King Pigeons || Hitchhiking to Heaven

Yuzu & Quince

Guess what’s new here?

Pigeons and Nest Bowl

If you follow the Hitchhiking to Heaven Facebook Page you probably already know that we’ve been building a pigeon house. (I should probably call it an aviary or dovecote, but to me it’s a pigeon house.) We’re still working the details — nest boxes, perches, and so on — but right now, as seen from our kitchen window, it looks like this . . .

We built this big bird house because I couldn’t stand to live another minute without pigeons. Pigeons? So many people have been asking, “Why pigeons?” Or, “What are they for?” It’s a good question. We’re not going to eat them, race them, fly them, breed them, or show them. They aren’t a productive source of eggs like chickens or ducks. So ask me again. Why pigeons?

Because of this . . .

King Pigeon


And this . . .

King Pigeon

Quince (You Can Call Him Quincy)

They are so beautiful. And they are an absolute joy to have around.

Yuzu and Quince are King Pigeons. These pigeons are, in fact, primarily bred to be meat; typically they are slaughtered as squab at about four weeks, just a little younger than these two are now. Sometimes people see these live birds in meat markets and, struck by their fragile beauty, they buy them and “set them free.” Unfortunately, because Kings are so thoroughly domesticated, to free them is to condemn them. They aren’t capable of surviving without human care. Most abandoned King Pigeons die of starvation, illness, or predation within a matter of days or weeks. It’s a sad story.

But it doesn’t have to be. Here in the Bay Area, there is a wonderful organization called MickaCoo. It’s the “pigeon and dove” division of Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue. Since its beginning, MickaCoo, under the direction of the extraordinary Elizabeth Young, has placed hundreds of rescued pigeons with adopters like me. Elizabeth writes about her work (and her birds!) on her blog, The Rescue Report.

The pigeons that arrive at MickaCoo are most often picked up by caring folks who find them in all kinds of difficult circumstances. Yuzu and Quince were rescued — confused and sick — on the corner of Geary & 9th in San Francisco. They were brought to San Francisco Animal Care and Control, where two kind volunteers kept an eye on them and delivered them to Elizabeth when it became clear that they needed medical care. (Again, most aren’t so lucky as these two. Most of the pigeons brought into animal shelters are euthanized without ever being considered for adoption.) Now they’re here with me, where I am finishing up their treatment for respiratory infections and helping them adjust to their new home. They’ve been through a lot in the five short weeks since they hatched!

King Pigeons

This Morning in the Kitchen

Here they are, getting used to the pigeon house, where they’ve discovered that it makes good sense to sit right down in their garden of baby lettuces. Because why not? You can relax and snack at the same time.

King Pigeons

We think that Yuzu is female and Quince is male, but only time will tell. Yuzu is smaller, but she is feisty. I’ve decided that Quince’s name suits him well:  He is round and docile as a pomme. So far, he is as cooperative and easy to handle as Yuzu is scrappy. One thing I’ve noticed about him is that he’s an emotional eater — he eats when he’s scared. (I have heard that many pigeons do that. They are trying to act hearty and strong in the face of a threat.)  So whenever I pick up Yuzu, Quince runs for his feed. It’s funny to watch. Yuzu doesn’t do that. She stands and stares me down.

I love them both.

King Pigeon

Quince Meets the Straw

In the weeks to come, I will share more about these two — and the two more we eventually want to add to the flock. Sometime, I’ll also tell the story of how I came to know and love Kings in the first place, because of one young pigeon who found me years ago and made it clear she wanted to be my bird. Her name was Luna and she lived with me for almost thirteen years. I always knew that when I was settled into a good home of my own I would want, in turn, to provide a safe place for as many smart, funny, snowy white birds as I could make space for.

King Pigeons

Did we really throw all that seed on the floor?

Welcome, Yuzu and Quince!

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