Species group: Domestic Fancy Pigeons
Other common names: Whiskered Owl Pigeon
Scientific name: Columba livia domestica
The impressive Chinese Owl Pigeon is not really from China. Legend says that a creative 19th century Frenchman takes the credit (or the blame) for dubbing them the “Chinese Owl,” probably to add an exotic flare to his business. It must have worked, as it's said that he sold his birds to a German king.
It's worth noting that the Chinese Owl is not quite as short-beaked as some of the other owl pigeons, which can be an advantage, since it means that at least sometimes Chinese Owl Pigeons can raise their own young.
The splendid Chinese Owl Pigeon is a beautiful show bird that stands out because of its fancy frilled feathers that are divided by a natural part on the breast. The feathers above the part are pointed up, to create the impression of a high collar, like the one seen on Dracula's cape. The feathers below the part are pointed down, increasing the impression of frilly fullness. The name “owl” comes from the idea that the rounded head and short beak work to form a circle.
280 - 340 grams (10 - 12 oz.)
15 centimeters (6 in.)
7 - 10 years
Behavior / temperament:
Although the Chinese Owl Pigeons should be watched carefully to make sure they can feed their young, they do have a protective instinct. The males have even been described as somewhat territorial, so make sure that you have plenty of space, feeders, and waterers for everyone in the loft. However, the females have a good reputation for being gentle and interested in their humans.
With any short-beaked pigeon, it's a good idea to have experience with breeding a variety that can serve as a good foster parent, such as Racing Homer Pigeons. Your Chinese Owls may be able to feed their babies, but not all do.
The majority of Chinese Owl Pigeon keepers are breeders and exhibitors who keep their birds in a specialized loft. Talk to another breeder before you design your loft, and make sure that it is easy to clean and secure from mosquitoes, raccoons, and other predators that would like nothing better than to feast on a nice tasty pigeon. Have a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space for each pair. Yes, that does mean that an aviary 4 feet wide by 6 feet long houses a maximum of 12 birds. Pigeons are messy, and their droppings and feathers can accumulate, so don't take on a bigger job than you are sure you can manage. Consider a security system to deter thieves.
Chinese Owl Pigeons are admittedly very cute, attracting attention as pets as well as for show. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you make sure that these active birds enjoy a large, easy-to-clean flight cage. Bird-proof the room where you spend the most time, making sure you can lock windows and doors from the inside when you have your pet out. These birds can fly, and they will benefit from exercise, but they are by no means racing or homing pigeons, and you should use common sense. Make sure your pet is trained to come to your hand for treats before you risk taking it outside, if you do take it outside at all.
All pigeons 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. Also, if you have them sharing a loft with larger pigeons using standard equipment, make sure that these smaller birds can actually reach the food and water.
Chinese Owl Pigeons can 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. For these smaller birds, consider a tumbler pigeon mix, since they may not be able to eat the larger seeds such as larger black sunflowers found in a standard mix. 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.
All Chinese Owls 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
Chinese Owl Pigeons
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..
From bnaqqimanco Jun 18 2013 10:02PM