I got a call from a neighbor yesterday. "I have a critter issue, can you help me out?" When I think critter, I think of something with teeth. Thankfully, this critter didn't have teeth. "It's a pigeon. It has leg bands."
A racing pigeon is the reason I ultimately got chickens. More on that later.
This fellow was tuckered out. He'd lost his flock and was trying to get water out of my neighbor's pool. We captured him with little effort and I set out to find out where he belonged. The leg bands are like tiny dog tags. You just need to know how to read them.
If you click on the picture below, I'll walk you through it. The 2008 at the top left, is the year the pigeon was born. The 2752 is the bird's ID number--no other bird has this number. What you can't see is a large AU and the words Quest Syndicate. The AU stands for American Racing Pigeon Union. Quest Syndicate is the name of the team the bird races for. It implies that several people are involved. Hopefully not mobsters, because I was about to find out their phone number and let them know I have their bird. :) The light blue band on the left foot means the bird is a male. I don't know what the larger blue band means.
How did I locate his owner? I Googled "lost pigeon" and hit a familiar website. It walks you through how to locate the owner based on the information on the pink band. It's a very simple thing to do.
Luckily we have unlimited long distance, because it took several calls. I knew that racing always takes place on Sundays. This bird had only been out a day. According to mapquest, this bird was 220 miles from home. He belonged to a Mr. King in Grand Prairie, Texas. I called him, he was out of the office. Luckily, the woman on the phone felt safe in giving me his cell number. I called his cell and reached him at lunch. Turns out the bird didn't come out of Grand Prairie, but somewhere here in Austin. The "syndicate" part of the business means many birds are owned by many people. He didn't have the owner's phone number," but maybe you could Google it." Heavens, what on earth did we ever do before Google??!!
I called Mr. Barker of Barker Roofing. He was out of the office (surprise!). I was given his cell number. When I finally reached him, he asked if I couldn't just give the bird some rest and water and then let it go. It would come home on its own.
Good thing I love animals. Good thing the silly pigeons are fitted (by God) with some sort of internal GPS. They always find their way home. He was given rest and some homemade electrolyte solution and sent on his way.
But who are these beauties? They are Lucy and Ricky. They are the beginning of getting chickens. Lee and I tossed around me starting my own business for about a year. It needed to be something I loved doing if I was going to do it. The idea flew into one of our windows-literally. In August of 2004, a pigeon just like the one in the first picture, slammed into one of our big windows. I found his owner and became fascinated by the idea that they always know where home is. We talked about it and he told me that the doves you always see at weddings are really just white pigeons. Ah Ha!! I could raise pigeons for people's special occasions! Long story, short. It didn't play out. I found that special occasions happen only on weekends (duh!). I would never have any family time. I would be spending my weekends with brides who wanted a perfect ending to a perfect day. The birds can only fly under certain conditions, and that meant I might have to tell the bride, "No" at the very last minute. Wouldn't be pretty.
Pigeons are fabulous parents. Both parents take turns on the eggs. One feeds the other while they sit. They both are able to produce "crop milk" to feed their young. The babies are seriously ugly, but it's hard not to love the devotion between parents and young. A bit of trivia for the next time you're playing Trivial Pursuit---the babies are called Squeakers. I'm serious! Google it if you don't believe me.
The pigeons were given away. I had a coop, why not use it? Chicks were ordered in October. And that's how pigeons led to chickens. Can't take a chicken to a wedding, so my weekends belong to soccer again.