Choosing a Dovecote for the Garden
A dovecote in the garden can be a delightful addition, whether it attracts birds or not. Dovecotes can be bought from garden centres or from some garden building companies, come in all shapes and sizes and can easily be made by those with rudimentary carpentry skills.
History of Pigeonaires and DovecotesThe idea of accommodation in the garden for larger birds like doves and pigeons started centuries ago, if not millennia, when the eggs and the birds were part of the staple diet in the United Kingdom. In France the circular towers known as 'pigeonaires' became such an architectural feature that they are now often built onto modern houses even though they will be ordinary rooms and never see a dove.
There were similar buildings in the United Kingdom today although very few remain. One is in the well preserved medieval kitchen garden at Rousham House in Oxfordshire and pigeons and doves still use it, although they aren't farmed there any more.
Dovecotes in GardensDovecotes today are for a different purpose and a different style. They are intended as a home for doves or pigeons and are usually raised high on a pole or attached to a suitable wall. This is to keep the doves away from predators such as cats and foxes.
Dovecotes come in various sizes, from single level versions with two or three bays up to three tiered ones (at least three tiers is the most we've come across) that can accommodate up to twenty pairs of birds.
Structure of DovecotesDovecotes are usually made of wood but plastic ones with an imitation 'wood' finish are also available. They tend to be no more than a foot or two in diameter with open doorways on all sides. Inside there should be internal walls so that each doorway leads only to its own bay, with each bay housing one pair of doves.
Nests should not be directly in front of the door of the bay but around the corner from the doorway so as to keep wind and rain off them. Small boards or pegs just outside each doorway give something for the doves to land on.
Doves can be fed by putting feed in a small dish in each bay of the dovecote, or you can put a platform under it for birds to use while feeding. Some models also come with feed hoppers that can be sited on these platforms which when filled will keep the doves fed for a week or so.
Dovecote StylesThere are various different styles but all have a pointed roof to stop rain and snow from settling on the top and they tend to be roughly circular. Styles vary from plain to decorative and the decorative styles available can be gothic, Middle Eastern, Chinese, plain or even Georgian. It's really up to you as to which style suits your garden, and prices go from a couple of hundred pounds to over a thousand.
If you want a dovecote as just an aesthetic addition to the garden then that's fine. You can also use them to keep doves though and there is a good range of books on buying, re-homing and caring of doves available in book shops.