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Oriental Roller Pigeon

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Jim Gifford

Is the Oriental Roller Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Turkish Oriental Roller; Flying Oriental Roller

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The Oriental Roller Pigeon is a large, long-winged flying variety that can fly as individuals or as part of a “kit,” that is, a team. The best birds fly as part of a well-trained kit that can spin for a long time in fast, tight rolls.

As with many other pigeon varieties, there are some breeders who are most interested in breeding them for show, rather than flying performance. Be sure you understand before you set up whether you have performers or show birds.

According to pigeon historian Carl A. Naether, the Oriental Roller Pigeon exists in records going back to Persia in the 12th century-- which probably makes them the oldest variety of performing pigeon. It was considered a tumbler when it was first imported into Germany and England around 1870, although its lack of an oil gland, its light eyes, and its drooping wings caused it to stand out from the other tumbler varieties. Admired for its ability to perform high-flying somersaults, it was one of the varieties used to develop today's popular Birmingham Roller Pigeon.

Appearance:
Oriental Roller Pigeons lack an oil duct and, instead, seem to have an abundance of oil quills in their plumage. They also have13-20 feathers in their tail, compared to the average pigeon variety, which has about 12.

Weight:
280 - 400 grams (10 - 14 oz.)

Average size:
32 - 34 centimeters (13 in.)

Lifespan:
7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Oriental Roller Pigeon is sometimes described as performing in a “nervous,” darting manner in flight, but it is not a nervous bird. Most people agree that it is a confident, and sometimes even a bold or somewhat aggressive, pigeon that may hold itself aloof from other pigeon varieties. They are not afraid of people, and they can be trained to fly to their owner for treats or just for attention.

Housing:
The majority of Oriental Roller 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.

If you are planning to fly a performing kit, you need a specialized loft called a kit box, where you can house your competition team together, since you will train them to leave and return after each performance. For more information, it's imperative to connect with other hobbyists, who can guide you as you learn to train your Rollers.

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:
The Oriental Roller Pigeon 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. Special pellets formulated for pigeons can be used to supplement the diet, to ensure that your bird has enough vitamins and protein.

If you're hand-taming a special pet, you may want to hold back special high-fat treats like sunflower or safflower seed, to give to your Oriental Roller 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. Hard or sprouted beans seem to be well-liked.

Oriental Rollers 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