Homing pigeons have a rich history of carrying messages and supplies between two locations. These pigeons were a common message delivery tool before the digital revolution. Today, their skills remain relevant in situations that limit digital and physical communication. Training the pigeons is simple but requires time, dedication and proper care.
Set the Base Location
Homing pigeons carry messages between two locations. You must first set the base location -- the home loft -- as the central point. This loft is the place where the pigeons spend the majority of their time and serves as a food and water station. The home loft must have a trap door that allows pigeon entry but restricts the ability to exit at will.
This is the default location the pigeons will always use as a return. You can release the pigeons more than 100 miles away and they will return to the base location.
Practice at Intervals
Acclimate the pigeons by practicing at variable distances. Remove the pigeons from the coop and use a cage to carry them a mile away. Release the pigeons and they will return home. Do this several times in a week for practice. Increase the range to 5 miles and repeat the process. Do a 10-mile flight the next week and continue increasing until you have reached a range of more than 50 miles. Gradually increasing the range lets you test specific birds while the flock builds endurance and gains confidence.
Food and Water Incentives
The homing pigeon is trained on either one or two locations using food and water incentives. You can either use the home base location as the single route return for messages or create a route between two set locations. For a two-way flight route, remove the food from the base. Manually take the pigeon to the second location and provide feed. The pigeon will feed and eventually return to the home base. Repeat this process until the pigeon migrates between the two locations independently. Remove feed from the home base the day you want to deliver a message. Release the hungry pigeon and it will fly to the second location to feed and deliver your message.
Attaching the Message
Messages are carried with small backpacks. Backpacks use fabric shoulder straps and either fabric or plastic holding slots. Fabric is light and easy to design but many materials are susceptible to damage from water and the elements. Small tubes provide safe enclosures for notes and supplies.
Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.