Doves are wonderful pets – sweet, curious, silly, loving, and social.  They are relatively easy to care for, and can live over 20 years.  While both have a distinctive laughing call, females tend to be quieter overall and males also bow and coo.  Doves are social, and happiest in pairs.  They can be territorial, so flocks of more than two will need enough space.

Food: Doves eat seeds and grains, easily found at pet stores.  A basic parakeet or dove mix will work.  Harrison’s Lifetime Fine or Superfine pellets are a good addition (your bird may prefer one size or the other).   Calcium grit should be offered in a small amount once per week.  Many doves like fresh chopped foods such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli florets, greens, bell peppers, and berries (NO onion / garlic / mushroom / avocado).  Safflower seeds make good treats in moderation.  Avoid processed chips and breads except for rare occasions – they have no nutritional value.  Wash & refill water daily.

Housing:  Doves should be kept indoors in most parts of the US.  Minimum cage size for a dove (or pair of doves) is about 20x30x36.  Bigger is always better – length and width dimensions are more important than height.  They need a variety of perches and shelves.  The cage will probably need to be cleaned once weekly, or more often if needed.  You may want to rearrange perches and toys as you see them use the space.  Doves love to bathe!  Provide a shallow dish for bathing several times per week.

Exercise/Enrichment: Doves are social, and I suggest they be kept in pairs.  If you want to interact with your bird, the more time you spend, the more tame the bird will become.  They are curious and social, but take time to adjust to changes.  Be patient and don’t force interaction.  Treats are a great way to get a bird to want to be near you.  Caged birds are happier with out-of-cage time at least a few times per week to get exercise and fly.  Safety first – they can only be let out if the room is shut (windows and doors) and any dogs, cats, or other pets are in a separate space.  Children should always be supervised when interacting with birds.

Sunlight/Outdoors:  Never take birds outdoors unless they are in a cage.  Even caged, they should never be left unsupervised outside.  A few hours of natural sunlight per week (not through window glass) helps them maintain vitamin D3 levels – so taking them out is important, when weather allows.  

Nesting: Pairs will usually nest and lay eggs.  This is part of their natural behavior.   Check for eggs once or twice per week, and replace any eggs with fake ones.  Far too many birds need homes to be breeding and adding more.  Replacing eggs is necessary so that female doves do not over-tax their bodies constantly laying new ones.  Doves may lay a new pair of eggs about every month.

Dangers: Birds have sensitive respiratory systems, and the following can be harmful: smoke, fumes from nonstick cookware, candles, air fresheners, etc.  Keep them away from anything small enough for them to ingest.  They often explore on the ground, and can get underfoot.  Doves shouldn’t interact with or be housed in the same room as cats or dogs.  Larger birds such as pigeons, and even a smaller hookbill can also severely injure a dove.  Regardless of the temperament of another pet, the only way to be safe is to keep species separate.