The most commonly kept doves, the ringnecks, diamond, cape and Australian crested are extremely easy to feed. A menu of seeds suits these birds. The two larger species — the ringneck and the Australian crested — can be kept on a diet of fancy pigeon seed mix with popcorn. You must insist on the popcorn, for the regular poultry corn is too large for the delicate doves. This mix will consist of the following seeds: milo, millet, wheat, peas, and popcorn.
Those keeping just a few ringneck doves will find it more convenient to use wild bird seed instead. The doves won’t eat the sunflowers, but those seeds and anything else that remains in the dish can be given to the outdoor birds.
Ringneck doves enjoy canned or (defrosted) frozen peas or corn intended for human consumption. Ringnecks are very fond of cooked lentils, whole, and cooked and then grated chickpeas and lima beans.
Whole wheat bread ground in a blender or a food processor is very good. For variety, a little peanut butter might be spread on the bread before grating. You also can grind peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds, or walnuts with the bread and/or a small amount of nearly any fruit or vegetable that you eat yourself. (Don’t use avocados.) I often give my doves grated cooked sweet potato, regular potato, or canned or cooked fresh beet.
Tofu, tempeh or soy yogurt are healthy supplements to be mixed with the ground whole wheat bread. These foods are high in protein. The tempeh and soy yogurt contain Lactobacillus that is useful in maintaining a healthy microbiome and helping to prevent gastrointestinal disease.
Doves have a beak that functions as a forceps for picking up small items. These birds often will not peck at a mash. For these reasons, the whole wheat bread and anything added to it must be finely ground. Only small amounts of moist items can be added, as too much will turn the consistency of the bread crumbs from mealy to mushy. First toasting the whole wheat bread helps in keeping it granular when adding ingredients with a high water or oil content.
Ringneck doves are particularly fond of the separated pips of pomegranates and very small blueberries. From time to time, I’ll grate raisins, dried figs or dates and the mix it with the whole wheat bread meal. The doves enjoy sweet dried fruit, but I feed it just as a treat.
Ringnecks will eat cooked brown rice, though it’s not a favorite. Adding a little pancake syrup to the rice is a good idea. A small amount of olive oil and a dash of salt can be mixed with the rice instead of the syrup. The olive oil and salt also goes well with the corn and peas.
Fresh foods can spoil and should be prepared each day. Only give the doves as much as they will eat in an hour or so, especially in warm weather. Remove and discard any uneaten portion.
Ringneck Doves are particularly fond of hemp seed. High in protein, this is a great addition to the diet when the birds are laying eggs and feeding young, or molting. Due to the oil content, hemp seed helps to boost the calories if the environment is cool.
The Cape and the Diamond doves are two miniature bird species. They heartily enjoy a vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched parakeet (Budgie) seed mix. A high quality, fortified, finch mix can be offered instead of the keet mix. Both will be made up of mixed millets, canary seed, and oat groats. The difference is in the varying percentages of ingredients — for the parakeet mix, larger seeds will predominate. If you are keeping your toy doves with smaller finches, Australian finches or waxbills, for example, for the sake of convenience, feed them all the same mix. If the doves are being housed with larger, more robust finches, like Java Rice Birds, Whydahs, or Weavers, all in the aviary will enjoy the variety of the two seed mixes. As a supplement, pellets for finches and parakeets can also be used. Greens, fruits, high-protein nestling foods, and live foods can be offered to the above species. Sometimes, the birds will ignore everything but seed. These species will thrive and rear their young on plain seed diets.
All seed eating birds require grit to help digest their food and to provide minerals. This is particularly true of the seed-eating doves, for these birds swallow all grains whole. They don’t hull the seed, remove the outer, indigestible part, as do most cage birds. The seeds go to the bird’s crop, or gizzard. There in the crop, with the help of the sand and gravel in the grit, the seeds are ground into a digestible mash. Grit also contains calcium and trace minerals, to ensure that the diet is balanced.
The basic diet of the majority of wild doves is the fancy pigeon mix. The fruit pigeons are an important exception. As the name suggests, these birds require a soft bill diet.