Oriental Frill Pigeon

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Jim Gifford

Is the Oriental Frill Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Hünkari; Classic Oriental Frill, Old Style or Old Fashioned Frill (“classic” style Oriental Frills only)

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The Oriental Frill Pigeon has become a popular show bird because of its great beauty. Originally developed in Ottoman Turkey, this charming pigeon certainly deserves the local name of Hunkari, which means “bird of the Sultans. As exhibitors have worked to develop the most beautiful birds to compete in shows, they have created a modern line of very short-billed birds that cannot feed their own youngsters very well. Therefore, some breeders have chosen to go back to the bird's roots and develop longer-billed birds that may be shown as Classic Old Frill Pigeons. Know which birds you are purchasing, so that you can provide for foster parents if necessary and also be able to register your show birds for the correct categories. There's always a lot to be said for networking through clubs or breeders to avoid re-inventing the wheel when working with pigeon varieties that have a long history.

This sweet, poised little pigeon features a frill of feathers on its breast, a short beak, and a dapper peaked crest on the highest point of the head. There are many beautiful color varieties, but the most popular are the Satinettes and the Blondinettes. A Satinette is a mostly white bird, including the body, face, legs, and even the primary flight feathers. Blondinettes can have another basic color, often blue, in those areas. The shoulders, wing coverts, and tail are then patterned to show a wonderful contrast with the ground color. For instance, a Silver Laced Satinette has wing covert feathers that look like they are made of lace because they are edged in a silvery gray, while the tail feathers are some variation of gray or grayish-blue. But the choices are almost mind-boggling, and the genetics buff will find plenty of challenges working with the various colors and patterns offered by the Oriental Frill.

310 - 340 grams (11 - 12 oz.)

Average size:
33 centimeters (13 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Oriental Frill is highly regarded as an affectionate pet that will follow its keeper around. Don't leave these friendly, social birds alone and isolated. Make a pet part of the family. Why not teach it to come to your hand for treats?

Because of the short bill, many show quality Oriental Frill Pigeons will have trouble feeding their young. If you plan to breed your birds, get some experience with a good foster parent variety first, such as the popular Racing Homer Pigeon. They will be able to bring up your Oriental Frill babies as well as their own. Some people are now working with a variation called the Classic Oriental Frill, which has a longer beak to make it more likely that the parents can feed their own babies. Some breeders have been very happy with their success at getting their Classic Frills to raise their own young, but others have reported occasional issues, so it's a good idea to have a back-up plan.

A proper loft for breeding and training Oriental Frill 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 Oriental Frill 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 controll.

Frills 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.

As an older breed, Oriental Frill 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 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. Oriental Frills should not be skinny but they should certainly not be obese.

Like all pigeons, Frills 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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