Bird Basics: Doves


We often associate doves with magic tricks or elaborate wedding ceremonies, but few realize that doves can make lovely pet birds as well (and that they also come in more colors than white). They’re a good pet bird for a first time owner or one with children, because they are very gentle; they do not tend to bite or scratch.

As with any variety of bird you must research the specific breed that you want, because precisely what you need to care for it will depend on your breed. Question the breeder or your vet (because you must also find a vet that can treat your dove) for details.

First you must determine whether or not you want to keep your dove(s) inside or outside. The latter is possible, but you need to be cognizant of the type of dove you’re getting and the climate in which you live. Most doves originated in a more arid African climate, so they really cannot handle cool temperatures. If you live in an area where it gets cold in the autumn and winter, you’ll either need to always keep your doves inside or bring them in for the season. Some varieties of doves can handle colder temperatures than others, so you can check into that as well.

However, keeping doves outside is not recommended unless you can build a proper enclosure for them, one that will keep them in as well as predators out. Doves cannot protect themselves well, as they have soft beaks and claws, so they are at a danger from most predatory animals and even other birds. That’s why if you have other pets in your home you must be sure to protect your doves from them; make sure nothing can get into their cage.

When purchasing an aviary for doves you do not need to worry about toys or swings. Doves don’t really care for them; all they need is a variety of flat and round perches in their cage. Doves are also fastidious creatures that like to bathe, but be sure not to do it for them, because if done improperly the birds can become injured.

Doves like warm baths, warmer than lukewarm to almost-not-quite hot. Provide fresh warm water for them in a flat wide dish once a week for bathing. If you’d like to learn more about your dove’s bathing habits, watch it: if the dove appears to be trying to bathe in its water dish then it would like to clean itself, so you can provide water accordingly. If the dove is just holding one wing outstretched it’s not trying to bathe, it wants to sun itself.

Don’t keep your doves with any other birds; they don’t necessarily get along with them, and doves are not as equipped to defend themselves as other birds. Even many male doves don’t get along, especially during mating season, which can last nine months to an entire year.

If you want to keep more than one dove two females or a male and a female is best (though if you don’t want baby doves, watch out for the latter). Solitary doves will become lonely, so although all doves will want your affection be especially aware to provide it for lone doves. As with any birds be very careful with doves around small children. Doves are fragile and need careful handling, so small children should only handle them under supervision.

As with any birds, check with the vet or breeders for specifics on what to feed them. They eat seed similar to pigeons, but can also have occasional fresh fruit and vegetables. Doves are sweet, gentle, loving birds that can make wonderful pets so long as you prepare and educate yourself accordingly.

Related Articles:

Bird Basics: Choosing the Right Bird for You

Attracting Birds to Your Yard

Bird Basics: Canaries

Find A Vet on Pet Advocate

Remembering Cher Ami and Other Veteran Carrier Pigeons

*(This image by WagsomeDog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.)

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About Angela Shambeda

Angela lives in southern Maryland with her husband and three rescue pets. She often talks her poor husband's ear off about various topics, including Disney, so she's excited to share her thoughts and passions with you.