Since homing pigeons instinctively return home after long flights, it's not tedious to train them. Homing pigeons have served as a communication method by which a message is taped to their leg. Some people even train homing pigeons for racing. Whatever your purposes, with repetition and patience you can train a homing pigeon in a relatively short period of time.
- Skill level:
Start with young birds that have not flown yet. Place them into a wired area, called a fly pen, every day. Place food and water in the loft so they can associate going into the loft with being fed. Do this for two weeks.
Open the fly pen and let the pigeons out. Don't be alarmed if they fly around crazily. Some may even go for the ground. After a few days, they can flock and start to return to the loft to eat.
Begin training when the pigeons leave for about an hour before returning to the loft. At this point, take the pigeons out five to 10 miles.
Practice letting the birds return. When they have done so correctly three times, double the distance and repeat. Work your way up to 50 miles.
Continue training once a week, even after the birds are regularly returning home. In the winter, do so only on clear, good days. Change the directions when releasing them so they get used to finding their way home from north, south, east and west. Start at five miles from the loft, then work your way farther each time you change direction.
Release the young birds every time when you feed them. Young pigeons need the lure of hunger when you train them. Once you train them, however, the older birds can return home without assistance.
Tips and warnings
- Morning hours are preferable over afternoons for releasing pigeons and training them to return. Also, fly them only on clear, sunny days with little or no wind.
- Slow down the training if you begin to experience losses. Note that some losses are inevitable.
- Do not push homing pigeons beyond their normal range. Most pigeons can find their way home from 50 miles, and, in exceptional cases, from 200 miles.
- The first couple of weeks are hardest. Be patient. Stick with it and you'll find the homing instinct of the pigeons starting to kick in.
- Never scare the pigeons when they are in the loft. They need to feel safe there and want to return to it when you release them.