Fantail Pigeon

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Is the Fantail Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Indian Fantail, Thai Fantail

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The Fantail Pigeon is a very popular group of fancy pigeons known for their dramatic, fan-shaped tails. Bred for looks rather than homing or speed, some of these lovely pigeons are very weak flyers, although they can become loving pets.

Silky or lace Fantail mutations have popped up for centuries, with several birds being described in the 1700s. Although beautiful, a silky Fantail's soft and curling feathers haven't formed a normal web, making them unusually fragile. These lovely birds can't fly at all, and they require special care to keep them safe, healthy, and clean. Never breed a silky that expresses the silky gene with another silky that also expresses the gene, or the babies will have feathers that are simply too soft and weak for the bird's health.

The fantail pigeon may be the oldest fancy pigeon category, since there is a record of these birds going back to Spain in 1150 A.D. The Indian Fantail Pigeon has been dated back to 1560 A.D. Spain, China, and India have all claimed to be the original source of these beautiful birds, a debate we can't settle at this distant point in time. It is worth noting that the silky mutation can occur in many varieties of pigeons, but it seems to be the most popular in the fantail group. Today, some breeders are working on miniature varieties, but some show standards require the larger birds. Always ask questions, and understand what breed of fantail you have chosen.

Fantails stand out because of their dramatic, fan-shaped tails, which usually holds 30-40 feathers, compared to the average domestic pigeon's 12-14 tail feathers. There are many colors and varieties. For instance, a white silky Fantail with curled, silky tail feathers may look like a queen in her ballgown trailing her long, old-fashioned skirt.

400 - 525 grams (14 - 18.5 oz.)

Average size:
34 centimeters (13.4 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
Fantail Pigeons are naturally somewhat tame and confiding, so it can be a pleasure to train one of these birds as a single pet to come to your hand. Since many of these birds don't fly well, be aware that it's your responsibility to keep your trusting pet safe from cats or other predators that might get into the house, or even from small children who might tease the “funny-looking” pigeon. Be aware that smaller Fantail Pigeons like the Mini Indian Fantail can and do fly much better. Know your own pet's abilities, and provide the best environment to keep the bird safe. A bad flyer must be protected from being stepped on by a careless foot or captured by a hungry predator, and a good flyer must be trained to return to your hand or home so it doesn't get lost.

The Fantail Pigeon is sometimes said to scratch on the ground or floor of its cage a lot. Keep the loft, crate, cage, and even the carpet clean, so the bird isn't tracking through its own droppings.

The majority of Fantail Pigeon keepers are breeders and exhibitors who keep their birds in a large outdoor loft. Talk to another breeder before you design your loft, and make sure that it is easy to clean and secure from mosquitoes, thieves, 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.

A single pet Fantail Pigeon should be trained to spend time cuddling and hanging out with you, but it will still need something like a large dog crate to feel secure when you can't be there. To create a feeling of security, put a blanket or another covering over two sides of the crate, rather than leaving it open from all directions. If the bird has to spend a great deal of time in the cage, it may be better to build a rather large flight cage, but make sure there are plenty of shelves and perhaps a nest with a liner that the bird can use. A silky Fantail may have trouble getting to a high perch, so you should use lower shelves and perches to make it easier for the bird to get to a resting spot.

Fantail Pigeons bathe in water, so most of them 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. Unfortunately, silky Fantails seem to get water-soaked easily, so monitor the situation, and make sure you are not allowing your pet to get dangerously chilled.

The Fantail Pigeon has been raised in captivity for hundreds of years, so it has 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.

The Fantail Pigeon is a relatively bad flyer, and it's one of those pigeons that can gain weight if you're not careful. Bear in mind that some birds, like the silkies, can only fly enough to get to a low perch, so those birds aren't able to exercise much at all. You may want to hold back special high-fat treats like sunflower seed, to give to your pet by hand during the training and bonding process. 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 Fantail 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


gentle personalities, great family activity, good starter pet, beautiful white fantail, cooing sound


cross breeds, large outdoor aviary


little mating display, bright colored toys, imprinting, small groups

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