Doves have a long history of being symbols of peace and love. During World War I and II, they were used as messengers in combat zones. They have been used as carriers of love letters for thousands of years and are still used to this day. They are gentle and caring and provide comfort, security and peace to the family. They will not bite or scream at you or your other pets.

Doves, rock pigeons, and homing pigeons are all members of the bird family Columbidae. The most prominent physical features of these birds are their long tail feathers, the long slender bill, and the feet. Since they are very common, they are usually referred to as “pigeons”. The most prominent characteristic that makes them different from other birds is their ability to fly.

Doves are known to be a peaceful and social type of bird that can live up to 15 years. This is a medium-sized bird, growing up to 8 inches in length. They thrive in pairs or flocks in a very large enclosure. Given enough room, Doves will climb, play, and fly around their cages. You will enjoy training your Dove to sit on a hand and with additional training, they can be considered as safe for children.

a beautiful dove with blue wings perched on a branch

Dove Information

  • Average Height: 4 to 6 inches
  • Average Weight: 4 to 6 pounds
  • Coat Colors: Grey, white, pink, and brown variations 
  • Grooming Needs: Low 
  • Good tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
  • Good Pet: With early socialization and training, yes
  • Safe with Children: With training
  • Good with Other Doves: Yes
  • Good with Other birds: Yes
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: Yes
  • Training: They learn fast 
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns:  Doves tend to have Trichomoniasis, Pigeon Pox, and Coccidiosis
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 10 to 20 years
a dove with a gray head perched in a tree branch

Physical Appearance of Doves

Doves have tiny, narrow beaks and their heads are relatively small in comparison to their body size. Their legs are short and their heads bob back and forth as they walk. Their color varies from one species to another. Most Doves are either gray, brown, or white in color.

Temperament of Doves

Doves are peaceful birds that make great pets for novice bird owners. The birds enjoy human contact and are loyal to their caregivers. A Dove enjoys being petted and cuddling with their caregivers. You’ll know they are happy when they coo in soft beautiful voices. Doves almost never show any aggressive behaviors like biting or scratching. Doves are often startled by loud noises. They have a tendency to hide if they are startled or afraid. 

Training Doves

When training a Dove, patience is required. At first they can be stubborn, but after some handling they become more receptive to training. The first step toward training a Dove is giving it lots of attention and handling it more often. A Dove enjoys being gently touched on the wings and also on the feet. Once the bird becomes comfortable with your touch, you can start to train it. 

You can train the bird to sit calmly on your shoulder. You can encourage the Dove to sit on the shoulders for longer by offering treats such as millet and wheat. Another trick you can teach your Dove is following commands such as ‘sit’. 

Your Dove can even learn some whistling commands. For better results with whistling commands, you can buy a bird whistle to help you imitate a Dove call.  A bird whistle will also help you to have consistent whistles, as some people have difficulty repeating whistles.

Habitat Requirements for Doves

Just like other birds, Doves require a comfortable and spacious habitat. Here are some of the requirements for a great habitat for your Dove. 

Housing Doves in a Cage 

Small Doves can comfortably live in a bird cage but bigger ones or a group of Doves should live in an aviary.  An aviary offers your birds lots of space to fly giving them maximum comfort. 

Common Ground Doves, Diamonds, and Ringneck Doves are small and can live in a cage. The cage should be large enough that the wings of the birds don’t touch the wires of the cage when flapping their wings.

The ideal measurement of a cage meant to house a pair of Ringneck Doves should be 4 feet length by 3 feet wide by 3 feet height. We recommend that for each additional Dove, you increase the size of the cage by 8 inches  length, width, and height. 

a dove standing on the edge of a rock
a dove perched on a building

When using a cage to house your Doves, the bar spacing should be less than ¾ inches. With more widely spaced bars, your Doves can easily escape their cage. 

The cage of your Dove should also have a solid wall on one side of the cage. The solid wall helps to make your Doves feel secure. They will always know that nothing can sneak up on them from that direction. It gives them one less thing to worry about.

Perches are also a necessity in a Dove’s cage because they help maintain healthy feet and to trim their nails. In one cage, it’s recommended to have about 3 perches in different sizes and textures. In a standard cage, it’s a must to have a ¾ inch perch, a 1 inch one, and a 1.5 inches perch. Perches that imitate hardwood or faux leather ones are the best for your Doves.

Housing Doves in an Aviary 

The aviary should be placed outside and should have a strong frame and mesh to keep predators away. The aviary should be big enough so that you can stand or sit on a chair inside. Mourning Doves are medium sized birds and the best for housing in an aviary.

The floor of the aviary should be made of poured cement because it’s easy to clean and maintain. Also place feeding bowls on the floor because Doves enjoy eating from the ground. 

At the top of your aviary, construct a roosting nest where your birds can rest. On the roosting nest, place perches of different textures and sizes. The aviary should be placed facing light so that shadows don’t form inside. The location should be shielded from the wind for maximum comfort of your birds. 

Maintenance of a Dove’s Habitat 

Everyday, sweep any food leftovers or bird waste from the cage or aviary. A thorough cleaning of the habitat should be done once a week. The habitat of your Doves should be free from direct sunlight and wind. Direct sunlight may raise the temperatures in the habitat making their living space uncomfortable. A Dove does well in temperatures ranging between 65 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Also remember to clean the feeding bowls thoroughly as you clean the cages.

The Attention That Doves Need

Doves are low maintenance but require companionship either from their owner or other Doves or bird species. When a Dove wants attention, it makes cooing sounds that can either be soft or loud depending on the need. 

A Dove may demand more attention from its caregiver especially if housed alone. If you have more than one bird in a cage, they tend to bond and require less attention from the owners.

Health Concerns for Doves 

Doves rarely get sick but just like other pets, there are some common illnesses that can afflict domesticated Doves. Here is a detailed guide on the illnesses to look out for. 


Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan that affects the intestines of the Doves and generally all birds. The protozoan that causes coccidiosis is almost always present in the gut system of a Dove. The disease only becomes prevalent when the immune system of your Dove weakens. 

The illness is mainly caused by a Dove drinking dirty water or eating moist droppings from other birds or Doves. Here are the symptoms to help you identify a sick bird. 

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy 
  • Constantly closing their eyes
  • Loose/greenish waste droppings 
  • Weight loss

Always clear the droppings from the cage as soon as possible to prevent contact. Also clean and disinfect the drinker often. It’s also important to give clean water to your birds at all times to avoid contamination. 

Coccidiosis can kill your Dove within a few days and it’s important to seek treatment from your vet if you think they may have it. 

2 doves perched together in a tree
a brown dove

Pigeon Pox

Pigeon Pox is mainly caused by a virus spread through mosquito bites. When a Dove gets bitten by a virus transmitting mosquito, it develops inflammations on the featherless parts of the body. 

The best way to control the illness is through vaccination. Have your Doves vaccinated to reduce the chances of catching this. Try to eliminate flying insects such as mosquitos from your Doves habitat. Clear any bushes or stagnant water that could attract mosquitoes to your home. 

Canker (Trichomoniasis)

Trichomoniasis is the most common illness among Doves and other birds in the pigeon family. The disease is spread through drinking water or when adult birds are mouth feeding their young ones. The young Doves are more susceptible to Trichomoniasis compared to adult birds. 

Here are some of the symptoms to help you know if your Dove has the illness. 

  • Cheese like deposits on the mouth and throat
  • Diarrhea 
  • Ruffled feathers 
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced activity 

The best way to prevent the disease is disinfecting the feeding and water bowls constantly. 

Bathing and General Grooming for Doves 


A Dove enjoys bathing in a bowl of water for a healthy shiny coat. Providing your Doves with a warm bowl of water three times a week should take care of their bathing needs. You can also mist spray your Dove with warm water from a spray bottle. 

Mite Spraying

Doves are targeted by mites which can make them uncomfortable. As your Dove is grooming, you can mite spray your Dove using a spray bottle. Spray it in the morning so that the bird has enough time to dry through the day. 

Nail Trimming

Nail trim your Dove every 2 to 4 weeks so that they don’t overgrow. It is possible they can overgrow to a point where they can hurt your bird. Gently hold your bird before trimming the nails because they will likely try to get away. 

When trimming the nails of your Dove is making sure you don’t trim near the quick. A quick is the red looking line running along the nails of your bird and usually has blood vessels. If you accidentally cut through the quick, your bird will bleed. 

If it’s your first time trimming the Dove, you can visit your vet so that they can teach you how to do it on your own. If you own a stubborn Dove, it’s okay to take it to a vet every time it needs trimming to avoid possible injuries in the process. 

Beak Trimming  

The beak of your Dove trims evenly on its own. If you find that the beak tends to overgrow, offer more chew toys to help your bird trim the beak. If the problem persists, visit a vet to have them trim it down for you.
a pile of bird seed

Feeding Doves

Nutrition for Doves is an important aspect because it determines the quality of life your Dove has. Doves can eat a variety of foods, from seeds, pellets, vegetables, to supplements. 

Seed mixes should compose the majority of the food for your bird. You’ll find many seed mixes in your local pet store. Most mixes meant for Doves and pigeons contain millet and safflower seeds. To avoid overfeeding your bird with seeds, feed them about 2 tablespoons per bird per day. 

Also supplement your Doves diet with pellets. Pellets are often enhanced with calcium making them great foods for your Dove. It’s also okay if you find your Dove refusing to eat pellets. Try to mix the pellets with seeds until they get used to them. 

Fruits and vegetables should also make up a significant portion of your Doves diet. Some of the best fruits include apples and  tomatoes. Avoid feeding Doves with avocados because they contain persin, a chemical that’s toxic to Doves. Vegetables to give a Dove include carrots, peas, cabbage, kales, spinach, and broccoli. Make sure to finely chop the fruits and vegetables to prevent your Doves from choking on their food. 

Make sure that your Doves have clean water in their bowls everyday. Remember to clean the feeding bowls thoroughly to avoid contaminating the foods or water which can cause illnesses.

Related Questions:

Do Doves eat people food?

Doves can eat people food, but in moderation. For example Doves can eat small quantities of lean meat and cheese. Don’t give Doves chocolate, junk food, soft cheese, caffeine, and alcoholic drinks.

Are doves good beginner pets?

Doves are great pets for inexperienced pet owners. They’re friendly, fairly calm and get along well with both people and other birds. They live well in just about any climate, so other than a cage for them you really don’t have to do much to take care of them. One of the best parts is that they don’t bite, making them a great family pet!

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