How to Tame a Dove

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Several species of Columbidae -- pigeons and doves -- have been domesticated or semi-domesticated. The pet birds you are most likely to come across called a dove rather than a pigeon is the ringneck dove (Streptopelia risoria). Different species have varying care requirements, but the process of bonding with ringnecks is much the same for all doves and pigeons.

Considerations

Doves that were not hand-reared may never become that confident around people. You can tame such doves to a certain extent -- for example, they may be happy to eat treats from your hand -- but they might never enjoy being petted. Handle them only when absolutely essential, using a net to catch them if necessary. Hand-reared doves, on the other hand, can bond very closely to people. If you want hands-on pets, rather than birds to look at, find a reputable breeder and adopt a thoroughly people-socialized pair. General animal sanctuaries sometimes have doves or pigeons, but your best bet for rescues is a specialist pet bird sanctuary.

Housing

Before you adopt any doves, get suitable housing set up first to help the creatures feel comfortable and secure as soon as you acquire him. All doves need space to fly, so you are looking at a large aviary. Where you keep the aviary depends on the species. Some doves will be fine outside; others cannot cope with extreme cold and must be kept inside. You need a spare room for indoor doves. Include plenty of perches -- doves are sociable and should be kept in pairs or a small group. Although they spend a lot of time on the ground, each one needs several perching options.

Welcoming New Doves

When you bring your pets home, be low-key. The experience of moving is stressful for birds. Even a hand-reared, confident dove needs time to settle into his new home. Transfer your birds to the cage as quickly and calmly as possible, using both hands to pick them up, cupping each dove’s wings so he can’t flutter in panic. Cover the cage with light cloths, such as a bed sheet, to give a sense of security. Keep pets away for at least the first week; ensure that children are calm around the new birds.

Bonding With Your Doves

After a couple of days, start spending time next to the cage, perhaps reading or working on a laptop, to accustom the doves to your company. If the cage is big enough, consider sitting in the cage for short periods once the birds are comfortable with your being nearby. The next step is offering treats, such as mealworms, pieces of carrot or spray millet, by hand. If a dove won’t take the item from your hand, drop it a few inches away. Ensure that each bird gets at least one treat each time. After a while, the doves should be happy to take treats straight from your hand. This might be the limit of bonding for some specimens; others might gain the confidence to perch on your knee or shoulder and allow themselves to be stroked. Take your cue from their behavior; don’t push things. Your doves may never become pettable.

    Photo Credits

    • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images