How To Train Your Pigeon


31 Monday 31st January 2011

When we heard that the prisoners and their friends trained the pigeon themselves, we started wondering how they went about it. It turns out that you can do it too – if not to get drugs to Columbian prisoners, then to move data faster than rural broadband can. 

Training your very own pigeon is surprisingly straightforward. First you need an area called a loft, where it can live, with its own little pigeon-sized entrance. Then you get yourself a young pigeon, feed it and tell it to make itself at home. When it has been there for a while and understands that life in your loft is pretty sweet, take it outside and show it the door.

Casa Popenoe, former pigeon mansions in Guatemala

Push it through the door again and again until it starts to walk through it on its own. Later, when it gets hungry, pick up your pigeon and walk away from your loft, then let it go. Your pigeon will be super pissed to be leaving the loft when it wants its meal. The idea is that it will fly straight back and be waiting for you when you return, wings on hips, with one foot tapping and an eyebrow cocked.

A Parisian pigeon fancier

Repeat this exercise, going further and further each time. Keep your fingers crossed that your pigeon isn’t too stupid to forget to fly back. To avoid this, you can try training it to recognize a sound, like a whistle or seeds rattling in a tin, to remind it of food before you let it go. Also keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t get eaten by a bigger bird on its way home. Blowing on the whistle won’t help you here, but it might make you feel better after you watch your pigeon being carried away by a hawk.

You may have noticed that this training requires extensive contact with an often nasty and diseased bird, and you may be among those who would prefer to avoid such contact. Perhaps you have seen pigeons cannibalize each other, or perhaps, like me, you have seen one with an exposed brain stare into the same square of empty space for three days before someone put it out of its misery. Think everyone feels that way? You could not be more wrong!

For those who, like Mike Tyson, love pigeons, opportunities to commune with your fellows abound. We recommend you start with Pigeon Talk, the online temple to pigeon passion, where you can find information on training your own flock as well as on giving antibiotics and nutritional supplements to ungrateful feral pigeons. From there, you can move on to magazine subscriptions and events where people ‘judge a pigeon like you judge a woman.’

For those still unconvinced, we can also recommend the tragic saga of Willie the Pigeon. His Miami owner, Mike, offered us some insight into human-pigeon friendships,

My pigeon was more of a home pigeon. He was so tame and landed in my yard, and we did everything. But he got killed last August by a stray cat that broke through the screen. I can tell you that somehow a pigeon can go anywhere and return, fast, like it has a built in GPS unit. If you really want a story, watch my pigeon videos, you will not believe him, seriously.

If, even after this (did you see Mike’s harmonica number at 2:56?), you remain unmoved, then you may want to hold off training your own birds while you consider employment in Retford. We can't help you... we give up.

Willie the pigeon was killed on August 26, 2010. You can see his memorial video on Mike's youtube account,

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