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Some Thoughts About Taming Doves



Nepal
Hatched 1998
Photo taken 2005

The list below is something I dreamed up that gives an indication of the range between a very wild bird and one that is bonded on you. You should not attempt to work with a bird in the first category as injury may occur. Birds that have just been moved into the home are often in this category for a few days to a week or more. Birds in category six are where most tame birds will be, especially those who have mates or those that live with a number of other birds of the same species. The only thing you can do to achieve categories six through ten is to provide a suitable environment where you and the bird can be together as much as possible. Of course you need to make the effort to be aware of the doves needs and to fulfill them whenever possible.

My Ten Degree of Tameness

WILD
1. Frightened -
Will fly away from you at high speed and may crash into objects
2. Very Wild - Will fly away from you when approached
3. Moderately Wild - Will only fly away from you if you attempt to pick up the bird
4. Semi Wild - Will ask for food (chickadees, Canada jays, geese, pigeons, grackles)
5. Partially Wild -
Will try and communicate with you to meet their needs (doves on a feeder)
6. Tame - Will allow you to pick them up and will perch on your finger
7. Very Tame - Will sit on or near you for long periods of time - will accept treats
8. Extremely Tame - Will come to you wanting to be picked up, will land on your head
9. Almost Bonded - Will express affection by wing shaking, kissing, snuggling, etc. 
10. Bonded - Females will lay eggs for you -males will do bow coos for you.
BONDED

The list below shows the continuum from birds in captivity that are easy to tame to those that are difficult to tame.  For an efficient taming process I recommend that you convert the living situation of the bird to be tamed to the third category as birds that are living alone are the most easily tamed.  However, you may not want to to this with birds in category seven as such birds will miss their mate and probably will not be very receptive to the taming process.

Kinds of Birds Relating to Ease in Taming

EASY
1. Hand raised chicks
2. Chicks raised by parents but handled often
3. Single birds living alone
4. Single birds living with or near other birds
5. Handicapped or Injured Birds
6. Birds living with a flock of other birds
7. One of a bonded pair of birds
HARD

PROCEDURES

Separate the bird to be tamed from any other birds you may have.

Each day take the bird in a cage to a "training room" that is relatively small (about the size of a small bathroom but with all mirrors and windows covered) and has a minimum of landing locations for the bird. Once the bird stops flying you should be able to attempt to pick him up without having to move more than a few steps. Release the bird and when he stops flying attempt to pick him up by placing a finger under his chest. He will fly away. Repeat the process without hurrying until the bird is tired and will perch on your finger. Talk or coo at the bird while he is on your finger and maintain eye contact by moving your hand so the bird is always facing you. Offer a small cup of warm water which may be refused. If the bird flies away repeat the process up to 15 to 30 minutes a day and then return the bird to his cage.

Continue repeating the process each day until the bird does not fly away from you after you first try to pick him up

Once he is willing to sit on your finger without flying, offer treats. Try various foods until you find something he will accept. I have used shredded mozzarella cheese, oats, soft bread, and small pieces of dried noodles. If the bird snaps at you be sure he snaps on some food.

Once the bird will allow you to pick him up, will sit on your finger for some time, and will accept treats you can consider him tame but not bonded.

To continue the process, the bird must be allowed out of a cage in an area where you work, read, watch TV, or whatever. If kept separated form other birds, he will want to be near you whenever possible. Eventually the bird will readily accept hugging and petting and will greet you by shaking its wings. Then you need to make and effort to learn the birds coos and the context in which they area used. Doves expect to be told when you are leaving and greeted when you return. If you are out of sight and they coo for you. you should learn to respond to their "long distance" coo so they do not have to go looking for you.

My daughter's bird eventually learned to like a great variety of human food and when she was living alone they usually ate supper together, so you might save some of your supper and see if the birds are interested. Ringnecks and other doves often like warm, soft human cooked foods. But it does take time to introduce new foods.

Another thing you can do that might help would be to wear the same shirt or jacket when ever you go into the aviary and be sure it does not have and red or yellow colors in it. That would help the birds be sure you are always the same person.

Some birds are easy to tame and some are hard and will take much longer. I have had a ringneck dove that took six months to tame and I have had a wild pigeon that was tame in a few days. In the first week the bird even went outside with us and never flew away.

More than anything else in the taming process you need patience and the recognition that the process may take a long time.

One reader wrote in that he felt that all you needed to do to tame a dove was to hand feed him or her all of his food.  I have never had the opportunity to experiment with this method but if you have the time to develop a hand feeding routine ocne or twice a day you may want to try this method.

References

None

1997 - 2007 - Helen White
Helen White
P. O. Box 367,
Tallahassee, FL 32302-0367
 

Last revised on: May 14, 2007