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Barb Pigeon

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Jim Gifford

Is the Barb Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: English Barb Pigeon; Barbary Pigeon

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The Barb Pigeon is an ancient variety now bred for the show bench, but they're not just another pretty face. Barbs will appeal to the fancier looking for something a little different.

As one of the oldest pigeon varieties, the full history of the Barb Pigeon has been lost over the years, but most people believe that it was originally imported into Europe from Barbary in North Africa. It is probably the first pigeon variety mentioned in English literature, since it appears by name in Shakespeare's comedy, “As You Like It.” Charles Darwin, who exhaustively studied pigeon varieties to fully understand the development of domesticated animals, couldn't resist including a picture of the Barb Pigeon in one of his works, “Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.”

Appearance:
The mid-sized, stocky, short-faced Barb Pigeon is a wattled pigeon which stands out because of the large, knobby, red circles of bare flesh around the eyes, in addition to the knobby, wrinkled cere over the bill.

Weight:
370 grams (13 oz.)

Average size:
34 centimeters (13.4 in.)

Lifespan:
7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
At first glance, the Barb Pigeon may look as if it has obstructed vision, but it can see and also fly. Just be reasonable, and don't expect it to go long distance or to “home.” Treat it as the pampered show bird or pet it was intended to be.

Housing:
A proper loft for breeding and training Barb Pigeons is a specialized structure that must be carefully designed for easy cleaning and good air circulation without being drafty. Work with a more advanced hobbyist or breeder so that you can plan the best possible loft for your goals. It is often recommended that pigeons have a minimum of four feet square per pair, which means that a loft containing 12 birds should be at least four feet by six. Thieves have been a huge problem in some areas, so make sure that you have a secure loft, including alarms and probably a web-cam to monitor and record anyone going in or out.

If you have a retired, rehomed, or otherwise single pet Barb that you are keeping as a personal pet, then you have a different situation. Provide the longest flight possible, to allow the bird to exercise even when you can't be there. Bird-proof any room where you allow the bird to come out and fly free (no ceiling fans, please!), and lock all doors and windows while the bird is out and about indoors. Pigeons can't be toilet-trained, but it's even possible to buy pigeon diapers if need be to keep the poop under control.

Barb Pigeons do bathe in water, so they should be allowed access to a shallow dog dish or similar bathing bowl to splash around in. Since pigeons lower the head to drink, they will need a deeper bowl for the drinking water.

Diet:
As an older breed, the exotic-looking Barb Pigeon has actually been developed to thrive on a relatively simple diet. Most people start with a high-quality pigeon mix from a well-regarded source. You may also mix in quality grains such as millet, barley, wheat, whole corn, dry peas, buckwheat, oats, and so on, either from a good feed store with fast turn-over or from a health food store. Special pellets formulated for pigeons can be used to supplement the diet, to ensure that your bird has enough vitamins and protein. Chopped greens like kale, dandelion greens, spinach, or fresh sprouts should be offered each day. Some people offer high beta carotene foods like finely chopped carrot or papaya. Avoid overfeeding your bird. Barbs should be solid, not obese.

Barb Pigeons need access to a high quality pigeon grit to help them digest the tough, uncooked grains they like to eat. A cuttlebone or another calcium source is also valuable. However, calcium may not be properly absorbed without sufficient vitamin D3 if your pigeon is an indoor pet. Therefore, it is important to choose a good avian supplement that includes D3.

Written by Elaine Radford

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