How to Handle Pigeons
One of the basic things long-time pigeon fanciers often forget to tell new people in the hobby is HOW to handle the birds. There is an accepted way that works better than others, and it works to prevent the bird from accidentally escaping or being injured.
It's done this way: (I am going to describe everything for a right-handed person. If you're left handed, simply reverse.)
1. Take your right hand and turn it palm up.
2. Open the first and second fingers of your right hand like they were a pair of scissors.
3. Slide your right hand, palm up and with the first and second fingers open, under the bird its left side. Slide the birds legs between your open first and second finger and close them down to comfortably catch the legs.
4. The bird is now in your palm and facing you. Slide your right thumb up and over the bird's wings to hold him secure as you pull your right arm into toward yourself with the bird's head near your chest.
5. Use your left hand to help keep the bird in place.
6. This should provide a secure and comfortable hold for you AND the pigeon.
There is also a second reason for this hold, not only is it secure, but by holding the bird this way, if it decides to defecate (go ca-ca), it doesn't land in your palm. ;-)
Obviously, this works better with birds that your hands can comfortably hold. NEVER hold a pigeon by both its wings held up over its back. This borders on outright cruelty. It's as if I let you hang from your arms this way.
There are some slight variations of the above method for various breeds. For example: Frillback breeders usually let the bird's wing sit above rather than under their hands so that the frill isn't damaged. Many Giant Runt breeders use two hands to simply hold the bird, which may weigh almost three pounds and have a yard long wing span. However, these variations are minor and easily learned if you begin to specialize in a breed that may need them.
CHECKING EGGS IN THE NEST:
There is a technique to this. Never come from the top down onto the parent in the nest. You may well crush the egg. Instead, come from underneath and up. MAKE SURE THE FRONT OF YOUR HAND is toward the parent once you have the egg in your hand or when you are returning it to the nest. The reason for this is that some pigeons will wing slap you to protect their nest. If the egg is forward, you can imagine what will happen when the parent's wing butt connects with it. And don't kid yourself, it happens more often than you think. Also, remember, while pigeons aren't particularly aggressive, a wing slap delivered by an animal that can fly 600 miles in a day (in the case of racing homers) can sting if it gets you so don't drop the egg either. There are also docile pigeons which will let you get the eggs with no problems at all, and these are the birds that I tend to breed from in my own loft since this docility is genetic.
This is one time where it really is better to leave well enough alone! Pigeons have been hatching for a few million years and do just fine without us. However, if you do want to see the egg, make sure that you ALWAYS return it to the nest with the pipped (chipping) side upright. BE VERY CAREFUL if you handle a hatching egg. The shell is extremely weak at this point since most of the minerals have been withdrawn from it to help build the embryo's skeleton. I've picked up eggs and been left with a bloody mess and a dying youngster in my hand because I wasn't careful.
HANDLING BABIES IN THE NEST
1 - You're better off if you don't bother the babies for the first few days at least. Having said that - I know you're not going to pay any attention to me at all about it. Heck, half the time I don't even pay attention to that.
1. If you DO decide to peek at just-hatched babies, don't do it for too long. You don't want them chilled.
2. If you take one out of the nest for a moment, make sure that when you put it back in that you make sure it is upright. They can usually right themselves, but why make things difficult for them.
OLDER BABIES (3 1/2 weeks and older)
Handle them the way you handle adults, see first posting above.
Copyright 2004 by Frank Mosca