Do baby pigeons need heat?

Quick Answer

Like most baby birds, baby pigeons do need some heat from their parents to stay warm, especially when they first hatch. However, they may not need as much direct heat as other baby birds since pigeons nest in enclosed spaces that help retain warmth. The parents sitting on the nest provides crucial warmth. Once the babies are a few days old and get their first feathers, they can better regulate their own body temperature.

Do Baby Pigeons Need to Be Kept Warm?

Yes, baby pigeons do need to be kept warm by their parents, especially when they are newly hatched. Baby pigeons are called squabs. Here are some key facts about squabs’ need for warmth:

  • Squabs hatch with no feathers and cannot regulate their own body temperature.
  • Both parent pigeons take turns sitting on the nest to keep the squabs warm.
  • A squab’s body needs to be kept between 86-106°F for healthy development.
  • Squabs huddle together in the nest for added warmth.
  • Insulation of the nest helps hold in heat from the parent pigeons.
  • Within 5-7 days, squabs grow first feathers to start regulating their own temperature.

So in their early days of life, squabs are unable to maintain their optimal body temperature alone and rely on external heat sources like their parents and nest. But as they grow initial feathers, they become better able to regulate their temperature independently.

How Do Parent Pigeons Keep Babies Warm?

Parent pigeons have several methods for keeping their newly hatched babies warm:

Sitting on the Nest

Once the eggs hatch, one parent will sit directly on the nest to provide warmth to the squabs through body heat transfer. Both parents take turns, with one foraging for food while the other incubates. The sitting pigeon holds its body loosely over the squabs to maximize heat coverage. The parent’s blood vessels in its belly region help radiate heat down to the squabs beneath. This direct contact helps regulate the temperature of the vulnerable hatchlings.

Enclosing the Nest

Pigeons construct nests in sheltered spots like ledges on buildings or inside lofts. This enclosed nesting area helps retain heat from the parent’s body and protects against cold outside air. Nesting spots under overhangs or small cavities offer further insulation. The nest’s twigs, straw, and other materials also hold heat from the parent’s body between switch-offs.


In a behavior called brooding, the parent pigeon stands directly over the squabs with wings outstretched and lowered over them, almost like a feathery blanket. This creates a warm brooding chamber, trapping the parent’s body heat against the babies. The parent may periodically fluff its feathers during brooding to further hold in warmth.

Regurgitating Crop Milk

In addition to warmth itself, parent pigeons also provide crop milk to nourish the squabs. Crop milk is a nutritious secretion produced in the crop organ of both male and female pigeons. This high fat, protein-rich substance helps squabs grow and provides energy to help them maintain body heat. The crop milk is regurgitated directly into the hungry squabs’ mouths.

When Can Squabs Regulate Their Own Temperature?

Baby squabs start regulating their own body temperature once they grow feathers at around 5-7 days old. Here’s the progression:

  • Hatchlings have bare pink skin and rely completely on the parents’ warmth.
  • At around 3 days old, quill stubs start emerging from the skin.
  • By 5-7 days old, the quills have turned into fuzzy down feathers.
  • These first wispy feathers help hold in body heat better.
  • But squabs may still need some intermittent brooding at this stage.
  • Within 2-3 weeks, squabs get full juvenile plumage and can fully thermoregulate.

So while squabs start regulating temperature on their own after about a week, they may still benefit from some supplemental brooding for warmth over the next few weeks as their feather coat continues developing. The mother pigeon generally stops routine brooding once the squabs are fully feathered and active around the nest at 2-3 weeks old.

What Temperature Is Safe for Baby Pigeons?

Squabs need to be kept at certain temperatures for healthy growth:

  • Ideal temperature range: 86-106°F (30-41°C)
  • Hypothermia risk below: 86°F (30°C)
  • Overheating risk above: 106°F (41°C)

Temperatures outside this range can jeopardize squabs’ development and survival. Hypothermia can set in quickly in hatchlings under 86°F (30°C). But overheating can also pose health risks for the tiny squabs.

Monitoring the nest temperature is key. Parent pigeons help maintain ideal warmth through brooding behaviors. But if a squab is orphaned or the parents are neglecting duties, external heat sources may be needed to keep the nest in the optimal 86-106°F (30-41°C) range.

Do Squabs Need Heat Lamps or Brooders?

Providing artificial heat sources can be important for squab care and development in certain situations:

Orphaned or Abandoned Squabs

Squabs need proper brooding if they become separated from their parents or are rejected from the nest. Without the parent pigeons warming the nest, the babies can quickly become chilled. Heat lamps, electric brooders, or microwavable stuffed animals can substitute for the parents’ body heat.

Illness or Injury

Sick or injured squabs have greater difficulty regulating their temperature and may need supplemental heat as part of their treatment and recovery. Warmth supports the immune system.

Cool Weather

In colder climates or seasons, the parent pigeons may need help keeping nests warm enough for squabs. Insulating the coop and providing safe heat lamps can boost the ambient temperature.

Poor Nest Locations

Some pigeon nest sites may be drafty or exposed to the elements. Improving insulation or adding a heat source can strengthen climate control for vulnerable squabs.

So for both wild and domestic pigeons, providing artificial heat can be an important aid in squab care when parents alone can’t maintain an optimal nest temperature. Checking the actual nest temperature helps determine if intervention is needed.

At What Age Can Baby Pigeons Thermoregulate?

Pigeon squabs go through distinct stages in developing their ability to regulate body temperature independently:

  • 0-3 days old – No feather coverage, completely reliant on parent brooding for warmth.
  • 5-7 days old – Grow initial down feathers allowing some self-thermoregulation.
  • 2 weeks old – Full juvenile plumage comes in; squabs can largely self-regulate but may still need some brooding.
  • 3 weeks old – Feather coat fully developed; squabs can maintain optimal temperature alone.

So baby pigeon growth happens rapidly – hatchlings go from having no feather insulation to complete juvenile plumage in just a few weeks. By the 3 week mark, properly feathered squabs can independently maintain their temperature within the ideal range of 86-106°F (30-41°C) without routine parent brooding.

Do Squabs Need Heat at Night?

Squabs generally need some supplemental heat at night for the first couple weeks after hatching:

  • Newly hatched squabs have almost no ability to retain body heat at night.
  • Parent pigeons continue taking turns brooding through the night to prevent chill.
  • Within a week, squabs gain some insulation from early feathers.
  • But they still benefit from parents warming the nest periodically overnight.
  • Around 2-3 weeks old, squabs can fully regulate their temperature day and night.

Monitoring the nest temperature at night is important during the squabs’ vulnerable early days. The parents play a crucial role in ensuring the environment stays within the optimal 86-106°F (30-41°C) range needed for squab development. But heat lamps or brooders can help fill the warmth gap for orphaned or neglected squabs.

What Temperature Do Baby Pigeons Need at Night?

The ideal temperature range for pigeon squabs remains consistent both day and night:

  • 86-106°F (30-41°C) during the day
  • 86-106°F (30-41°C) at night

This stable warm temperature is critical for the rapid growth and development of tissues and organs in newly hatched squabs.

To maintain these proper nighttime temperatures, parent pigeons continue brooding in shifts, warming the nest cavity for periods throughout the night. Providing supplemental heat is key if the parents are absent and unable to raise the ambient nest temperature on their own.

Monitoring thermometers help ensure squabs stay in the optimal 86-106°F (30-41°C) zone at all times. Drafty, cold conditions can lead to hypothermia. But overheating risks also exist if temperatures exceed 106°F (41°C) for a prolonged period.

Do Baby Pigeons Need Heat Pads?

Electric heat pads can be a good supplemental heat source for baby pigeons in certain situations, especially for orphaned or neglected squabs. Some key benefits of heat pads include:

  • Provide consistent gentle warmth between 85-100°F (29-38°C).
  • Stay at controlled temperatures overnight.
  • Typically use little electricity.
  • Safe for unattended use compared to heat lamps.
  • Adhere directly to the squabs’ nesting area.
  • Promote healing for injured or ill squabs.

Heat pads designed specifically for pet birds or reptiles work well for pigeon squab nests. Placing a pad on one side of the nest allows squabs to self-regulate by moving closer to or farther from the heat source as needed.

Monitoring temperatures and using thermostats can prevent overheating. But heat pads are generally the safest option for providing consistent supplemental warmth to squabs when parent brooding alone is inadequate.


Like all altricial baby birds, newly hatched pigeon squabs rely completely on their parents to provide external heat to stay warm and thrive. Through brooding behaviors like nest-sitting and enclosing wings over the babies, parent pigeons help regulate the ambient temperature of the nest cavity to keep vulnerable hatchlings within the optimal 86-106°F (30-41°C) range both day and night. But as squabs rapidly grow first feathers within their first week and reach full juvenile plumage by 2-3 weeks old, they become increasingly able to thermoregulate independently. Still, providing supplemental warmth through heat lamps, pads, or brooders can be an important aid for parent pigeons working to keep their delicate babies healthy and properly developing, especially during the squabs’ first couple weeks of rapid growth. With attentive parental care or adequate artificial heat sources, squabs can successfully transition from completely dependent hatchlings to fully feathered, warm-bodied fledglings.

Key Temperatures for Pigeon Squab Development
Squab Age Heat Needed? Ideal Temperature Range
Newly hatched Yes, completely dependent on parents 86-106°F (30-41°C)
5-7 days old Partially, gains some self-regulation 86-106°F (30-41°C)
2-3 weeks old Minimal, fully feathered for self-thermoregulation 86-106°F (30-41°C)

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