Homing Pigeons – Lesson Three

How do we get in?

Don’t get discouraged.

It’s now seven hours since I let my homers out for their very first flight and they are all at this moment safely back in the coop except for the one older male who has seemingly left for good.

What a day. After kicking myself for letting my birds out prematurely and expecting never to see them again, they began to filter back. First they lined up on my roof, then my back porch railing, then they started landing on the windowsill right next to me. I could tell they wanted back in but they couldn’t remember how.

I knew from research that they needed a landing pad and not just a doorway, and I made sure to install one before letting them free. You can see it to the far left of the photo under their little pigeon door. They still didn’t seem interested in using it despite mounds of food piled there that the sparrows were all too happy to sample for them.

I saw them eyeing their food dish through the window that I had on my kitchen table. Knowing they have excellent eyesight, I decided to place the bowl half sticking out on the landing pad. Success! Ten minutes later two birds were inside. Well one was half inside. I went in the coop to shoo him completely in and he was only too happy to go. The two birds ate their fill and settled in on a perch for a nice nap. Meanwhile the other two birds were still trying to figure out how to get in. At this point it began to gently rain.

Well, that did it. The two remaining pigeons were not happy about being caught in the rain and began to try everything they could to gain access to the coop. They were climbing the walls, pacing the ground, skidding off the metal nest box roof and even flying up to me as if asking for help. I opened the coop door at one point and they landed on it, knowing it was an access point. The chickens started escaping immediately though and I had to close it again. Then one bird finally flew to the pad. Overjoyed, he began stuffing his face and getting settled inside. The last pigeon, my favorite one who has a little white stripe next to her eye, was still stuck outside. You could tell she was starting to freak out. I opened the coop door again, blocked the chickens with a piece of fencing and called the pigeon over. Gratefully, she flew in and landed on the ground in a pile of chickens. Then up into the rafters for a well-deserved meal and rest.

WHEW! So what have I learned? Well, I’ve learned that pigeons really do know where home is and they want to get back there, but maybe not right away. I learned that I need to teach the pigeons where their door is and have them reliably using it before I set them loose again. I will accomplish this by making a cage that will hang in front of the open door. They can exit the door into the cage and look around, then they can go right back in, using the pad. I will also be installing a wire “trap” to the door that will only swing one way, allowing pigeons to go in but not out. I will keep the trap lifted while they explore the cage, and when they are all checking out the cage I will lower the trap door and call them to eat. This will hopefully teach them how to push on the wire to re-enter the coop. The trap will also ensure that any pigeons I release will stay home after returning to the coop without the need for supervision.

How about the pigeon I lost? Well, I emailed the gentleman I bought them from and told him to be on the lookout for him as he was probably flying home. He very kindly wrote that he hadn’t returned yet, but he had a new batch of young pigeons almost ready to go and I could pick up a replacement bird at the next Poultry Swap. I think that’s the best possible outcome I could have hoped for!

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