This Person Is Breeding City Pigeons for Affordable Food

It was after he enjoyed a guy roast a pigeon carcass over a spit on a survivor show that Calgary resident Curtis Fagan decided he wanted to attempt the bird for himself. He discovered that squab, young domestic pigeons, is served by some North American restaurants– mostly elegant French or Chinese ones– and had seen many pigeons flying and cooing around his neighbourhood.

Thought about pest animals by the city of Calgary, homeowners have carte blanche to capture and eat pigeons, so long as it’s done humanely and not with an illegal weapon. Late last year, the 37-year-old and his housemate headed down to the underpass near their .

The pigeons there tended to “conceal up in a little area and clump together,” stated Fagan. “You hurl rocks at the crowd and whatever falls out is dinner.”

They brined and deep-fried their first pigeon meal. The homemade batter they tried wasn’t fantastic, but the pigeon was fantastic, stated Fagan.

“It tasted like the most smooth and luxuriant steak I ‘d ever had,” he said.

Having actually matured in Prince George, B.C.– where searching is prevalent– Fagan’s utilized to the idea of looking your food in the face. He assisted butcher a moose as a kid and later on operated in a butcher shop. Fagan said as an autistic , he was more attracted by the attraction of pigeon intake and domestication since he discovered it a little strange and extremely particular.

Pigeons in Fagan's backyard.

Some of Fagan’s’pijums.’Image courtesy of Jonaka Creasser

Fagan now has 17 pijums, as he calls them, including five breeding sets, in his yard garage– he had as many as 35 at one point. His pigeon loft is geared up with containers, cardboard boxes inside cardboard boxes, grocery bags stuffed into areas, hay, and branches. To keep them warm, he likewise lined their nests with “everything from clothes dryer lint to paper that’s been through the washer, to my roomie’s beard when he shaved it off.”

 

When he initially got them, “they absolutely attempted to get away a lot” through the door into the garage, confessed Fagan. “Now, they’re like, ‘This is house.'”

Pigeon homes made out of bins

Inside Fagan’s pigeon loft. Picture courtesy of Jonaka Creasser

There’s nothing really new about what Fagan is doing. Pigeon domestication dates back as far as 10,000 years ago. Proof of people eating them can be traced to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The ones you see in restaurants today– generally called squab– were most likely butchered before their ability to fly strengthened their meat, normally within 4 weeks after birth.

do not more North Americans eat pigeons these days? Their association with garbage cans and fecal matter-encrusted awnings and ledges in cityscapes most likely added to them losing the appeal contest to the domesticated chicken and other poultry.

“Not a great deal of people are going to begin consuming urban pigeons; they just do not look that appetizing, per se, due to the fact that they’re in a filthy city simply like we are,” Andrew Blechman, author of Pigeons: The Interesting Legend of the ’s The majority of Revered and Reviled Bird, informed VICE.

“It’s an old hobby, but it’s type of passing away out due to the fact that why raise pigeons, which is tough work but very satisfying, when you can just play Nintendo?”

There’s also issue that things they might consume could include lead or other impurities, although this probably isn’t a problem for squab you ‘d find at a restaurant or the pigeons Curtis nurtures with handpicked feed.

Plus utility squab weigh a mere pound approximately. In comparison, chickens and ducks usually weigh five and eight pounds respectively. And unlike chicks and ducklings, which are born with their eyes open and can move around on their own and feed themselves within a few days, squabs require care and feeding from their moms and dads for 4 weeks. This implies a typical pigeon reproducing set can rear around 12 to 14 squabs in a year, while a chicken can produce more than 100 fertilized eggs annually.

For Fagan, it’s an opportunity to eat regional– and for low-cost. The new addition to his diet can conserve him up to $100 on food costs in a month. That doesn’t include the $40 per month he invests in pigeon feed, which is a homemade mixture of bird seed, millet, oats, lard, lentils, brown sugar, and whey protein infused with calcium and other vitamins along with a smattering of spices. Upkeep time is around 20 minutes each day.

He uses traps and fishing internet to capture the ones he doesn’t want to eat immediately, that includes searching at a number of regional companies with pigeon problems, he said. The pigeons he does eliminate get the Queen of Hearts treatment: “When it’s simply individual consumption I will usually quickly and mercifully eliminate the pigeon’s head after making it go to sleep,” stated Fagan. “Generally, tuck their head under a wing and swing them around till they relax. They fall completely asleep and it ends before they can wake up.”

Fagan strives to launch a “Pijums, Rock Doves, and Squab” side gig to make some money. The goal there is to process around 100 to 300 pigeons monthly, but he initially needs to discover a regional slaughterhouse that can accommodate his small-batch requirements or build his own. (Calgary’s organisation licence windows registry department wouldn’t licence the sale of meat from pigeons raised and butchered on a home.)

He’s likewise had to deal with some pushback from good friends and acquaintances regarding his new way of living, although the neighbours have yet to complain.

“Individuals went from ‘Uh, this is some Jeffrey Dahmer things,’ to ‘What does it taste like?'” stated Fagan, who describes pigeon meat as resembling duck or wagyu beef. Due to the fact that it’s all dark meat, pigeon can be served unusual.

pigeon on a plate

Fagan recommended spices pigeon with salt, pepper, and sage. Image thanks to Curtis Fagan/Instagram

After a little bit of experimentation, Fagan suggests spices pigeon with salt, pepper, and sage. “You put a number of onions or shallots and garlic inside the bird and stuff it with a little bit of pork sausage. Roast it for 35 to 45 minutes at 350 F and it comes out medium-rare and tastes like steak.” Fagan frequently serves his pigeon with squash and root veggies on the side.

“A single bird is a lot meal even if of how abundant and oily the meat is.”

While he eats them on the regular, they’re likewise his family pets. His preferred is Buddy Bird, whom Fagan captured as a juvenile runt. “He’s basically domesticated now due to the fact that he’s little and sort of a dork, and the other birds select on him.”

“After a while, some birds are bigger jerks than the other birds,” he stated. “It’s generally 3 or four out of a flock of 24, and you cook those guys first.”

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This content was originally published here.