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DOVE CULTURE I by Wilmer J. Miller Pigeon Science and Genetics Newsletter 7: 24-26 1978
We generally asume that for best results we want to have reproducing pairs, although single or pair birds can make good pets. Best results here includes our education, happiness of the birds, maintainance of rare stocks, and financial return. I shall write with the ringneck dove, Streptopelia risoria, in mind, although with appropriate modifications much will apply to many other species.
General management of doves is quite a large topic. It varies by species, and granted that there are a lot of wrong ways, nevertheless, there is more than one right way. Maybe we can take bits and pieces for small doses.
I. Incubating eggs.
The dove egg is quite fragile, even more than the pigeon egg. Handling the egg is chancy, but for research purposes and candling, it can be done safely by taking great care. The dove egg can even be written on (very carefully) with soft (#1 ) pencil or with india ink, "nowadays" with a "sharpie" or a similar pen . A ball point pen breaks through the shell and regular ink runs and smears. Such writing may be desirable for identification when fostering eggs, or with artificial incubation in research.
When reaching into the nest keep in mind the "wing boxing" blow many doves will give your hand. The first single blow may be so sudden and unexpected that your finger tip crushes the egg. Or the movement of the parents body in giving the blow may crush or crack the egg against a hard stick end or piece of dried feces. If the parent persists beyond one blow with multiple wing hits, the chances of breaking the egg increase rapidly. The parent may also peck your hand. This is less startling than the wing blow and will not hurt you either.
One may minimize the danger by (1) having the dove so tame and moving the hand slowly in toward the nest so that the brooding parent does not feel obliged to wing box: (2) waiting for the parent to leave the nest voluntarily (pretty rare during one's available time) or (3) moving the hand in so rapidly and raising the body of the nesting parent up about an inch so quickly that the eggs are not hurt, whether wing blows are made or not. The parent can be removed from the nest for greater safety (difficult if the toes clutch the nest sticks), or the eggs can be removed carefully so the wing blows do not knock the eggs against each other or against the nest edge. For example, one egg can be held between the thumb and forefinger well cradled deep in the hand, and the second egg simultaneously held by the last two fingers. The middle finger, thus, separates the two eggs. Then the hand can be withdrawn taking the wing blows safely on the back of the hand. The eggs mays be returned the same way.
With the eggs out of the nest they may be candled against a strong light or at the edge or corner of the building against the sunlight, if incubation has been going on for three days or more. Blood vessels and a dark reddish embryo (blob) in the center will show up, if the eggs are fertile. At 48 hours of incubation the blood vessels area is about 1/4" to 3/8" in diameter. The egg may need to be turned if the embryo is on the wrong side, or if it floats to the top and you are viewing the bottom. At three days incubation the blood ring is about ½ to 5/8" in diameter. At four days incubation the blood ring is ¾ "or more in diameter and spread over half the egg's inside surface. At five days the reddish lines are getting darker and nearly cover the egg's inside surface. By day six as the embryo and blood vessels are quite dark and from day six on the inside darkness changes little except to get darker.
A dead embryo up to about day six of development shows an indistinct dark spot with no blood vessels, or with a spotty-dashed terminal ring, if the embryo is not yet dead. A later dead embryo may show a discolored section (yellow-purple) at the shell's surface.
A dead embryo results from a cracked egg, followed by infection or from egg chilling, more than from other causes. Poor nutrition and genetic lethals are other sources of dead embryos. Cracked eggs will sometimes hatch, if the crack occurs late during incubation. Also if the cracked egg is relatively fresh and the crack small, "new skin" may be applied to the crack, allowed to dry and bacterial entrance and moisture loss may be prevented. Also tape, gummed label paper or the like may be worth trying.
An infertile egg, of course, shows no blood vessels nor darkness unless bacterial growth from a crack causes a shadow. A fresh or infertile egg shows a yellowish yolk shadow, and the air space will be at one end. The older the infertile egg is the larger the air space grows. Older infertile or early dead embryo eggs may shake and gurgle easily, and the air space may move around in contrast to the stability of a fresh good egg. a cracked egg untreated will dry out in a few days, so that the remaining yolk will dry to one side,and the egg will roll erratically in speed and direction on a flat surface as if were off center.
Dove eggs are particularily susceptible to wetting. Long ago I thought one could clean eggs by dipping them in water to loosen the dirt, then gently rubbing them clean. But one dip in the water, even if the egg is clean, and the egg is no longer hatchable! A water resistant (hydrophobic) egg cuticle present in all other orders of birds tested is missing in the families of doves and pigeons.
Dirty dove eggs usually will not hatch. Feces from older squabs may cover part of the shell surface. If the patch covered is as much as ½ inch in diameter, the embryo often dies. I suspect that either toxic products from the feces penetrate the egg, or that too much surface is occluded for the embryo to get enought air to "breath" properly. Removal of the dirty patch is difficult, if it has dried. A portion of the shell is as liable to come with the dirt as not. I have learned to just leave the egg dirty and hope for the best. I have since learned that the whole group of doves/pigeons lack an inner membrane that all other birds eggs have. This membrane prevents bacteria from entering wet eggs. So, all dove eggs must be kept dry!
Dove eggs will hatch in an incubator, but unless you have foster parents available, it is quite difficult to raise such altricial birds by hand. You may artificially incubate eggs for research also. If you do, the temperature should be lower than body temperature of the parents (see the APJ July 1974 issue). Try 99-102 o F. The turning of the dove or pigeon egg during incubaton is not nearly so important as it is for chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc. Nevertheless, it is well to turn them daily at your convenience. Air moisture is important for dove eggs, so have plenty of flat water pans or the equivalent in the incubator.
The percent of ringneck eggs that are fertile is at least 75% in my colony based on 50 matings. (I'm still working on additional data.) Infertile or very early dead embryos constitute about 10% of all eggs. Dead embryos are perhaps 15% of the total eggs laid. More eggs may be fertile or infertile, but since I only take records twice a week, some eggs turn up missing before diagnosis of fertility. About 1/3 of my doves'eggs are cold, cracked, broken, turn up missing, or die in hatching. Probably you can do better than this at home.
[ When adequate nesting material is used and mated pairs (not new matings) are considered, the percent fertile is very much better, approaching 98%. Predator threats from racoons, dogs, cats. hawks, even mice at night ,etc. still may cause chilled eggs and dead embryos, the percentage varying according to frequency of threats. ]
DOVE CULTURE II. Differences in Baby Ringneck Doves by Wilmer J. Miller American Dove Association Newsletter July-August 1977 Pigeon Science and Genetics Newsletter 8:7 1978
Are you afraid to handle newly-hatched doves? Well, the parents might startle you with a minor peck or wing blow, but they won't hurt you. And with gentle care you aren't likely to hurt the babies. Unlike some nervous wild species, these doves stand lots of attention very well. In experimental studies, the earlier we get the data the better, because death or other loss may occur and the record lost. Some characters (e.g. bill ring, down color) are juvenile and may appear only in newly hatched squabs!
Pick the babies out of the nest and examine them under a good light. Let's start with ordinary blond (fawn) birds. Note the medium-length and slightly yellowish down, the dark eyeballs, and the dark beak-ring behind the whitish tip. [Wild type down is tan in color, white down in albino or white doves occurs and yellow down in certain others, even the wild type dark. Further, the bill ring may be thin or missing even in dark or blond doves! These are more recent genetic discoveries.]
Next look at white babies--the down is short and sparse, the eyeballs pinkish, and the beak all pink (no dark ring).
Darks (wild color) are just the opposite--longer profuse down, very dark eyeballs and beak ring, and even the skin is dark, but the difference from blond becomes less after some growth.
Albinos are even more extreme than ordinary whites--extremely little down (almost bare), completely pink eyes and beak. The skin remains pink.
Pied babies practically always lack the bill ring, but the dark eyeballs will distinguish them from whites.
Rosy babies are not easy to distinguish from blonds, so that only long experience can be a guide. But rosy blonds (peach) have a faint bill ring, and look a bit more ruddy than plain blond.
Ivory babies also are difficult to distinguish from blonds. However the blond-ivory baby has a blanched or bleached appearance of the down, their eyes are a dark pink, and the bill ring is faint.
Silky babies may have slightly fuzzy down. But I have been fooled so often that it is better to delay a decision until the pinfeathers spread out.
Another down characteristic occurred in an X-ray experiment long ago at the University of Wisconsin in which I got a "beaded" down hatchling. It looked like a sprinkling of tiny beads on the skin surface. It was just getting out of the pin feather stage when it died. (See also the flare mutant.)
I recently noticed that some babies have no down on the back of their head--"bald squabs". Head down is sparse anyway, so it usually is best distinguished later. At 2-6 weeks of age the feathers on the back of the head are delayed about two weeks. I notice it occurring especially in my ivory lines, but it is not limited to ivory types. I might have noticed it sooner, but I kept confusing it with "feather picking" by the parents. It might take me many years to determine how "bald " is inherited, even if I don't lose the character. So, if you have a chance to examine your squabs for this character, keep a record. More important, keep a record of the progeny of squabs that have been definitely diagnosed as having "bald heads" . This little project, if put together by several breeders, might take only two or three years.
DOVE CULTURE III. DIFFERENCES IN JUVENILE RINGNECK DOVES by Wilmer J. Miller American Dove Association Newsletter July-Aug 1977 Pigeon Science and Genetics Newsletter 8:8 1978
How many of you dove breeders can distinguish the juvenile from the adult at a glance? At about three weeks of age the squab loses its still adherent down which tip the head and shoulder feathers and increases it's tail length to near adult length at 4-5 weeks of age. Then the casual observer, new fancier, novice, or just plain inexperienced person cannot tell the immature or juvenile apart from the adult. We experienced (ahem!) dove breeders have learned to distinguish them by several criteria.
1. The juvenile feet are pale red rather than the deep red to purple of the adult.
2. The bill is still fleshy and only beginning to shrink toward the adult hardness.
3. The base of the bill is bare, or at 5-6 weeks the feathers are still filling in the smooth contour characteristic of the adult.
4. The eye pigment is incomplete.
5. The general feather contour or outline is less neat and finished--less "packed".
6. Most of the obvious feathers of the birds, especially the wing shield, have a dilute, rather attractive lacing or edging on each surface feather not to be found in the adult. (I've often wondered if the growth hormone or low level sex hormone controlled the normals juvenile lacing effect.)
It takes additional experience to distinguish some of the juvenile color mutant effects.
White cannot be distinguished from albino until about three weeks of age or more. Then, in whites, the pink eye takes on a grayish appearance and later the undertail of whites shows that brownish shadowing of pigment to about halfway out the feather length (extreme dilute bar). Clear white (rosy white) won't show even that except as the faintest detectable effect in the adult.
Rosy varies a bit, and it often cannot be distinguished surely from blond until at about 4-6 weeks. The additional contour feathers of the head start to come in with that beautiful lavender or mauve color, temporarily giving the head a mottled appearance.
Ivory in the squabs and juveniles mimics the blond rather well until the contour feathers fill in well. By three months of age the light, almost whitish, forehead and eye area feathers of the ivory is readily evident. The tail feathers' undersurface may show a mottling of lighter pigment reminiscent of opal in pigeons.
DOVE CULTURE IV. CAGING AND NESTING by Wilmer J. Miller ref?
Animal care governmental regulations are beginning to hit the private as well as the public sector. The intent of such regulations is commendable. Some animals including birds are kept in very poor circumstances (so are millions of people!), and their welfare needs looking after. So we need to prepare in advance some guidelines or standards for our favorite species; in this case, the ringneck dove. For the government inspectors do not always evince realization that each species can be different, and they may try to fit a square peg into a round hole--doves into chicken regulations, etc.
Caging is one major aspect of regulations. DHEW Publ. No. (NIH) 73-23 tells us that pigeons need 742 square cm or 115 square inches each plus sufficient headroom to stand upright. This is for birds in research held singly in cages. A 10 x 11 ½ inch cage fits this requirement for most pigeons. But, except for research institutions, only some canary fanciers keeps their birds isolated like that.
Most doves, Streptopelia risoria, probably are kept in outdoor fly pens of various sizes with chicken wire netting and a dirt, sand, or small gravel floor. Some are kept in mixed indoors (board flooring) and outdoor flypen, with variations. A few, like most of mine at the University and some at home, are kept entirely indoors.
The drawback to chicken wire netting is that cats and raccoons can kill the doves in such pens with 1" mesh (raccoons can even get into 1/2" x 1" mesh). The size of the pen doesn't seem to matter. At dawn or dusk (crepuscular times) the cat frightens the doves off the perch or nest. they fly to one side of the netting, hang for awhile, and the cat runs over, reaches through, and wreaks havoc. Indoors with no cats the chicken wire is OK. It is possible to order aviary netting of ½ mesh. Hailscreen wire works well also. But feathers tend to catch and collect in the smaller mesh. [Now I use welded wire mesh almost exclusively, 1inch by 2 inches including the floor(!).]
We have been describing "flock" pens and even reproducing pairs are kept in groups. However, some people prefer small one pair cages for indoors, in an apartment, or the house. If you make too small a cage, the birds are inhibited and are not very active. Pigeons may even become psychotic in cages of 12 cubic feet or less, as Dr. Hollander disclosed in 1945 (Journ. of Comp. Psych. 38:287-289). But ringnecks have never exhibited such behavior to my knowledge. I have found that an 18" inch cube mating pen is probably the minimum size for continuous successful reproduction for ringneck doves. [Just large enough for wing fanning.] Larger is better. A pleasing size and shape is 24" long x 16" deep x 20" high.
I prefer to use welded wire mesh, 1" x 2:" . It is neat and strong enough to hold its own shape without wood corners or side supports in the smaller cages. Gauge clips can be used to fasten the top and bottom as well as the corner after bending the wire around three sides. I use a hammer against a wood 2 x 4 to bend the strong wire neatly. Often I have to stand rather spraddle legged on each end of the 2 x 4 to do it, since an upright or fixed position 2 x 4 or larger beam is not usually available. With a little extra work even gauge clips may be omitted. Just cut the wire so that long ends of the wire can be crimped back or wrapped around the attaching side at right angles. An ordinary pliers works well. Since the wire is strong and hard on hands, a pair of gloves helps avoid bruising tender hands. The resulting cage is extremely strong. It may be suspended from overhead, from the wall or stood upright.
The floor of the cage does not need to be smaller mesh, as I first thought. The doves adapt easily to walking on the 1 x 2" mesh. Further, the droppings conveniently fall right through and can be collected on the drawer (or floor 6" lower). Or, if outside, the ground below can be cleaned periodically. The wire will eventually catch larger amounts of droppings and build up piles, especially below the roosting spot. Every 3 months or so a strong, dull kitchen knife or wood slat can be used to scrape off the dried droppings adhering to the wire. Or the biggest pieces may be removed and the cage taken outside and cleaned with a strong hose spray. [In the house and with visitors, I find I need to clean the wire floor twice a week.]
I insert two wooden perches across the narrower dimension of the cage at convenient locations. Plenty of space should be left for wing fanning. I prefer an asymetrical arrangement with one perch 8" from the top and about 6" from the end. The other perch I place about 4" lower (8" above the floor) about 7" from the end. I use solid perches flat on top -- with sharp edges rounded off. About ¾ to 1" width is a good perching surface. A round perch is less desirable for doves, although some other cage birds like finches prefer round (dowel) perches. [More recently, I also use appropriate sized tree branches. The doves don't seem to have a preference for flat versus round perches. Also perches diagonally arranged from corner to corner seem useful.]
The doves should have plenty of head room. I leave at least 8" from the perchs to the cage top, and 6-7" for tail room at the end. Otherwise, the feather fray too badly. The nest should be placed out of the way, at a lower (intermediate) level than the highest perch, otherwise, the doves may roost in it and dirty it up before the nesting cycle takes over.
The nest itself should be approximately 7" x 5" x 3" deep. Other sizes will work. In fact I use a horticultural or gardening seedling container in which petunias or tomatoes are sold. It is slightly smaller than the dimensions I gave, and it has drain holes, and is red in color -- all drawbacks! The red color first frightens the doves. Then they get used to it. The holes have to be "plugged" (taped) or else the nest material dribbles out, and it is too cramped for best setting results. But the convenience of disposability and replacment capability outweighs its drawbacks for large colonies. Set the nest crosswise of top of a flat perch (or even on the floor of the smallest cages) using one of two clothes pins to fasten it to the side wire. At the ISU dove colony, I may use 100 a year.
Now at home I make my own nests from glued cardboard 6"x 4" x 2 ¼ inches sides.
You may have to help the doves make the nest. Dried cut up or broken alfalfa, cut bermuda grass, stiff small catchy sticks about 4-6 " long are usable for nesting material. But freshly fallen pine needles are the best single nest materials to use. I use the short soft 5 needle white pine needles for soft and the 4-7" yellow type pine needles (2-3 needles) for structure and clutchability. If they are not available keep in mind two needs: (1) A soft material to keep the eggs from breaking and (2) clutchability for the squabs to cling to for the vigorous feeding movements. If the squab has to clutch the toes of the parent, it is likely to be dropped out of the nest as the parent gets off. Then the squab usually dies of exposure (cold) and lack of feeding. The parents will not seek out and feed or brood young squabs out of the nest. Out of nest squabs will be fed when the feathers spread out of the sheath enought to cover the skin.
If you have time, it is most enjoyable and relaxing to sit and watch the doves busy themselves carrying nest sticks one at a time to the nest and arranging them. You can even "feed" the sticks to the male and watch him carry them from your fingers to the nest. Generally, the female will nest coo intermittently with wing flips, and the male will seek out sticks and carry them to the nest. Occasionally a "tug of war" for the stick occurs, if the female is too anxious and grabs the stick before the male feels he has placed it properly. Given the materials and arrangements this is one endeavor about which the doves will appear very industrious for a few days. In fact somtimes there is a danger of their burying the eggs with nest material! Nevertheless, no member of the pigeon family ever builds a really good nest compared to that of many other species of birds. More frequently you will have to assist the doves to make their nest. They won't carry the smaller white pine needles to the nest--only the longer stiffer yellow pine types.
DOVE CULTURE V: WHAT DO THEY EAT? by Wilmer J. Miller American Dove Association Newsletter Jan-Feb p.9-11 1980
Everyone seems to have an opinion about proper nutrition of ringneck doves and pigeons. For ringnecks one really should examine crop contents of the completely wild ancestral type birds, Streptopelia roseogrisea, the rosy gray turtle dove, or S. decaocto, the Eurasian collared turtle dove. However, I doubt if any such wild birds have failed to adapt to artificial conditions imposed by man ubiquitously. Thus, in Europe decaocto has learned to peck open sacks of barley and other grains as well as gleaning grain fields. In Europe, Asia and even Africa a dove has to fly only a few miles to find some grain field outside of the desert. Perhaps crop examinations have been made already before man's population eruption became too serious. I have yet to inquire about older literature on this topic.
Levi has a good section on nutrition in his book, The Pigeon, regarding the pigeon's diet. Much also applies to the ringneck, S. risoria, but not all. For example, doves find it difficult to eat whole corn. Size is likely the main difficulty, since they will eat cracked corn avidly in the winter and much lesser amounts in the summer. Also doves will mostly ignore peas and soybeans, unlike pigeons which sometimes will take large amounts (but roast the soybeans first).
Small grains undoubtedly are the major component of their natural diet. Mineral outcrops or deposits, a very few insects or larvae, and some nips out of green leaves also must play a role in their natural diet.
Since the domestic dove is not free flying, we have to artificially supply their needs. Regardless of whether they are on grain or pellets as their major diet, I have found two supplements necessary in a reproducing colony: (1) some calcium in the form of oyster shell (chick size is best) or "expanded" limestone, or other sources such as chicken egg shell (boiled) broken up from your breakfast egg ; (2) a salt plus supplement. I use salt suitable for livestock such as cattle. It comes in fine granular form as well as blocks. It contains not only the major ingredient salt, but also necessary trace elements such as iodine, cobalt, manganese, etc. It comes in a variety of colors. Red is easy to see. The salt seems to prevent "feather picking" by the parents on their own squabs.
The calcium is necessary during reproduction, since not only is it used to form egg shells, but also it is given in the crop milk the first few days. I understand that the parents will take it out of their own bones physiologically in order to get it into the crop milk. Mourning doves will eat live snails, evidently to get the calcium in their shells where rock outcrops are not available, as in much of the midwest U.S.
The parents will stop laying and setting about the third clutch if they have been deprived of minerals. They eat it avidly about twice a week while in a continuous cycle of raising squabs and laying eggs. During about 2 weeks when the young are in the pin-feather stage until independence, the parents desire minerals almost daily. [Now I supply it daily at liberty. One producing pair of ringneck eats 50 ml or more of granular F (98% calcium) a month.]
Many fanciers believe that sand, fine gravel or granite grit is necessary to help grind up seeds in the gizzard. Certainly doves will pick it up greedily, if long deprived. But the gizzard is tough. They can do well without grit for years. Soft pellet food without grain supplement may "soften" the gizzard. A sudden switch from pellets only to grain only may cause near starvation for a day or two. Commercial preparations of mixed mineral and grit seem to be satisfactory, although I prefer separate components. [Pellets only can cause gout. I recommend that the birds have a choice of grains and pellets.]
The doves like to pick bits of leaves in small amounts. I had one female which learned to love sour clover, but most doves do not like it. One pair constantly ate the gloxinia leaves growing near their cage. Doves like tender new shoots of various garden or weed plants. My doves use new dandelion leaves and especially liked "babies tears". But they don't eat very much. A small, even tiny, amount once a week seems plenty. Actually it is not necessary, if they are on a diet including pellets for game birds or for pigeons.
Mealworms are the only insect larvae regularly mentioned as being taken by ringnecks. Most of my ringnecks refused them altogether when I offered some to them. Some doves would not even pick them up; some picked them up and discarded them; and one probably ate the mealworm, since I saw him repeatedly "billing" it and the mealworm dissappeared when I was looking elsewhere.
Perhaps mealworms or other insects are taken in the wild when the protein in the diet is low. The adequate protein in pellet composition foods may obviate the need and desire for an extra boost from mealworms.
These are undoubtedly the major natural food. Levi lists several grains taken by pigeons. Most are probably also taken by doves. I already mentioned that doves don't take to peas or soybeans. Three pairs that I tested also ignored mung beans the one time I offered it. Sunflower seed is taken, but rarely and in small amounts. [I have to contradict myself now. Especially in cool weather the small black sunflower seeds rich in oil and safflower are much desired by ringnecks. My earlier trials were in warm summer time. Further new foods seem to require several offerings to acquaint the doves with a new food.] Wheat and cracked corn is probably a minimal diet for doves and pigeons. Milo, Kaffir corn, rape, millet, and small seeds from weeds etc. are probably mostly all eaten by doves. the awns on whole oat seeds are disliked by doves, since they represent a real physical irritant. [I have settled on milo, cracked corn and pellets as a basic reasonably complete diet, if minerals are included. I do supplement sporadically with other seeds.]
The feed companies have worked up very good pellet combinations of a variety of ingredients meant to be a complete ration. They include vitamin supplements that are mostly not needed by birds living outside on grains. But for indoors the vitamin D3 is essential. Glass mostly stops the ultraviolet which can aid birds to make D3 . Vitamin A (lots in corn) is generally sufficient for months of "deprived" diet in pigeons and probably doves too. The B vitamins and E are necessary to be added to pellets, since the ingredients often lack wheat germ, etc. But birds in general can synthesize the vitamins other than A and D3
I have successfully used pellets of 14-16% protein. Game birds pellets work well for doves, as do the famous Purina Pigeon chow checkers (Nutrigreen).
Years ago when pellets were first being produced (about the late 1930's), I fed my doves "scratch" grain (cracked corn, wheat, milo, and Kaffir corn) supplemented by chicken laying mash pellets. The pellets were a minimal part of the volunteer diet until the squabs came along. Then the pellet consumption went to over 50%.
Pellets do have drawbacks. If the sacks get thrown around too much, there is a lot of powder developed which the birds won't eat. The pellets also take up moisture readily and crumble or mold or cake-up. The vitamins are no longer protected by being inside a seed coat and they deterioriate much more rapidly. The feed companies do put in stabilizers, but these only help to a degree. Whole grains might hold up 2 or 3 years, but pellets do well only for about 4-6 weeks. Six months storage of pellets perhaps reduces the vitamins by half. Some people say more.
What do I recommend?
Naturally, it all depends. For birds kept outside I think mixed grains supplemented by pellets is ideal. For indoor birds and continuous reproduction, I think pellets supplemented with grains once or twice a week is best. Remember that glass cuts out the ultra violet which is an initial step in making vitamin D3. Either way a weekly supplement of minerals is necessary during full reproduction. During winter or for birds in holding pens, monthly mineral supplements is sufficient. Just remember the pellets do not have enough salt or calcium for parents feeding squabs.
I fed my birds "at liberty". This does waste some feed. If you have time to constantly adjust amounts, some feed can be saved by morning and evening feeding. A noon supplement may help decrease the evening gorging.
[Twenty years later I modify my recommendations somewhat. I feel that the doves indoors do better when they have daily choice of grains versus pellets, plus daily choice of minerals. Doves in holding will eat more calcium with salt and do better if it is offered weekly at least.]
Importance of Good Nutrition
Everyone surely knows that a good nutrition is important to health and well being in all living organisms. An undernourished or malnourished dove is much more susceptable to diseases, or will fail to reproduce successfully, or generally is less active and attractive. Specifically, well nourished birds can conquer pigeon pox with no lasting ill effects. Thrush (fungus in lungs or body cavity) is generally avoided. Even paratyphoid may fail to get a foothold in a well nourished colony. Such skips however, are difficult to prove.
Eating feces is regarded with horror by most people. Even in tiny unnoticed amounts in humans as well as in other animals including birds, it is a way of spreading infections of worms and bacteria, and therefore, should be avoided. However, in and of itself, it is not directly harmful. Some snails regularily are coprophagous on dung of other species. Rabbits are said to derive necessary B vitamins from bacteria in their owns feces. It is a matter of current research (now production) to pasteurize and process chicken and cattle feces as food sources for non-human (meat) animals.
Doves and pigeons habitually pick up and eat small, even tiny, bits of feces on the ground, on perchs, or on the wire of their cages. If disease organisms are present, such as paratyphoid, this is a major way of spreading the disease in flock pens. Worm eggs and paratyphoid bacteria come through the gut unharmed. However, in the absence of such infectious organisms, it does no harm and may serve a function unknown to us. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that such a possible function is a necessary requirement to their well being. Therefore, we often choose wire flooring or frequent cleaning to minimize affronts to our sensibilities.
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