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The Dovecote

This is a department, in itself, not common among the farm buildings, in the United States; and for the reason, probably, that the domestic pigeon, or house-dove, is usually kept more for amusement than for profit—there being little actual profit about them—and is readily accommodated in the spare lofts of sheds and out-buildings devoted to other purposes. Pigeons, however, add to the variety and interest of the poultry department; and as there are many different breeds of them, they are gen
ral favorites with the juveniles of the family.

Our present object is, not to propose any distinct building for pigeon accommodation; but to give them a location in other buildings, where they will be conveniently provided with room, and least annoying by their presence—for, be it known, they are oft-times a most serious annoyance to many crops of the farm, when kept in any considerable numbers, as well as in the waste and havoc they make in the stores of the barns and granaries. Although graceful and beautiful birds, generally clean and tidy in their personal habits 276 out of doors, they are the filthiest housekeepers imaginable, and no building can be especially devoted to their use, if not often swept and cleaned, but what will soon become an intolerable nuisance within, and not much better without, and the ground immediately around the premises a dirty place. The common pigeon is a pugnacious cavalier, warring apparently upon mere punctilio, as we have often seen, in the distant strut-and-coo of a stranger bird to his mate, even if she be the very incarnation of rejected addresses. On all these accounts, we would locate—unless a small and select family of fancy birds, perhaps—the pigeon stock at the principal farm-yard, and in the lofts of the cattle sheds, or the chambers of the stable.

Wherever the pigeon accommodations are designed to be, a close partition should separate their quarters from the room occupied for other purposes, with doors for admission to those who have to do with them, in cleaning their premises, or to take the birds, when needed. A line of holes, five inches high, and four inches wide—the top of the hole slightly arched—should be made, say 18 inches apart, for the distance of room they are to occupy in the building. A foot above the top of these, another line may be made; and so on, tiering them up to the height intended to devote to them. A line of shelves, or lighting-boards, six to eight inches wide, should then be placed one inch below the bottom of these holes, and firmly braced beneath, and nailed to the weather-boarding of the house. Inside, a range of box should be made, of corresponding length with the line of holes, to embrace 277 every entrance from the outside, 18 inches wide, and partitioned equidistant between each entrance, so as to give a square box of 18 inches to each pair of birds. The bottom board of each ascending tier of boxes will, of course, be the top of the boxes below, and these must be made perfectly tight, to prevent the offal of the upper ones from falling through, to the annoyance of their neighbors below. The back of these boxes should have a line of swing doors, hung with butts, or hinges, from the top, and fastened with buttons, or hooks, at the bottom, to allow admission, or examination, at any time, to those who have the care of them. This plan of door is indispensable, to clean them out—which should be done as often as once a week, or fortnight, at farthest—and to secure the birds as they may be wanted for the table, or other purposes—for it will be recollected that squabs, just feathered out, are considered a delicious dish, at the most sumptuous tables. It will be understood, that these boxes above described, are within a partitioned room, with a floor, in their rear, with sufficient space for the person in charge of them to pass along, and to hold the baskets, or whatever is to receive the offal of their boxes, as it is taken out. This offal is valuable, as a highly stimulating manure, and is sought for by the morocco tanners, at a high price—frequently at twenty-five cents a bushel.

As pigeons are prolific breeders, laying and hatching six or seven times a year, and in warm climates oftener, they require a good supply of litter—short cut, soft straw is the best—which should be freely 278 supplied at every new incubation, and the old litter removed. The boxes, too, should be in a warm place, snugly made, and well sheltered from the wind and driving storms; for pigeons, although hardy birds when grown, should be well protected while young.

The common food of the pigeon is grain, of almost any kind, and worms, and other insects, which they pick up in the field. On the whole, they are a pleasant bird, when they can be conveniently kept, and are worth the trifling cost that their proper housing may demand.

If our opinion were asked, as to the best, and least troublesome kind of pigeon to be kept, we should say, the finest and most hardy of the common kind, which are usually found in the collections throughout the country. But there are many fancy breeds—such as the fan-tail, the powter, the tumbler, the ruffler, and perhaps another variety or two—all pretty birds, and each distinct in their appearance, and in some of their domestic habits. The most beautiful of the pigeon kind, however, is the Carrier. They are the very perfection of grace, and symmetry, and beauty. Their colors are always brilliant and changing, and in their flight they cleave the air with a rapidity which no other variety—indeed, which scarce any other bird, of any kind, can equal. History is full of examples of their usefulness, in carrying tidings from one country to another, in letters, or tokens, fastened to their necks or legs, for which they are trained by those who have thus used them; but which, now, the well known telegraph wire has nearly superseded.

279 All these fancy breeds require great care in their management, to keep them pure in blood, as they will all mix, more or less, with the common pigeon, as they come in contact with them; and the selection of whatever kind is wanted to be kept, must be left to those who are willing to bestow the pains which their necessary care may demand.