3 Ways to Set Up a Dove Habitat (2024)

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1Setting up a Cage

2Using an Aviary

3Selecting a Dovecote

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Co-authored byPippa Elliott, MRCVS

Last Updated: November 24, 2020Approved

Doves are one of the most affectionate bird species, and raising your own can be a lot of fun. The type of habitat you’ll need for the birds will depend on how big they are. Smaller birds do okay in a cage. Medium birds, or a larger flock, will need an aviary that lets them fly and gives them lots of space. Larger birds can live in dovecote, where they’ll come to nest and eat at night after free flying all day.

Method 1

Method 1 of 3:

Setting up a Cage

  1. 1

    Use a cage for smaller doves. Cages don't provide a lot of room for movement, so you should only house smaller doves in cages. Ringneck, Diamond, and Common Ground doves are small doves that will do well in a cage.

  2. 2

    Choose a cage that allows your doves to flap their wings. If the cage is too small, it can restrict the dove’s movement. It should be able to at least flap its wings without hitting the sides of the cage.[1]

    • For a pair of ringneck doves, the smallest cage you can use is one that is 4 feet (1.2m) (1.3 m) tall, by 3 feet (0.91 m) wide, by 3 feet deep.
    • For each additional dove in your cage, you should add approximately 6 inches (15 cm) to the height, width, and depth of the cage.


  3. 3

    Use a cage with small, close-spaced bars. The bars need to be spaced close enough together that the doves cannot get out between them. Bars with more than ¾ inch (2 cm) of space between them are spaced too far apart.[2]

  4. 4

    Choose a partially enclosed cage. Doves will like the feeling of protection from a cage that has some walls that are solid. You can find these at most pet stores. The cage shouldn’t be totally enclosed, but it should have one wall, or a portion of a wall.[3]

  5. 5

    Use perches of differing textures and sizes. Each cage should have at least three perches inside of it. The smallest should be no less than ¾ inch (2 cm) in diameter so that the doves can comfortably grip it with their toes. Different textures will help keep the doves’ nails trimmed and their feet healthy.[4]

    • Try installing perches of increasing size. Begin with a 3/4 inch (2 cm) perch at the top, then a 1 inch (2.5 cm) perch, and finally a 1.5 inch (3.75 cm) perch near the bottom.
    • Perches that imitate natural wood branches are best for your doves' feet. You can also try perches made from faux leather.
  6. 6

    Spread paper or grassy sod on the bottom of the cage. Doves will spend most of their time on the bottom of the cage. Because cage bottoms are made from wire, they won’t be comfortable for the birds to stand on. You can spread newspaper or grassy sod on the bottom to make it more comfortable.[5]

  7. 7

    Set up the cage in a bright, draft-free area. You should set up the cage somewhere that’s bright, but not in direct sunlight, since this will be too warm for the birds. You should also avoid areas that are drafty, since the breeze can be uncomfortable for the birds.[6]

  8. 8

    Use a night cover if lights will be turned on and off. Lights turning on and off at night – like they might be in a living room or bedroom or office – can be frightening for the doves. Instead, either place their cage somewhere where this isn’t an issue, or place a cover over their cage at night.[7]


Method 2

Method 2 of 3:

Using an Aviary

  1. 1

    Use an aviary for medium birds. Mourning doves are the most popular species of medium sized doves. You can also use an aviary if you're housing multiple species that need plenty of room.

  2. 2

    Set up a shelter than can be heated and cooled. Since aviaries are placed outside, you’ll need the capability to heat or cool the aviary to keep the birds comfortable. This usually means having a small heater for the aviary and some kind of fan system to cool it.[8]

  3. 3

    Orient the aviary south or southwest. This gives the birds access to enough sunlight. It also prevents there from being any shadows in the aviary, which can frighten the birds.[9]

  4. 4

    Ensure the aviary is big enough to accommodate your doves. The doves will thrive best in an aviary that has room for them to fly, as well as space near the top to roost and build nests. The aviary should be as big as you can afford to build it, but the smallest it should be is 7 feet (2.1 m) long by 4 feet (1.3 m) wide by 6 feet (2 m) high.

    • If possible, build the aviary big enough for you to walk into. This will make it easier to clean the aviary. But it can also give you space to sit on the floor or in a chair and spend time with your birds.
  5. 5

    Use strong materials to keep out predators. You should use wildlife-proof mesh for the walls of your aviary, with openings less than .5 inch (1.3 cm) wide. Use strong wood for the frame of the aviary, and make sure you have strong locks on any doors.

    • Untreated pine or redwood are good, strong woods that you can use for framing your aviary.
  6. 6

    Use poured cement for flooring. Poured cement will keep out any critters or predators. It's also easy to scrub clean. You can also use sand, with a layer of steel hardware cloth installed underneath it.[10]

  7. 7

    Provide roosting and perching areas. A flat shelf near the top of the aviary will work well as a roosting or nesting area for the doves. Place branches and other platforms throughout the rest of the aviary to give the doves somewhere to perch throughout the day.[11]

  8. 8

    Place their food and water on the ground. Doves forage, so they’ll like to have their food and water on the ground. The water should be in a bowl 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) deep so they can drink and bathe in it.

  9. 9

    Add locks to the doors. Once your aviary is built, you'll need to make sure your birds can't get out and predators can't get in. You can install padlocks on the doors of your aviary to protect your birds.

  10. 10

    Clean the aviary floors every day. You should scrape bird waste off of the floor of your aviary every day. You should also make sure that you're thoroughly cleaning the aviary at least once a week. This includes wiping down any perches, and cleaning food and water dishes.

    • Wear a face mask while you clean the aviary.


Method 3

Method 3 of 3:

Selecting a Dovecote

  1. 1

    Set up a dovecote for free flight doves. Most doves can be trained to be free flight doves, except for the smallest species of doves. Ringneck and diamond doves should not be trained to be free flying.

    • Doves are safer when they travel in larger flocks, so you should really only be setting up a dovecote habitat if you have multiple doves. You should have at least four doves in your dovecote.
  2. 2

    Allow doves to become accustomed to the dovecote first. If you let your doves fly without teaching them where “home” is, there’s a good chance they won’t come back. Enclose the dovecote with mesh so the birds can’t get out. Give them a few weeks to learn that this is where home is, and where they can find their food.[12]

  3. 3

    Feed doves in a dovecote mainly at night. This will teach them to return home in the evening to eat. If you feed them their heaviest meal in the morning, they might learn they can stay out all night, increasing the possibility of their getting injured or killed by predators.[13]

  4. 4

    Build a wallcote against the side of your house. The wallcote should include a compartment (or compartments) for the birds to nest in at night, as well as a landing platform. For two medium birds, the wallcote should be about 26 inches (67 cm) wide, 19 inches (49 cm) deep, and 16 inches (41 cm) tall.[14]

    • The landing board should be about 8 inches (20 cm) wide, and you should also make an entrance hole that is 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm) in diameter. You can place food and water dishes on the landing platform.
    • The wall you build the wallcote against should be flat, so that predators can’t climb the wall to reach your birds.[15]
  5. 5

    Use a gardencote to combine a dovecote with an aviary. If you have larger birds that need a bigger habitat, you can build an aviary that’s open on top. This allows the birds out for free flight but still gives them the larger comforts of an aviary. [16]


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      • Even doves kept in cages will need some time out of the cage each day to walk around. You can close the door to the room where the cage is housed, and let the dove walk around for a half hour or so.


        Helpful8Not Helpful2



      • You can house doves in aviaries with other bird species, as long as they’re not too aggressive. Don’t keep an aviary or bird cage if you also have cats or dogs.


        Helpful3Not Helpful2


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      About this article

      3 Ways to Set Up a Dove Habitat (38)

      Co-authored by:

      Pippa Elliott, MRCVS


      This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years. This article has been viewed 7,745 times.

      45 votes - 87%

      Co-authors: 9

      Updated: November 24, 2020


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      3 Ways to Set Up a Dove Habitat (2024)


      How to create a dove habitat? ›

      Small ponds or drainage ditches are great to have on your field. The banks should be clean, so the birds will feel comfortable drinking water and won't feel threatened by predators. Open ground or bare dirt needs to make up approximately 40 percent of your field. Doves do not like cover, they like open areas.

      How to set up a dove cage? ›

      The cage should be at least 18 x 22 x 18 inches (46 x 56 x 46 cm). The bigger the enclosure the better, especially if it will house multiple doves. Provide at least 2 perches of different thickness and materials; these variations help keep birds' feet strong and healthy.

      What habitat do doves live in? ›

      Farms, towns, open woods, roadsides, grasslands. Found in almost any kind of open or semi-open habitat in temperate parts of North America, including forest clearings, farmland, suburbs, prairies, deserts. May be most common in edge habitats having both trees and open ground, but also found in some treeless areas.

      How do you build a perfect dove field? ›

      Your dove fields, therefore, should be as clean as possible and should offer plenty of open space so the birds feel comfortable while feeding. Clean sight lines minimize the risk that predators like foxes, cats, and coyotes will prey on the birds as the doves come to feed.

      What is the best setup for dove hunting? ›

      Dove decoys will help distract the birds. Stationary decoys and spinning-wing dove decoys will put the doves at ease and bring them in close for a shot. Clipping stationary decoys to standing sunflowers, fence wires, and tree branches will help make your setup look more realistic.

      What is the best habitat for dove hunting? ›

      Like grouse, habitat edges are important for doves as well. Smaller farm fields with forested cover surrounding them are sure to attract a few doves in the fall. They will key in on smaller-seeded crops or early successional weed species in the fields and find shelter in the surrounding trees.

      How long can a dove go without water? ›

      Bartholomew and Dawson (op. &.) found that Mourning Doves kept without drinking water for 24 hours at 39°C. lost an average of 11.6 per cent of their original body weight; they report that the ad Zibitum distilled water consumption at this same temperature is 23.9 per cent of body weight per day.

      What are the habits of doves? ›

      Mourning Doves perch on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground; their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinnying. Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted species in North America.

      What is a dove's home called? ›

      Dovecotes are structures designed to house pigeons or doves. They are also referred to as 'culverhouses' (English), 'columbaria' (Latin) and 'doocots' (Scots).

      What to put on a dove field? ›

      The Key Ingredients to an Easy Dove Field

      Sunflowers are what most hunters plant for doves, but it's expensive. If you want to spend less money (and time), broadcasting red spring wheat seed is the way to go. Sunflowers take more time and money.

      What is the easiest dove field? ›

      Brown top millet is one of the easiest plants to establish and manage for a successful dove field. Brown top millet matures in 60-90 days, so calculate your planting time to produce a ripe crop of seeds for the September dove season opening.

      How do you make a simple dove house? ›

      Container nests also work well for doves, and a milk jug with an opening large enough for a dove to move in and out of easily can create a suitable foundation. Make certain the entryway has no sharp edges, and secure the jug properly when placing it outside.

      What is the best thing to plant for a dove field? ›

      But my recommendation for a successful dove field is a sunflower field. At Prairie Wildlife, sun-flower fields have resulted in better hunts than millet-planted fields. On our “opening hunt” in September, bird limits were common among participants.

      Is 2 acres big enough for a dove field? ›

      The good news, though, is that doves don't need a lot of land and food. In fact, a couple dove fields two acres in size will hold enough birds so multiple hunters can shoot limits if they don't overhunt the property.

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