Basics for Your New Dove


New Dove Perches Dust Control Temperature Bathing Other Birds
Other Pets Hazards Supplies Bird Activities Children Dove Tired?


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New Dove:

It is always a good idea to quarantine a new pet when you first bring it home. Keep stress to a minimum. The new bird should be placed in a warm, quiet area with fresh food and water. Let your new pet get used to its new surroundings before subjecting the dove to handling, noise or stress. Be sure to use good hygiene by washing thoroughly after each handling of the bird or cage. Most birds carry worm eggs in their defecations. A health check up & lab tests by a veterinarian is strongly suggested for any new pet you bring into your home. Check your yellow pages or local pet stores to find a vet which is experienced in avian medicine. If you have other birds in your home, be sure to quarantine your new arrival for about 3 weeks. Look for signs of illness or problems with your new pet. If you have heeded the advice of having your new pet examined by an avian vet, be sure to write down & follow any advice that they provide. 


Use both hands when handling the bird. They are stronger than they look. They will rapidly shrug their wings and kick with their feet with quick, unexpected and abrupt attempts. Go to the Perches and Supplies on this page for information on items you will need for your new bird.


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Pied Ringneck


Doves are not fond of toys or swings like a parakeet. Save your money. They are fairly sedentary and spend most of their time standing on the perch and eating. It is important that you provide the appropriate perching alternatives for the doves. For sleeping and mating, they need a stable flat surface wide enough for the Dove to stand flat footed. A  2 inch by 1/2 inch thick board, cut  to the same length as the perches that came with the cage makes a good flat perch. It will need to be notched appropriately to snugly fit the cage bars. For traction & easy cleaning, two long, clear, adhesive bathtub anti-slip strips are a good choice. You can also add round perches so the dove can exercise its feet and choose where it wishes to stand.


To temporarily improvise for a flat perch, you can place two or three round perches side by side to allow flat foot standing. Don't use sandpaper perch covers. The birds will pick at them for grit. Sandpaper contains aluminum oxide and is not safe for ingestion. A 3/4 inch diameter cloth rope perch and a wooden perch at different levels and locations in the cage provide the doves with alternative choices for better health for their feet. The wooden round perches should not be smaller than 1/2" diameter or larger than 3/4".


Warning! The information on how to make a flat perch is for demonstration purposes.  If you choose to make your own flat perch, you assume full responsibility for any injuries or damages incurred in the process.


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Flat perch

Dust Control:

If your doves are caged inside your home, it is important to know that they produce a fine dust that coats their feathers. Doves use the dust to preen their feathers where it becomes airborne with movement of their wings. This dust can get into your furniture, appliances and can irritate the lungs. An ionizer placed near the cage, similar to the ones sold on "The Sharper Image" is a tremendous benefit to reducing dust in the air. A HEPA air filtration unit would also be a good investment as would a HEPA filter for your forced air heating system but change your filters weekly. A cold water humidifier will also help keep the dust down in the winter. Be sure that the filtration systems do not blow directly on the birds or create a draft.  Bathing the bird will also reduce the dust. If you need to isolate the dust, a sheet of polyurethane plastic stretched tightly over the door frame, attached with adhesive velcro strips  makes a great dust barrier. The velcro strips allow you to re-enter and reseal the room upon exiting. Even a bed sheet tacked over the door will help. Make sure that any option used does not allow air to escape at the bottom. 


Keep the birdcages clean to prevent bacteria from dried feces becoming airborne. Keep the cage paper changed weekly.


For more information, see the allergy section.


Warning! The information on how to seal a door is for demonstration purposes. Adhesive and tacks will probably damage the paint or wood on your door frame. If you elect to try these dust control measures, you assume all responsibility for any damages to your home.



Do not take your dove outside into the sunlight. If your dove has access to sunlight, they will stretch out in it... however, they get overheated very quickly and they must be able to get away from the sun into the shade and not have to wait for someone. Those few seconds are all it will take for them to die a very horrible death. How would you like to be caged out in the direct sunlight??


Keep your Doves away from drafts and chilly air. They quickly acclimate to room temperatures. If you have a separate room for the birds, it is a good idea to close the duct to your forced air heating and cooling system. This will keep the birds from being chilled by the air conditioning and it will reduce dust from being stirred up and cycled throughout the house. Do not allow the temperature to drop below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A portable electric heater which circulates a sealed fluid and resembles the old style water radiators is a great way to keep the birds warm. There is a photo of one on the aviaries page. These cost less than $40 at any WalMart or Lowes. Keep it  away from the cage by at least a foot and away from furnishings and draperies. Do not use extension cords or bypass a grounded prong on the electrical outlet. Do not overload the breaker or outlet. The room should not be more than 75 degrees Fahrenheit unless you have a sick bird. Do not use any other kind of portable heater. The others are too dangerous and could cause serious damage or harm to your house and family.


Sunshine entering the room through windows will quickly heat up a room to temperatures that can kill a bird and other pets. Be sure to turn off any portable heater if the room is being warmed by the sun. Adjust your blinds accordingly to reduce overheating and overexposure. If you allow your bird to sit in the sun, it is imperative that the bird have shade where it can move into when it becomes too hot and fresh water, or you may return to find a dead bird. Remember that the sun will continue to change direction throughout the course of the day.


Your bird will hold its folded wings away from the body when it is too hot. It will also start panting heavily and need plenty of drinking water. Find a way to reduce the heat and circulate the air when the bird is overheated.


When your Dove is cold, it will fluff the feathers up like a puffed ball in order to insulate them from the cold. Shivering helps the bird to fluff the feathers and keep warm. Try to moderate the temperature accordingly. A sheet or light blanket over the cage will help keep the birds warm and free from drafts. Birds will also fluff their feathers when sleeping and when ill. Avoid any sudden changes of temperature.


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Sunbathing by stretching a wing


The way to get a dove to bath in water is to provide a dish of water at least 2 inches deep... not more than 3 inches. The water should be toasty warm like you would have for your own bath.... NOT lukewarm. They like it almost hot even if the weather is hot outside. Their normal body temperature is between 103-106 so warm water to you is cold to them.


My outdoor aviary doves do enjoy a good bath in a large shallow Pyrex casserole dish when the temperature outside or in the room is 75 degrees or more as long as the water is clean. They wont get into dirty water. Bathing may be an issue of need to eradicate vermin from the feathers that determines whether they will choose to bathe. It is important for their health to be periodically bathed. You can try setting a pie, cake or casserole pan or dish the bottom of the cage. Especially if you see them trying to bathe in the water dish.  When they hold one wing in the air, they are trying to sun themselves... even if the sun is not shining on them.


Warning!!! Not many people can properly bathe & dry their own bird. If done improperly, you can kill the bird or cause great damage to the feathers. This process is not recommended unless you really know what you are doing. You assume full responsibility for your bird's welfare if you try to give it a bath. This information is for demonstration purposes and is not a recommendation for you to attempt to bathe your bird. This is only how I bathe my own birds. If you attempt to bathe your own birds, then you are proceeding solely at your own risk.


Within the first week of bringing the new bird home and twice a month thereafter, I usually give them a bath in the sink. The bathroom temperature is no less than 72 if not warmer and the doors are closed to prevent drafts and escapes. I never have a fan or vent turned on in the bathroom because an escaping bird could end up caught in the blades. I keep all objects away form the sink. The bird may struggle to escape and I do not want anything falling into the water.


The water is toasty warm like your own bath water but not hot enough to cause discomfort to the bird. They will not like it if the water is too cool. Lukewarm is too cool. The water is no more than 3 inches deep. The bird is never near the running water where it could be burned. I wait until the sink is filled before adding the bird. After gently wetting the Dove, I use Johnson's No More Tears baby shampoo to gently clean the feathers. I always keep one hand on the bird at all times to maintain control. I usually shampoo and rinse twice. This will help to remove any mites, feather dust and defecation from the feathers. I also make sure to clean the feet. Bathing a dove requires extreme gentility. Feathers should not be scrubbed or rubbed in the wrong direction. Pin feathers on the back, belly and under the wings will come out easily if you are not careful. The feathers on the back tend to mat down. The shampoo has to be kept out of their eyes so I am careful when washing the face and head. The water should never be allowed to get into the birds mouth or nose. I am careful to rinse all of the shampoo from their feathers. If their eyes are irritated, I use a drop of ophthalmologic tear replacement liquid which not medicated like Visine. 


After the bath, I then gently towel dry and keep warm for 15 minutes. The more water that can be soaked out of their feathers, the easier it is to dry them. It is imperative that the bird is not subjected to a chill or a draft. After soaking up the water from the feathers, I use a blow dryer on the lowest heat and lowest fan setting. Medium is too hot and the bird will die from overheating in just a few minutes if you overdo it. 


Warning!! If the bird has its mouth open or starts gasping, IMMEDIATELY STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!! If you see the bird taking deep gasps, you have less than 30 seconds to a minute to stop what you are doing and calm the Dove before it dies. This is the sign of the final gasps before death!


I  regulate the blow dryer at a warm temperature and keep my hand on the dove where I am blowing to ensure that it does not feel hot on my hand. I keep the blow dryer at least 8 to 10 inches away from the bird. I have a cooling trigger on the handle that I can rapidly alternate between the settings.  I try to separate the feathers while blow drying to make it easier to dry but extreme caution is required to avoid dislodging the pin feathers on the back above the tail which are not deeply anchored. Some of my doves actually love the blow dryer and will try to move toward the warm air. The bird will shiver and shudder to fluff up and separate the feathers. This is important to drying the feathers. I keep the dryer air away from the face and eyes. The force of warm air will  kill the bird after just a minute. I dry the head from behind the head and do it in alternating short spurts. The face, underbelly, rear and under the wings are the most sensitive to heat and where the most precaution must be taken to keep the dryer on a mild setting. After the feathers are thoroughly dry, I snuggle the bird in a dry towel and hold it for a while to keep it warm. The bird must be kept from drafts and in a warm location for the next 8 - 12 hours following a bath. Even if the bath was administered by the bird rather than a human.


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Bath towel

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Other Birds:

Never place your pet Dove into a cage with other types of birds. A Dove is defenseless against most other birds. A Dove's bill is soft and incapable of breaking through the shell on a seed, much less defending against attack. Hook-billed birds such as parakeets and parrots can rapidly kill a dove even if the hook-bill is smaller than the Dove. Doves have paper thin skin which will tear open with the slightest injury. 


Doves prefer their privacy and the company of other Doves. Although in the wild they peacefully co-exist with other wild birds, Doves often become the prey of larger birds. Their only defenses to protect their nests is to fluff up their feathers to appear larger, and raise their wings as shields. The only damage they can inflict with their soft bills is to pull out feathers of the attacker and poke at the eyes.


When placing a dove into a cage with other doves, it is imperative to watch carefully for doves picking at or fighting with other doves. Males frequently do not get along with other males in a cage or in a large aviary, especially during mating season which is about 9 months out of the year (sometimes all year in captivity.) Even in a large aviary, the battles between the males for domination have the males relentlessly pursuing the weaker males. The best combination for raising Doves is to allow the doves to pair and provide their own roomy cages where they can enjoy their privacy with a mate. Mating is not a definite indicator that you have a male and female combination. It is not uncommon for doves to pair and mate with their own sex. A lone dove will become attached to the owner or an inanimate object for a mate. You will probably not get to hear the melodic cooing of mating season if you have a lone Dove and the lone female may not lay any eggs. A lone dove will need you to pet and hold them for at least 30 minutes each day. For more information on gender interaction, go to the section on Gender Selection. 


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Males boxing

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Other Pets:

Other Pets present a deadly threat to Doves. Cats, Dogs, Snakes, you name it. Doves are on the bottom rung of the food chain with no effective defenses. Precautions should be taken to ensure the safety of your Doves. Their cage must be strong enough to prevent being broken into. A large dog can tear through the bars on some cages. The cage doors should not loosely slide open where a cat could get into the cage should it be knocked over. Suspend the cage from a ceiling hook if necessary. If you elect to use a ceiling hook, be sure that the hook can support the weight and is properly installed. Many cages come with stands or you can purchase a stand for your cage. A cage sitting on a table top provides ideal access for your kitty to have access to your birdcage.


If you have a snake or other vermin that might attack your Dove, be sure that your other creatures cannot fit between the bars on the bird cage. Wrap the cage with window screen if necessary to protect your bird from escapees which might be looking for a meal. No matter how secure or how well behaved you believe your other pets to be, never take your bird's safety for granted. For more information on cages, go to the cage selection section.



If you are buying a bird for your child, there is no better selection than a Dove. Doves will not bite or screech. At most, they might mildly scratch with their claws on their feet if the Dove is struggling to get away. Keep your Dove's feet and perches clean to prevent infection from scratches. The points of the claws can be softened with a couple strokes from an emery file. Not too deep which would cause bleeding. 


Your child should be old enough and mature enough to handle and care for a pet. It takes responsibility and dependability for a child to successfully raise a pet bird. A Dove cannot be squeezed too tightly. Due to the air sac construction, it will die in minutes from improper to too tight handling. Depending on your child's maturity, I would not recommend giving a child under 8  the responsibility for raising a bird as their own pet. Even at 8 or older, it will depend on the child's personality, behavior, dependability and ability to assume responsibility for caring for a pet Dove. Dove's live for 12 to 20 years in captivity so be sure that the child will not tire of the pet. It is not a decision that should be made spontaneously. It is up to the parent to teach their children how to handle, care for and interact with a pet bird. Teach them how to recognize and avoid breaking a blood feather. It does not take much bleeding to kill a bird. Parental supervision is a must. A Dove cannot live long without fresh water and food. Keep an eye out for bruising, broken feathers, lethargy, trembling, irregular stools, defensive reaction of raising the wings or panicking when approached may be signs that the Dove is not being treated well. 


Children can be brutal to small animals and frequently endanger or kill small pets when out of your sight. It only takes once to kill or cause irreparable damage to a pet. Simple precautions can avoid a catastrophe. A small luggage lock through the door and any feed dish doors large enough for a child to reach through can provide safety for your Dove and peace of mind. If you use a key lock, it only takes once for them to discover where you keep the key. Combination luggage locks are the best solution.


Most important is teaching your children proper hygiene when handling a bird. They should wash their hands and scrub their nails before and after each handling of a bird, feeding dishes or cage items. Neither the Birds or their hands should be placed near the mouth to prevent transfer of bacteria or parasites. For more information go to the Hygiene and health sections.


Many hidden dangers lurk in your home. It is not a wise idea to allow your bird to fly freely through the house. An isolated room where potential hazards have been removed would be a better choice for your bird to fly. Anytime your bird is out of its cage, there is a chance that it could get loose and encounter some of these hazards. (PS: They also poop when they fly.)

Some of the hazards to birds include:

  • open water sources (toilets, bathtubs, sinks)

  • Cooking (Hot stove, pans, boiling water, hot oil)

  • Window glass (flying into the glass)

  • Fragile vases that might fall and shatter

  • Mirrors

  • Open doors

  • Portable heaters

  • Fireplace

  • Ceiling fans

  • Poisons

  • Getting trapped behind an appliance

  • Other Pets

  • Escaping through an open door

Recommended Supplies:
  • For a new bird you will need an appropriate cage. The type, size and shape of the cage is imperative. Go to the Cage selection section for more information.

  • You will need perches to fit the cage. The cage should come with perches and feeding dishes. A rope perch and a flat perch (which is not available in stores.) See section on Perches.

  • It will be up to your particular type of cage and number of birds to determine if you need more dishes. If the cage dishes are higher than the flat perch, you would need to obtain other dishes that can be mounted at or below perch level. (see Mating for more detailed information).

  • You will need a water dish. Doves prefer a light colored water dish over a dark one. 

  • You will need a food dish

  • A small dish (half dollar size) should be used for grit. 

  • Another small dish for chopped fruit & vegetables.

  • A clip for millet

  • A nesting cup, nest and nest material (see section on nesting).

  • Shelled seeds. Dove mix, shelled sunflower seeds, canary mix. Do not buy parrot food or parakeet food. The Dove's bill is too soft to break the hulls. (see section on feeding)

  • Hi Calcium Grit. (crushed oyster shell)

  • Millet (they like both large and small)

  • Paper for cage bottom

  • A large net (for catching escapees)

  • Mite cage protection disk to hang on cage if needed

  • First aid supplies (See health section for special supply needs)

    • Eye dropper (medicine administration)

    • Hydrogen peroxide (first aid for bleeding)

    • Tweezers (first aid)

    • Styptic pen or powder (first aid for bleeding)

    • Vitamins for food or water

    • Neosporin

    • Q-tips (cotton swabs)

    • If you can learn how to give injections and get Baytril from the vet, it it the number one thing that will save a dove from infections..... but you have to know what you are doing. This is not something for a novice.

Bird Activities:

Birds need certain activities for their well-being. 

  • Each day the Dove needs to stretch their wings and legs like a ballerina. Hopefully, their cage will be large enough for this daily exercise. 

  • A healthy bird will preen every day. Preening involves smoothing the feathers, fluffing, cleaning wax from new feathers, removing bad feathers. Preening is different from itching and picking at feathers. It takes experience to recognize the difference.

  • Doves love to sun themselves. If they are permitted a couple hours of access to the sun, they will spread their wings high or to the side to catch the warm sun rays. It is important that they have access to move into the shade as they prefer and available water. This might be a good time to try the pan of toasty warm water to give them the option to bathe on their own.

  • At least once a week, it would be nice if your Dove had an opportunity to fly around the room.  Use an isolated room with the hazards removed and where you can reach them if they should land high....which is the first place they will look for. Even the bathroom with the stool lid closed and the hazards removed might suit the purpose. Doves prefer perching to flying so they will likely only fly around the room once or twice before landing. Nevertheless, the exercise is good for them as long as they do not become injured. You will need a long stick or broom handle to prod them off of high objects such as curtain rods. Never strike the bird. Their bones are fragile like toothpicks.

  • If you have a mated pair of Doves and the female is in the nest flicking her wings and the male is bowing and cooing, this is the time to put small, dried 4 inch sticks from a bush about the thickness of a #8 nail or 1/3 the thickness of a pencil in the bottom of the cage. Get at least 20 sticks. The male will fetch them from the bottom of the cage and give them to the female in the nest. A little straw or hay in a bag sold at the pet store for ferrets will also be used by the birds. They will make an ugly messy of sticks, but the birds will love it because they built it together. The female may lay eggs a few days later.

  • Anytime a dove gets bored, they love to play with hay and alfalfa in their cages.

  • Personal attention should be part of the birds day. At least once a day, pick them up and pet them for at least a half hour.

  • A special treat of finely chopped vegetables, sprouts, shelled snow peas or fruit are good for the Doves.

  • A full night of undisturbed sleep in darkness is essential for the doves health.

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Nest building

Tired of your Dove?

Doves in captivity tend to live about 12 years or up to 20 in some cases. If you get tired of your new pet, please do not release it into the wild or leave it at an animal shelter. Use the classifieds, this website or local veterinarians to advertise your pet and find it a good home. Be careful not to give it to someone who will shoot it for sport or use it for food or dove releases. Doves have an extremely high mortality rate in the wild. A pet dove does not have a chance in the weather fending for food and shelter. They are sitting ducks for predators. White doves have even less of a chance in the sun and weather and they stand out against the green grass and trees where predators, hawks and cats can easily spot them.. Please find a home for your dove. Surely some child at the local school would love to have your bird, but do not turn the bird loose or send it to the animal shelter.