There were pigeons in the park just across the street from my childhood city home. They would gather on the pavement in front of the park benches and eat whatever folks might toss their way.

I do not recall ever feeding the birds, but I do remember thinking that they were somehow magical. Against the constant backdrop of the city traffic, I found their cooing a comfort. I remember how I liked to watch as the larger ones would strut about, their chests pushed forward, dancing among the flock. I later learned that these were the males, looking to gain the favor of a lifelong mate.

On a quick glance, these city pigeons all looked gray, almost matching the city sidewalks, but I knew that with a closer look, their feathered bodies were highlighted with shimmering greens, beautiful blues and dark black accents.

I remember how I would walk slowly across the park and head toward their milling midst. My goal was to pass among them and cross from one side of the scavenging flock to the other without startling them into flight, yet no matter how hard I practiced my slow pigeon walk, there would always be one bird that would flinch at my passing.

In an instant, I would find myself in the midst of a swirling whirlwind of birds, only to be left on the ground, watching as they circled high above my head and flew off into the city sky.

I imagined that if one day I could make it from one side of the milling birds to the other, that they would not fly off, but would rather gather around me and declare me their queen. I did not quite know what it would mean to be the pigeon queen, but I figured that it could only be special. Well, I grew up, and moved away from the house across the street from the park, and I don’t remember ever walking across their midst without a startle.

Then one day, many, many years later, some people from a neighboring county stopped by the farm for a visit.

We talked of many things and when it came to our animals, we told them that we had gotten into goats because a young girl had given them to us. The first rabbits at the creek had come from a friend whose grandchildren had lost interest in the endeavor.

One of our dogs had simply wandered by and never left, while our first chickens were a gift from friends who were moving away, and the little horses were the result of a farm’s unplanned population explosion. Our visitors smiled and asked if we would like a pair of homing pigeons. Of
course, we said yes. Apparently, an errant racing bird had landed on their front porch. The bird was banded, and they had been able to track down the owner, who had agreed to give them a mating pair in exchange for his lost racer. Our visitors had, in turn, promised us a pair of offspring.

Greg set to building a pigeon coop. We actually retrofitted a gazebo, that is really more like a pigeon palace than a pigeon coop. It is covered in wire mesh to keep out creek valley predators.

There is a door for ease of human access, a wide landing pad so the birds can free fly by day and be safely closed up at dusk, and of course, the coop is furnished with multiple perches.

Our birds arrived. To thwart inbreeding, Greg and I traveled north to add a few more birds to the genetic pool, and I began to learn about pigeons in earnest. I learned that they mate for life, and that both parents sit on the nest and feed the young. I learned that they fly as a group to distract
predators, and I have witnessed that this tactic usually works. I have watched a hawk dive on my flying flock, only to veer off as my birds dart and swerve in unison.

They usually come out of their coop to fly several times each day, soaring in wide sweeping patterns up and down the creek valley, easily cruising 40 miles an hour. I can hardly think of anything more beautiful than to watch them in flight. Sadly, though, I have also encountered piles
of pigeon feathers in the fields. I then know that one of my birds was unable to avoid predatory pursuit.

I have also learned that our pigeons easily recognize us as their keepers. They also know our dogs, chickens and our often free-ranging goats.

And yes, I can walk right through their midst as they dine on a treat of scattered scratch grains. They do not startle in the least, and I smile.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.