Title Page
 Squab raising

Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Department of Agriculture
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00077080/00048
 Material Information
Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Department of Agriculture
Series Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Department of Agriculture.
Uniform Title: Report of the Chemical Division
Alternate Title: Squab raising
Physical Description: 9 v. : ill. (some folded) ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Publisher: Department of Agriculture. State of Florida.
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Fla.
Manufacturer: Artcraft Printers
Publication Date: January 1927
Frequency: quarterly
Subject: Agriculture -- Periodicals -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Agricultural industries -- Statistics -- Periodicals -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Statistics   ( lcsh )
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 31, no. 4 (Oct., 1921)-v. 39, no. 3 (July 1929).
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Each no. has also a distinctive title.
General Note: Many issue number 1's are the Report of the Chemical Division
General Note: Issues occasional supplements.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00077080
Volume ID: VID00048
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 28473180

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Squab raising
        Page 3
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Full Text



(Reprint of Farmers' Bulletin No. 684,
U. S. Dept. of Agriculture)


Commissioner of Agriculture
Tallahassee, Florida

Artcraft Printers, Tallahassee, Florida




Pigeon raising is conducted successfully as a spe-
cial business, but is better adapted to serve as a side
issue on a small scale in towns and cities and on
general farms.
A reasonable profit on the investment and labor
required can be made by those who will give the
pigeons careful and regular attention.
There are a number of good breeds of pigeons
from which to choose for squab raising, but special
care in selecting and acquiring the foundation stock
is very essential, as it is difficult for the novice to
determine either the age or the sex of pigeons by
their appearance.
This bulletin discusses in detail the general man-
agement of pigeons for the production of squabs for

Issued September 13, 1915
Revised 1924
Washington, D. C.


Associate Poultry Husbandman, Animal Husbandry Division,
Bureau of Animal Industry, Federal Depart-
ment of Agriculture.

Pigeons are kept in all parts of the United States,
but most of the large squab-producing plants are
found near the large cities in the Northeastern and
Central Western States and on the Pacific coast.
Prolific pigeons that produce large squabs are con-
fined in pens on these squab-producing plants. Com-
mon pigeons, which are less prolific and produce
small squabs, are kept as a side issue on many gen-
eral farms throughout the country and are usually
allowed to fly at will. Better results would be ob-
tained if good squab-producing breeds of pigeons
were kept and confined in pens.

Pigeon raising may be conducted successfully as
a special business in towns and cities and on general
farms, but is better adapted to serve as a side issue
on a small scale. The demand for squabs, especially
in large cities, is increasing, and squabs are often
used in place of game. The prices received are high
enough to make squab raising return a fair profit
wherever there is a good market. An average an-
nual return, above cost of feed, of from $2.25 to
$3.25 per pair of breeders is considered good on suc-
cessful plants producing market squabs only. Many
of the large, successful pigeon farms make a business
of selling breeding stock and produce squabs for
meat as a side issue only.
Many persons can keep pigeons successfully as a
side issue, although it requires constant oversight
and careful attention to details. The greatest diffi-

culties which confront the beginner in the raising of
pigeons are procuring good breeding stock and find-
ing a good market for the product of a small flock.
Pigeons may be a profitable source of income on
many general farms if they are properly handled and
if a good market can be found for the squabs. There
have been many failures in squab raising, because
the profit in the business has been greatly overesti-
mated and because the care of the stock has been
regarded as something in which anyone could suc-
ceed without training or experience.
There are many breeds of pigeons, but only six
are used extensively for producing squabs for meat
in this country-King, Carneau, Mondaine, Homer,
Runt, and Hungarian. These breeds make up what
is called the utility class of pigeons, and all, with the
exception of the Mondaine, contain several varieties
which are used to some extent for squab raising.
Only the most popular variety of each breed is de-
scribed in this bulletin, as the less common varieties
have the same type, shape and size, and differ only
in color.
The best breed to use depends on the market, but
the greatest demand is for good-sized squabs which
have light-colored skins. The White Kings, Red Car-
neaux, White Mondaines and Black Hungarians are
good producers of squabs of this type. Many restau-
rants and hotels prefer a smaller squab, which is
cheaper; the Homer is best adapted for this trade.
The Runt is the best breed to keep if an extra large
squab is desired.
The small, common pigeon is probably the most
widely distributed on farms. These pigeons produce
small squabs, frequently of poor quality, and are not
so prolific as the improved breeds.
The White King was produced in the United
States about 1891 by crossing the white varieties of
the Runt, Homer, Maltese, and Duchess. This is a
good-sized breed, the old and the young cock weigh-
ing 26 and 24 ounces and the old and the young hen

24 and 22 ounces, respectively. It is a very good
producer of light-colored squabs, and is one of the
most popular breeds to keep for this purpose. The
body should be blocky, with broad shoulders and
good depth from the back to the keel. The general
appearance should be of an upright cobbyy" type.
The carriage is upright, with the tail just clearing
the ground when the bird is standing in its natural
position. The head is moderately large, with a
round skull.
The plumage of the White King is white through-
out and should be tight and close fitting.
The Silver is the only other standard variety of
the King breed.

The Carneau originated in France and was not
brought into the United States until about 1900. Al-
though slightly smaller than the King, it is a good-
sized bird, the old and the young cock weighing 24
and 23 ounces and the old and the young hen 23 and
22 ounces, respectively. It is also one of the most
popular squab producers in this country and is an
excellent breeder of high-quality squabs. The body
is short, compact, and full-breasted, with an upright
carriage and moderately short wings and tail. The
head is of moderate size, broad between the eyes,
and has a gradual, rounding curve over the skull.
The Red Carneau is the most popular variety of
this breed for squab production. The surface plum-
age should be of a deep chestnut red throughout,
with the color penetrating to some extent into the
under color.
Other standard varieties of the Carneau are the
Yellow, Black, White, Rosewing Red and Rosewing
Yellow, but the last three are not common.
The origin of the Mondaine, often called the Swiss
Mondaine, has not been definitely established. Two
views exist regarding this breed; one that it is a mix-
ture of several of the breeds in this country kept for
squab production, the other that it was imported
from Europe.

The Mondaine is slightly larger than the King; the
legs are slightly longer and the body and neck are
longer and more slender; the head is of medium size
and is full in front. This breed shows great length
in every part, which gives it the long, sweeping ap-
pearance. It is an excellent squab-producing breed,
the old and the young cock weighing 27 and 24
ounces and the old and the young hen 24 and 21
ounces, respectively. This breed is neither so well
known nor so widely distributed as the King or the
The plumage of the White Mondaine, which is the
only standard variety of the breed, is white in every
section. It is a close-feathered breed with clean
legs. The flight feathers of the wing are very long,
but the wing should be carried up tightly to the body.


The Homer is not usually classed as one of the
utility breeds, but it is the oldest breed of pigeons in
this country and has been used very extensively for
squab production, the birds used originally for this
purpose having been of Flying Homer breeding. The
Homer is primarily a flying pigeon kept for racing
purposes, and derives its name from the fact that it
has a remarkable faculty for returning to its home.
Because of this trait it is necessary to keep this breed
confined if the pigeons have been purchased.
The Homer is the most prolific breeder and the
best feeder of all the breeds and is a very desirable
breed to keep where a medium-sized rather than a
large squab is desired. It may often be kept to ad-
vantage with one of the larger breeds. The bird
should be of medium size and have a neat, trim, com-
pact appearance. The breast and back should be
broad and well muscled.
Three distinct lines of Homers are bred, namely,
the Flying, the Exhibition, and the Show. These
three kinds differ materially in shape, size and head
points. Homers used for squab production have
been selected and bred from either the Flying or the
Exhibition lines, as the Show Homer is not adapted
for producing market squabs. Little attention has
been given to color in breeding the Homer either for

squab production or for racing, but the Blue, Blue
Checker, and Black Checker are the most common
varieties. The color of the Blue is an even shade of
light grayish blue in all sections except the head,
neck, tail, and ends of the wings, which are much
darker. The Blue Checker has a ground color of
light grayish blue, and the back and wings are
evenly checkered with black. Most Flying Homers
are smaller than the Homers selected and bred for
squab production.
The Runt in this country is said to be descended
from the Spanish common pigeon. As it is the
largest of the breeds kept here its name is rather
misleading. The Runt is characterized by a very
large body, giving an appearance of massiveness and
great strength. The head is large and broad be-
tween the eyes, and the top of the skull is oval. The
body is blocky, the breast broad and deep, and the
back broad. The Runts are considerably larger than
the other squab breeds, the old cock weighing 3
pounds, the old hen and the young cock each 2%i
pounds, and the young hen 21/ pounds. The Runt
lacks the upright, cobbyy" type of the King, the
breast being carried only slightly above horizontal,
with the tips of the wings resting on the tail.
Runts are kept to some extent for squab produc-
tion, but are usually not so good, either as breeders
or as feeders, as the smaller breeds. They are some-
times used to cross with the small breeds, but as a
rule better results are obtained by keeping the
breeds pure. Runts are frequently kept in pairs in
individual pens, as they will often fight and injure
one another when kept even in moderate-sized flocks.
The White Runt is by far the most popular of this
breed for squab production, while the six other
standard varieties, the Blue, Black, Red, Yellow,
Silver and Dun, are only occasionally used for this
purpose. The plumage of the White Runt should be
pure white in all sections. The feathers should be
tight fitting and the wings and tail of moderate
length only. This breed, as well as all squab pro-
ducers, should have shanks and toes free from

The Hungarian pigeon, which was introduced
from Austria-Hungary, differs very materially in
type from the other breeds commonly kept for squab
production. It has a short, compact, solid body, a
long neck, high tail, and long legs. The standard
weights are 25 ounces for the old cock, 24 ounces for
the old hen and the young cock, and 22 ounces for
the young hen. Care should be taken to avoid breed-
ing the birds which are very high on their legs, as
the reproduction of that type will reduce the heavy,
square body so essential in the production of good
market squabs. The Hungarian, although a good
squab producer, is not kept so extensively for this
purpose as the other-breeds discussed, more atten-
tion having been given to selecting this breed for
standard color, making it a very attractive pigeon
for exhibition.
The Black Hungarian is the most widely distrib-
uted variety of this breed, but no one variety is
especially outstanding in numbers as is the case
with the other squab-producing breeds. This
variety has almost as much white as black in its
surface color, but the black markings are much
more prominent. The black is of a deep, even
shade, with a white stripe resembling a tape mark-
ing extending over the crown of the head, down
the back of the neck, widening as it goes, thus form-
ing a triangle with the narrow, pointed vertex at the
back of the neck. The white extends in a narrow
stripe around the front of each wing and comes to-
gether from both sides in an even curve, where it is
merged into the white of the lower part of the breast,
legs and thighs, meeting over the rump. The breast
is covered with a large, black, pear-shaped bib which
extends up to the head. The tail and wings are all
black except for 8 or 10 of the long flight feathers in
each wing, which are white.
Good breeding stock is one of the prime essentials
of success in squab raising. It is advisable to buy
pigeons from reliable breeders, and, if possible, from
those who guarantee their product. Many failures
in squab raising have been due to poor stock, because

the prospective producer either bought old pigeons
past their period of usefulness or obtained a surplus
of male birds. It is difficult to determine by casual
observation the age and the sex of pigeons, and this
makes it difficult for the buyer to determine the
value of the stock.
Constant and careful culling must be followed to
make squab production profitable. This requires
that the nests should be examined frequently and
careful records kept of the squabs. The medium-
sized breeds of pigeons which do not raise at least
five pairs of squabs annually to market age should
be either culled or remated. There is a great differ-
ence in the value of pigeons as squab producers, even
when of the same variety, making it advisable to
select the birds individually for their vigor and pro-
ductiveness, for the quality, number and size of their
squabs, and for their ability properly to feed and
rear their offspring. Dark-colored skin, legs or beak
indicate poor quality of flesh, and should be avoided
by selecting birds for breeding which have white or
pinkish-white skin and light-colored legs.
Young pigeons, about a year old, which have
mated and started to breed, are commonly purchased
to begin pigeon keeping. Pigeons are most valuable
as squab producers when from two to six years old,
although many will breed until they are about eight
years old. The small varieties will mate and breed
at about six months and the larger ones at about
nine months. The best breeding results are obtained
if the young birds are not allowed to breed until they
are well matured, which is from one to three months
older than the age at which they will mate.
Squabs hatched in April, May and June make the
best breeders, while their market value as squabs is
comparatively low at that time of the year. Those
which are to be saved for breeding should be banded
as soon as their feet are large enough to hold the
bands, usually when 7 to 10 days old, so that a record
can be kept of their breeding. Numbered, seamless
bands, which are slipped over the squabs' feet, are
used to keep pedigree records. The young pigeons
are commonly removed from the breeding pen and
put into a pen by themselves after they are able to
fly about and pick up their own feed. A catching

net or bag made of large-mesh cotton netting, with
the mouth or top about 18 inches in diameter, is very
useful for catching the pigeons.
Pigeons mate in pairs and usually remain with
their mates throughout life, although the mating
may be changed if desired. The presence of un-
mated pigeons (especially males) in the pigeon loft
is a source of much trouble and usually prevents
profitable results; therefore it is very essential that
only mated birds be kept in the breeding pens.
It is difficult for the novice to distinguish sex in
pigeons, as sex can be determined only by the gen-
eral appearance, walk, carriage and actions of the
breeders. The male is larger and coarser than the
female, especially in the head and neck, and is much
more aggressive. The male struts about, making a
cooing noise, and drags his tail on the ground; but
the female rarely struts or coos and she holds her
body more horizontally than the male. This strutt-
ing of the male tends to make the ends of his tail
feathers rough. A very aggressive young male may
be used in the pen as a decoy to drive the females
so that the latter may be separated from the flock.
The pelvic bones, which are close together and hard
in the male, are spread apart in the female after she
has begun to lay, and the female then has a tendency
to waddle when walking.
Two methods of mating are used, natural and
forced, and either will give good results. Unmated
males and females are kept in a pen in natural
mating and allowed to select their own mates, which
is usually indicated by the male's billing with and
driving the female. If properly mated the pair will
commence to build their nest and will be found to-
gether at night, while unmated birds usually remain
alone. Newly mated pigeons may be allowed to
build a nest and lay eggs in the mating pen to be
sure that they are well mated.
Forced matings may be made if the sex of the
pigeons is known. A male and a female which are
to be mated are confined in mating coops with a
movable wire or open slat partition between them,
so that they can see each other for one day, after

which the partition is removed and the birds are
allowed to go together. They are removed to the
breeding pen as soon as they appear to be properly
mated. Still another method of mating is to put both
the male and the female together in the same coop
without keeping them apart for the first day. The
pigeons should be kept in this mating coop for two
or three days until they become settled. The nest
boxes may be arranged so that the fronts can be
closed and used for mating coops.
Careful selection and mating of breeding stock
and constant culling are essential in building up a
productive flock of squab producers. Matings should
be made to increase the vigor and prolificacy of the
stock and to improve the size and color of the squabs.
Mating, production and rearing records should be
kept of the pigeons and all unprofitable birds culled.
Old pigeons mated with young birds often give good
results in breeding, making it advisable sometimes
to break up and change a mating as a pair gets old
and production decreases. If a breeding pigeon dies,
its mate should be removed from the pen and a new
mating made. Pairs which produce dark-colored or
small squabs should be culled or remated.
Continued close inbreeding is not a desirable prac-
tice for the average squab raiser. Inbreeding, how-
ever, tends to fix good as well as undesirable charac-
ters, making it a means of either great improvement
or marked deterioration, depending on how carefully
the matings are made. If the pigeons are allowed
to mate at will and a pair from the same nest mate
together, it is usually advisable to separate and re-
mate such closely related birds.
A simple but accurate system of records should be
kept for each pen, showing the band numbers of
each pair. In addition to the seamless bands put on
when they were squabs the breeding males are
usually banded on the right leg and the females on
the left leg, so that the sex of the birds in the breed-
ing pen can be readily seen. The use of large,
colored, numbered bands makes it easier to keep
these records. The nests are numbered and a record
kept of the nest occupied by each pair. The fronts
of all unoccupied nests should be kept closed so that
there is only one double nest for each mated pair.

The period of incubation of pigeon eggs is about
17 days. The hen pigeon usually lays two eggs in
three days before she starts to set. If more than two
eggs are laid, it is advisable to remove the extra ones,
as a pair of pigeons can raise only two good squabs
at one time. Both the male and the female pigeon
set on the eggs, the male usually sitting from about
8 a. m. until 3 or 4 p. m., while the female stays on
the nest the rest of the time. Pigeon eggs are usually
fertile if the pigeons are healthy and properly fed.
One squab frequently hatches first; and if there are
several nests in which one squab outgrows its mate,
it may be advisable to sort the squabs in the nests,
making the pairs as nearly uniform as possible in size
and age. While squabs are in the nest males usually
grow faster and are noticeably larger than females.
Some birds do not feed their squabs well, and it is
sometimes necessary to transfer such young to other
breeders which have only one squab; but squabs
should not be moved any more than is absolutely
Squabs are reared and fed by both of the parent
birds on a thick, creamy mixture called pigeon milk,
produced in the crop of the pigeons. Pigeons usually
feed their squabs shortly after they themselves are
fed and should not be disturbed at that time, thus
making it advisable to water them before they are
fed. Care should always be taken not to frighten
pigeons, and squabs should not be disturbed any
more than is necessary. If the parent birds die, the
squabs may be removed to a nest where there is only
one squab, or they may be fed artificially, although
this process takes considerable time.
The feeding of pigeons differs radically from that
of poultry in that pigeons are not fed any mash and
they feed their own young. Pigeons should be fed
a ration of whole grains and be provided with a con-
stant supply of fresh water and grit. A good mix-
ture of staple grains may be made of 2 parts each,
by weight, of small whole corn, kafir, and Canada or
field peas, and 1 part each of hard, red wheat and

millet seed. Five per cent of hempseed may be
added to this ration to advantage during the molting
period. The proportion of corn in the ration may be
reduced somewhat during warm weather and in-
creased in winter. Tender green feed, such as let-
tuce, kale and cabbage leaves and freshly cut clover,
alfalfa and grass, may be fed, but is not commonly
Other feeds which may be used with good results
in feeding pigeons'are peanut kernels and garden
peas in place of Canada peas, Egyptian corn or milo
for kafir, and hempseed or flaxseed for millet, while
a small quantity of rice, rape, canary, vetch and
chopped sunflower seed may be fed for variety.
Canada peas and peanuts are expensive, but some
feed of this kind high in protein is necessary for
profitable squab production. Cowpeas are some-
times used to replace Canada peas, but do not give
as good results. Soybeans are not relished by
pigeons, but they may replace peas after the pigeons
are used to them.
Millet, flaxseed and hempseed have a rather high
vitamin content, and peas or peanuts may also help
to supply this need. Yellow corn, because of its vita-
min content, is probably a better feed than white
corn for pigeons which are confined. Various stimu-
lating seeds, such as vetch and lentils, are sometimes
fed as a tonic to breeding birds during the molting
A variety of good hard, thoroughly dried grain is
essential to success. Grains which are in poor con-
dition should not be fed to pigeons. New, soft grains,
especially wheat and corn, should never be fed to
pigeons, as they will cause bad results in the flock,
particularly among the squabs. The smaller kernels
of whole corn, sold as pigeon corn, are used for
pigeons. Flint corn is especially desired, but cracked
corn should not be used unless freshly cracked. Red
wheat is considered better than white wheat for
pigeons, while some breeders of pigeons prefer a
ration without wheat.
Commercial mixed pigeon feeds are used exten-
sively in feeding pigeons, especially where only a
small flock is kept. The quality of these feeds is
usually good, and it is easier to buy these feeds for

a small flock than to mix the ration at home, on ac-
count of the number of grains used. Dealers often
handle two or three grades of the mixed pigeon
feeds, but it usually pays to get the best quality,
which contains a considerable quantity of peas,
while the cheaper grades have few if any peas in
them. The fat, crude protein, carbohydrate and
fiber analyses of these commercial feeds are marked
on the bags.
The accompanying table gives the composition of
the grains most commonly used in feeding pigeons.
Peas and peanuts contain a large percentage of pro-
tein, which is the most valuable and most expensive
constituent of a pigeon feed. The ration previously
mentioned, consisting of 2 parts each, by weight, of
whole corn, kafir and Canada peas, and 1 part each
of red wheat and millet seed, contains 13.9 per cent
crude protein, 70.4 per cent carbohydrates, 3.7 per
cent crude fiber, and 2.9 per cent fat.

.a a H


Pet. Pct. Pet. Pet. Pct. Pet.

Corn ....... 87.1 1.3 9.3 1.9 70.3 4.3
Wheat .. ..... 89.4 1.8 12.3 2.4 71.1 1.8
Kafir .......... ... 90.6 1.6 11.1 2.1 72.6] 3.2
M ilo ... ..... ..... ... 89.3 2.8 10.7 2.4 70.5 2.9
Canadian field peas 90.8 3.4 22.9 5.6 57.8 1.1
Peanut kernels ...... 94.5 2.3 30.2 2.8 11.6 47.6
Garden peas .... .......... 88.2 3.0 25.61 4.4 53.6 1.6
Cowpeas .. 90.2 3.6 23.8 4.3 57.1 1.4
Soybeans ...... 93.6 4.8 39.1 5.2 25.8 18.7
M illet .. .. ........... .. 89.21 3.6 12.1 8.4 61.0 4.1
Flaxseed ... .. .... 90.8 4.3 22.6 7.1 23.2 33.7
Hempseed ... ... ...... 92.0 2.0 10.0 14.0 45.0 21.0
Sunflower seed ... ...... 93.8 4.2 15.9 28.6 21.11 24.0
Rice (polished) ........... 87.6 .4 7.4 .2 79.2| .4

The grain may be fed on the floor of the pen, in
troughs, or kept before the birds in hoppers. It is
not advisable to feed the grain on the ground, es-
pecially on heavy soil, where it may get wet and
moldy. Unless the floor is kept clean it is better to
feed the grain in troughs than on the floor. The
troughs should be made so that the pigeons will not
roost on them and soil the feed with their droppings.
Hoppers in which feed is kept before the pigeons are
sometimes used, but may attract rats. Troughs and
open hoppers should be fitted with wires or slats
about two inches apart, so that the pigeons can not
waste the feed by throwing it out on the floor.
If the grain is not kept in hoppers the pigeons
should be fed regularly twice daily, giving from 1%,
to 21- quarts or 21/ to 31/4 pounds of grain at each
feeding to 20 pairs of pigeons, depending on the size
of the pigeons and the number of squabs in the nests.
It is very essential that the pigeons have a plentiful
supply of grain while they are rearing squabs if rapid
growth of the young is to be obtained. The feeder
must regulate the quantity of grain according to the
appetite of the birds, giving them all they will clean
up. A pair of pigeons will eat from 90 to 120 pounds
of feed in a year, which will cost from $2.70 to $3.60
a year at the present prices of grains (1924).
Clean drinking water, fine grit and oyster shell
and charcoal should always be kept before the
pigeons. Salt, which is fed to pigeons in various
forms, is considered essential. Commercial grit mix-
tures containing salt, fine grit and oyster shell, char-
coal and various minerals are used by many pigeon
raisers. A good mixture for this purpose may be
made of 40 pounds of fine oyster shell, 27 pounds of
fine grit, 10 pounds of charcoal, 10 pounds of ground
bone, 5 pounds of ground limestone, 5 pounds of fine
salt and 3 pounds of venetian red. Such mixtures
are relished by the pigeons and seem to have some
value in keeping them in good breeding and feeding

Dry pigeon manure may be sold to market gar-
deners or florists in some localities at a good price,

but it is more commonly used at home as a fertilizer.
As it is quite rich it has considerable value as a fer-
tilizer and should be mixed with dry dirt or some
filling material before it is used. It may sometimes
be sold to tanners, but the demand for this purpose
is very limited, and the manure so used must be kept
free from all foreign matter, such as sand and nest-
ing material.


The important considerations in building houses
are fresh air, sunlight, economy of labor, and space
enough to keep the pigeons comfortable. Fresh air
is essential in a pigeon house. Pigeons will do well
in a cold house provided it is well ventilated. Dry-
ness is also necessary. Not only should the building
be tight to keep out rain, but the moisture from the
pigeons and from the nests of squabs within the
house must be carried off by ventilation. The more
sunlight in the house the better, as this helps to dry
out the moisture and also makes the building more
sanitary. The houses should face the south, so that
they will have the greatest amount of direct sunlight
in the front. As labor is a big item, the arrangement
of the house for convenience in performing the neces-
sary work adds to the chances of success.
The shed-roof type of house is one of the simplest
and best types to use for market squab production.
The house is 16 feet deep, 6 feet high in the rear and
8 feet high in front. The pens are 9 by 12 feet, with
a 4-foot alleyway in the back part running the entire
length of the house. The alley is 4 feet wide to pro-
vide space for feed hoppers and boxes for grit, shell
and tobacco stems, which devices are built into the
alley partition, so they can be filled without going
into the pens. An alley 3 feet wide is large enough
for all other purposes. The pens are arranged to
open into the alley, so that the pigeons will not be
disturbed any more than is absolutely necessary. A
separate alleyway is always desirable in a house
which contains more than four pens.
Houses of various styles may be used for pigeons,
and in many cases where only a few are kept, avail-
able buildings, such as lofts of barns and vacant

poultry houses, can be fitted up at small cost. De-
tails of the construction of houses are given in U. S.
Farmers' Bulletin 1413, Poultry House Construction.
The same kind of lumber and style of construction
are used for pigeon as for poultry houses, except that
pigeon houses must be well built and tightly con-
structed to make the pens comfortable during cold
Construction costs are affected by many local fac-
tors, so that only a very rough estimate of the prob-
able outlay for construction can be given. This esti-
mated cost (1924) is from $1.75 to $2.90 for each
pair of breeders housed. The cost for materials
alone would be about two-thirds of the total con-
struction cost.
More open and less expensive pigeon houses may
be built in mild than in cold climates, but the house
must be comfortable in cold weather. The building
should be tightly constructed on the north, west and
east sides to prevent drafts, and the opening in the
south side should be arranged so that the sunshine
can thoroughly dry out the pen. Openings should be
protected to keep rain from beating into the pen.
Heating a house during the winter may result in
greater squab production in cold weather, but is
usually not considered profitable.
The house may be made any length desired, the
best length being governed by the number of pigeons
to be housed and by the slope of the land.
The necessary floor space to allow for each pair
varies from 21/4 to 3 square feet, according to the
size of the pigeons. More floor space per pair is re-
quired in small than in large pens. Pens 9 by 12 feet
will accommodate 36 pairs of large pigeons, or 50
pairs of Homers, which is as many as should be kept
together in one pen. A separate pen for each pair
of pigeons is sometimes made for Runts, as that
breed does not do so well where any considerable
number of breeders are kept together.


The floors of pigeon houses should be constructed
so that they can be kept free from rats easily. This
is usually accomplished by building the house from

18 to 30 inches above the ground, using board floors,
and boarding up the space between the ground and
the floor, but leaving small doors or openings for
ventilation and so that cats and dogs can get under
the house. Wooden floors so constructed should be
double, with building paper between the layers, ex-
cept in the southern part of the United States. Con-
crete makes a very good floor for a pigeon house, as
it will keep out rats, but it must be well covered with
sand or straw.
Nearly all pigeons kept for squab production are
confined by the use of an outside fly or yard covered
with wire, which is built on the south side of the
house. This fly is usually made from 6 to 8 feet
high, 15 to 20 feet long, and of the same width as
the pen. A few pigeonholes about 8 inches in
diameter are made in the upper part of the front of
the pen. Larger openings, oblong in shape, are
sometimes used. Boards 6 inches wide on which
pigeons can light should be placed at the bottom of
all pigeonholes, on both the outside and inside of the
house. Roosting boards about 4 inches wide are
placed only at the end and on the sides of the fly.
These boards should be at least 4 inches from the
outside wire and should not be placed where they
will prevent the pigeons from flying freely in the
yards. Two-inch mesh wire is commonly used to
cover the fly, but 1-inch mesh wire is preferable in
localities where sparrows are abundant.


The interior fittings should consist of a double
nest for each pair of breeders, nest bowls, and mis-
cellaneous equipment, such as feed hoppers and a
receptacle for tobacco stems. All of this equipment
should be as simple as possible and easy to clean.
Double nests are necessary because the pigeons fre-
quently start to build another nest when their squabs
are only two weeks old. There should be only as
many double units as there are mated pairs, and any
additional nests in the pens should be kept closed.
Portable wire fronts are used to close these extra
nests and are also used to confine pigeons which are
mating when the nests are used as mating coops.

Nest compartments should be 12 inches high, 16
inches deep and 24 inches wide, divided into two
parts. Double nests for very large breeds, such as
the Runt, should be 2 inches deeper and 4 inches
wider than for the medium-sized breeds. Four
inches in the front is separated from the nest proper
and serves as a runway for the pigeons. This allows
each pair to control their own nests, but tends to pre-
vent them from fighting with neighboring pairs. This
type of nest provides room for both roosting and
nesting so that no separate roosts have to be pro-
vided on the walls. The floors of the nests should
be arranged so that they are portable and may be
easily cleaned. The nests are usually built in tiers
against the side walls of the pen, extending from the
floor to 6 or 7 feet high. Two nest bowls are usually
provided for each pair of breeders and help to keep
the nests sanitary. Such bowls are made of earthen-
ware, wood or fiber. A convenient size is from 3 to
4 inches deep and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Nest
pans are not used at all in some pigeon plants, in
which case the nesting material is retained by the
strip in front of the nests.
Nesting material should be kept in each pen. To-
bacco stems are generally provided for this purpose,
but chopped straw or hay may also be used. This
nesting material is kept in a slatted crate, and the
pigeons collect the stems and build their own nests.
Tobacco stems should be kept loose so the pigeons
can easily get them. A thin layer of sand on the
floor makes it easier to keep the pen clean, or the
floor may be lightly covered with straw.
Hoppers and feed troughs should be of good size,
and the hoppers should be constructed so that the
pigeons can not waste the grain easily by throwing
it out on the floor. Drinking fountains, hoppers for
feed, grit and shell, and boxes for the nesting ma-
terial should be arranged so that they can be readily
handled from the alley. They are often built into
the partition which separates the alley from the pens.
Drinking vessels should be arranged so that the
pigeons can not bathe in them. Large pans covered
with wire, or fountains, are best adapted for the pur-
pose. A galvanized iron pan from 3 to 4 inches deep
and from 15 to 20 inches in diameter makes a good

bath pan. Water for bathing should be provided
daily, except during the winter. These bath pans
are usually filled in the morning and emptied about
noon. They are generally used only about twice a
week in winter. It is very important that the bath-
ing pans be kept clean, as the pigeons will drink out
of these pans. If the pigeons drink filthy water its
use may seriously affect the health and growth of
the squabs. An outside watering and bathing basin
which is supplied with running water makes an ideal
The production of squabs from each pair of breed-
ers varies from 1 or 2 to as high as 10 or 11 pairs a
year, but an average of 6 or 7 pairs fit for market is
a fair result. Some squab breeders produce more.
Squabs usually sell at the highest prices per pound
during cold weather, as pigeons do not breed so
freely then as in spring. The quality of winter
squabs is not so good as that of spring squabs, and
those produced in the winter do not usually attain
such large size as those produced in spring and
The price paid for dressed squabs varies with their
size and quality and the season of the year. The
monthly price per pound on dressed squabs weighing
10 pounds to the dozen, which is a fair average
weight for good squab plants, was as follows, ac-
cording to the wholesale quotations in Chicago in
1923: January through March, 75 cents; April, 70
cents; May, 65 cents; June through October, 60
cents; November, 65 cents; December, 70 cents.
Small and dark-skinned squabs bring lower and
extra large squabs slightly higher prices than these
Squabs are fed by the parent birds until they are
marketed. They grow very rapidly and attain more
than two-thirds of their mature weight in four weeks.
Squabs are usually marketed at from 3 to 41/2
weeks of age, when they weigh about one pound.
They must be sold at about this age, as the period
during which they are ready for market rarely ex-
ceeds one week. Squabs are in good market condi-
tion when fully feathered under the wings, which is

usually about the time they begin to leave their nests,
and if not marketed at that time they soon lose their
baby fat, while their flesh begins to get hard and
loses its especially desirable character. It is said
that the flesh and juices of the squab at about four
weeks of age are especially nourishing.
Market squabs should be collected from the nests
in the morning, before the pigeons are fed, at which
time the squabs' crops are usually empty. They are
usually killed in the same manner as poultry, by
opening the mouth and cutting the jugular vein in
the throat just below the base of the skull, after
which the brain is usually pierced. In sticking, the
squabs are hung by their legs on nails or hooks, with
their wings double locked. After they are stuck the
feathers are plucked immediately, using a dull knife
for the pin-feathers. The appearance of the dressed
squabs can be improved by singeing the flesh over
an alcohol burner. If the crop contains any feed it
should be cut open and thoroughly washed. After
killing and picking, the squabs are cooled by placing
them in cold water or by hanging them in a cool
Dressed squabs should be washed, cleaned and
graded according to size and quality, as dark-colored
and small squabs tend to lower the price paid for an
entire shipment of mixed squabs. For shipment by
express they are packed in cracked ice in a tub or
box, with alternate layers of ice and squabs. The
words "Dressed squabs" and the weight of the ship-
ment before the ice is added should be marked on
the box, as express companies will allow 25 per cent
off the gross weight for the ice packing. The box or
tub should have holes in it for drainage. Local ex-
press shipments may sometimes be made without ice
if the squabs are thoroughly cooled before shipment.
The express charges on small shipments of squabs
reduce the profit materially, and it is necessary to
have a good-sized flock to furnish more than a dozen
birds for market at one time. A local market that
will take any number of squabs is a great aid to the
small producer. It usually pays best to build up a
small flock until it is large enough to make good-
sized shipments. This, however, requires constant
expense without any return for some time.


The pens and yards where pigeons are confined
must be kept clean. There is very little chance of
making squab production profitable unless the
pigeons can be kept comparatively free from dis-
eases and insect parasites. Diseases and parasites
should not be a serious matter in squab raising, how-
ever, if healthy breeding stock is obtained and if
houses and yards are kept clean and careful atten-
tion is given to the birds.
The stock should be carefully watched and any
sick birds removed from the breeding pens. If one
bird of a pair is sick the mate should also be re-
The house should be kept dry, clean, well venti-
lated, and free from drafts. The floor should be
covered with one inch of sand or gravel, and the
manure deposited on top of the sand should be
raked off frequently. The outside yards should be
kept clean either by scraping the surface and add-
ing fresh sand or gravel or by digging over the soil.
The nests, nest boxes and pens should be cleaned
at regular intervals, but the individual nest bowls
should not be cleaned out while they contain eggs or
squabs. The pen should be sprayed with whitewash
containing a little crude carbolic acid, or with some
other disinfectant, and the nest boxes and perches
should be examined for mites, especially in hot
weather, and sprayed with crude oil thinned with
kerosene or with a wood preservative containing
anthracene oil. If the pigeons have many lice on
their bodies and wings they should be treated with
sodium fluorid, either by dusting by the pinch
method or by dipping in a solution. The treatment
of lice and mice is discussed in U. S. Farmers' Bul-
letin 801, Mites and Lice on Poultry. The nests or
nest pans should be cleaned and the nesting material
removed as soon as the squabs are marketed or leave
the nest.
Pigeons are subject to many of the diseases which
affect poultry and may be treated in the same man-
ner. Poultry diseases are discussed in U. S. Farmers'
Bulletin 1337, Diseases of Poultry. Canker in the
mouth and throat, and tuberculosis, which results in

the birds "going light," are the two diseases most
common among pigeons. They are contagious and
their spread is favored by insanitary conditions, foul
drinking or bathing water, and poor quality or kinds
of feeds. The unfavorable conditions should be re-
moved at once, and potassium permanganate may be
added to the drinking water, using enough powder
to give the water a light wine color. Canker is a
form of bird pox or diphtheria (see U. S. Farmers'
Bulletin 1337, page 5). The canker sores should be
removed carefully with a knife and the affected parts
painted with tincture of iodine. Birds dead or killed
because of this disease should be buried or burned.

Dead squabs may be due to a variety of reasons
which have been discussed somewhat throughout
this bulletin. The cause of the mortality must be
found and removed if profitable results are to be ex-
pected. Some of the common causes are extra males
or unmated pigeons which are constant causes of
fighting in the breeding pens; coccidiosis in the
breeding stock; rats or mice in the house; and lack
of vitality, which may be caused by the use of dirty
water, by poor quality of feed or lack of proper feed,
by filthy conditions in the pen, or by carelessness in
breeding and selecting the stock. Good results can
be obtained only when the loft contains selected
mated breeders which are strong and healthy; when
the quarters are kept clean, and when good feed is
properly fed.


Begin with healthy, vigorous, properly mated
breeders. Good quality foundation stock is very es-
sential to success.
Select and keep only prolific breeders which are
also good feeders.
Feed a variety of good quality hard grains, includ-
ing peas or peanuts. Use small whole corn rather
than cracked corn, unless the latter is freshly

The pigeon pen should be dry, well ventilated, and
kept free from rats and mice. A double nest should
be provided for each pair of breeders.
Keep fresh drinking water, protected to keep dirt
out, before the pigeons, and provide a separate pan
of water for bathing.
Market the squabs as soon as they are feathered
under the wings, which is about the time they are
able to get out of their nests.

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