Ringneck doves are a gentle species of bird that have been domesticated for over 1,000 years. Though their original plumage was a mixture of browns and grays, they come now in a variety of colors, including fawn, pied, tangerine, and white.
Please note - these animals should *NEVER* be released into the wild. They are not a native species, and no matter how well-intentioned a person might be, this domesticated animal rarely survives when released, especially into climates where winters are harsh.
A wire cage at least 3' L x 3' W x 3' H is required to house one pair of ringneck doves. A single hand-tamed dove can be kept in a slightly smaller cage, 2' L x 2' W x 2'H. The bigger the cage, the better, as these birds need room to fly. The bar spacing should be no more than 3/4" apart to prevent injuries.
Ringneck doves originally come from warm, dry areas of Africa, so while they can tolerate average household temperatures they should not be exposed to drafts. If they are housed outdoors in areas where winter temperatures drop below freezing, they require heated quarters or an indoor enclosure during those months.
There should be at least three different perch sizes in each cage, the smallest no less than 3/4" in diameter. Offering perches of different textures, such as natural wood, rope and concrete, is beneficial to the health of the birds' feet and helps to keep their nails groomed. They will also need a number of separate dishes for food, water, grit and greens.
Ringneck doves are primarily seed eaters, but in captivity it is important for them to have a balanced diet. A parakeet-sized seed mix should be offered, mixed with larger grains such as cracked corn, oat groats, and safflower seed. Parakeet pellets should be offered to supply necessary vitamins and minerals.
It is also important for the birds to have variety in their diet, so several times each week chopped dark leafy greens (romaine, kale, dandelion, chicory) should be offered in a separate dish. Egg food should also be offered once or twice weekly. Treats, such as millet spray, can also be offered once or twice a week, but it is important not to give too many treats or the birds may not eat their proper diet.
Doves do not hull seeds when they are eaten, so they must always have access to a mineral grit in a separate cup from their seed. Other supplements, such as crushed oyster shell and crushed eggshells, can be mixed in with the grit to provide additional minerals. This should only be done of the advice of a veterinarian.
Never offer your your birds avocado, rhubarb, chocolate, any food product containing caffeine, meat and dairy products, or alcohol. These foods are toxic to birds.
Birds that are eating a well-balanced diet of pellets, seeds and greens may not need vitamin or mineral supplementation, but it is best to consult with your veterinarian for more information. This is especially important for birds that are breeding, as a deficiency of vitamins and minerals can cause serious health problems for both parents and offspring.
Grooming and Hygiene
Birds like to bathe, but different birds prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist. Hand-tamed doves may even enjoy a bath in the shower with their owner or in a sink. Bathing is important to the health of feathers and skin and opportunities to bathe should be offered daily.
Normally it is not recommended to clip a dove's wings, as they require flight to move around in their cage and access their food and water dishes. Doves that are kept in pairs and not handled should not have their wings clipped. However, doves that are hand tamed and will be kept singly may have their wings clipped for ease of handling. The cage will have to be arranged properly to accommodate extra perches so the dove can feed and climb. Please consult an avian vet for the proper way to trim wings and nails.
Clean the cage, perches and toys daily with warm soapy water. Use a non-toxic cleaner such as mild dish soap and make sure the soap is completely rinsed off when you are finished cleaning.
Disinfect the cage and perches with bleach water regularly while keeping the birds in a separate room. Bleach fumes can kill your birds. Allowing the cage to air dry in sunlight is a natural way to disinfect. Make sure the smell from the bleach is completely gone before you put your bird back inside the cage.
Replace toys and accessories that become worn or damaged, as they can injure your pet.
Rotate toys when the bird becomes disinterested in them, but remember to never place an unfamiliar object in the cage without first introducing it to the bird in a neutral location, such as hanging it on the outside of the cage or placing it in a visible location across the room. Doves can be easily frightened by brightly colored objects. Mirrors are not recommended for doves.
Behavior and Interaction
A bonded pair of doves does not require much interaction with humans - they prefer not to be handled. Pairs should consist of a male and female, or two females, never two males. Males can be identified by their 'cooing' vocalizations. If a male and female are housed together, they will most likely attempt to breed with or without a nest, even laying eggs in a food cup! Any doves that are attempting to breed should be provided with the proper nest for the health and safety of the chicks - however, the decision to acquire a breeding pair of doves should be carefully considered before purchase. Breeding doves have special nutritional requirements that need to be discussed with a vet. They are also very prolific, having several clutches in succession, so space requirements should also be considered. Multiple pairs can only be housed in very large aviaries.
A young dove that has been hand tamed and is kept singly will require interaction with humans several times each day, as well as time out of its cage to exercise.
When taking your new bird home please remember that the surroundings in your home will be new to it and it may take some time for the bird to feel settled in their new environment. Speak softly and move very slowly whenever you are near the bird's cage. DO not try to handle the bird for at least the first few days as the bird needs time to adjust to the new home.
With a well balanced diet you should not need to give your bird vitamin supplements. Before giving any supplements consult your avian vet. If you use supplements in the bird's water, make sure you clean and wash the water dish daily to remove any residue from the supplements.
Keep the bird in a draft free area. Room temperature of 72 degrees is normally good for most birds, although we suggest researching your specific bird to determine the optimum temperature. Keep the cage away from doors, windows and heating/cooling ducts to prevent excessive heating or chilling of the bird, which can result in illness.
Always wash your hands before and after handling each animal.
You should have toys in the cage to prevent boredom. Bored birds are known to have behavior problems. Birds need to be active to maintain good health and to prevent them from becoming overweight. Foraging toys are excellent because they stimulate the natural avian instinct to look for food.
Birds can be scared to death. Frightening a bird can cause the bird enough stress to harm and possibly kill it. Move slowly and talk quietly to your bird until it is comfortable with you and its new home.
If you notice signs of illness it is very important to get to the vet promptly as most birds will hide an illness until it is in an advanced stage. We recommend taking your bird to the vet BEFORE the bird ever becomes ill. Visiting your vet before the bird is ill will allow the vet to see your bird when it is healthy and help the vet create a routine preventative health care program for your new pet.
Signs of a Healthy Animal:
• Active, alert, and sociable
• Eats and drinks throughout the day
• Dry nostrils and bright, dry eyes
• Beak, legs, and feet appear normal
• Clean, dry vent
• Smooth, well-groomed feathers
• Beak swelling or accumulations
• Fluffed, plucked, or soiled feathers especially around the vent
• Constant sitting on floor of cage
• Wheezing or coughing
• Runny or discolored stools
• Favoring one foot when not asleep—it is normal for birds to sleep on one foot
• Eye or nasal discharge
• Red or swollen eyes
• Loss of appetite
If feeding fruits the stool may become runny for a while. Many birds cannot tolerate too much acid that is in many citrus fruits, therefore we recommend limiting the amount of citrus you feed to your bird.
When changing the food your bird is given, do so gradually. A sudden change may upset your bird's digestive system, or the bird may refuse to eat the new food. We currently feed Kaytee™ seed and pellets along with many fresh fruits and vegetables to our birds.