Breeds of Pigeons

Breeds of Pigeons

There are literally hundreds of breeds of pigeons, and picking just one or two favorites can be difficult. Some breeds are easier to care for than others. Generally the more accessories the breed has, the more difficult they are to raise. Breeds with extra feathers on their tails or feet may need to be trimmed for breeding, and may be harder to keep clean and undamaged Birds with very short beaks may have trouble feeding their own young, and some breeds are wild and just plain ornery. If you are just starting out I would recommend that you get a breed that is easy to raise. Pigeon breeds fall into three general categories:

performance pigeons

Performance Breeds
Are bred for what they do. Rollers, perform backward summersaults (spin) when they fly. Racing Homers, are known for racing home from long distances. Highflyers and Tiplers, are bred for flying high and long. Parlor Tumblers, do a summersault or two when they are dropped.

Pigmy Pouter Pigeon
Show Birds
There are many breeds of show pigeons having different body shapes and accessories. Fantails,have extra tail feathers and large breasts. Frillbacks,have curly feathers on their wing shields, may also have crest. Jacobins, have a large crest covering almost all of thier heads. Pouters and Croppers, can inflate thier breasts to very large proportions. English Trumpeters, have long feathers on their feet and an unusual voice. Some performance and utility breeds also have show varities, Show rollers, Show homers, Show Kings, Runts.

Utility Breeds
These birds are bred for the table, they are large and good parents. Utility Kings, usually white large and prolific. Giant Runts, very large, the oxy-moron of the pigeon breeds Texas Pioneers, sex linked colors make it easy to distinguish the sex. Giant Runt Pigeons

Colors, Markings and Patterns

Colors, Markings and Patterns

First a quick overview of some of the terminologies and definitions used in this article:

  • Color – The pigmentation of plumage on pigeons. Blue, Red (aka Ash-red), Brown
  • Sex Linked – Carried on the sex chromosome (color only)
  • Dominant – Certain colors and patterns are dominant over other colors and patterns. Where 2 colors or patterns are carried genetically the
    dominant will show.
  • Recessive – Certain colors and patterns are recessive to others.
  • Where 2 colors or patterns are carried genetically the recessive will always
    be hidden.
  • Single Factor- One dose. One color, pattern etc.
  • Double Factor- Two doses of the same color or pattern.


Colors are carried on the sex chromosome in pigeons and are therefore termed sex linked. Cocks carry 2 sex chromosomes while hens have only one. Each sex chromosome carries a color. Cocks carry 2 colors, hens only one. Young cocks receive one color (sex chromosome) from each parent.

Hens receive only one color which comes from the father. Red PigeonThe mother contributes nothing (no color) to a young hen. Since a hen has only one color, the color passed on comes from the father.Only cocks carry 2 colors, acquiring one from each parent with the dominant color showing. Hens only have one color and it will always show.

The dominance order of color is as follows: red is dominant over blue, blue is dominant over brown. Red is shown by the colored feathers, usually flights and tail. Blue cocks cannot carry red but red cocks can carry blue.

Example: Blue cock + Red hen; all the young hens (hens get one color) will be blue from the father’s side and a blue pigeon can not carry red.  The young cocks on the other hand acquire one color from each parent. The mother is ash red (a dominant color over blue) therefore all the young cocks will be ash red, carrying blue. This mating produces Auto sexed young by term.


T check, check, bar and bar-less. Patterns are not carried on the sex chromosome and therefore not sex linked. Both cocks and hens carry 2 patterns in any combination of above (bar less is rare) and can pass either pattern to its young. Young receive one pattern from each parent. Patterns and order of dominance.

Like in colors, highest order of dominance will hide anything below it in order. Order of dominance is; T checks, check, bar and bar less. Highest order
of dominance will be seen, the other will be hidden. T check is very tight check, sometimes barely visible. T check is often referred to as “velvet”.

Example; T check cock X T check hen; Since T check is most dominant, either parent can be hiding check or bar and any number of checked or barred offspring could occur.

Bar cock X bar hen; Since T check and check are dominant over bar(neither parent showing), no T check or check offspring are possible. In other words, from what we’ve learned so far, a red check youngster cannot possibly come from a pair of blue bars for 2 reasons.(1) Two blues cannot raise a red and(2) two bars cannot raise a check

All pigeons are either ash red, blue or brown and carry 2 patterns each of which could be T check, check, and bar or bar less. Color is sex linked, pattern is not. Cocks carry 2 colors and only the dominant color shows. Hens carry only one color and it always shows. Cocks and hens carry 2 patterns each with the dominant one showing.

Modifiers; There are many modifiers of which 2 of the most common are Spread and Grizzle. Spread and Grizzle are dominant but not sex linked. Most lofts have some representation of Spread or Grizzle present.

Spread; Spread is basically a self descriptive term. The Spread factor takes the checks or bars on blue pigeons (the clustered areas of pigment) and spreads it evenly throughout the bird. Blue pigeons(T check, check or bar) carrying the spread factor appear as black pigeons. Spread factor on ash red is not as simple. An ash red pigeon carrying spread can range from silver( lavender ) to mahogany (deep brownish-red) and everything in between. Because Spread is dominant, any pigeon carrying Spread can pass it on to it’s young. Single and double factor spread appear the same. All young from double factor spread will carry and show spread.

Grizzle; Grizzle is another common modifier that changes the color of a pigeon, sometimes quite drastically. Grizzle “washes out” the color of a pigeon in which the flights, tail and head areas seem to be effected less. Grizzle added to bar pattern gives us the typical red and blue grizzles(showing a bar pattern to some extent). Grizzle added to checks gives us tortoise-shells, which will range from very light to very dark. Grizzle, like Spread, is dominant and not sex linked so either sex carrying grizzle can pass it on to the young of either sex. Double factor grizzles are different than single factor grizzles. A second factor of grizzle “washes-out” the feather color even more, to almost white. Since grizzle effects the flights, tail and head areas less, ‘hence the stork marked pigeon. Most Tipplers are double factor grizzles and raise young the same. Because grizzle is dominant, when you breed a stork to any other pigeon you will get grizzle in all young.

Dilute; Dilute is also self descriptive. Dilute does what it says… it dilutes the original color giving us a faded version of that same color. Dilute is recessive(not dominant) and can be carried but not shown. In order to raise a cock showing dilute, both parents must be carrying it. Hens can be raised showing dilute if the cock carries a single factor. When dilute is added to ash red we get yellow. Depending on the pattern we will get cream bars or yellow checks in descriptive terms. If we add dilute to blue we get silver bars or silver checks (commonly referred to as dun).If we add dilute to blue with spread we get Dun which is a self marked bird, the same for dilute to ash red with spread, we get a yellow self.

Example: Red bar cock(carrying single factor of dilute)X blue check hen, Any yellow checks raised will all be hens.Red check cock(not carrying dilute)X cream bar hen, No young showing dilute is possible. All cocks will carry a single factor of dilute but won’t show it because dilute is not dominant.

Basic information on Pigeons

Basic information on Pigeons

Pigeons As Pets
Pigeons make excellent pets and they are easy to raise and breed. Whether you keep birds for performance, show, or just for fun I think that you can get great enjoyment from them with a minimum investment of time and money. Of course if you want really good birds and a fancy loft you can expect to spend some cash.

Pigeons are housed in a structure known as a loft. The loft does not need to be large or elaborate, you can even keep a few birds in a loft similar to a rabbit hutch. Pigeons can handle cold weather, but a loft must be kept dry, and draft free. Your birds need good ventilation and will like a window or two for light. If you have the space a loft should be divided so that you can separate young birds from old, and cocks from hens, I believe that a loft that you can walk into adds to the enjoyment keeping pigeons and you will know your birds better if you can spend time in the loft.

There should be more perches than birds. There are several types of perches, box, inverted V, simple 1×2 bracket, they all have their advantages, just make perches comfortable for the breed you keep. Box perches for my rollers are ten” wide, eight” high, and 3 1/2? deep.

If you don’t let your birds fly outside you will want a fly-pen otherwise known as an aviary. Some fly-pens are small and just let the birds get outside. My flypen is five feet wide, sixteen feet long, and six feet high. With a large fly-pen my birds can get plenty of fresh air and exercise. The wire should be small enough to keep wild birds out, and heavy enough to keep predators out.

Your birds have certain dietary requirements that can be met with a quality pigeon mix. The mix will probably be based around milo and wheat with several other grains. Whole corn, or popcorn in the winter is a good idea, but rollers don’t need much of it at other times. There are also pigeon pellets available but may give birds loose stools. Your birds will also like some green food like lettuce now and then. I use galvanized feed trays, with wire on top to keep the birds out of the tray. Pigeons can be fed once or twice a day, but I don’t recommend leaving feed out all the time as it may get contaminated. Store feed in a dry well ventilated container, away from pests.

Your birds need fresh clean water available at all times. I use either galvanized drinkers or homemade drinkers for my birds. My homemade drinkers are simply milk jugs with a holes cut into the sides. Make the holes are too small for the birds to squeeze into. The nice thing about these drinkers is that I can just throw them away when they get soiled. Many diseases are spread by the water, so keep them clean.

Pigeons need grit for minerals as well as grinding their food. Keep it dry and always available. I like red grit as it is harder than oyster shell and contains more nutrients. I use a crock bowl for my grit container, avoid metal trays as the minerals will soon rust it.