What’s This Post About?
Due to their adaptability, pigeons are one of the most thriving species in cities worldwide. As a result, these rapidly reproducing birds have widely grown in population, with the feral pigeons becoming more accustomed to the cosmopolitan environment crowded with humans around.
You can spot these brilliant and plump metallic-colored pigeons in almost every urban outdoor setting as they dwell in man-made structures such as window sills, AC units, and the undersides of bridges.
If you’re contemplating what makes these birds so prevalent around us, among many other factors such as an abundance of food in the cities and suitable habitats, another major reason is their fast reproduction cycle.
After laying their clutch of eggs, typically consisting of two eggs, both the parent pigeons begin to incubate the eggs, which take around 18 days to hatch. Sometimes, the eggs do not necessarily hatch to produce a baby pigeon. Soon after the eggs hatch, the female prepares to give birth to another brood.
Like all eggs, pigeon eggs need to be incubated well to provide them with sufficient heat before they can hatch into tiny little offspring. The eggs will fail to thrive if there is a lack of proper incubation.
This post has everything you need to know about pigeon eggs. Find out the answers to all your inquisitions about how and when a pigeon egg hatches.
When do Pigeons lay eggs?
Among those species of birds that can lay eggs all year round, pigeons are one of them. Pigeons produce crop milk to feed their young, and since this crop milk can be produced across all months, the reproduction period of pigeons is not confined.
Unlike many other birds, the breeding cycle of pigeons isn’t determined by the season. Although there is a high likelihood of mating and breeding during the spring and fall, when the weather is more favorable, pigeons can breed throughout the year.
Due to their relatively short reproductive cycles, the pigeons can lay a new brood each month. Typically laying a clutch with two eggs, this means that pigeons are capable of laying 24 eggs each year.
However, it is pretty unreasonable for us to expect that the pigeon will lay eggs each month and that all these eggs would turn out to be fertile.
In the usual scenario, pigeons are among the most rapidly reproducing birds, taking small breaks - typically a month in between - and laying eggs quite frequently—no wonder the pigeons are so widespread around us.
Pigeons captivated in a cage have a greater chance of reproducing and laying eggs very frequently. Feral pigeons that fly around freely do not have their sole emphasis on mating and breeding.
Female pigeons are ready for the next round of breeding as soon as they complete incubating their previous clutch. With almost no break, such frequent breeding can be detrimental to the health of the female pigeon.
Not only would she become weak, but the eggs might be relatively smaller in size and might turn out to be infertile. So it is best to separate the pair for a while to give them a break if you can.
At What Age Do Pigeons Lay Eggs?
As soon as pigeons reach sexual maturity, they can lay eggs to raise new breeds. This typically happens at the age of six months for female pigeons when they are ready to breed.
Some female pigeons might lay their first clutch of eggs when they are only five months old, while some pigeons can take up to nine months to lay their first set of eggs.
The age at which a pigeon lays its first eggs depends on the species and the diet of the pigeons. Therefore, the female pigeons need to consume a nutritious diet with high water content; otherwise, their reproductive cycle might be impacted.
Right when the female pigeons are about to lay eggs, they need to eat healthy food with high protein and calcium content. The intake of grit aids the pigeons in digestion and also helps to make stronger eggshells.
Some birds like the Blue Jays gather paint chips from the walls of buildings and houses to eat them. The high amount of calcium present in these paint chips helps to make the eggshells stronger.
If you’ve examined the behavior of pigeons closely, you may have noticed the younger ones, around three to four months old, mating with others around.
This mating is their natural ritual and wouldn’t result in the reproduction of eggs as the pigeons have not yet attained sexual maturity. So don’t expect the female to release eggs a few days from now as a result of mating.
How Many Eggs Are There in A Pigeon Clutch?
A pigeon’s clutch of eggs normally comprises of two eggs.
Sometimes there can be only one egg or as many as three - a very rare instance though.
After laying the first egg, the female pigeon wouldn’t stay in the nest the entire time. Instead, it would leave the nest and fly in search of food, returning after some time.
The pigeon wouldn’t begin incubating until the second egg is also released. The second egg doesn’t come right away and is laid after a span of 24 to 48 hours.
Seldom, the female pigeon might also lay a third egg. However, relative to the other eggs in the clutch, this egg is quite fragile and smaller in size, having a lower chance of survival than the other eggs.
Did You Know?
If you ever find more than three eggs in a pigeon nest, that's not normal. This nest might be dwelled by two female pigeons who have mated and laid their eggs. These are certainly not fertile so try to change the pair by introducing the females to the male pigeons.
What Do Pigeon Eggs Look Like?
Pigeon eggs are approximately 3 to 4 cm in size, having a porcelain white shell, sometimes with slight variations in color towards blue or brown, or they might have minute spots on the shell.
Healthier pigeons tend to lay relatively bigger eggs. The size and color of the eggs also depend on the species of pigeons.
According to ornithologists, domestic pigeons are likely to produce light-colored eggs, while those living in the dark have a darker color since it helps to attract heat.
King Pigeon are relatively big breeds of pigeons with sizable eggs.
Almost half in size to a chicken egg, the shell of the pigeon egg is extremely fragile and needs to be handled with extreme care and precaution.
Are you wondering whether, just like chicken eggs, is eating pigeon eggs safe? Find out here!
If you're contemplating whether you could consume pigeon meat as a source of protein, the answer is yes! Keep reading to find out more.
Can Pigeons Lay Eggs Without Mating?
You might be amazed to know this - Yes, pigeons can lay eggs without engaging in the mating ritual.
Once the female pigeon reaches sexual maturity, which happens at around 5-6 months, the pigeons are ready to breed. In the usual scenario, the male pigeon tries to approach the female for mating, but the female also actively looks for a partner when it is about to lay eggs.
To find a partner and mate with a male, the female pigeon desperately attempts to attract a mate by cooing mesmerizingly. In her preparation to lay eggs, the single female would also search for a nesting site for herself and begin gathering the materials to build the nest.
She would hope to find a partner to mate with to lay fertile eggs and begin a family of squabs. But, unfortunately, at times, the poor female isn’t able to find a mate for herself.
Hence, when the time for laying the eggs nears, she would complete her nest and lay the eggs. She would then incubate these eggs, waiting for them to hatch.
Do Eggs Released Without Mating Hatch?
Unfortunately, no. These eggs are not fertile and will not hatch - even if they are incubated meticulously.
Since the desolate female was unable to find a mate, her eggs would be infertile, lacking the capacity to hatch and produce little chicks.
For the eggs to hatch successfully, it is important for them to be fertilized by the sperm of the male. Therefore, only when mating and copulation between the male and female pigeons take place, the sperm is transferred to the female, resulting in fertilization of the egg.
Hence, you can expect this egg to hatch successfully, once the incubation is completed, popping a tiny baby pigeon as mating between the male and female has taken place.
How To Tell When a Pigeon Is About To Lay Eggs?
Avid birdwatchers are quite enthused to witness the birth of a tiny little hatchling. The process becomes even more endearing if the pigeons have nested in your balcony. It’s great to know when the pigeon is about to lay its eggs so you can observe the beauty of nature.
Watch out for these signs in the female pigeon to determine if it’s about to lay eggs.
It will become much weighty as the pigeon nears the time to lay eggs.
It would spend most of her time in the nest, leaving only when necessary, typically to forage for food.
It becomes pretty aggressive and irritable, cautiously protecting its territory and preferring to stay backed up in the corner of the nest.
It will begin to drink more water as the liquid helps in the formation of the egg.
The excrements of the pigeons might get even more stinky and bigger right before it is about to lay eggs.
How Does a Pigeon Lay Eggs?
Has a pair of pigeons built its nest right in front of your balcony? What an enticing sight it is to closely observe and explore the pigeons laboriously making their nests, laying eggs, and diligently incubating them till they hatch after 18 days.
Do not go too close to the pigeon's nest. You might scare the parents away, and they may end up abandoning their unhatched eggs.
Before jumping on to the egg-laying process of the pigeons, you might want to learn how the male and female form a lifelong, monogamous bond. Read through this blog to find out more.
Very few birds form monogamous, lifelong bonds. Pigeons are one of them! Keep reading to explore more about the endearing, strong bond of pigeons.
After the male chooses his female mate, both of them engage in the creation of their nests. Together they select a nesting site, after which the male brings nesting materials to the female.
The female pigeon lays the foundation of the nest and weaves a nest with sticks and straws brought to her by the male partner.
The pigeons, especially males, become highly territorial during the nesting and breeding season, aggressively chasing away any male that tries to enter the territory. You could say that the male pigeon is taking good care of his female, who’s just about to lay eggs.
The female pigeon would spend a few days in the nest before she begins to lay eggs, one by one, at intervals of 1-2 days. Then, when the day comes to lay the eggs finally, she would stay confined to her nest, barely coming out unless necessary while the male pigeon tends to her needs.
Pigeons usually lay their eggs in the evening from 5pm to 8 pm. This is the case with most birds, though laying of eggs can happen at any other time as well.
Right after laying the first egg, the mother pigeon would not immediately begin to incubate it. Instead, she might sit or even stand on it for a while but also leaves the nest to forage for food for herself.
During her absence, the male pigeon guards the egg and the nest. However, sometimes both the parents also leave the nest, leaving the egg unattended for only a short duration.
Within the next two days, the second egg also appears in the nest. If you don’t see the second egg, the chances are that this pigeon might only be producing one chick, although typically, a clutch will have two eggs.
Now that all the eggs are present in the nest, the pigeons would begin incubating them. You might be contemplating why incubation didn’t start right away after the first egg was laid.
Pigeons usually prefer to incubate their eggs together so that they remain the same size and are born on the same day.
Early incubation of the first egg means that the chick inside it would grow quickly and hatch out of the egg first, usually a day or two before the second one. Due to its bigger size, it would eat most of the food, leaving very little for the second one.
The parent pigeons would rather have analogous growing patterns for their squabs.
This can only happen when incubation begins on the same day for both the eggs so that they hatch at around the same time and consume the same ratio of food. This ensures that one pigeon does not become nutrient deficient and grows as healthy as its sibling.
How Do Pigeons Incubate Their Eggs?
Pigeon eggs take around 18-19 days to hatch.
When both the eggs are laid by the female pigeon, she will begin incubating her eggs, while the male pigeon would protect the nests from external intruders and collect food for the female.
Extremely family-oriented and sincere birds, the male pigeon would also take full responsibility of his mate and offspring, tending to them all the time.
Since the eggs cannot be left unattended, both the male and female pigeons take turns in incubating the eggs. As a result, they become highly protective, constantly safeguarding their unborn babies.
For the major part of the day, extending from afternoon till early morning, the eggs are incubated by the female pigeon.
The male takes charge early in the morning so that the female could take some rest and find food for herself, returning in the afternoon to resume her responsibility. This cycle persists until the day of hatching arrives.
Can A Single Pigeon Raise Eggs on Its Own?
We know that females try to look for mates to pair with when they’re about to lay eggs. Desperately looking for a partner, they might end up mating with a male who already has a partner.
Since pigeons are monogamous species but can sometimes cheat their pair, this is entirely normal! So now, since the female pigeon has mated with a male, it ends up laying eggs that are fertile and would hatch to produce tiny chicks.
In such a scenario, the female pigeon takes utmost responsibility of her eggs, incubating them all alone without the help of any other pigeon. She would spend most of the time sitting on her eggs to ensure the young come out healthy, leaving her nests only for a few minutes to fetch food herself.
After the eggs hatch, the female would single-handedly take care of her little babies, getting food for them, feeding and rearing them, and protecting the little squabs from predators.
It must be quite daunting and exhausting for the poor mother pigeon!
How Does the Pigeon Egg Hatch?
After almost 18-19 days of incubation, the baby pigeon is ready to come out of the egg. Watching the eggs hatch to produce intensely tiny little species is undoubtedly an astounding sight. You’d be stunned to see how tenderly the little one comes out of the egg.
When the egg is ready to hatch, cracks begin to appear on the egg’s surface, signaling that they are ready to hatch. However, it is a slow process, taking hours to happen.
The baby inside the egg makes a small hole in the egg’s shell as it tries to push itself out. This causes the shell to break, even more, creating noticeable cracks on the shell.
After some time, due to the constant thrusts from the chick, the eggshell cracks open in half as the tiny creature emerges out of the shell.
Baby pigeons are pretty limp and helpless at the time of their birth. Moreover, they are not too adorable to look at; rather, they seem to be quite ugly with sparse down yellow or pink feathers.
These babies aren’t even able to open their eyes until a few hours. If you’re interested in reading more about baby pigeons, then read this blog
Inquisitive to find out what baby pigeons look like? Here's all you need to know about the tiny species and why you don't see them too often!
Hatching an egg and coming out of it is an arduous task for the babies. When they pop out, they are extremely tired and need to be left for almost 12 hours before being fed crop milk by their parents.
Now that the babies are completely out of the eggs, the mother pigeon would pick up the pieces of shells with her beak, keeping them aside. The sharp edges might end up piercing the defenseless chicks.
Both the parent pigeons are now extremely cautious of their surroundings, as they tend to their little ones, constantly watching out for any dangers.
The baby pigeons require considerable time and the attention of their parents during the first few days. Hence, both the mother and father are fully dedicated to looking after them, feeding them crop milk, and providing them the warmth that is imperative for survival.
Can Pigeon Eggs Survive Without Incubation?
Pigeon eggs can survive a few days without being incubated and maintaining their fertility. They can still hatch into tiny chicks if left without incubation for approximately 5 to 7 days if the weather is favorable.
This explains why the pigeons start with the incubation only after both the eggs have been laid. They might even delay it for an additional two to three days and begin it when the weather is optimal.
Keeping the eggs any longer might compromise their fertility, and so they won’t hatch. Unlike chicken eggs which can be preserved in the refrigerator for a few days, doing the same to pigeon eggs causes them to lose moisture, ceasing their fertility.
In usual scenarios, pigeons do not abandon their eggs. However, if such a situation arises where both the parent pigeons lose their lives or abandon their eggs, be extremely cautious when handling the pigeon eggs - they have very fragile shells, and pressing them even slightly can break them.
Try keeping these eggs in the nest of other pigeons where they can receive proper incubation. Chances are, the foster pigeons would not get rid of these eggs.
If that is not possible, place the eggs in an incubator for them to fully develop. Keep in mind the eggs would need the right temperature to produce healthy chicks.
Is It Possible to Tell If a Pigeon Egg Is Fertile?
You cannot tell if the egg is fertile right when it is laid. If an egg is infertile, it will not hatch no matter how long the pigeon incubates it.
After almost five days to seven days, a fertility test can be run, which determines if the egg is developing a baby or not.
To check the eggs, carefully take them out of the nest and place them on a flat surface. Then, point some bright light such as a flashlight in the direction of the eggs. As light passes through the eggs, note how they change color to bright yellow-orange from white.
If you see a bright yellowish-orange egg with dense red vein-like tubes running through it, then the egg is fertile. The little chick is developing inside the egg, so you need to place it back in the nest carefully to continue with incubation.
If, on the other hand, what you see is a bright yellow egg, the yolk is wobbling in the egg. This egg is not fertile, and it is better to discard these eggs right away since they would not hatch no matter how long they are incubated.
It is possible that the egg was not able to develop properly after it was laid, causing it to become infertile. Sometimes, the pigeon itself might lay an infertile egg. This especially happens when the female pigeon lays an egg without mating with a male.
Can Pigeons Determine the Sex of The Baby In The Eggs?
No, pigeons cannot tell if their eggs are carrying a male or female chick. More so, it is not even possible for humans to simply determine if the egg has a male or female by merely looking at it.
In most cases, we work on assumptions. According to considerable research, it has been found that a clutch of two eggs usually carries one male and one female. However, this is not always the case. Therefore, there is a probability of both the eggs producing either male or female babies.
Pigeon eggs need to be incubated for almost 18 days before they can hatch.
Though we might consider these species to be an aggravation around us, there is no doubt that both the male and female pigeons are devoted parents, putting in all their efforts to properly incubate their eggs before they hatch and tending well to their offspring.
It is possible, however, that the eggs do not turn out to be fertile, and even after incubating them for 3 weeks, they fail to hatch. Therefore, if a pigeon egg doesn’t hatch after 25 days, remove it from the nest!
To learn more about the similar looking pigeon parents, read through this interesting post on identifying male and female pigeons.
Curious how to distinguish between pigeon genders? It’s not easy, but there are certain tells in the behavior, appearance, and sound!
David A. Swanson
Bird Watching USA
My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!