Pigeons are very profitable things to keep, as they breed every month, but they must be well attended to and have plenty of food. They, like poultry, must be kept very clean. The cot, which should face the southeast, should have sand strewed at the bottom about once a fortnight, and all dirt removed at the same time. They hatch two birds at each sitting. The young are perhaps the most unsightly-looking creatures imaginable. They are unable to feed themselves, but the parents are most attentive up to a certain period; as soon as they consider the young should leave the cot, every persuasion is used by them to encourage them to do so, but if unsuccessful by entreaty or persuasion, they forcibly eject them, and make them seek their own food. If pigeons are kept for ornament only, select Fantails, Pouters, Tumblers, and the Carrier pigeon; if for profit, the Blue Rock is the best description. The best food for them is tares and peas. Plenty of water is a great essential. After dry weather, you will see pigeons revelling in a bath, with their wings fully extended, so that no part of their body may be deprived of the benefit of a really good ablution. Starlings are great enemies to them.
Should there be any of these birds located near your pigeon-cot, immediately destroy them, or say farewell to pigeons. They suck their eggs, occupy their nests, and, in fact, entirely root out and destroy the brood of pigeons. Sparrows are also very annoying to them, as they will build in the pigeon-holes. Do not keep too many cock birds among your pigeons, as they are very quarrelsome, and soon thin the dovecot. Pigeons are fond of salt, and, as it is very essential to their well-doing, there should always be a lump of rock-salt for them to peck at, or a large lump of clay placed near the house, thoroughly saturated with brine that may no longer be required for domestic purposes. They are subject to many diseases common to poultry. The universal remedy for all diseases of pigeons may be summed up in two words - bay-salt and cummin-seed, mixed. Should they prove scabby, as sometimes happens, on their backs and breasts, prepare a paste, made of the following ingredients: - A quarter of a pound of bay-salt, the same quantity of common salt, a pound of fennel seeds, a pound of dill seed, the same quantity of cummin-seed, and an ounce of assafcetida; mix with some fine wheaten flour and some well-worked clay, beat all well and thoroughly together, put it into garden saucers, and bake in the oven; when cold, put this paste inside the dovecot.
The pigeons will eat it with avidity, and be rapidly cured. It is well to cultivate the breed of Carrier pigeons, as no one can tell how soon the necessity may arise for making these useful birds the messengers of state secrets; or they may be used between friends as a safe conveyance of correspondence, escaping thereby the espionage of the post-office in some countries. A friend of ours was in the constant habit of corresponding by Carrier pigeon. The rate they fly at, and the distance they travel, is almost beyond belief. Under their little wings those most intelligent pigeons of their breed have not known that the fate of dynasties or families has been confided to their care. Some of these messengers of peace, of love, or of war, have been known to have carried upwards of twelve hundred messages. During the calamitous Franco-Prussian war, upwards of fifteen thousand messages were carried. Readers of the Times may have observed at the commencement of the siege of Paris, the "agony," or second column of that paper, with advertisements to or from families in Paris to their relatives in England or abroad.
In less than three weeks the whole front page of that journal, as well as half the second page, was filled with that description of advertisement, and the greater part of these were conveyed by the trusty Carrier pigeon.