The Ring-dove as a Pet - A Suitable Cage or Aviary - How to Feed the Birds - The Importance of Cleanliness - Breeding Season - Ailments and their Remedies - How to Tame Doves

Ring-doves as pets should be kept either in a cage or an aviary. If the former be chosen a large open cage is best, kept out of doors all the year round. But as in this climate it is necessary to make arrangements to keep them warm in winter, it is well to have a second covered-in cage, which can be fitted on to the open one, and into which they can walk for warmth and shelter. An aviary should be attached to a wall of the house that catches the sun; a small recess is suitable if wired in at the sides and front and partially at the roof, leaving the brickwork of the recess to form a shelter in bad weather. If, however, a recess is not available, it is well to have some tarpaulins over for the roof of the aviary to keep the birds warm and dry in bad weather. The floor should be of wood or cement, and a separate perch should be provided for each bird.

One great advantage of the ring-dove as a pet is that its feeding is a very simple matter. The birds are best fed on a mixed diet of wheat, tares, barley, small tick beans, corn, and chicken food. They are very fond of the addition of a little hemp, and this should occasionally be given as a treat, but not often, as it is very rich for them. The ring-dove, for all its sweet nature, is a greedy bird, and able to consume great quantities of food. The birds should also regularly be supplied with green food; a leaf of lettuce or cabbage should be placed between the bars of the cage for the doves to peck at, but not thrown on the ground, where they will trample it under foot. This leaf should always be fresh and clean, and taken away directly it is at all withered. In their natural state the birds love to peck at the fresh green blades of corn and turnip leaves, and these can be given to them when they are available. Occasionally a feed of dry crumbs is a treat, and makes a change in their diet. A piece of rock salt must be placed in the cage, and kept fairly moist so that they can peck at it.

The ring dove, so called from the circular mark of brown on its neck, can be kept in captivity with ease, and makes a charming and docile pet Photos, Terry Hunt

The ring-dove, so called from the circular mark of brown on its neck, can be kept in captivity with ease, and makes a charming and docile pet Photos, Terry Hunt

The secret of keeping ring-doves healthy 2754 in captivity is to have everything about them spotlessly clean. They should have clean water for drinking purposes twice daily in a china bowl. The floor of the cage should be sanded, but in cold and damp weather, when the sand gathers the moisture from the atmosphere and is apt to give the birds cold, hay or straw should be substituted, and renewed daily. Their feet should always be kept dry and clean, so that they are red in colour.

Breeding, Feeding, And Tending

The birds should have a bath placed in the cage, so that they can refresh themselves. Some people only give them baths in the warm weather, but it is as well, unless the weather is bitterly cold, to let them have the chance of cleansing themselves all the year round. If a large pie-dish is filled with water and placed in the cage, the doves will jump in and disport themselves. Directly they have had their bath the dish should be removed, as otherwise they are liable to drink the dirty water.

It is as well, unless their owners like the incessant cooing, to keep the birds out of doors, as, except in spring, they coo less than in the house.

Ring - doves, even when free in the woods and forests, have been known to be faithful to their mates for many years. If a male and female dove are kept in captivity they must be supplied with a nest in which the hen may lay her eggs. They are not, when free, among the most successful of bird architects. Their nest, as seen from the ground, consists of a few sticks and twigs placed on the fork of a bough, so lightly bound together that the light can be seen between. A nest, therefore, that is sufficiently warm, and yet resembles that which they would make themselves, is very easily made.

The hen lays two eggs at a time, and fifteen days or so after the second egg is laid the fledgelings may be looked for. The male bird takes his full share in hatching and rearing the young, for doves are very fond of their little ones. In the breeding time they coo with peculiar sweetness. The parent birds should be fed at this time on the smaller grains - tares and wheat are suitable. If the little baby doves have to be fed, because their parents cannot attend to them, the grains should be soaked. At the end of three weeks the eggs, if not hatched, must be thrown away. Unfertile eggs are transparent, and fertile eggs are opaque. If the birds are kept in a cage the young ones should be separated from their parents so soon as they are able to look after themselves. Doves are liable to certain diseases, the most simple of which can be easily treated. For a cold, a dose of Epsom salts, about as much as will lightly cover a threepenny-piece, dissolved in the drinking water, given the first thing in the morning, before feeding, is beneficial. If this is not sufficient, and the bird has watery eyes, coughs, and sneezes, a dozen drops of glycothymoline, in an eggcupful of warm water, injected up the nostrils while holding the beak open so that the fluid will not be swallowed, is efficacious. It is as well, should the weather be cold when the birds are ill, to bring the cage into a warm room. The treatment for bronchitis is, as far as possible, similar to that of a human patient. Try to make the bird inhale steam two or three times a day, give it warm milk to drink containing two or three drops of spirit of camphor, and a little simple food. Ring-doves are timid and nervous by nature, but are easily trained to know their owners. Anyone who desires to gain their affection should always feed and look after them in every way personally. They soon get to know their feeding-time, and will stand beside their food-pot at about nine in the morning and five in the evening - these are good hours to choose - waiting for it to be filled. They can be trained to be friendly with other animals, and even with one so naturally alien as the cat they have been known to be on excellent terms, and have perched on her back and cooed at her side. They seldom fight with one another, and are not upset even if a third dove is put into the cage with a pair that have lived together for years.

A photograph from life, which exemplifies the fact that a ring dove can be trained to live on friendly terms with a cat or other domestic pet

A photograph from life, which exemplifies the fact that a ring-dove can be trained to live on friendly terms with a cat or other domestic pet

Cost, etc.

If doves have been caged for some years, it is useless to let them have their freedom. They are only terrified by the big unknown world outside, and have to be caught and brought back to their cage home.

The cost of these affectionate and intelligent birds is not great; a healthy cock and hen can be had for three shillings and sixpence from a live-stock dealer of repute.