A Home For Homers

A Home For Homers

Keeping Birds In The 'Burbs

The Homer Home is relatively inconspicuous, tucked beneath a lilac tree on the author's back property line.

The suburban gun dog owner faces a dilemma. Training a bird dog requires exposure to birds, but you aren't likely to get Rover onto wild scent at the local playground. Life in the suburbs rarely coincides with large numbers of wild birds in open country.

Consequently, many suburban dog owners send their dogs to professional trainers. This is certainly a fine way to school a dog, provided you know how to pick a trainer. It's also expensive. I've never been financially able to part with half a house payment to train a dog. Furthermore, I hate to miss the fun of training my own dog, anyway.

The suburban trainer will likely be relegated to pen-raised birds for training. To give a dog regular exposure to birds, you have three options: (1) acquire birds regularly on an as-needed basis; (2) own lots of birds; (3) use the same few birds again and again.

If you have ample spare time, as I did B.C. (Before Children), the first option is fine. In the August/September 1996 issue of Gun Dogs, I detailed a homemade trap for feral "barn" pigeons. Since this type of pigeon rarely returns to your pen after a training session, continual trapping of new birds is necessary. This process is more of a hassle than many of us can deal with. We no longer have time to "run a trap-line" for pigeons.

The second option works if you have space for large pens. But if that's the case, you probably don't live in a suburban setting. Furthermore, this option is messy and inconvenient, even for the landed gentry.

The third option is the most workable alternative for trainers who live in soccer country. By using homing pigeons, you can use the same birds many times. After a training session, the birds will ultimately find their way back home. With six to eight homers, the suburban amateur can give his or her personal gun dog regular exposure to birds, without converting the backyard into a sprawling aviary. This number of birds can be housed inconspicuously in a small pen.

Keep your homers in the pen for a few weeks before you let them out for the first time. This will encourage them to settle in to their home. Then you may release them periodically for exercise, keeping them in good flight condition. At first, release only one pigeon to determine if the birds have indeed adopted their new home.

(Left) The Pigeon One-Way Door in an open position, with perch. Note the stop for the perch bar. (Right) The Predator Door in place, keeping the neighborhood felines out of the Homer Home.

Before we get to the plans for a bird pen, a disclaimer is in order. I am not a handyman. I have seen beautiful pigeon houses, more elaborately adorned than my first apartment. But if I am to build something, it must be simple. The "Homer Home" described in this article is for those of you who are similarly challenged (or reluctant). If you can draw a straight line and run a saw along it, you can make this bird pen.

Finally, since most suburban trainers (including myself) only train during the fair weather months, this bird pen is not a year-round facility. I had no intention of forcing birds to spend the brutal Iowa winter in this thing when I built it. Train all spring and summer with your homers, then shoot them over Jake before the fall hunting season. Next spring, buy more homers if Jake still needs work.

Now, let's get started. . .



10 8' 2x2 furring strips

Two 4'x8' sheets of 3/8" plywood

Four butt hinges

Two hasps with padlocks

Two 3'x5' rolls of 1/4" hardware cloth

One pigeon one-way door with perch and varmint door

Galvanized, 2" self-driving deck screws (about 50) wood staples

1" nails (about two dozen)

Two or three cans of spray paint

You will have some 2x2, hardware cloth and plywood left over. If that bothers you, tinker with the Homer Home dimensions until you use it all. Just don't make the pen deeper than you can reach, or you'll have a heckuva time gathering pigeons. Leftovers don't bother me. Remember, I'm not a handyman.

Tool Kit--Table saw or circular hand saw--Power drill with Phillips screwdriver bit--Staple gun--Wire snips--Hammer


(refer to accompanying figures):

1. Cut six pieces of 2x2, 4' long, (1).

2. Cut four pieces of 2x2, 5' long, (2).

3. Using deck screws, assemble the front and rear frames as shown in Figure 1 "Front View."

4. Cut six pieces of 2x2, 2' long, (3).

5. Connect the front and rear frames as shown in "Side View."

6. Refer to Figure 2, "Door Detail." Cut four pieces of 2x2, 22 1/4" long, (4). Cut four pieces of 2x2, 17 1/2" long, (5). Cut two pieces of hardware cloth, approximately 19"x21". Assemble each door with deck screws. Cover the back of each door with hardware cloth, using wood staples.

7. Again refer to Figure 2, "Door Detail." Cut a single piece of 2x2, 1'x9" long, (6). This is the door post. With deck screws, mount the door post with the right edge 1'-11 1/4" from the right vertical member of the front frame.

8. Using butt hinges, mount the doors on the front frame as shown on the drawings. Attach hasps for padlocks as shown.

9. Cut a piece of hardware cloth, approximately 26"x5O". This is the floor of the pen. Attach to frame with wood staples. You will need to notch out portions at the corners and door post with wire snips.

10. Carry the pen to its ultimate location in the yard prior to attaching the plywood walls. You may skip this step if you are an NFL linebacker or an aspiring hernia patient.

11. Cut a plywood sheet, 27"x51". This is the roof. Nail it to the top of the frame.

12. Cut a plywood sh

eet, 24"x51". This is the back wall. Nail it to the back of the frame.

13. Cut two plywood sheets, 27"x24". These are the side walls. Nail one to the side of the frame. Cut the other to accommodate the pigeon one-way door. Attach the pigeon one-way door according to the directions that accompany it. Finally, attach the wall to the Homer Home frame.

14. If your pigeon one-way door has a combination perch and predator shield, you may need to provide a stop along the side of the frame. (See accompanying photograph.)

15. Paint the Homer Home if desired.

16. I anchor the Homer Home with a bent garden stake to prevent toppling in a strong wind.

The Homer Home costs about $100 to build, which would otherwise buy a few days of pro training for Jake.

One good source for the pigeon one-way door is Dogs Unlimited, 207 Boy Scout Rd., Ray, Ohio 45672-9625; 740/286-0029; www.dogsunlimited.com.


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