Raising pigeons for squabs

Raising pigeons for squabs

By: Dr. Elpidio C. Coligado

Question: What are pigeons? Squabs?

Answer: The pigeon is a species bearing the scientific name Columba livia linn. It is also referred to as Dove. The Pilipino (tagalong) term is “kalapati”.

The squab is the young of the pigeon which is the equivalent term for the chick of the chicken. It is also termed  “pitson” in the tagalong region. The term squab or “pitson” sometimes refers specifically to the stage when pigeons are ready to be taken out from the nest and slaughtered for food. The squab is considered as one of the most expensive meat delicacies highly valued by the Chinese.


Question: At what age should the squabs be harvested for slaughter?

Answer: Squabs of any breed and variety are harvested for slaughter when they reach a weight or size as big as or slightly heavier than the parents. Squabs of the meat-type breed or variety can be harvested as early as 28 days to 32 days after hatching. At this age, the feathers are fully grown and they are ready to fly.

Unlike other birds, squabs learn to fly at a much latter stage. And if slaughtered at a latter age, the meat quality is reduced because the meat fibers become tough.


Question: How do you classify pigeons?

Answer: The U.S. Circular information on pigeons classify them as follows: a) performing group, b) utility group; and c) fancy group.

Pigeons raised for production of squabs belong to the utility group. A few examples of known breed in this group are : King; Carneau, Mondain, and Hungarian. Examples in the performing group are: Romero, homers, rollers and tumblers. For fancy group are: fantails, Jacobin, modenas, frills, fouters, owls and trumters. Other breeds and varieties could be listed in the fancy group.

Question: Are pigeons reproducing like chickens?

Answer: No. The pigeons which belong to the group called altricial birds reproduce in a very different manner as compared to the chickens. Their youngs 9squabs) require the ‘personal’ care of the mother and the father. These young squabs are helpless and are strictly dependent on the nursing care of their parents right after they are hatched. The parents feed them with what is termed  “pigeon milk.” This “pigeon milk” is actually  the feed taken in by the parents and soaked in the crop before the squabs suck it from the mouth of their parents. This practice is in contrast to the chicks of the chickens which are very independent once hatched. The chicks can feed themselves even without the help of the mother hen.

The chickens , ducks, turkeys, quails and all other poultry species belong to the different group called precocial birds whose youngs can survive even without the nursing care of the parents.

Question: Does the father pigeon participate in the incubation and nursing of squab?

Answer: Yes. By  nature, pigeons are strictly monogamous. This is in contrast to the polygamous nature of other poultry species like chickens.

In pigeons, once a male and female agree to become “husband and wife”, they stick to the relationship unless altered by the death of one or by forcible separation. In no case can a male be a “husband” to two or more “wives” or a female be involved with tow or more “husbands “a t the same time.

A pair of pigeon usually build their nest before the female lays eggs. As soon as two eggs are laid, they sit on the eggs for incubation. The mother and the father take turns in sitting on the  eggs. Generally, the mother stays in the nest during the night and the father alternates during the day.

After the squabs are hatched, the mother and the father also take turns in brooding and feeding their youngs until the squabs are weaned from their nursing care.


Source: ang bayanihan , 1984

One thought on “Raising pigeons for squabs”

  1. Dr. Coligado, where can you buy squabs in the Philippines? Are
    there any established squab breeders in the country where people can buy their breeding pairs. Please advise. Thank you.

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