Assuming you have a rain-proof dovecote already installed in your garden, preferably with the inside separated into compartments at least a foot square, you are ready to choose your birds.
There is a great choice of suitable breeds who happily free fly and breed well. When choosing your breed it is advisable to choose clean-legged birds rather than feather legged.
If you like to see them fly then Birmingham Rollers are ideal. If you want birds that are really tame and stay close to your garden then maybe the Garden Fantail is for you. These beautiful white pigeons with a funnel shaped tail are superb, though sometimes susceptible to both cats and hawks. There are of course many other breeds so seek advice first.
When you introduce your birds to the dovecote they must be fastened into the cote for about a month so they can see out and come out onto the platform, but cannot fly out. You can achieve this using chicken wire. This enables the birds to learn their surroundings. It is best to buy very young birds that have never been outside otherwise they may not settle.
Usually around February time adult pairs will lay two eggs and incubate them for approximately 18 days. The male will sit during the day, the hen will sit all night. Both birds will rear the youngsters for about a month, when they will be able to look after themselves. When the youngsters are about 2 to 3 weeks old the parents will lay again and this is probably the best time to start thinking about controlling their breeding. You could finish up with a dozen or more youngster if you let them get on with it.
If you do allow your birds to breed the kindest way to control their numbers is to allow them to lay their eggs, sit them for a week, then remove the eggs replacing them with china eggs or plastic ones filled with some sand in to give them a bit of weight.
The parent birds will quite happily sit the eggs for the incubation period and will then leave them, accepting the fact that they haven’t hatched. If they go to nest again, usually after a couple of weeks, just repeat the previous section. Alternatively you can let them sit just one good egg each time.
A pigeon requires fresh water and approx. 1.25oz of mixed pigeon corn per day to stay healthy. Over feeding birds is not good for the health of the birds. Once your birds are free flying you can keep them at home by feeding, regularly, twice a day. They will usually find their own grit and minerals but by feeding them corn and the occasional peanuts you should be able to tame them down. It depends on how much time you are prepared to give your birds as to how tame they become.
Before obtaining pigeons for your cote you should consider the long term implications. We receive many calls from people whose neighbours had dovecotes but on moving house either leave the birds behind or remove the cote rendering the birds homeless, this causes all manner of problems and is a cruel and needless practise.
Please remember that these birds are totally reliant on you all of their lives, they are your responsibility.