Possibly the world’s first domesticated bird, the pigeon, and its association with mankind is recorded in more than five-thousand-year-old Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and Egyptian hieroglyphs. The bird which over centuries has garnered a reputation for carrying messages, a symbol of peace that has also proved invaluable in wartime, has nowadays become Noakhali’s bird of hope. Across the district both established farmers and otherwise unemployed hobbyists are achieving success and economic self-reliance through raising pigeons.
Since he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Md Mohsin from Noakhali municipality’s Maijdee has been unemployed. “As I had no job, I started a pigeon farm with 50 pairs of birds. Already my flock has grown to 150 pairs,” he says. “After expenses I make a monthly profit of up to Tk 18,000.” Mohsin is looking for government or private sector assistance to help him expand.
Second year honours student Fazlur Rahman from Krishnarampur village in Sadar upazila began raising pigeons as a hobby, with ten pairs. “Already I have 125 breeding pairs at my pigeon farm,” he says.
Dedicated pigeon farmer Jamal Hossain Bishad, 38, from Sadar upazila meanwhile has established a larger operation on a floor in his rented house in Maijdee. “I have around 225 pigeon pairs. It’s a Tk. 2.5 lakh farm,” he says. “After costs like food and medicine for the birds and staff salaries I earn upwards of Tk. 30,000 per month, slightly less during winter.”
His colleague Dolon Kumar Nath, 42, houses his pigeon farm on the second floor of his own building which fronts Sadar upazila’s main road. “My farm is completely business oriented,” he says. “Currently I have 300 pairs of local and foreign pigeon varieties. I started the farm with Tk 3.5 lakh capital and now earn Tk 40,000 per month in profit.”
Several farmers expressed hopes that pigeon-rearing could prove to be a useful activity for the district’s drug-affected youths, to steer them clear of the menace.
Yet Noakhali’s pigeon industry faces a number of hurdles in operating with limited technical cooperation, no dedicated treatment facilities and no government financial assistance. While medicines for cattle, chickens and ducks are available in the market, for example, medicines designed specifically for pigeons aren’t. Pigeon farmers currently rely on medicines targeting other poultry to treat their flocks.
Nonetheless pigeon-rearing either as hobby or profession is growing in popularity. Recognising an opportunity, local youths are bringing different varieties of pigeons from the capital and Natore in particular, to be sold across Noakhali, Lakshmipur and Feni districts. Depending on the variety, a pigeon pair can sell for between Tk 3,000 and Tk 1.2 lakhs, according to farmers.
Indeed, inspired by the success of Noakhali’s professional pigeon farmers, many youths are simultaneously establishing their own flocks, on rooftops, in yards or even within their homes.
Noakhali’s District Livestock Officer Md Ziaur Rahman says there are at present 284 big and small pigeon farms in the district, housing an estimated 7,142 pairs of birds. “If the farmers visit our livestock office we do our best to provide them with advice,” he says, “though due to manpower shortages the service available to them isn’t always optimal.” Rahman says additional recruitment will be completed soon.
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