American Giant Runt Pigeon

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Jim Gifford

Is the American Giant Runt Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Giant Runt; Runt Pigeon

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The contradictorily named American Giant Runt is one of the most enormous breeds of pigeons, with many birds tilting the scale at well over three pounds. A show quality American runt will be a thick, stocky pigeon with well-spaced legs, causing fanciers to compare their type to the physique of a weightlifter. Despite their powerful appearance, they are admired for their gentle personality, and they are easily tamed as pets if you start them very young.

The impressive American Giant Runt claims an equally impressive heritage. According to one legend, the first “runt” pigeon appeared in literature courtesy of 1st century Roman writer Pliny. Various Italian, French, and Spanish giant pigeons were bred through the centuries, leading to the first American exhibition of the Giant Runt in Philadelphia in 1873. Although it has an honored history as a utility breed that was raised to produce tasty squabs (baby pigeons), it is now well-established as a popular show bird.

The American Giant Runt is a wide and compact pigeon.

900 - 1600 grams (32 - 56 oz.)

Average size:
50 centimeters (20 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The American Giant Runt is considered one of the true gentle giants among pigeons. It rarely picks fights with other pigeons, and pet birds seem to genuinely enjoy being around their people. However, they need to be tamed young to make the most affectionate pets.

Unlike most pigeons, the very large varieties like the American Giant Runt may enjoy a coop instead of a classic pigeon loft. The largest of these huge birds may not be able to fly, and even the youngest and smallest are not really likely to be able to fly very high or long. Assume that they will spend most of their time on the ground. One breeder suggests that each pair should have its own coop with a minimum area of 6' by 7' floor space. It need be only 6' high, although if a tallish person is going to be able to walk into the coop, you'd want that roof to be a little taller.

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 they lower the head to drink, they will need a deeper bowl for the drinking water.

Coming from a background of a utility breed, the American Giant Runt has actually 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. 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 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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