Bred bird myself
Pennsylvania, United States
Posted Jun 18, 2013
Chinese owl pigeons are neither from China, nor are they owls. With a specialised body shape (short legs, rounded wings, upright-forward stance, flat face and extremely short bill) they have a unique appearance. These body characteristics do mean that they require some specialised care in comparison to other pigeon breeds.
Chinese owls can be housed in a medium outdoor aviary year-round. Despite their exotic appearance, their bodies are actually more suited to cold climates than other pigeons. I kept my pair in a 3x6x6 bamboo aviary with a thatch roof, and covered the windward side with a tarp and straw in the winter. They do not need an extremely large flight cage, but an 8x8x8 foot aviary would be excellent. As with most pigeons, keep perches lower than your eye level and they will remain more calm when you are with them. They can be housed in a large birdcage in the home, but they are pigeons and their mess will soon be a lot to handle inside a home.
Chinese owl pigeons can eat a similar diet to other pigeons, but they can not handle large legume seeds that are common in commercial pigeon seed mixes. Their reduced bill size is an important consideration. A wild bird food (millet and sorghum based) is a good start, and some split mung beans can be added. Cracked corn is a good additive, particularly in the winter. I also liked to provide mine with fresh greens such as shepherd's needle (Bidens alba) and wild lettuce (Lactuca), as well as sprouted beans.
A wide, shallow pan of water is essential as these pigeons do need to bathe a lot to keep their thick, fluffy feathers in order. A ceramic or plastic plant saucer, 12-14 inches in diameter, works well. Remember not to fill it too deep, as their legs are very short.
Clean the ground of the aviary frequently. I used dry sand and scooped droppings daily and replaced the sand monthly (makes a great garden additive).
I provided my pair with a ceramic dog bowl as a nest and they used it readily. The hen lays one egg a day for two days, resulting in a clutch of two. She will incubate the eggs at night, and the cock during the day (usually --my hen was very lazy though and tended to not want to do her share on the nest!). The eggs take 16 days of incubation to hatch, and so the first egg laid will hatch first. It is important to time the incubation period -- this is the most important thing to remember when breeding Chinese owl pigeons. The small beak size means they have to work harder to feed their squabs. Since one squab is older than the other and tends to be bigger and fight harder for food, pairs usually only raise one of their squabs per clutch. In order to get more Chinese owl pigeons, I always took the first clutch (both eggs) and put them under a nesting pair of common rock dove pigeons. They will foster the eggs as their own (unfortunately, it does mean taking the foster pair's eggs away) and raise both chicks. The Chinese owl pigeon hen would soon lay another clutch, and of these I would take one egg and put it under a nesting pair of common pigeons so that the Chinese owl pigeon pair could raise one of their own.
You'll need to protect these pigeons from predators. I had one taken by a red-tailed hawk through a wire coop -- they are very slow-moving and fly only cumbersomely. All other predators (raccoons, feral cats, owls) will have to be kept at bay.
One last note, my pair was a barred rock pair, the traditional "city pigeon" colour of blue-grey with black wing bars. From a distance they really just looked like regular pigeons. In the future, I think I'd get a different colour variety than the typical barred rock colour.