Book Review: The Robinson Method Of Breeding Squabs

The Robinson Method Of Breeding Squabs:  A Full Account Of The New Methods And Secrets Of The Most Successful Handler Of Pigeons In America, by Elmer Rice

There is something immensely pleasurable about reading a short and immensely practical book like this one about a subject that is somewhat arcane in our contemporary world.  Reading old books can be of immense pleasure in setting the context of the lost world of only about a century or so ago [1]. In this particular case, this book provides a look at an aspect of raising poultry that I am totally unfamiliar with, namely the raising of pigeons for food.  I am more than unusually interested in eating poultry [2], and I have enjoyed eating chicken, turkey, quail, cornish hens, and any number of other birds, but while I am familiar with pigeons in disrespectful raps, I have never ever heard of anywhere when one ate pigeons.  When did this habit stop?  What lasting change in culinary taste led pigeon-breeding to stop, or is it still going on as a sort of niche market for those who enjoy the fine white meat of a generally disreputable sort of bird?  How could such an interesting matter, at any rate, escape my knowledge and attention for so long?

This book offers immensely practical information on raising pigeons.  Some aspects of the book are a bit puzzling, like the way that the author considers pigeons to be just like livestock.  Other areas are highly intriguing and thought provoking, like having more or less free range pigeons with attention paid to simplicity of perch design for ease of cleaning and the use of lattices around the coop to keep the sunshine in, to keep the place well ventilated, and to keep rats out.  The author talks about the economics of breeding squabs, the proper design of food and diet, avoiding corn mostly and using different kinds of wheat with occasional treats for breeding pairs who need a bit more nutrition, the proper way to kill birds and cool them before shipping, the fact that breeding high quality Homer pigeons is far more economical than trying to breed cheap ordinary pigeons, and many other aspects of a startling importance when it comes to raising pigeons.  The book calls Mr. Robinson the premier expert in America on breeding squabs, and even if the art appears not to have lasted to the present day, this particular pigeon breeder (!) seems to have known what he was talking about when it came to making his pigeons a high quality food item worthy of a somewhat premium price.   Was his example not followed by others who thought it too much trouble to differentiate different grades of pigeon?

There are a lot of worthwhile features that this book includes, such as pictures of how to make various homes for the birds, various ways of ensuring the ability of the birds to safely fly within spaces enclosed by wire either adjacent to their coops or outside of garrets in urban locations where space is at a premium.  Other pictures show techniques on hanging dead pigeons prior to transport to market, and the book even includes information on how to ship for minimum expense by keeping birds to a certain price level to avoid triggering price increases given the economics of shipping animals even in the early 20th century.  The author is certainly an unsentimental one, seeking to encourage the reader to ruthlessly cull any bird that shows a weak constitution and a tendency to sickness in the name of natural selection and eugenics, but in general his methods are sound and often anticipate the trends of organic and free range farming from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, showing the sensitive reader that what is best about the old ways often finds its way back into favor again even if the history of the traditions are often forgotten along the way.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: The Robinson Method Of Breeding Squabs

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