RL COLLINS, DUCKS, PEKIN BANTAMS AND FANTAIL DOVES

Information on Ducks,Pekin Bantams and fantail Doves also quality birds for sale


CARING FOR FANTAIL DOVES

Fantails have become a very popular breed, both with the fancier and the person who just wants a few to flutter around the garden. They are easy to care for and will become tame. They spend most of their day about the garden, returning to their home each night.

HISTORY

People have kept doves and pigeons for hundreds and hundreds of years. All members of the pigeon family originate from the wild Rock dove that lives along the coast on cliffs. These birds can still be found wild but are very few in number. Pigeons and doves were first kept by people to provide them with a fresh supply of meat. In fact every village would have a dovecote that would contain many birds some times in there hundreds. Now a dayís pigeon meat makes up a very small part of meat that people eat and these birds are kept for enjoyment.

 

         SORTS OF DOVE

There are four main sorts of dove that are kept as aviary birds or free flight in a dove cote. Garden Doves , Garden Fantails, Full Fantails and exhibition fantails. The last three all have permanently erect tails. These can be obtained in different colours but I mainly breed white.

GARDEN DOVE. These are a white bird that have no fantail and are ideal for aviary dovecote and are very often used for weddings and funerals

                                                                           Garden doves

 

 Garden doves

                                                                         

 

 

GARDEN FANTAILS. These have what I call a spade like tail and are once again ideal for both dovecotes and aviary.

                                                                

                                                                       

FULL TAIL. These are mid way between the garden fantail and the exhibition and I feel the most attractive once again ideal for all ways of keeping.

  FULL FANTAIL

                                                                   

 

EXIBITION FANTAIL. These have very large and erect tails that should only be kept in an aviary as they are unable to fly very well

 

                                                                 

 

PURCHASING YOU BIRDS

 

HOW MANY BIRDS ?

Iím often asked how many birds to start with. The answer to this question will depend a lot on the size of your dovecote or the size of the building that you are going to use. The more that you can start with the better as doves like to be part of a flock but its important to think ahead as they will soon start to breed. Each pair of birds will need a nest box or compartment as a guild when your first setting up only fill half the dovecote with pairs. So if you dovecote has 4 holes then you could start with 2 pairs of birds if you have only to holes then have just the 1 pair and so on.

TIME OF YEAR?

When purchasing your birds the time of year will make very little difference apart from the birds that are available to you. As a general rule you will only be able to get young birds at the start of the year and may have to wait a few months for breeding pairs or adults. Also at the end of the year the birds may not be feather perfect, as they will be moulting.

 WHAT TO LOOK FOR?

As with any animal or for that matter any item you buy you get what you pay for. People that are selling birds cheap tend to do so for a reason. Always try to buy from a breeder that can be trusted and if possible go and see the birds. When looking at the birds they should be clean and not covered in droppings from other birds. They should have a bright eye that sparkles and their feathers should be tight to the body not fluffed up as this is often a sign of a sick bird. Ask the seller if you can handle them, they should have a good solidness about them and not be under wait. If your buying young birds make sure that they are feeding themselves I donít sell any young birds until they have been feeding themselves for at lest week.

Before any of my birds leave I ensure that they have been wormed and treated for canker and paramyxo as these are all killer among doves.

Ask the breeder/seller as many questions as you like and if the birds are up to scratch then walk away.

WHAT SEX ?

This will greatly depend on what you want the birds for, of course if you want them to breed then you will need a male and female (cock and hen) if you only want them for a dovecote and donít want them to breed then you can keep two of the same sex together. The only thing to be a wear of is that the males will fight from time to time but if free flying will do little harm to each other. Also two male tend to be less argumentative if there are no females around.

 

                WHEN THE DOVES ARRIVE   

As soon as you doves arrive they will need to be put into their new home. if they arrive late then its best to leave them boxed until the next day when its light. Open the box in a safe place so that if the birds do fly out they are not lost. Gently get hold of the doves and give them a good look over,if there are any problems contact the breeder straight away. Its also a good time to put on and identification rings. One this has all beed done place the birds in their new home. they will need a good drink and a little food. Once this has been done leave them for a few hours to settle down, It should not take them long but dont be worried if they remain out of view fro a day or so.

 

This is the correct way of holding a dove

 

 

HOUSING

Fantails and garden doves can be housed in a number of ways, the most attractive being a dovecote. These come in to forms the wall cote or a pole cote. As their name suggests the wall cote is fixed to a wall and the pole cote stands on a pole. The problem with both of these is that they are hard to clean out and you have no control over the birds. If you wish to ring or examine young birds you will need a good pair of ladders.

 Fantails can be kept in an aviary; whilst it is much easier to clean the birds loose the freedom of fight which they do enjoy. I have tried a number of ways over the years and have found that for me the best way is a small aviary about 6'x3'x6'. Each morning the birds are let out and the door left open, this allows them freedom and at the same time you are able to check any young birds there may be. Each night the door is closed, this keeps them safe over night and allows you to handle any that you need to. A shed or out building could also be adapted and used in the same way.

Whatever way you choose be it aviary shed or out building it will need to be fitted with a few items. The first one being shelves for the birds to roost on. These can be very basic lengths of wood about  4'' wide fixed a various heights. The next item if you intend to breed you fantails, are nest boxes. Again these can be very basic and made from almost any thing, i have found that the best way to make them is out of planks of 4''x1'' timber. A box is then made that measures 12''x4''x4''. The entrance hole needs to be about 4''x4''.

It is important that the birds are contained in their new homes for at least three weeks or they may not return once they have been allowed out

                                                                                                 FEEDING

Fantails are as easy to feed as they are to house. They should be fed on a staple diet of mixed pigeon corn this normally contains corn, wheat, lentils and pulses. poultry layers pellets can be feed but do take a bit of getting used to by the doves All food that is feed should be as fresh as possible  and should always be clean and dry.I have found that the best way of storage is in a metal bin inside a shed or out house. Care should be taken not to attract pest such as rats and mice . Doves also enjoy the occasional piece of bread.  You cam mix your own feed but to be honnist there are a lot of good seed merchants out there that have spent years getting the mix right. They love to eat a few greens for example cabbage and lettuce. Water should always be available and you will be surprised at how much they can drink.

Im often asked which is the best way of providing feed to the birds and i must say that a lot will be dependant on your own life style. If you have plenty of time on your hands then i would recommend that you feed your birds by hand scattering the feed on the floor a few times each day for the birds to eat. The big advantage of feeding this way is that the birds soon start to trust you and you will be able to see what birds are eating. The down side is that you will need to feed them at least three times a day.

The next way and the one that suites the working person is to provide a feed hopper this can be kept topped up and the birds can feed as and when they like. This system is good for when you want to go away for a few days or the birds have young. It also leads to less stress as the birds donít have to wait for food.

Of course there is no reason why you carnt yous both methods as that is what I do.

FEED CONTAINERS

If you choose to use a feed hopper thens its important that you choose the right sort. The hopper must have a steep sloping roof inorder to prevent the birds from sitting on it and fouling the food. It must also have small apertures that only allow the birds to get their head and neck in, This will prevent the birds from chucking the food around. Its important that the hopper is kept of the floor when ever possible as this will help stop dust,feathers extra from getting.

 

 

These are ideal for both feed and water and come in a range of sizes

 GRIT AND MINERALS

GRIT is a very important part of a doves diet, not only is it absorbed by the body to help with good bone growth but it is also used in the gizzard to help break down the hard seeds that they eat. Poultry grit is the best sort to feed as it is the right size and contains oyster shell and lime stone. Grit should always be available to them and can be put in a small dish or a grit hoper. I also like to mix in a little red grit as this contains a lot of trace elements.

SALT also pays a very important part in a doves diet, This is probably due to their close relation ship with the Rock dove that lives and breeds on cliffs around the coast. I have found tht the best sort to use is course sea salt that can be got at most health shops. Care should be taken not to give to much as it can kill them. I keep around 30 doves and fined that about a hand full a week is fine.

PINK mineral should be available to your doves all year round its full of essential trace minerals that help in the growth of bones, feathers, eggs blood cells and also gives them bright eyes. Black mineral should also be given as this helps with digestion and keeps the gut fresh.

       

    

Grit hopers both of these are ideal for grit and can be placed on the floor or attached to a wall.

WATER

Iím sure that we all no the importanceís of water for drinking and this should be provided at all times. I fine that the best way is to provide a water hoper as this stops the water from being soiled. Doves also like to have water to bath in and is infact essential in maintaining good feathers. I like to provide my birds with a bath at least twice a week. A large plant potholder is ideal. Its great to watch the birds and the joy they get, they seem to take great delight in wallowing in the water, expanding their wings and loosening their arrangement of feathers. Once they are saturated, they give a vigorous shake and struggle to fly to a sunny spot to dry. Mine have a bath in offered to them all year round.

SEXING

Members of the pigeon family are notoriously difficult to sex. The only sure way of telling is by watch their behaviour.

The male tends to be slightly larger than the female, with a shorter and bolder head. The female has a slender head and neck; as a result this tends to make her beak appear longer than the males. The male is more showy than the female and coos more loudly paretically in the courtship when the male will turn 360 degrees over and over again in front of the female in an attempt to impress her. It is the male that will bring all the twigs to make a nest and sit inside the nest box cooing to attract a female. Some people suggest that you get a male and female from each nest. If only this was true life would be so much easier. In most case i have found this to be untrue

After a while you get an eye for sexing and just when you think you have got it right a bird comes along and fools you.

BREEDING

Once your fantails have become established they will start to form pairs. The male will be seen strutting and cooing round the female, lowering his head and fanning his tail at the same time turing in circles.this may go on for hours or even days When the moment is right the female will will advance towards the male and the pair will start to bill each other, this is a form of kissing. A short time after the male will start to feed her as if she was a young squab this is a sure sing that they are about to mate.in due course the female will croch down and allow herself to be mate wich last a matter of seconds,If the pair are free flying they will both tend to fly of together with loud clapping of their wings. Once they have formed a boned it will last for life. The male will choose a nest site and with the females approval he will start to collect nesting material. This is normally small twigs, I like to provide them with Tobacco stalks as these not only make great nest but also help to keep away lice and fleas I also like to used a nest pan as not only will it stop the eggs from rolling awy but will make cleaning out affter a lot easier.  these are made from plastic,china or cardboard and can be washed or thrown away afer.The cock may spend days collect  until the pair feels that they have made a nice cup shaped nest. some pairs seem to make the nest as big as possible whilst other will only use a few twigs. 

After a day or so of completion the female will lay her first egg she will then lay a further egg the next day and then incubation will start. Both the male and female will take part in the incubation that lasts for about 19 days. A sure sign that the eggs rae fertile is that towards the end of the incubation period they start to change from a clear white to a bluish grey colour. if they have not hatched by about 21 days its important thet the eggs rae removed or they will couse infections to build up in the nest. The male tends to sit on the eggs during the day whilst the female takes the late afternoon and night shift.

YOUNG BIRDS

The young birds that are known has squabs hatch blind and covered in yellow fluff, and at this stage look rather ugly. Their beaks are soft and spade like so that they can receive semi liquid food that is regurgitated by the parents. This liquid meal is called pigeon milk, as they get older the mike becomes thicker until they can eat whole grains of seed. After about five days their eyes open and at around the seventh day small feather quills will start to show. It is at this age that you should put closed rings on if you wish. Closed rings are used to identify the bird and also the breeder

As the young birds grow so will their appetite, as soon as the parent arrives at the nest there will be much flapping of the wings and loud squeaking. The nest will become more and more dirty as droppings are left by the young bird. I like to clean mine out at least once a week and put a fresh layer of saw dust on the bottom. This will help keep the young birds feathers in a better condition.

The young birds will tend to leave the nest at around 3-4 weeks, the parents will however continue to feed them for a sort while.  At this age they will have all of their feathers and should be starting to learn to fly. It is important that whilst birds are at this age, a little food is place on the floor of the aviary or dove house as they will start to pick it up and learn to feed them selves. At this age you may well see a change in the beak it will start to go from a soft flat looking beak to a hard beak this is a sure sign that they are stating to become independent. Once they start to fly they can if you wish be moved to a separate aviary, this will of course depend on how much space you have in with the adults. At this age they are still to young to sex it will not be until they are around 5 months that you will be certain as to what they are. It is at this age that they will start to look for partners of their own.

 These young doves (squabs) are about 2 days old

 

 

young fantail about 3-4 days old being feed by its dad. They will be feed like this until they can feed their selves.

 

 

Young at about 4 weeks at this age they soon make the nest look dirty.

 

 

ARE MY YOUNG THE RIGHT AGE TO REMOVE FROM THE ADULTS ?

 

If you wish to leave the young birds with the adults then this is fine, the young doves will soon now when its time for them to move house and find their own part of the dovecote or shed that they can call their own. However if you wish to remove the young then it important that you dont do so to soon as they may not be feeding them selfs. There are a few useful guides for this and they are as follows.

 

When it is noticed that the young birds are taking food themselves, a good idea is to place a little food in the nest box with them so that they can strat to pick at it.

 

When the young birds begin to wander and start to leave the nest for short periods

 

When the tail is about 2 inches or more in lenght

 

When the feathering under the wings is complete and acts as a covering.

 

If you are in any way unsure then leave them as long as possible.

 

 

These are ready to leave the nest

 

 

THE SECOND  BROOD

 

Depending on the time of year its more then possible that the adults will start to lay againg whilst they still have young in the nest. A second brood whilst the other young are only 14 days old is more than normal. The eggs are simply laid between the other young, if possible offer them a second nest pan but this is not always possible in a dovecote. You can of course take these eggs away and let them finnish rearing the other young first. However they are more then capable of doing both, please be mind full of the extra strain this puts on the adults and ensure that they are a good supply of grit and minerals. As you may a quest once this second lot reach 14 days they will lay again i would suggest that you remove these eggs to to give the adults a rest.

 

 

NEST BOX

 

Nest Box for garden doves

Here you have a very basic nest box that can be used for white garden doves. I have used this design for many years and fine them to be one of the best and most used by the doves. The sizes are as follows

I have found that the best material to use is planks of 8' x 1' wood

The length of the planks need to be around 36'. The height width and depth is of course going to be 8'. This is then divided in the middle to give you two 18' nest box. The entrance holes need to be about 5' wide and about 5' height.

These nest boxes can then be secured onto the wall of the aviary. If you have a pole cote and need extra nets boxes then these can be attached to the pole or the outside of a near by shed.

 

For bigger tailed birds such as the full fantail and indeed the exhibition you will need a nest box with a bigger opening so as to avoid damage to the big tail.

 

 

 HOMING YOUR NEW BIRDS

 Homing your birds is a very important part of keeping doves and should not be over looked. Homing involves keeping your new birds locked up for 3-4 weeks until they get used to their new surroundings. Its important that whilst being homed the birds can see out of their house this will help them get their bearings so that they know where they have to return to once let out.

As can be seen in the pictures below there are two ways of doing this the first involves building a netted cage around one of the entrance holes. The only down side to this is that you will have to climb up each day to feed and replace the water.

The second option and the one that I like is to place a good strong net over all of the dovecote and then secure it in the ground using pegs. Please donít be tempted to save a few pound by using pea netting as I have seen birds die after getting their heads stuck in the holes.

 

 

 

 

 

A good quality homing net should always be used never attempt to use cheap pea netting.

 

Both of these ways work very well. Thanks to Robert Stephenson for supplying the photos, have a look at his site www.rupert-fish.co.uk for more fantails

If you have trouble getting hold of good netting for homing please have a look at look at my price guide for details

 

LETTING YOUR BIRDS OUT

Letting your doves out for the first time can be a very worrying time and with good reason as this is the time when most birds will be lost. However as long as you follow a few simple rules all should go well and your doves should return.

Make sure that your birds have been kept in for at least 3 weeks 4 to be safe. Donít be tempted to let them out after a week, you may be lucky but im almost certain you will loose at least half of them

Let the birds out in the morning this will allow them all day to fine their way home. Not feed them the afternoon before your going to let them out this will ensure that they are hungry and more likely to hang around. put them some feed midday an the day of letting them out.

Try to choose a day that is dry and clear with as little wind as possible.

Donít be over worried if your doves fly away and go missing for a few hours.

 

PREDATORS

If you allow your birds to enjoy the freedom of flight then you should be aware that sooner or later some of your birds will fall victim to predators. Doveís only have a few predators and these will change depending on where you live. One of the main ones is cats however most dove soon learn to get out of the way. The main threat comes from birds of pray; sparrow hawks and peregrine falcons love them. However the only seem to take birds that are not in good condition as this makes them easy to catch. If you have these birds of pray living in your area then please keep only the garden doves or the garden fantails as both of these are more than capable of getting out of the way. Most birds soon learn that the dovecote is a safe place to be when predators are about.

 

If you have any questions please contact me at r-lcollins@tiscali.co.uk and I will be more than happy to help.


 


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