The farmers of Chak village have already started reaping the benefits of their newfound endeavor, but what else makes these feathered friends such a great investment?
- As domestic birds, pigeons are very easy to handle, meaning the farmers don't have to have a lot of experience or training.
- Pigeons start laying eggs at about five to six months old and produce two baby pigeons per month on average.
- It doesn’t cost much to feed the pigeons, and the birds mostly collect food themselves.
- Pigeon meat is commonly consumed in India.
- Pigeons can keep insect problems at bay by eating the unwanted pests.
Laxmi Kisku, a Heifer India project participant and member of a Heifer self-help group recently experienced the value of leading by example. On a trip to Chak village to help form and mentor a new self-help group, she happened to meet a pigeon vendor. She was intrigued; she had never heard of pigeon farming for profit. Laxmi learned that this low-cost business can be started with a pair of birds and a simple birdhouse. The vendor explained that pigeons are nomadic, but, once they have an established shelter, the flock will start to grow. She was surprised to learn that pigeons are in high-demand, especially in winter, and that the current supply is not sufficient to satisfy demand. How much can pigeon farmers earn? Laxmi asked the vendor. He said a pair of birds goes for between 120-150 Indian rupees, or about $1.78 to $2.23. This chance encounter with the pigeon vendor gave Laxmi a lot of food for thought.
At the following month’s meeting, Laxmi told fellow group members about the pigeon vendor and what she learned. Laxmi proposed adding pigeon farming to the host of Chak village families’ other activities, including goat raising, kitchen gardening, and paddy and maize growing. She reasoned that this new income stream would help sustain them for three years while they prepared to receive the animals Laxmi's self-help group plans to give to the new group as part of Heifer's Passing on the Gift tradition. The group agreed and encouraged her to introduce pigeon farming to the new self-help group. The families of Chak, however, weren’t so keen on the idea.
Despite a month of promotion, not one group member became a pigeon farmer. So, Laxmi decided to lead by example. She bought a pair of birds, constructed a shelter, and started developing her own model—all part of her master plan to motivate the group. Her efforts paid off. One hundred families in Chak village are now raising pigeons and, to date, have collectively earned 387,000 Indian rupees, or about $5,750, from their new enterprise.