Inside the pigeon coop

17 Feb

Today I’d like to introduce you to 50+ of my friends. Yep, these are the pigeons that we use on a regular basis to train Ilsa and Gumbo. We use homing pigeons because we can reuse them again and again (keeps the cost down). This method is particularly useful for us right now because we aren’t yet at a point where we are shooting birds for Ilsa and Gumbo.

In the coming months, Gumbo and Ilsa will be working toward their Junior Hunter titles. The purpose of the hunt test is to assess their ability against a standard. To qualify, they must show a keen desire to hunt, show responsiveness to their handler (Susan or me), point a bird, and prove to not be gun-shy. So at this point, we just try to let them see lots and lots of birds. The homing pigeons make this easy. We can use them, and they fly back to the coop where they can get back in through a one-way gate.

So today, we’ll step inside the pigeon coop where the birds live. Gumbo and Ilsa get very restless when we pull up to the coop because they know what’s coming next. You can hear the pigeons cooing from outside. Stepping inside the coop usually results in a lot of commotion as the birds fly around. (The main goal here is to not get pooped on ;-)) After a few seconds, they settle down and find a ledge or cubby to go in.

I try round up 8-10 birds to work with at a time. As you may notice from the pictures, all the pigeons are marked with bands on their legs. Those bands are for identification because the pigeons we use are part of the American Racing Pigeon Union. A series of letters and numbers identify the organization that has registered the bird, the year the bird was hatched, the club the band is registered to, and a unique number for each pigeon. To simplify things greatly for users like us, all the birds that are old enough to fly and ready to use for training are marked with a plain orange band.

Right now while I’m working with the pigeons consistently, they definitely seem to remember me. I think a couple of the don’t like me much at all because I put them in the bird launchers. But others seem to enjoy the journey outside the coop and the subsequent flight back.

We owe these birds a tremendous thank you as they have been a huge help to our training. Looking forward to seeing them again very soon.


5 Responses to “Inside the pigeon coop”

  1. erichason February 17, 2012 at 6:15 AM #

    Our urban vizsla puppy (Brooklyn) has a keen interest in pigeons. We have no hunting aspirations for her, natural instinct takes over.

    • Ben February 17, 2012 at 8:22 AM #

      Originally, we had no intentions to train our “city” dogs for hunting. Then we had the opportunity to see some fully trained vizslas working in the field. We were instantly hooked – it was one of the most impressive experiences we’ve had with any dogs. I would not have EVER pictured myself doing this 5 years ago, but the way a vizsla just comes alive around birds is a remarkable thing to watch.

  2. Anna February 17, 2012 at 1:25 PM #

    Wow, nice selection. We have about 15 here, but have troubles with them breeding. There are so many opinions out there on what to use as breeding boxes/ledges I would love to hear what you use… How many did you start with? We have a huge hawk problem here when we use them to train, hawks have taken them right off our house, out from under our feet and from the air. It hardly gives the younger birds a chance to learn how to get back quickly.
    Thanks for making me feel guilty about not training, maybe I will get the Lunatic out this weekend. We are at a boring part, teaching her to honor another dog so not many birds involved…. so not much fun for anything. Doesn’t help with motivation 😉

    • Ben February 17, 2012 at 9:49 PM #

      Lunatic – hahaha! I LOVE it! Something tells me that any work you do with Luna would not be boring to her (even honoring) ;-).

      Unfortunately, I can’t be of any help with the pigeons. We don’t have anything to do with the breeding – the coop is on the same property where we take Ilsa and Gumbo to run. We pay a fee to have access, but it is worth every penny. This property has pigeons for the birds dogs, sheep for the herding dogs, and agility equipment – it’s a pretty amazing place. We actually had a huge hawk problem earlier this winter and couldn’t train for about 3 months. One day I opened the door to the coop and a hawk flew out right over my head :-(.

  3. 2browndawgs February 19, 2012 at 7:44 AM #

    Oh we need pigeons for Freighter. You are lucky that they are handy. I think we are going to have to wait for warmer weather until our trainer gets some ducks to get him on live birds. Can’t wait to hear how your training progresses.

    Haha the way you got hooked on testing sounds so familiar to me. Soon you will be driving hours and hours just to train. 😉

    By the way I “tagged” you. No pressure, info here:

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