Why you should care
Because a pigeon is much more than a bird.
Badr Badini, pigeon keeper
My name is Badr, and I am 15 years old and from Morocco. I live in a place called Fiers et Forts, which means Proud and Strong, with 89 other children. It is in a small village called Tamesloht in Morocco near Marrakech. I was brought here when I was 3 years old by my grandmother, Madou, and my mother, Dorine. They had found me on the street with my father, but he couldn’t take care of me.
This place is everything to me. I have everything I need here. This is my home.
One day, when I was just a young boy, I was coming back from school when I found a pigeon that had been hurt. It was so soft, but it was broken. For me, it was a coup de foudre, love at first sight. I picked it up and brought it back to my mother, Dorine, and asked her if I could keep it. She said yes because she loves everything that lives.
… [T]he first thing I do when I get back from school every day is come to the pigeon cage. I do that even before I go to kiss my mother and grandmother.
Every day, I fed it and gave it water. I kept it in a quiet place and it got well. But then I noticed that it was sad, and I knew it was because it was alone. I know that it is easy to get lonely if you are not with your own. So, I went to my mother and told her the poor pigeon was lonely all by himself, and we went to the market to buy another one. The pigeon was so happy, and they spent all day and all night together.
Soon there were eggs, and then there were lots more pigeons.
Now, I had a lot of pigeons in the cage in the garden, and I didn’t know what to do next. Dorine arranged for me to talk to a man in Belgium who is a notable world expert in pigeons and in carrier and racing pigeons, and he told me how to start to train them so they could fly away and come back.
A pigeon is like a person. It needs to know where it is and where everything is. It is like the first time you go to a new house and you don’t know where the bedroom is or where the toilet is. You need to find out and not get lost.
So when the pigeons are ready to go outside the cage, I tape their wings and let them into the big garden. They walk around in the trees and flowers, and they see the walls and the gate and where the cage is, and they can watch all the other pigeons flying above. They get to know their home. For the carrier pigeons, I do this for three months, and then they really love their home with a passion.
In the beginning, when I let them go to fly, I let the male go first. He flies into the sky and flies all around. But when I let the female out, he will always come back for the female; this is nature, this is what always happens. That is how I start to train the pigeons. Later, they come when they hear my voice. I am careful, though, about when I let them fly. If it is very sunny and there are hawks in the sky, then I don’t let them fly. I hate hawks. They wait and then they come, and if my pigeons are in the air, they take them.
At first, I was losing a lot of pigeons, and I didn’t know what was happening to them. Maybe they were killed by hawks, or maybe they got lost in the village and didn’t know how to come home. Then I looked on YouTube and got some ideas. I painted the undersides of their wings red. That way I can always see them when they are flying above me, and also if they fly down into someone’s house, they know that they belong to me and they can bring them back or tell me.
I have learned many things being with my pigeons. I know you can’t leave pigeons in a cage all the time because they get sad. I see that when they are single, they are restless and fly around a lot, but when they get married, they are always with their mate, and they have a nest and are happy.
I am studying hard at school now because I want to be a vet. I like sciences and math. When you understand the formula, then you can work out what to do. I hate history, it is really boring. On some of my days off, I go into Marrakech to help at the vet’s office. It’s amazing, and I have learned how to do the vaccines for the dogs, and I also helped with an operation to take the eggs out of a dog so it won’t have puppies, and then we stitched it up again. I didn’t feel bad at all with the blood.
So I have three more years until my baccalaureate exams, and I am working hard so that I get good results. But the first thing I do when I get back from school every day is come to the pigeon cage. I do that even before I go to kiss my mother and grandmother.
I love to be with the pigeons. They are so kind and gentle. They don’t kill anything. When I am with them, I don’t feel any problems. I just feel peace. Peace.
Fiers et Forts is a home set up by Madou and Dorine for at-risk children in Tamesloht, Morocco.