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Helmet Pigeon

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Is the Helmet Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Helmet Crested Pigeon; German Helmet Pigeon

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The Helmet Pigeon is a rather diverse variety of domestic pigeon, since it can appear in medium-faced, short-faced, crested, or plain-headed forms.The medium-faced birds can raise their own young, but would-be short-faced breeders should be aware of the need to provide responsible foster parents, such as Racing Homer Pigeons, to feed the babies.

Experts disagree on when the original Helmet Pigeons were developed in Germany, with some people claiming that they've been in existence for 500 years. They have been well documented since the late 1700s, although the original Helmets were actually a tumbling breed. Although their fortunes have waxed and waned over the years, they have gained worldwide popularity since the 1950s, particularly in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Appearance:
This old breed, developed hundreds of years ago in Germany, is a striking show bird notable for its white body, accented by its colored tail and head. The wonderful contrast between the dark, short mini-hood on the head and the white body inspired the name “Helmet Pigeon.” In recent years, as an added flourish, lines have been developed which possess splendid “muffs” -- large foot feathers that give this breed yet another touch of pizzazz.

Weight:
350 grams (12.3 oz.)

Average size:
17 - 20 centimeters (6.7 - 7.9 in.)

Lifespan:
7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The short-faced Helmet Pigeons will need to be provided with foster parents to feed their youngsters, and even some medium-faced Helmet Pigeons must be watched to make sure they're successfully feeding their babies, but their fans feel it's a small price to pay for their beauty. All varieties of Helmet Pigeons have an excellent reputation for being charming birds that are alert and easy to tame. While they have usually lost most of their tumbling ability, the friendly, lively genes that make tumblers such likable birds still seem to exist in the Helmet Pigeon.

Housing:
The majority of Helmet 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.

Helmet 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.

Diet:
Helmet 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 the short-beaked 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 Helmet 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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