I imagine it comes as no surprise to you that I love animals. You name it, I’ve raised it: from horses, to chickens, cows, pigs, goats, rabbits, sheep, llamas… I try to be practical about it. I say each animal on the ranch has to get along, and everyone has to pay their rent. Their jobs range from caring for us on the trail, packing, breeding, providing milk or eggs, and companionship. Yes, I write that one off as a job. Sometimes (gulp, I’m sorry, but this is the truth), their “rent” is a place in the freezer. But they had a good life with me, and I can take pride in being as self sufficient as possible.
So would it surprise you to know that I raise doves? Right here in my kitchen? No, we don’t eat them. I don’t know quite what they do except keep us company and sing pretty songs right here in our home which helps us get through the long winters when most birds have got wise and gone south.
But one thing I can tell you they do is have babies. Again, yes, right here in my kitchen. I guess they like it here, guess they don’t much mind being “cooped up.” By the time one baby hatches, they don’t wait long to lay and sit on another egg. We’d end up with a very crowded bird cage, but I’ve found a few people (including a pet shop) who are happy to relieve me of the off spring when the parent birds tell them it’s time to fly to coop.
One such pair we gave to my sister’s kids. My sister, of course, did not mean to keep them. Her job was to deliver them to the pet shop for me. However, Trinity and Logan fell for them in a bad way. I admit, I egged them on just a little. But they most subtly begged and pleaded and whined and pouted and negotiated, until my sister really had no choice in the matter. That sister of mine is a mighty sweet sucker… so next thing we hear, she’s buying a cage…
Problem was one of those doves was a dwarf female, and the other a dominant male. It did not make for a good friendship. You’ve heard of the “pecking order,” and anyone who raises animals will tell you it’s for real. Poor little Snowdrop was getting pecked on quite regularly by Big Bully. Now, there was never a wound, but it’s still not a pretty sight. We keep the doves because of their beauty and their gentle, content nature. Seeing them fight or bicker or pick on each other is just not OK. Pecking order. It’s not a good thing. It’s natural, yes, but that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate it. We can do something about it. It’s also not natural to be cooped up in a cage, so we do have responsibility to care for our feathered friends.
So, Big Bully Bird was given away, and a replacement partner for Snowdrop was promised to Trinity and Logan as soon as one hatched out and grew. Well, this “replacement bird” turned out to be a beauty. It is quite remarkable to observe the variation within the breed, even among full siblings. But more important of course than her appearance was that she was nice. Squeak, as she was named, we were sure would be the perfect companion for Snowdrop.
When my parents came to visit last weekend, they had to leave with a companion (yup, they had to take Squeak out in a cardboard box on snowmobile) to deliver to my sister’s home.
The following morning, my sister reported that Snowdrop had instantly greeted her new best friend by scootching up along the perch and snuggling against her newly found full sister. Amazing to me, their love and need of companionship; and when it’s a nice one, not a bully one, how beautiful kind they are to each other. They are considered birds of peace and love for a good reason
These photos say it all. It brings tears to my eyes to see how these birds are so content just being with this gentle girl. This is not something we “trained” the doves to do before giving them to my sister’s kids. We did not hold our birds, only enjoyed their close companionship, and I suppose the birds were raised without fear of humans. But to be as comfortable as they obviously are with Trinity is something extra special that we certainly can not take credit for – all credit there remains in the gentle touch of this young girl and her kind brother. There are no tricks here – no clipped wings, no strings, nothing to hold back the doves, just a comfy warm safe place to be. They know. Why fly off?
I remind myself of the big lessons here – not everyone gets along, but you just don’t need those ones in your cage! Don’t put up with the pecking order. Being alone for a little while beats being pecked on. And a gentle soul will be rewarded with a kind and loving companion.