by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Today a dovecote is often thought of as nothing more than an over-sized birdhouse or perhaps even a decorative accessory in the garden, but throughout history, dovecotes have played an important role.
Made from stone or in some cases wood, early French and English dovecotes were quite large and housed as many as 5,000 birds, on the large estates, though much less on farms, where they were, generally, made of wood.
In Colonial America, dovecotes were much smaller, except perhaps in Louisiana where the French influence was more pronounced and dovecotes or pigeonniers, as the French called them, were seen as a status symbol for wealthy plantation owners. On most English plantations dovecote was typically no more than a nesting box set on a barn gable.
For the smallholder a dovecote, and thus pigeons, can still today be a good source of protein, in the form of meat, and fertilizer in the form of the droppings of the birds.
Together with some laying hens for egg, who also produce a great amount of manure, which is as good a fertilizer, a smallholding can be very self-reliant. And even more so if some rabbits are raised as well.
In fact, even in a garden a small dovecote, can be useful to aid somewhat to self-reliance and should not be overlooked.