For 12 pairs of breeders, the dimensions of the house should be about six feet wide and eight feet deep (48 square feet to allow the four square feet of floor space per pair that is needed). It is important that the house should be as rat proof as possible, and, as in the case of chicken housing, that it be dry, well ventilated and facing south for maximum sunlight. Open or semi-closed front may be used, but, as you would expect, the warmer the house in winter the better. A maximum temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit in winter will tend to increase squab production, but you can get along fine without artificial heat.
There should be a double nest for each pair of breeders. Orange crates, with three inch board nailed across front at bottom and a six inch hinged landing board, piled one on top of another will serve for this purpose. Twelve such crates would be needed for a 12 pair house. If you build your own nests, each one should be about 12 inches square and 15 inches high.
Long leaf pine needles, straw, hay and tobacco stems are all used for nesting material. If nest bowls (which can be purchased from supply houses) are used, nesting material is not so necessary but some material is generally provided. The nesting material may be kept in a crate or rack in one corner of the pen to prevent waste. The pigeons will carry the material to build their own nests.
On the south side of the house there should be a wire-covered yard or "fly" as it is called. It can be approximately the same size and shape as the house. One-inch-mesh wire is good to use as it keeps out sparrows and rats. This wire should extend 12 inches into the ground, making a right angle bend at the bottom and extending 12 to 18 inches away from the pen to keep rats out.
Three to four inches of sand or gravel makes an ideal floor as this drains freely and is cleaned easily. A cement yard sloped to drain well and with one inch of sand is even better. "Running boards" about eight inches wide should be placed on sides of pen.
Water, Feed and Health of Squab
Bathing in addition to drinking water must be provided for pigeons. An ordinary dishpan will serve for bathing and should be filled with water and left in the yard (except on cold winter days) for no more than one hour or two a day. Then empty the pan and turn over so that pigeons cannot soil it.
For drinking water, use a regular chicken fountain. The water should be changed daily and the fountain kept clean. Obviously, running water handy to pen is a desirable convenience.
The young squabs are fed by the parents. The pigeons themselves should be fed a ration of whole grains — no mash or green feed. Minerals are fed in a separate mixture. Ordinary chicken feed will not do.
The simplest procedure is to buy a prepared pigeon ration from your grain dealer — and be willing to pay considerably more per pound for it than for chicken feed. It usually pays to buy the better grades offered, because they contain more of the ingredients the pigeons like and which are particularly good for them, such as peas.
A good pigeon feed will contain from 13 to 15 percent protein, 60 to 70 percent carbohydrates, 2 to 5 percent fat, and no more than 5 percent fiber. You will find an analysis of the feed you buy tagged to the bag. One pair of breeders will probably eat about 90 to 100 pounds of grain per year.
Use a self-feeder hopper that holds feed waste to a minimum. Since pigeons will pick out certain favorite grains it is advisable to put only about one day's supply of grain in the hopper at one time.
At your feed dealer's you can also obtain a prepared pigeon grit, mineral mixture. This should be fed in an open pan or hopper, slightly moist, and kept before the pigeons at all times.
Pigeons are subject to many of the diseases that affect other poultry. However, in a small flock founded on healthy stock and with reasonably careful management, you should have little trouble. The floor of the house should have one inch of sand or gravel, droppings should be raked from house and yard once a week.
Nests and nest bowls should be cleaned whenever squabs are "harvested" — and nests containing eggs or squabs should not be disturbed. Twice a year, the house and pen should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.