Feeding Habits

Normal Diet Sick Bird


Normal Diet:

Doves are primarily seed eaters although researchers have found a small portion of insects and other items in their digestive systems. Doves are soft billed birds and cannot crack the hulls on hard shells like a hook-billed bird, such as a parrot. Doves are partial to millet, oats, milo, raw shelled peanut halves and shelled sunflower seeds. A no-waste seed without hulls sold at Lowes is the best choice. The Dove owner should be cautious of small seeds due to the Dove's windpipe opening at the back of the tongue where small seeds could become lodged and create a medical emergency. Dove seed mixes or shelled seeds that are commercially available at local pet stores are primarily intended for wild birds and do not contain the essential nutrients. A vitamin supplement can be added. Vitamins are available in liquid for water and powder for the seed dish. Mineral blocks and cuttlebone are not viable alternatives since Dove bills are too soft. 


Doves love millet sprays, both small and the larger type. Keep a spray of millet clipped to the side of the cage where the Doves can nibble on them. The larger type of millet is now available.

The most important part of the Doves' meal is to have continuous access to fresh water each day. The water should be at least an inch or more deep since the Doves drink with their bill straight down like sucking through a straw. The water dish should be clean from slime and debris each day. Be certain to completely rinse away any soap residue. Do not use a metal container.


High calcium grit such as crushed oyster shell which you can obtain at local feed stores is essential. It should be made available in a small separate dish. Do not mix the grit into the food. If the females are not receiving enough calcium, they will have egg laying problems. If you have a mineral block or cuttlebone handy, you might try scraping a small amount of powder from these into the grit dish.

At least two or three times a week, try to offer your Doves a treat of finely chopped & thinly shredded greens, shelled snow peas, vegetables or fruit. Spinach, carrot, apple, melon are examples. Be sure to wash the vegetables and fruits first. Place these in a small, separate food dish and remove within 24 hours and discard any remainder which tends to collect fungus after a few hours.

Sick Bird Diet:


If you have a bird that is ill and not eating, you should contact your avian vet for advice on what type of food and how to administer it to your sick bird. Keep in mind that a bird can die within 2 - 5 days when they have not been eating or drinking. 


For example purposes only, the following procedures are how I care for my sick Dove's diet:

My avian vet advised using "Pedialite" (found in the baby food section of the grocery store) mix with 4 drops of honey. Use an eye dropper to administer the water but be careful not to get the water into the Dove's windpipe or you could cause aspiration pneumonia. I administer the fluid and the food into the back of the throat, well past the windpipe opening which is located at the back of the tongue. I purchase powdered baby bird formula from the local pet store and mix it with pedialite and 4 drops of honey which I then mix into a slurry. I heat it for no more than 10 seconds in the microwave... it should not be hot when dipping your finger in it. It should be lukewarm like a baby bottle. I use an eye dropper to gently squirt it down the doves throat. You don't want to overfill the bird's crop. About 5 - 8 droppers should be enough. You have to judge by checking the bird's crop and adjust the amount accordingly. I allow room to give the dove 1 dropper of straight pedialite for liquid. It takes about 3 - 4 hours for the Dove to empty the crop. I feed them about 4 times a day until well enough to eat on their own.

Or go to the baby feeding section and try hand feeding the sick dove baby dove food.

DO NOT OVERFILL THE DOVE'S CROP or it will back up into the Dove's throat and aspirate into the windpipe where it can cause pneumonia and kill the bird. If the food is too hot, it will burn the crop. The feathers on the outside of the crop will mat when the food is too hot.