Acquired: Bred bird myself,
Posted Jun 05, 2015
I would like to begin this story by giving an overview of doves and their care. They are found at certain pet stores, although I don't see them as often now. I found my first dove at a pet store, and he started a bit of my experience with them for several years. He was solid white and rather proud in his demeanor. I used a very large parrot cage for him, and he was allowed to perch outside the cage, as well as fly around the room or other areas of the house. He really was like a king, and very docile in nature. I bought several toys designed for parrots for the cage, and he was happy to pull on ropes, brightly colored toys, and anything that had a bell attached. His seed was easy to find and he enjoyed treats like small bits of raisin bread periodically. Months later, I did decide to add a female from the same shop in hopes he would have a bit of company. At this point, I wasn't sure if I would proceed with breeding, but they took to each other very quickly. This assured me that he probably needed a partner, just like he would if he were in a natural setting. Sure enough, it didn't take long for these two to start wanting to nest and and I found the female sitting on eggs in the corner of the cage one morning. I truly hated to take away from their natural process, so I did what I could to make them comfortable and resigned myself to allowing the family process to begin. I decided that based on how they wanted to sit on the eggs, a durable plastic bowl filled with soft cloth rags and some nesting material found at the pet store was really the most simple and desired choice for the birds. They certainly settled in to taking turns sitting on the nest, although I noticed my father dove was insistent on spending more time there. He often slapped the female away if she decided it was her turn. I did not have lots of experience with doves at the time, but I found this behavior fascinating.
After the babies hatched, which I might add was a very exciting discovery to wake up to, the parents were both absolutely diligent in taking care of their young. There were two baby doves, and I knew this to be normal, expecting that one would be male and the other female. Again, the father became very pushy in his nest guarding. He wanted to sit on the chicks, feed them, and keep his partner away as much as possible. I could tell mama dove felt left out, but she did get a fair amount of care in, only after getting a bit fed up and pushing dad out of the way herself. It took some time, but once their young were old enough to eat on their own, perch, and display all the usual behaviors of doves, it was time to move them out. I knew they needed their own space, and the father was getting more aggressive because he was feeling his oats and ready to settle in for another spell of baby making. However, I was not in the position to take on several sets of doves, and I had to make some decisions.
Separating the pair didn't work, as they were a mated pair and that is a lifetime pairing in the dove and pigeon world. Therefore, I would come upon more eggs, and felt extremely guilty taking the eggs away. This seemed to cause a lot of anxiety and anger on the male dove's part. He had a very strong motherly instinct! The only solution I came up with might make some people laugh, and I am sure it was unconventional, but it worked with my doves. Since he seemed so stressed by not having eggs to sit on, I had to improvise by giving him small, plastic eggs, the kind you use in Easter baskets. Strange idea, but it actually worked for awhile. He'd be happy, less likely to slap the wife with his wings, and seemed as serene as a little hen. Of course, as time went by he would realize these eggs were not hatching, so I would have to take them out for at least 3 days. In retaliation, he would peck the cage bars until he could come out, perch on top of the bookshelves and stared down imperiously at me. He tossed his food around extra hard, throwing it to the floor and cooing loudly. Then the fake eggs would go back in and he would calm down. So here I am saying, I may not have had the perfect environment, and maybe I had a dove with some off behavior, but this family of doves brought great joy to me and were healthy, well loved pets. They were also great conversation starters for friends and family, as most people become fascinated with the idea of doves as pets, instead of some of the mainline species of birds we see in pet stores.
With time, my family of doves was added to my aunt's aviary due to travel for work I had at the time. This was a great place for them, as they joined with several other doves and pigeons. Plenty of room to fly around, fresh air, and a more natural environment to mingle with flocks of their own. In case you are wondering if father dove ever changed his mothering ways, we found he calmed considerably with the aggressive nest takeover, but he still wanted a good deal of the parenting responsibilities. I must say that doves are great creatures, probably underrated in the world of animal care, but I enjoyed my experience with them and have considered that one day again, I just might go back to keeping one or two!