Rescuing or adopting a pet pigeon can be an incredible opportunity to save an unreleasable bird and change your day-to-day life for the better. Giving a home to a rescue animal offers a sense of purpose- and being treated to the soft coos and rumpled plumage of your new feathered friend doesn't hurt, either.
But what happens when your adopted pigeon struggles to adjust to his or her new surroundings? Rescue animals are often shy, aggressive, or skittish when they first arrive in their new homes. This is for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which being that your pigeon likely underwent physical trauma that triggered a need for adoption in the first place.
Below, we've outlined a handful of ways that kindhearted individuals who choose to adopt a pigeon can begin to tackle the behavior issues that come along with getting settled in a new environment. Those who are interested can read on further for more general advice on caring for adopted pigeons once retraining starts to pay off.
Working With and Retraining Aggressive or Skittish Pigeons
Winning the trust of any pigeon is a process that takes time and patience- this is doubly true for rescue pigeons. Pigeons who come from disadvantaged situations or who have been injured will often have a much more difficult time coming to trust humans; and who could blame them? We're big, we're loud, and we love to pick animals up.
You'll likely need to do some retraining with your new pigeon once they've had time to settle into their new home. In some cases, this may be as simple as sitting down with your hands behind you (no standing!), speaking softly, and waiting for your pigeon to begin interacting with you.
Other cases may involve pigeons who are more aggressive or skittish. In these scenarios, it's especially important to avoid handling until your pigeon's trust in you has a chance to grow. Being held and confined is, understandably, terrifying for birds who don't understand that there's no danger.
While the process may feel extensive and unfulfilling, you'll have to start small. Begin by making a habit of approaching your pigeon's cage without speaking or moving once you're in position. At the beginning of this process, you may have to remain several feet away (or even across the room) until your pigeon learns to calm down. You'll be able to gradually move closer to the cage and move onto careful handling with time.
One of the secrets to keeping any animal happy is to provide them with ample mental stimulation; this is especially true for birds, who are highly intelligent creatures. Fortunately for prospective pigeon adopters, birds can be mentally stimulated in a number of ways that are both simple to execute and easy on the pocketbook.
Make sure your pigeon's cage has:
- Shelves to act as destinations while flying or hopping
- Shelves are better than perches
- They offer room to lounge, nap, strut, and engage in other natural behaviors
- A mirror
- A weighted basket or nest box
- You can switch out the medium used to fill these to keep things interesting
- These are also great places to hide small treats or toys on occasion
- A container to use as a bathtub
- Pigeons love to keep clean and bathe
- An ideal location
- Access to sunshine
- Plenty of fresh air
- Near family and other household members
Mental stimulation is especially beneficial to pigeons who struggle with aggression or skittishness problems. With more time and energy funneled into enriching and fulfilling activities, your pigeon will have less time to rile him or herself up and cause harm to their surroundings or themselves.
- Holding your pigeon
- No bird likes to be caught; be as calm and respectful about the "catching" process as possible
- Not every pigeon will respond well to being held
- Petting, reassurance, and regular exposure to being held can all create a more positive experience and deepen your bond with your pigeon
- Create a flock
- Pigeons are flock animals
- In the absence of other pigeons, you and other members of your household become your pigeon's flock
- Ensure your pigeon has ample time to bond and build trust with everyone who will come into regular contact with him or her
General Tips for Caring for Adopted Pigeons
Seek an expert's help
The organization that you adopt your pigeon from should be able to provide you with a list of resources and contacts that you can turn to when you need help. Ideally, this list will include experts from that very organization. Never hesitate to consult a professional if you're worried about your pigeon or need care and bonding advice. Look for local rescue groups and be on the lookout for pigeon rescue Facebook pages and groups.
Remember that pigeons are flock birds
If you've got the means to care for more than one pigeon, by all means, start building a flock once each member of the family takes their time to get settled!
Most of us, however, don't have the freedom or resources to care for multiple birds-and that's fine! It just means you'll need to keep a few things in mind. Pigeons who live indoors will adopt household members as their flock; if you've only got one pigeon, it's best to keep them inside most of the time rather than housing them outside permanently. This separation from "the flock" can be stressful.
Know what your bird needs
Pigeons are a little deceptive- they're so small and so simple, how much could they possibly require?
The answer is actually quite a bit!
While caring for adopted pigeons, you'll need to educate yourself in terms of the feeding, lighting, housing, and supplementation requirements. This way you can provide your rescued pal with the best life possible. You'll need to provide a high-quality pigeon feed that's professionally formulated to be nutritionally balanced. In addition to this, your pigeon will require supplements to ensure that they get enough calcium and vitamin D3.
These and other requirements are often downplayed by inexperienced owners- but don't let that impact your care! It's always best to do your own research and address your concerns thoroughly before hopping into the pot and going through with an adoption. Remember: those who fail to plan plan to fail, and your future pigeon deserves the best home possible.
For more information regarding caring for adopted pigeons, or to look for birds in need of homes, check out the Palomacy Pigeon and Dove Adoptions website today! Whether you're on the hunt for resources or you're ready to take the leap and meet the newest member of your family, you'll be well-served by Palomacy's extensive web of support and research.