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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pigeons Pigeons Everywhere!

After posting about my husband having homing pigeons the other day I had quite a few people ask me about it.  Yes, I know it is an odd hobby to have but he truly loves it so what can I say.  It is an interesting story so to avoid telling it a million more times, here we go.

My husband is a major animal guy.  He knows everything there is about pretty much every animal out there.  He is like a sponge when it comes to any animal show on tv.  Once my friend who works for a wildlife refuge for the US Government told me how amazed she is by him.  Yes, he is pretty damn smart for a guy with only an high school education who works as a mason.

At any rate.  When we bought our house the first thing he did was build an aviary down in the finished basement.  Then he bought finches and canaries and bred them.  He was convinced we were going to make big bucks doing this, all we made was a big damn mess!

One day when his mom was visiting from Ireland we were in the backyard and a pure white pigeon was hanging around on the roof.  My mother in law was convinced it was a dead family member coming to visit.  Ok, whatever floats your boat.  The thing is, the damn thing never left.  She was hanging around for weeks before my husband finally decided he wanted to catch her.  And catch her he did.  It was actually pretty damn easy, he put seed in his hand, she flew over and ate it.
Although this is not the bird he caught, it is pretty identical
So now we have a pigeon.  What the hell are we going to do with a pigeon?  What else, get it a friend, or a boyfriend to be more exact.  He had me searching the Internet for somebody selling white pigeons.  We found one, about 2 hours away in Connecticut.  So away we go (if I knew then what I know now we would have stayed home) to get the boyfriend.  I can;t remember how much it cost us but compared to the other birds we had it wasn't too bad.  So now we have two pigeons.

I had no idea what he was planning to do with the happy couple but I found out soon enough.  We have a very large shed, almost could be considered a small barn in the back yard.  It was perfect for holding everything we needed for the yard.  Was, being the operative word here.  Soon it became a pigeon loft.  He built a big and elaborate home for the pair.  My lawnmower and weed whacker were crammed into a small corner.  Before you know it, we have eggs, and then squab (official name for baby pigeons) and then more eggs and more squab.  He would let them out and they would fly around the neighborhood but always come back.

One day somebody gave him the name of a man who just happened to run a local pigeon club.  What is a pigeon club you ask?  From my experience it is a place where old men (ok not all are old but most of them are) go to drink beer and talk about pigeons.  They also have what is known as racing season.  I wish I knew who gave my husband this info cause I would like to smack him upside the head. 

Before long my husband belongs to the club and the guys start to just give him pigeons.  I couldn't understand why they are just giving them away but now I realize that with the way these things procreate they are just trying to get rid of them.  They teach him about racing and tell him how it works.  Before long we have gone from so really pretty white pigeons to a loft full of common looking street pigeons.
Our beautiful white pigeons eventually became replaced with these.
Before long one loft wasn't enough, we now have three.  There is one loft for young birds, one for old birds and another one for the birds that are mating.  You see, there are two different racing seasons.  Old birds and young birds race separately and any bird older than 1 year is considered an old bird.  Nice, huh?   And racing season is a blast (hope you can hear the sarcasm there).  The birds are put in a big truck with the birds from all the other pigeon clubs in the area (seriously, there is more than one!) and then driving hundreds of miles away and let go.  Whoever makes it home fastest wins.

This is what the start of a pigeon race looks like. 
The racing seems simple enough, right?  Wrong!  It involves months of training.  And how do you train a homing pigeon you ask?  You drive them around and let them go.  Then they fly home.  You do this every damn day.  You start with five miles, then ten, twenty and so on.  Most of this is done in the summer.  Well, the summer is a very busy time for a mason, not so much for a lunch lady.  So who does all this training?  You guessed it, me!  Every morning I go out to the lofts, catch all the birds (wish I had a video of that) and drive them west.  I go through all my patience and lots of gas.  My oldest son hates every second of it, my youngest loves it.

When racing season starts the real fun begins.  Even though we have an electric clock that times the birds with a chip in their band as soon as they land, we have to watch for the birds to come home.  If the race is on a Saturday my husband does it.  If it gets rained out over the weekend guess who gets that job.  I have spent many a day sitting in my yard with my previous tenant as we waited to see a bird.  Sometimes they wouldn't show up for hours, sometimes not til the next day.  All so that we can see who wins the race.  And what is the big prize?  Bragging rights!  No money, no trophy, just the claim that you have the best birds.

Now the weather is starting to get warmer, before long the whole thing will start again.  Do I dread it?  Yes I do.  But I try to look at it in a positive light.  He loves it.  It is a hobby he can do with our son who has his own birds.  He has made a great bunch of friends that look after him and treat him like family.  Plus, we get to be known as the crazy pigeon people throughout the town.

Oh and one more thing.  For all the ladies out there that insist on having doves at their wedding, having them released as a sign of your love.  Hate to break the news to ya, pigeons!!!  Doves won't fly home, they will just die.  Kinda makes it a little less appealing, doesn't it.


  1. Hmmm...that's a lot of pigeons :D You're a good wife. My husband collects Hot Wheels, thank God all they do is take up space...well..and money of course. He's quite buying(probably because of the death threats)though in the last year, now we are just stuck w/ the masses that he already has.

    1. I would take the hot wheels of the pigeons any day. Just feeding these things costs a fortune

  2. It's funny to read this. When I was in high school I dated a boy who's father did the pigeon thing... I always thought it was so odd & even now that his dad has passed, his brother has continued it. :)

    1. My youngest son is really into it. I am guessing he will be doing it as an adult as well.

  3. OH.MY.GOD. - I'm fucking speechless! Instead of a race, how 'bout target practice??? Holy hell! You need to find the local Granny Clampett and give her some of them there pigeons so she can make some vittles!

  4. This is a fantastic story. Lol at MMM's comment.