Do Pigeons Make Good Pets? Discover the Pros and Cons

Written by Micky Moran
Published: November 27, 2023
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Pigeons have a long-standing history in the world. Some accounts date the avian species 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia because of illustrations in Cappadocian rock formations. They became domesticated at some point, though history books fail to explain how or where the initial change happened.

Eventually, the pigeon made it across the world from Europe to America as one of their most consistent food sources. Nowadays, pigeons roam freely in cities or as pets in homes. How good of a pet is a pigeon? Let’s find out.

About Pigeons

Wood pigeons, pair of birds mating ritual in a UK garden

While their domestication is poorly documented, current researchers believe pigeons were tamed about 10,000 years ago.

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©Paul Maguire/Shutterstock.com

Pigeons can be feral or domesticated. It is difficult to find one that exclusively has wild pigeon DNA as a species. Instead, most species breed with wild rock doves, making their origins even more challenging to determine. Pigeons primarily come from two groups, but interbreeding and cross-breeding make breed standards almost impossible to establish.

Over the years, pigeons have fulfilled many roles. Some cultures revered them as holy animals or messengers. This constant familiarity with people makes them social pets when they have the proper care. You could have a tranquil, stress-free pet if you use gentleness in your interactions.

Pros and Cons of Pet Pigeons

Pro: They Are Highly Intelligent And Easy To Train

Scientific research shows that pigeons understand body language and quickly learn commands with consistency.

©Curran Kelleher / CC BY 2.0 – License

The main reason that so many people appreciate pet pigeons is because of what easy pets they are. Their intelligence makes them easier to train, and many find they are the safest pets they’ve ever had. According to current research, these birds can even focus on multiple stimuli simultaneously, though their mental performance isn’t as impressive with the split attention. Their memory even retains images that are years old, and they can read the body language of other birds.

Con: Pet Pigeons Put You At Risk of Health Issues

Shoko also known as the Congo grey parrot, Congo African grey parrot or African grey parrot, is an Old World parrot in the family Psittacosis.

Cleaning up after your bird can make you sick without proper protection and ventilation in the home.

©Daniel Banano/Shutterstock.com

Bird fancier’s lung, also known as pigeon lung, is one of the health risks of breeding or housing pigeons at your home. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis occurs because you constantly surround yourself with specific proteins in the pigeon’s feathers and excrement. Wearing a filtered mask helps a little, but any waste buildup leaves the proteins behind. Taking care of a pigeon at your home also puts you at risk for psittacosis, histoplasmosis, and cryptococcosis, though the risk is minimal, according to PETA.

Pro: Pigeons Live Up to 15 Years in Captivity

When pigeons live in cities and other urban areas, their typical population is 2-3 years because of many threats. From the pollution of living in a populated area to the fearless predators that seek it out (like peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks), there are a lot of challenges for a feral pigeon.

When you adopt pigeons as pets, their lifespan skyrockets to 15 years, often living longer with proper care and conditions. Considering that cats and dogs live 10-18 years, having a pet pigeon is one of the long-living animals that give their owners years of happiness. Plus, it is much easier to train and less aggressive than its furry alternatives.

Con: Pigeons Leave Droppings Wherever They Fly In Your Home

As lovable and social as a pigeon, they rule any space they enter. If you let them fly around in your home, you inevitably will run into their droppings occasionally. While the droppings take consistent care to clean up, they aren’t as bad as a cat litter box or taking your dog outside. If you have hardwood or tile flooring, it won’t make much of a mess and won’t smell.

With the proper training, you can teach your pigeon to use a designated spot in the home. Some people use a pseudo-diaper for pigeons called pigeon pants to catch the droppings rather than letting them reach the floor. If you protect your floors with the pigeon pants, they must be changed in 3-hour increments.

Pro: They Become More Social With Quality Time

flock of pigeons

Pigeons become more friendly when they have the chance to socialize and spend time with you consistently.

©MNStudio/Shutterstock.com

If you want a friendly bird, look no further! This bird becomes more social and comfortable around you when you spend time with him. While they take a little time to adjust when you make a change, patience and space give them time to become comfortable. Pigeons become more relaxed and ready to approach you when not rushed or pushed to interact.

To create a safe space for your pet pigeon, avoid allowing other birds and animals to interact with them. These interactions can make them feel unsafe, leading to unpredictable behavior.

Con: You Need A Lot of Space For Pigeons

Adopting a pigeon means that you take on the responsibility of giving them the space they need to flourish. Meanwhile, the bird needs at least a 24-inch x 36-inch cage with 24-inch height. The primary purpose of the cage is to give them a place to sleep because they need more space to explore and fly around. Indoor cages must be cleaned daily, even for birds who only spend a short time in them.

While allowing your bird outside is somewhat safe, they need an outdoor aviary to protect them. Like the indoor cage, this ample space needs consistent cleaning and safety checks to protect them. When you set up the aviary, protect them from snakes and rodents by keeping less than ΒΌ inch in the gaps.

Pro: Pigeons Are Clean And Don’t Need Complicated Meals Like Other Exotic Animals

pigeon eating seeds off ground

Most pigeons need seeds and grains for their diet, only eating fresh food a few times a week.

©iStock.com/Ivan Murauyou

While no one enjoys cleaning out a cage or aviary, that’s the only mess you must worry about. For the most part, these birds don’t have many demands. They keep themselves clean and like various fruits and vegetables with their diet of birdseed and similar grains. Luckily, these birds primarily rely on the latter, only needing fresh produce 3-4 times weekly. Some of their favorite foods are spinach and apples.

As long as these birds have what they need, they maintain a calm demeanor. Though parrots have a lot of emotional demands and become self-destructive when they aren’t met, pigeons relax and make significantly less noise. To let them bathe whenever they want, offer a shallow dish with water. If you want even less work to keep them clean, get your pigeon a friend – they naturally groom each other.

Con: Avian Healthcare Is Expensive

Like any pet, veterinary cannot be neglected. Birds generally have the most significant health issues with their respiratory system. If smoke, nonstick cookware fumes, or even candles cloud the air, they experience breathing problems that could be fatal. Removing these risks from the home reduces the care that they need at the vet, but it isn’t a substitute for routine exams.

Typically, a routine exam for a pigeon averages $50 to $150 for the first visit, but the cost of care during sickness adds up. If they live outdoors, they need to see an avian veterinarian every year for a fecal exam because of the risk of intestinal parasites.

If You Have the Space And Time, Pigeons Make Great Pets

Little pigeon fancier. Boy playing outdoor in autumn or spring scenery with flying pigeons.

If you have the time and money to create an aviary for your pigeon, they make excellent pets.

©Milosz_G/Shutterstock.com

Taking on the responsibility of any pet pigeon means that you need to be prepared to care for them like any other bird. They need enough space to fly and move without putting them at risk of being hunted by their natural predators. While some areas of the United States have laws against housing pigeons, most areas allow you to adopt any bird, including this domesticated animal.

Pros and Cons of Pet Pigeons

PROSCONS
Pigeons are calm, highly intelligent birds.Pigeons pose a health risk for owners and are at risk of many health issues.
Pigeons usually live to be 15+ years old in captivity.Pigeons leave their droppings and feathers everywhere.
Pigeons are friendly and social when they have time to bond with their owner.Pigeons require plenty of space to thrive.
Pigeons are clean and easy to feedAvian healthcare is expensive

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ruth Swan/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Micky Moran is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering mammals, travel, marine life, and geography. He has been writing and researching animals and nature for over 5 years. A resident of Arizona, he enjoys spending time with family, going on adventures across the United States with his wife and kids by his side.

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