Saturday, December 2Food Security Matters

How to Train Homing Pigeons: 3 Easy Steps

Do you wonder why and how to train homing pigeons? Are you passionate about birds? Would you like to have a different and fun hobby? If the answer is “yes”, you are reading the most suitable article. Today, in our blog we talk about an activity that hooks thousands of people around the world: how to train homing pigeons.

The extraordinary sense of direction of the homing pigeon

If you read our first article about racing pigeons, you will already know that we are talking about a very special type of pigeon and different from those we are used to seeing in the parks of our city. The main characteristic that distinguishes a homing pigeon or Wild Pigeon is its extraordinary sense of orientation and, also, its strength and resistance to fly for hours and travel hundreds of kilometers. A carrier pigeon that is well integrated and adapted to its loft will be able to return home almost naturally. And you wonder … How does he do it? How is a pigeon able to recognize the course and not get lost? There are many theories about it, some of them very curious, for example.

A homing pigeon

Paloma Bravía (Rock Dove) orients itself thanks to the sunlight. The biological clock of the pigeon is very sensitive, it can tell what time of day it is by the amount of light there is. According to this theory, the pigeon compares the amount and orientation of the light of the place where it is with that which should be in its loft at that moment and, thus, locates the correct path.

Training homing pigeons are extremely sensitive to terrestrial magnetism and in its right eye, it has a kind of compass that indicates the correct course.

How to Train Homing Pigeons

In the environment of pigeon racing, it is often said that there are as many methods of training a pigeon as there are amateurs. It happens the same as in dog training: There are different theories but each fan uses the methods that work for him or her. Furthermore, the training methods are not usually rigid and the personality of each pigeon is also an important factor that must be taken into account. Let’s look at some common tips applicable to any type of training:

1. Start Early 

Most breeders prefer to start training their pigeons when they are young. The age of onset can vary a little but will range between 25-30 days. During this period, it is highly recommended that the youngsters occupy their loft and that they be in groups of more or less the same age. This way they will not be “overwhelmed” by the adult pigeons of the family. Another important point of this stage is to bale the pigeon, that is to say: cause it to fly through the loft every day. It is also very advisable to talk to him and whistle when we put food on him. In this way, he will get to know us and get used to our call.

2. Trust the Pigeon 

A few days after placing him in his new loft, the young pigeon will be ready to start traveling short distances. His wings will have gained strength and they will now be able to leave the loft and start walking a few meters on their own. It is a period in which, no matter how much it costs us, we must trust our pet and think that she will whistle again. One tip: let the pigeon out before feeding it. That way he will have an appetite and will go to his feeder on the first call.

3. Educate Your Sense of Direction

When the chick is around three months old, it is time to take another step in their education and begin to work on their sense of orientation. As we said at the beginning, these birds are very well-oriented naturally, but it does not hurt to help them a little. 

To begin with, we are going to accustom them to cages or training baskets, small rooms where we will move them to another point so that, from there, they return on their own to the loft. This phase is very stressful for the little pigeons so you have to go very slowly: the first day we will introduce them for a few minutes, the second day a little more … After a few days we will start with the training pure and hard: We will move to a near point, we will open the basket and… to fly home. An important tip in this delicate phase is to always try to work on sunny days, without rain, strong wind, or fog which makes the test more difficult for our young pet.

As you can see, training a homing pigeon is relatively simple. It only requires two things: time and patience. Do you want to try it?

Common Questions Related to Training Homing Pigeons

Can any pigeon be a homing pigeon?

The homing pigeon also called the mail pigeon or messenger pigeon is a variety of domestic pigeons (Columba livia domestica) derived from the wild rock dove, selectively bred for its ability to find its way home over extremely long distances. Not all pigeons can be trained as homing pigeons and become a carrier.

How does a homing pigeon know where to go?

We know pigeons use visual cues and can navigate based on landmarks along known travel routes. We also know they have a magnetic sense called “magnetoreception” which lets them navigate using Earth’s magnetic field.

How did they train carrier pigeons?

They had to be transported manually before another flight. However, by placing their food at one location and their home at another location, pigeons have been trained to fly back and forth up to twice a day reliably, covering round-trip flights up to 160km.

How do you homing a pigeon at home?

Much like poultry, homing pigeons require a space that is safe from predators and protected from the elements. An elevated loft with good ventilation is ideal. The birds instinctively fly in groups circling their loft.

Do pigeons know their owners?

If you shoo a pigeon, that bird is likely to remember you and know to stay out of your way the next time you cross paths, according to a new study. Researchers found that wild, untrained pigeons can recognize individual people’s faces and are not fooled by a change of clothes.

Do homing pigeons stop for a rest?

Sometimes homing pigeons will stop for a few days to refuel before continuing their journey home. This sounds like a domestic racing or homing pigeon. Sometimes these birds become exhausted and need just a few hours or days to rest or feed before they head home again.

Where do homing pigeons sleep at night?

Because pigeons don’t sleep in their nests, they need to find other locations to spend the night and get some rest. Pigeons look for shelters that will keep them warm throughout the night while also protecting them from predators. They often find this shelter on roofs of homes and other buildings.

What is the difference between a carrier pigeon and a homing pigeon?

Both the homing pigeon and the carrier pigeon are the result of many years of selective breeding, starting long ago with the rock pigeon, a wild pigeon with a talent for returning unerringly to its home. The carrier pigeon was bred for its beauty and the homing pigeon, for its speed and ability to always return home.

At what age do you start training homing pigeons?

You should start training homing pigeons when they are at least 6 weeks old. You can help your pigeons figure out the trapdoor in the loft when they are 6 weeks of age.

Do homing pigeons always find their way home?

They are “trained” by owners transporting them gradually longer distances from their loft and letting them go to find a home. When tracked, these birds use familiar landmarks, rivers, motorways, and hills to locate a home, so fog and low cloud is a handicap.

How intelligent is a pigeon?

Pigeons are incredibly complex and intelligent animals. They are one of only a small number of species to pass the ‘mirror test’ – a test of self-recognition. They can also recognize each letter of the human alphabet, differentiate between photographs, and even distinguish different humans within a photograph.

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