Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder)
Posted Jan 14, 2015
As a magician, I have owned many doves over the years. Since the typical look for magic is a white bird, I always went with snow white ring necks, meaning that they had no visible ring around their necks at all. This species of dove comes in all sorts of different colours and varieties, but the most popular all around is probably the snow white variety.
Before reading any further, please realize that doves are not the same birds you see being released at weddings. They look similar, but those are homing pigeons. If you release a dove at any time, it will not come back. Additionally, white doves don't fair so well in the wild, and they will surely be spotted quickly by predators and become quick prey. Please don't release doves.
As far as living with doves, there are some major issues you might want to consider before jumping in. First of all, doves are LOUD. This might not sound like too big of an issue at first, but we aren't talking about a song like a canary sings here…they screech, coo and sound pretty unpleasant. You can tone this down by trying to keep only female birds, but that still might not help too much. More than one male dove, or males and females in a cage is a recipe for a lot of crazy noise at all hours of the day. If you need quiet, a single female dove would probably be almost silent.
Another factor to consider is the horrible mess doves create. Instead of eating like the rest of their pet-style bird brethren, they eat like chickens. This means that they will spray seed all over the cage and the floor every time they go to eat. Be prepared to have your birds in a place where the floor will be easy to clean.
Lastly, keeping doves can be hazardous to your health. Recently, a prominent dove magician nearly lost his life and required a double lung transplant after acquiring "bird fanciers lung". This is a real disease, and it will kill you. It's caused by living in the same area that doves or other similar birds are living. Even if you are cleaning out their cages regularly, you will be faced with the problem of breathing in dander and all of that other horrible stuff.
If you want to avoid lung issues, here are some tips for cleaning dove cages. Wear a hospital mask. I'm not kidding. This will help prevent you breathing in all of that stuff. Secondly, consider spraying down the cage lining with water before you start cleaning up. This way, the particles are less likely to become airborne. Finally, do not live in the same room the birds live in, and get at least 1 air purifier if not two. These steps should keep you reasonably safe.
As far as training goes, there are many resources out there for this. Doves can be trained, but they are generally very stupid, and wake up in a different world every day. Keeping this in mind, you will need to work with them every single day, or they will totally forget things and you will need to start over.
As far as breeding goes, doves are pretty easy. Provide them with a partner, nesting box and nesting materials, and you are pretty much ready to go. I have had babies born before, and the process was quite simple.
Feeding is pretty easy, and they can eat a diet of standard bird seed for wild doves. It doesn't cost much to buy their food, so that's a plus side of owning doves as compared to other birds. Additionally, housing requirements are quite simple as well. Doves do well both inside and out, and are used to climates such as cold weather in an outdoor aviary.
In sum, owning doves is time consuming, at times annoying, possibly a major risk to your health. Unless you are a professional magician who needs doves for your act, you probably want to steer clear of them and pick up a nice canary or finch instead.