If you thought pigeons were the preserve of tourists in Trafalgar Square or flat-capped bird fanciers, think again. In the south west of France, having your own coop – or pigeonnier – is highly desirable. When it comes to selling, it can add thousands of euros to the asking price of your home.
That isn’t to say that many people actually want to keep pigeons, of course.
It’s a far cry from how it was before the French revolution, when the birds were highly prized. Back then, only nobility had the right to keep pigeons.
A peasant wouldn’t even have been allowed to shoo them away if they were feasting on his grain. Worse, farmers were expected to buy the bird’s droppings to use as fertiliser.
These days, there are more convenient ways of giving your land the nutrients it needs. Nevertheless, people continue to admire the range of styles that pigeonniers come in. You can find round ones, square ones and hexagonal ones, depending on where you are.
Some are large enough even to have been turned into holiday homes or lets.
“You can find round ones, square ones and hexagonal ones. Some have been turned into holiday homes or lets”
They have become popular in local imagery too. Pictured is a detail of a painting by Lot-et-Garonne artist Jenny Webb. Based in Castillonnès, Jenny can find plenty of inspiration in the area for paintings like this.
She gave it to my partner, Damon, for his birthday last year. He’s treasured it since for the memories it provokes, although he’s no fan of the birds themselves – except, perhaps, in a pie.