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Free range squab production?

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  • #256989
    Mukluk
    Participant

    Has anyone produced squab at home? Was it worth it financially? Is it realistic to free range birds and have them forage the majority of their feed?

    I assume that the meat breeds are too big to free range and have to be fed a complete diet. I do not want to do that. I also assume that the homing pigeons and similar are a bit scrawny but are still ok to eat. Let’s face it, you can eat any animal if you can be bothered.

    I live in rural nsw, we have a lot of farms around us. I had hoped to feed the pigeons some of the time, then let me out to glean the neighbor’s wheat fields and canola fields etc after harvest when it is the right season. Is this at all realistic?

    Has anyone raised pigeons? Is this something I would regret as they would poo all over my roof and car? Do I have to worry about hawks taking all of them or are they generally ok?

    I have a bunch of other questions but should wait until I see if this is a really bad idea or if people think it is worth a try.

    #524420
    karyn26
    Member

    Mukluk,I think you will find that squab are too heavy to fly any great distance to forage.

    Due to their size this limits their ability to fly anywhere.

    A neighbour of ours down the back lane was a pigeon racer and turned to raising squab.He had access to a facility where he could cull and dress the birds for sale.He had this business for a long time.He’det them out to forage in his yard.

    DH raced pigeons also then turned to raising white ones solely for release on ANZAC Day.He lets these free-range and some of the neighbouring farmers dont like them in their fields.Once they find a good food source they dont let it go.Ever wondered why there were so many pigeons around wheat silos.

    Birds of prey are a slight problem we have 2 that know where to shop for a meal.Plus feral cats have decimated our flocks from time to time.

    Our pigeons DONT sit on our roof, the racers did but not these ones,and they’re out all day everyday,and they dont poo too much on the washing either.

    Good luck with your decision.

    #524421
    Snags
    Member

    We had pigeons over 30 years ago.

    We let them out and they kept returning with extras

    We ate pigeon regularly as it was a constantly replenishing supply.

    We never sold any it was just a personal food source.

    #524422
    Mukluk
    Participant

    I was hoping to have a few around just for food, not to sell. At this stage I am still thinking about it, I may not get around to trying it anytime soon. I hoped that I could use the as a back up food animal for when we hit hard times.

    I have run Muscovy ducks entirely on pasture before and they did just fine and made us a lot of meals for free, but that relies on me being ale to let the ducks forage safely (we have had a lot of daytime foxes of late) so may not be the best bet in case of emergency.

    I had not thought about the washing, mrs mukluk would not be happy if they dirtied the washing!

    I read somewhere that homing pigeons happily forage over a few kms, whereas larger meat breeds of pigeon would not fly more than a few hundred meters at the very most. I kind of had hopes that if I got a handful of homing pigeons, or even feral pigeons, and selectively bred them for size I could end up with a utility bird, not too large to forage at distance but not to small to be worth eating. I do not know if that is at all realistic.

    How much does it cost to feed pigeons? If the free ranging thing did not work out does it work out financially to be buying all their feed? I would not have thought they would have the best feed conversion ratio, but don’t actually know for sure.

    As far as birds of prey go, how much of a problem are they? Do they just take a bird every now and again allowing the numbers to build up again, or would they destroy the flock in an afternoon? We have a lot of hawks and things around here at the moment. We have a lot of foxes, so I would have to build the coop in a fox proof way as a fox would happily eat them all in a night.

    #524423
    Mukluk
    Participant

    I just had a thought, would pigeons get into and ruin my vegetable garden? I know that they predominately eat seeds, but do they also eat vegetables? I have read about pigeons being fed mash potato and things in wartime, so i know that they can eat vegetables, but how likely are they to actually get into our vegetables if they are out foraging?

    I was also wondering how destructive they would be with fruit? Again I understand that fruit is not included in their common diet, but I do not know if they would eat fruit at all. We have a mixed orchard and are surrounded by vineyards. I would not want them getting into our fruit, and the neighbors would not tolerate them getting into their grapes.

    #524424
    karyn26
    Member

    Stop worrying mukluk,our pigeon coop is next to my wick bed veg and they’ve never gotten in there.

    I also have veg growing in the ground the other side of the house and they’ve never gone in there either.

    They are too busy foraging in the paddocks here or across the road.

    They dont land in trees unless trying to get away from a hungry falcon,they actually try to get higher or if able get back to their coop.

    So everyones F&V are safe.I suppose they were fed potatoes in war time cause there werent any seeds to feed them.

    #524425
    karyn26
    Member

    Your biggest concern really would be them pooping on the washing.

    I vagually remember a town ??? banning pigeon flying on Mondays because that was washing day.

    #524426
    jaydatoo
    Member

    We’ve had squab off and on for about 20 years. My hubby’s parents also raised them when he was a kid. They were a very European thing but the market here is mostly Asian.

    When they weren’t breeding we would let them out and they always came back but we also fed orgainic grain. Do you realise the squab that gets eaten is the young before it leaves the nest? We also have a very large run for them. They can fly, there is vegetation in there including trees. It’s all very natural and to protect them from foxes etc.

    We’ve been approached numerous times from commercial breeders (who we sometimes source breeding pairs from) to consider going into the commercial production ourselves. But we’re not interested. Too much like factory farming to us. For us to keep the amount of breeding pairs required for commercial production would required a huge area.

    Hubby keeps up to 8 breeding pairs at a time. He keeps a couple of pair of squab each breeding season but every three or so years brings in new breeding pairs as well.

    When the older pairs get too old, I make a soup with them from a roasted bird. Apparently very tasty if you like gamey meat….I don’t!

    They are easy to keep. The worst thing that we’ve had happen is interbreeding (a breeding pair is brother/sister offspring from same nest) sometimes causes legs defects. Hence why we try to bring in other birds as well. Sometimes they will pair up with an unrelated bird.

    They aren’t interested in my veggie garden which runs along side their enclosure.

    #524427
    Mukluk
    Participant

    Thank you for the replies! I think I will get a pair and see how I go. Hopefully I can get them free or at least very cheap from somewhere. Does anyone know how to build a pigeon trap?

    I did realise that squab are the young that are yet to leave the nest. Apparently they are largest at about 30 days old and somehow are smaller (and probably more difficult to pluck) when they start to fly. I am told that a breeding pair only produce about ten squab each year.

    I have a mate whose wife grew up eating squab, they tell me that squab are eaten in Egypt more than chicken. She has given me a recipe and it looks nice. I have a feeling that I would start out just eating the breast meat as the rest of the bird does not look like it would yield a lot of meat.

    #524428
    karyn26
    Member

    DH sked “do you want an open door or a landing board?”

    Apparently he knows what youre talking about!

    #524429
    Mukluk
    Participant

    My friend’s wife does a lot of Egyptian cooking and grew up eating pigeon. Apparently the birds she ate when growing up were not all that young.

    She has a great recipe that can be used not only on young squab but also on older birds:

    http://dynasegyptiancooking.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/pigeon-squab.html. It looks good, I can’t wait to try it out!

    She said that she may put up some recipes for rabbit and a few other interesting things too. I think she puts up new recipes each Tuesday.

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