poxvirus: whitish or yellow bumps on head, feet, or legs. Spread by mosquitoes.
OTHER: Many pigeon medications are administered in the water and are available online thru pigeon supply companies such as Global Pigeon Supply. Many veterinary supply companies will not have the appropriate medications in a form used in the water for multiple birds. Standard treatments can be used on individual birds.
Pigeons have a venous plexus rather than large jugular veins in the neck, so blood samples must be drawn from the wing or leg.
Compiled by Julie Burge, DVM, Burge Bird Services, August 2010
1. Hooimeijer, J, 2006, Management of Racing Pigeons, in Harrison G and Lightfoot T, eds, Clinical Avian Medicine, Spix Publishing, Palm Beach, FL, p. 849-860.
2. Johnson-Delaney, C, 2009, Pigeons, in Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook, Zoological Education Network, Lake Worth, FL, p. 2-22.
3. Vogel, C, Gerlach, H, and Loffler, M, 1994, Columbiformes, in Ritchie, G, Harrison, G, and Harrison, L, eds, Avian Medicine: Principles and Application, Wingers Publishing, Lake Worth, FL, p. 1200-1217.
4. Weber, N, 2009, Unusual Pet Care Volume 3, Zoological Education Network, Lake Worth, FL, p. 144-148.