Utility Pigeons

Utility pigeons are breeds of pigeon which have been bred specifically for meat production. Pigeons are fairly rapid reproducers in the wild, so they make good livestock for meat production.

Most pigeons are considered too small for meat production. Odd, since quail are not, and quail are about half the size of your average feral pigeon. At least, the larger quail are. But then, you can incubate quail eggs, and you cannot incubate pigeon eggs and raise the young successfully. Pigeon babies require pigeon parents. Pigeon squabs (the babies) are fed by their parents - the parents eat, and the food is processed in their crop, and regurgitated for the babies. Pigeon squabs do not do well when hand fed.

Pigeons will brood two eggs at a time, and raise two squabs to slaughter age in about a month. It takes less than a month for them to brood their eggs also, so the turnaround time is pretty fast if you have good birds. Most pigeons are good parents, though some have been bred to extremes so the can no longer feed their own young, and they only exist as breeds because they are tended by people - the eggs are taken from the specialty breeds and brooded under pigeons who retain their natural survival abilities.

They take a little more space than quail do, and their diet tends to be herbivorous rather than omnivorous. They eat grains, greens, and fruits.

Now... here is where we diverge. Because in the pigeon world, there are two types of people.

First, those that raise pigeons, do it by the book, invest in special pigeon feed, keep their pigeons as pets, just for fun. These people are OUTRAGED at the idea of anyone actually eating a pigeon. They get just as indignant at the suggestion that you can feed your pigeon less than performance rated feed also. You can be that kind of person if you want. But I refuse.

Second, we have people who feed pigeons on bird seed, garden scraps, some scrap kitchen greens and breads, and other similar foods. This is offensive to our first group of people, but to the second, this is just practical reality. Utility pigeons will actually thrive on this kind of diet. Practicality makes good meat.

The point is, when you go researching pigeon diets, and how to care for pigeons, the majority of the information out there is produced by the first group of people. They outnumber the second group a thousand to one. Maybe more. Dig deep if you want HONEST information, and not just commercialized and formalized protocols that may produce a racing pigeon that can win, but that won't really be necessary to produce good squabbing pigeons.

You can eat any pigeon. Again, the first group is outraged by this, but particularly offended at the thought of eating culls from bird breeds that are bred to be fancy, racers, or sport birds (tumblers and rollers). Some of the options outside of utility pigeons are rather fun. But you won't make friends with other breeders if you admit you eat your culls.

So Utility pigeons. What are the options here?

Feral pigeons. Smaller, but readily available, and easy keepers.Often available as dog training birds, at $4 to $7 each. They will not be sexed, so you will have to let them sort out into pairs then dispose of the extras.

White Kings. The most popular squabbing pigeon in the world. You should be able to find these, but you'll pay $50 to $100 per bird for them, and usually you can order a pair, already sexed. Kings have the highest production rate of any utility breeds, only feral can do as well. Avoid Show Kings, they have lost their productivity.

Brown (Silver) Kings. A solid utility bird, may be more expensive than Whites, and harder to find. Cross with whites though, and you get a nice range of colors. Productivity is high in lines that have been maintained for production, but may be lower than Whites in others.

Texas Pioneers. An auto-sexing breed, the males and females are colored differently from birth. A nice convenience. Productivity has suffered though, since these have not been well maintained by breeders. Avoid show lines. Generally more costly than Kings, expect to pay $75 to $125 per bird.

Strassers. Bred for show, this is a large breed which has also been used for squabbing. If you acquire these, you will very likely have to breed up to increase productivity for several generations before you regain high production. Price varies.

Modena. Bred for show, this is a large breed which has also been used for squabbing. If you acquire these, you will very likely have to breed up to increase productivity for several generations before you regain high production. Price varies.

Swiss Mondaine. Bred for show, this is a large breed which has also been used for squabbing. If you acquire these, you will very likely have to breed up to increase productivity for several generations before you regain high production. Price varies.

Giant Runt. Bred for show, this is a large breed which has also been used for squabbing. If you acquire these, you will very likely have to breed up to increase productivity for several generations before you regain high production. Price varies.

Giant Homer. Bred for sport and show, this is a large breed which has also been used for squabbing. If you acquire these, you will very likely have to breed up to increase productivity for several generations before you regain high production. Price varies.

 

Pigeons may be raised in a colony setting, in an open loft or cote. They may also be raised in cages, with pairs by themselves, which controls breeding best for some purposes. Pigeons are social birds, and like the company of other birds, but they can also be contentious and argue a lot over territory, girls, food, etc.

Each pair needs their own nest box, and for highest production, they need two nests per pair so they can finish off the raising of young in one nest while starting another nest beside it.

Please raise pigeons. They are becoming endangered as a utility bird, and lost as a useful farm animal. They have become instead, a pet on one hand, and a nuisance on the other hand. If we use them as a food source, we control their numbers, appreciate their presence, and help them stay thriving as a species.

 

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