A Healer for House Pigeons
Linda Tarte...............................Edie Britt
Like most people, Edie Britt had a negative attitude toward pigeons. But she changed her mind as soon as she took in her first one as a pet and discovered its affectionate nature and intelligence. That bird led to many others. Edie releases the wild pigeons that can be rehabbed, finds home for others, and keeps a few in her home to spoil. In her interview with Bob, she also talks about her collared doves (also known as ring-necks) plus her unusual gifts as a psychic medium, which help her to communicate with injured animals. This Edie Britt is no ‘desperate housewife.’ She’s a healer for house pigeons and a dove’s best friend.
Bob Tarte: I’m speaking with Edie Britt and I know Edie through an online birding group. What happens with the birding group is that people post sightings of interesting wild bird to the list and the post get mailed out to all of the subscribers. This has really been a big help for me in seeing quite a few bird species that I never would have seen before, never even knew what would come around here in Michigan.
Now I’ve come to know Edie as—she’s a frequent poster to the group and I learned that she has several pigeons in her house as pets. Now Linda and I have a pet dove named Howard and we’re just crazy about him and I would like to know how pigeons are as pets and Edie can you give me some information?
Edie Britt: Hi Bob how are you?
Bob Tarte: Oh good, good. Welcome to the show.
Edie Britt: Thank you so much for having me. I love to talk about my pigeons and I have doves too. So we have two little doves we call them Dobby and Doblet even though they have official names which I can’t remember my daughter named them Sir Puff-A-Lot or I can’t really quite recall but they are adorable.
Bob Tarte: What kind of doves are they?
Edie Britt: Collared doves.
Bob Tarte: Okay. That’s what Howard is and he is just amazing. Linda and I talked in an earlier show about how we’re sort of surprised that doves aren’t more popular as pets because Howard is just so personable. He lands on our heads, he’ll eat food out of our hands and he is smart too.
Edie Britt: Most doves are extremely tamed. They’re very beautiful birds but in addition to just being pretty to look at—I’ll give you an example, one of them escaped from their cage while I wasn’t hope because I always keep them locked up when I’m not at home, and they came home—I had been gone for hours. I have dogs, I have cats and he was just sitting on the ground under his cage watching everything happen and just as relaxed as he could be. He wasn’t nervous or upset, just having a good old time.
Bob Tarte: Yeah that’s great. I hear a dove—no that’s not a dove, must be a pigeon.
Edie Britt: I think that’s Tim, he’s [xx]
Bob Tarte: So how long did you had the doves to start with?
Edie Britt: The doves I have had about a year and a half. I belong to a group called Free Cycle and people there exchange things they no longer need. So these doves have been and sometimes with pets unfortunately but these doves have been passed around to several different homes and I just said I can’t have this, they need a forever home so I bit the bullet and went and got them.
Bob Tarte: And this is in addition to how many pigeons do you have?
Edie Britt: Well, currently I have three pigeons and I’m hoping they don’t get more.
Bob Tarte: Where did you get them?
Edie Britt: Let me tell you how I got involved with pigeons first, you might find that interesting. I used to think pigeons were the most disgusting, vile creatures, bug ridden [xx] and as you know I’m a birder and I’ve had birds for years. Every time I’d feed the birds, here would be the pigeons gobbling up my bird feed.
This was probably about seven years ago, my daughter Angie [sp] brought something home and she said, “Mommy, we have to keep him, we have to keep him.” She had found two homers who evidently had been on a race, gotten lost, were tired and they just couldn’t fly anymore, they were just that exhausted.
Bob Tarte: So did they have bands on them so you could tell they were racing pigeons?
Edie Britt: I tried to locate the owners and I couldn’t even though now I know it’s pretty easy to find because there aren’t that many different groups really. The American Racing—I don’t really know the names but there’s only a few groups out there and you can find them online.
Bob Tarte: If you want to find them.
Edie Britt: If you want to find them. A lot of people don’t because the pigeons aren’t wanted back at a lost if they don’t make it, although not every lost owner is like that. But anyway she brought these pigeons home, we rehabilitated them and I cut their bands off with some tin snips and we released them.
Bob Tarte: That’s great!
Edie Britt: We had them for a year and I thought, you know they’re wild, they really want to go home. Thinking back I probably would have kept some. So that was my first encounter. I shared that story with a girl friend of mine who is a hunter and she and her husband raced pigeons to train their dogs which I don’t agree with but she’s still my friend. She had a huge loft in her backyard and one day she called me and said, “You must take the birdy, they’re beautiful.” And evidently he had splay legs and just to explain what that is, he was not able to stand up on his legs. His legs were very, very spindly and weak. He was a baby and so as a little he would just was a squeaker, would just spin around. She said, “I know that I can’t keep them and the other birds will kill him and we tried to keep him in the loft.”
Bob Tarte: And so that was your first permanent pigeon?
Edie Britt: That was my first permanent pigeon. She brought him over and I taped his legs up. I taped his legs together for probably five months actually and here he is. He is a little crippled but he doesn’t know it.
Bob Tarte: Okay he can stand up pretty well?
Edie Britt: One of his legs is up sideways Bob but he doesn’t really know. He can walk and he can get around pretty well. He is the king of the house.
Bob Tarte: Oh boy. Yeah they’re not really shrinking violets are they?
Edie Britt: Well they’re absolutely not. His wife is named Maybon [sp]. Shortly after he grew up and he was all healthy and I had my one pigeon. We came home and I was on the [xx] which is a weekend holiday and here was this little pigeon. The weather had been fabulous that year, warm, we had a long beautiful autumn, warm and sunny days but it turned really quickly one night and we had freezing rain. The temperatures dropped to below 30 and sitting on my front porch was this baby pigeon.
Bob Tarte: And they will come to people for help sometimes won’t they?
Edie Britt: Yes they would. So she came in and they liked each other right away.
Bob Tarte: And so that’s how you got two of them.
Edie Britt: That’s how I got two of them
Bob Tarte: I should mention right now that pigeons are one of the three species of wild birds that you can legally keep in the United States. You can also keep starlings and house sparrows.
Edie Britt: That’s because they’re not protected birds. So they have been little bit rough but on the other hand, they’re great pets.
Bob Tarte: Oh they are. We had a starling for awhile and…
Edie Britt: Starlings are incredible talking and they are a lot to upkeep I heard but..
Bob Tarte: We only had Weaver for awhile, he got out the door the following summer and it was what he wanted so that was fine. The story you are telling about the pigeon, that reminds me, there’s a chapter in my book Fowl Weather about a pigeon that calls for help or comes for help at our neighbor’s house. She was inside and she heard a tapping at the door and she looked out the glass of the door and didn’t see anybody there so she figured she was imagining things. This was in winter. She heard the tapping again and she thought, “What is it? The wind or what?” She got up and opened the door and a pigeon walked into the house.
Edie Britt: That’s not the first time I’ve heard that Bob. I have quite a few friends who have rehab pigeons and they do. If they know that you are going to help them, they show up.
Bob Tarte: Yep, she fed the bird but she didn’t know what to do with it so she gave the bird to us and we found a little blood on the wing, nothing serious and we thought maybe a hawk or something just knocked the bird down or something. So we kept the bird till the weather got warm and we wanted to see if she wanted to be free and she certainly did. It was kind of cool when we let her go, she flew up to the peak of our barn and she just sat up there for several hours just until around sun down and then she took off. It was really a nice thing to see.
Edie Britt: Well farrow pigeons, if they’ve been raised by farrow parents usually do pretty well if they’re released, if they can find a flock but my problem seems to be that I can’t let them go. I’m also like that cat lady.
Bob Tarte: How do you like them as pets?
Edie Britt: They’re fabulous pets! One of his favorite thing to do is to watch TV. When I let him out, I find him sitting on the sofa using the coziest spot, just laying there spread out, watching TV.
Bob Tarte: So they have free flight of the house, or certain hours or how does that work?
Edie Britt: Well I don’t let them fly free unless I’m supervising but that’s because I have cats, I have four cats.
Bob Tarte: Okay, that sounds like us. We have five cats and we have birds too and that’s exactly what we do. The birds all have out-of-cage time but it’s always closely supervised so that they don’t get into any kind of trouble. But our cats are actually pretty good with our birds and I suspect yours are too.
Edie Britt: Two of our cats, Tim will walk right up to them and wing slaps them. Something that they’d do to say, “Get out of my way.”
Bob Tarte: Right.
Edie Britt: He’ll do this to tell them, “I’m the leader of the pack” and they just roll their cat eyes and look at him. The other two are farrow [xx] that don’t really pay much attention but I don’t let them free flight when those cats are in the room.
Bob Tarte: No you don’t want to push your luck.
Edie Britt: No, we all live in harmony here. I’m trying to keep it that way. I was really surprised Tim and me by one of the things that people that helped me learned about pigeons had told me is that to make sure that as soon as they lay an egg, that you take it. In fact I was sent some plastic eggs so what I do is I replace their eggs with a plastic egg as soon as they lay it otherwise I’m a sucker and I can’t do it.
Bob Tarte: I emailed you about this once and our problem we had with chickens is that certain breeds of hens are worst about this. Once they’re on a nest, they will just sit and sit and sit and sit, and you can take their eggs and you can put plastic egg or something in its place but it doesn’t solve the problem because it just keeps them sitting and they will even stop eating. But I take it that this isn’t the same problem with pigeons right?
Edie Britt: Well what happens is the egg doesn’t hatch until after about 18 days, they give it up. That’s one of my dove, she is a little upset that I haven’t given her lunch yet.
Bob Tarte: Oh okay I recognize the ring neck dove.
Edie Britt: She’s calling out a warning, she said, “Get that lunch over here.”
Bob Tarte: Oh I hear her.
Edie Britt: The other ones say, “Relax, it’s okay.”
Bob Tarte: When you talk about 18 days, but they will get up off the nest and eat won’t they?
Edie Britt: Oh, they take turns. One of the problems I’ve had with them is that when they are nesting, Tim is an excellent father and they will fight each other to see who gets to sit on the nest. Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple of babies hatch. I guess it was fortunate, they were just so adorable Bob. The first time it was Easter morning when I woke up and I thought I had replaced the eggs and I hadn’t. Sure enough there were two babies.
Bob Tarte: Really.
Edie Britt: And they just fought to see who was going to feed the babies, who was going to take care of the babies, clean the babies. It was just adorable to watch really. Not that I’m advocating increasing the amount of pigeons we have because there are billions out there.
Bob Tarte: How did the babies do?
Edie Britt: Oh they were excellent! Bunny and Squee [sp] are now living in Florida. We kept them for awhile but I thought, “Oh boy I’ve got too many pigeons” and I have a friend who has a rehab from Florida and she has an amazingly beautiful loft outside (of course because it’s Florida) and that’s where they are.
Bob Tarte: Yeah I envy people sometimes in those warmer climates that they can have places for their birds to be outside.
Edie Britt: Well you’d envy this loft I think you might want one of your own. They put so much time and money into it, it looks pretty cozy. It’s nicer than some people’s home.
Bob Tarte: We’re going to take a quick break now because there’s a chance that our show might have a sponsor and if we do, I’m going to take a break right now for sponsors message and we’ll be right back talking to Edie Britt.
Bob Tarte: Hi we’re back with Edie Britt and we’ve been talking about her pet pigeons. You have told me about a couple of them, you have a third bird too right?
Edie Britt: I have another pigeon and her name is Beaky. Somebody from the list told somebody else that I rehabilitate pigeons and last year, I think it might have been around this time, I was privileged to become the owner of Beaky. They brought me this tiny little baby. She wasn’t able to eat, she had fallen into a parking garage unto the floor and pretty unsafe spot for a pigeon baby, for a pigeon period. They couldn’t get her back up to the nest so they brought her to me so we raised her.
Bob Tarte: Baby pigeons are not that easy to feed are they?
Edie Britt: They’re not like other birds. With other birds, the mother opens the beak and the baby puts their beak—with pigeons, the parent has to put their beak inside the baby’s beak—with other birds, it’s the other way around.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, we just did a show last week, Linda and I or a couple of weeks ago talking about raising starlings and about how—you just can’t miss the mouths—you are not going to have any trouble getting them to open their mouths. Pigeons, the parents feed them sort of what they call milk, isn’t that right?
Edie Britt: Pigeon milk, and what we do to make pigeons milk is you take—first of all you can use caddy formula of course and when they get a little older you mix that with [xx]. You take the caddy formula, for a very tiny pigeon you make a big, mushy porridge type substance. The best way to do it Bob is to take a sock or a rubber glove or something else that you can poke a hole into.
Bob Tarte: I’ve even heard people suggest a very small paper cup like a Dixie cup. Little big?
Edie Britt: What you have to do is, you have to fill the sock up and then you poke a hole then you have to encourage the baby. I actually use a syringe to be honest with you.
Bob Tarte: Makes sense to me.
Edie Britt: We don’t put the syringe down the baby’s mouth. The baby has to think that, that’s the mother and you gently put their beak inside the syringe and then you push it while they’re eating.
Bob Tarte: Oh that’s right.
Edie Britt: That they suck the food in.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah that’s very interesting.
Edie Britt: Pigeons and doves as you probably know are the only birds that actually drink water like they’re sipping a straw. So their water has to be at least an inch deep for them to have water. The babies are kind of hard to raise.
Bob Tarte: Yeah they don’t drink like other birds where you see them take some water in their beak then throw their head back and drink it.
Edie Britt: No they have their own built in straws.
Bob Tarte: Now you have other birds too?
Edie Britt: We’ve had other birds. As I’ve told you Bunny and Squee who were two babies raised by Tim and Maybon and then surprise, surprise on my daughter’s birthday a year and a half ago, two more babies were accidentally born. Now this is kind of a funny story because we have kept Bunny and Squee and we had Tim and Maybon and I took one of the eggs out and I was going to switch it. My daughter said, “Oh give one to the girls” because Bunny and Squee were both girls and they thought they were a mated pair and they love each other and did all the things birds do, snuggled and cuddled. I gave them an egg and just remember that they were still incubating the eggs so they had a baby and Tim and Maybon raised a baby. So they were siblings but they didn’t know it and those were Sunshine and Luna who are currently residing in sunny California.
Bob Tarte: Oh good for them, aren’t they lucky?
Edie Britt: Yes they are. It’s gorgeous there and they have a beautiful home.
Bob Tarte: Now do you want to talk a little bit about what you do for a living? Because I think it’s pretty unusual.
Edie Britt: I’m a spiritual advisor which translates to I’m a medium. I do psychic readings, I do medium readings.
Bob Tarte: Now how long have you been doing this?
Edie Britt: I’ve been doing that all of my life but full time since 1999.
Bob Tarte: There used to be a show on Animal Planet called the Pet Psychic. Did you ever see that show?
Edie Britt: I actually have seen that show and I’ll tell you that my work has really helped me as far as raising these birds because knowing what they need, knowing how much to feed them. There’s been countless other pigeons by the way that we don’t even have enough time to talk about that my daughter has dragged home that has just been so close to death and knowing how to treat them—worked for me to help heal these birds and bring them to health. So yes it’s an interesting job.
Bob Tarte: Was there a certain time in your life when you figured that you had a certain gift so that’s how you followed it?
Edie Britt: Well actually Bob, I didn’t know that other people didn’t have that until I was in high school.
Bob Tarte: Really?
Edie Britt: So I just assumed that everybody had these feelings and thoughts and this knowledge that I have. I was raised in a home where it was accepted, there was no question about what it was and that do other people have it—and I realized at that point that—we were really very quiet about it, we didn’t speak about it and I just assumed that other people were not speaking about it either. It was a very private thing, kind of like some people don’t speak about their religion. When I was in high school I finally realized this isn’t everybody, just me.
Bob Tarte: So how does it help you with your animals?
Edie Britt: Oh it really has, I can tell when they’re hungry, I can tell when they’re upset. I know when they’re nervous, I can be in another room or upstairs or away from home and I’ll just know something is going on. So it’s definitely helped me in that way. One of the things that’s interesting is, I’ve had so many pets over the years some of them are still around. Once in awhile I’ll see my kitty that I had for 23 years meandering about.
Bob Tarte: That’s a long lived cat.
Edie Britt: She was long lived. I was told to put her down because she had feline leukemia and dah dah dah dah and I said, “Okay” and took her home. I just sat with her every day and did the things that I thought she needed and she lived for 23 years.
Bob Tarte: There’s a lot of times when I’m doing some procedure for one of our animals, like we have a cat now who is 17 and I have to give her two medications, three time a day and she was struggling yesterday and I said, “Mobi [sp] I’m trying to save your life.” And I was thinking to myself I wish I could just tell her more or less what I was doing or at least make her understand that this is something that I’m doing to help her. And I’m wondering if you find…
Edie Britt: Absolutely, I have a dog that has a seizure disorder and she’s had it for years and she comes to me for her medications.
Bob Tarte: Wow.
Edie Britt: After she has a seizure, she seeks me out and we’d sit together and we’d do a few things so that in the end—and my vet has even said that nobody else would have this dog—because she starts to go into this cluster seizures where she’ll have five or six at a time and we’re able to cut it off right away. I’m not saying that I’m a pet magician but knowing how they feel or what they need or—I can tell when she’s going to have a seizure. You know how they have those dogs that sense people who are going to have seizures? I can tell before my dog is going to have one and I prepare for it.
Bob Tarte: That’s amazing. That’s very helpful.
Edie Britt: With the pigeons, it’s the same thing. I can almost tell what they’re thinking and it’s scary because these birds are incredibly smart.
Bob Tarte: Oh they are.
Edie Britt: I used to think of pigeons Bob, “Oh these dumb, dirty things flying around” and they’re really not.
Bob Tarte: What I thought was really cool about our dove Howard is one day just out of fun, he was out and he was sitting on our lamp in the dining room. I said to him, “Howard go back to your cage” and he did it, he understood me. That doesn’t mean Howard is going to go back to his cage every time I tell him that because he’s a stubborn creature, that’s part of his charm.
Edie Britt: He has his own mind. He is not ready to go back to his cage.
Bob Tarte: That’s right but he knew what that meant and just as surely as our parrots—I think people just expect parrots to be smart at least anyone who has spent any time around them. But I was surprised that a dove would know what words like that meant and he definitely does because I’ve done it before.
Edie Britt: They are very aware of our language. Tim will come when called. They understand so many different commands, they are like little dogs. I know most people don’t see them that way but it’s been a lot of fun.
Bob Tarte: Yeah there’s a great prejudice against pigeons and against starlings and I guess against house sparrows too. It’s funny, it’s the three with the considerate invasive species although sounds ridiculous to me because some of these birds have been here since the 1840s?
Edie Britt: And pigeons really have been just incredibly wonderful birds. They’ve served us in World War II. They’ve served man for so many centuries really doing so many various jobs and I know people just doesn’t have the kind of respect that we used to have for them. When you see the dove with the laurel leaf, that’s probably a pigeon, a white pigeon, the ones that are released at weddings are actually white pigeons.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, I don’t really like that.
Edie Britt: Yeah, they’re homers. Most of them go home.
Bob Tarte: Right, but some don’t. It seems to me a little bit of a dangerous thing to do.
Edie Britt: I wouldn’t do it Bob personally, because some will get lost.
Bob Tarte: Yeah you don’t want to do that to one of your animals. I think if you keep animals, you have an obligation to protect those animals and I don’t see releasing them for a wedding and maybe 1%-2% won’t make it home each time. I don’t see that as a very responsible thing to do.
Edie Britt: I’m not really for pigeon raising although I know it brings in millions of dollars and people do raise them. It’s like horse raising, so many birds that are cauled to find that perfect bird but on the other hand I wonder where this species will be if people weren’t really keeping it going or some people weren’t advocating it. I’m kind of mixed on it. I don’t like it but I understand that sometimes that has to be.
Bob Tarte: I hear your collared dove in the background calling you. Sounds like a hungry dove so I want to thank you so much for talking to me today Edie.
Edie Britt: Oh it’s been my pleasure.
Bob Tarte: I’ve enjoyed seeing your postings. The name of the group is Birders@youmish.edu [sp] I don’t know if it’s going to help anybody for me to mention that because it’s a subscription list but anyway it’s from the Ann Arbor area and I’ve emailed Edie a few times too and it’s just so great to talk to you after all this time.
Edie Britt: Well Bob if anyone is interested in taking a look at my pigeon.
Bob Tarte: Yeah you have a website.
Edie Britt: They can visit my website www.ediebritt.com and I know that that’s the same name as Desperate Housewives but that is really my name. They’re calling me so I better scoot. Thanks again for having me.
Bob Tarte: Thanks so much Edie, I’ll talk to you later bye, bye.
Bob Tarte: Hi everybody, it is January 1st, 2008 and I would like to wish a Happy New Year to all of my listeners and of course thanks to Edie Britt for being on the show. I’m outside on this splendid Michigan afternoon and you can probably hear the geese in the background. You’ll hear them louder in a minute because I’m about to feed them. I give them a treat every afternoon about this time. If you would like to possibly be a guest on What Were You Thinking, it’s very easy. All you have to do is send an email to Bob@petliferadio.com.
So let’s see if the geese are very hungry today and I have a feeling that they might be. Oh yeah I can hear them. Okay that was pretty loud but that’s nothing compared to what you’re going to hear in a minute when I go into the barn. I am slogging through snow right now. There is about four or five inches on the ground which isn’t too bad. I want to remind everybody that you can go to my website www.bobtarte.com and you will find information on both of my books about our pets Enslaved by Ducks and Fowl Weather.
Enslaved by Ducks is about how oh in about 10 years time I went from living a blissful pet free existence to living with oh, I think about two dozen pets. My latest book Fowl Weather goes a little deeper into the chaos of keeping animals and I think there is about 39 animals in Fowl Weather and if I’m not mistaken we’re up to about 50 right now. Most of them outdoor birds, and speaking of outdoor birds. I want to thank our producer who may or may not be an outdoor bird and thank everybody for listening and I’m about to open the barn door and the quiet that you are hearing will be a thing of the past as I come in here to give treats to the animals. Deceptively quiet but I think it’s about to pick up so goodbye everybody and thank you for listening.