The Pigeon Project includes the care, feeding, protecting, and rescuing of the pigeon population at FCI Petersburg, a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia.

The Pigeon Project includes the care, feeding, protecting, and rescuing of the pigeon population at FCI Petersburg, a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia.

By Christopher Zoukis

The FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project ("Pigeon Project") is an unofficial and unauthorized project which the founders of the Prison Law Blog support and sustain unconditionally.  The Pigeon Project includes the care, feeding, protecting, and rescuing of the pigeon population at FCI Petersburg, a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia.


Pigeon Care Activities

The Pigeon Project is based upon taking care of the feral pigeon population at FCI Petersburg.  This includes feeding, protecting, rescuing and, of course, growing to know and cherish the pigeon flock and all of its individual members, which include the well-esteemed Whitey Ford (and his mate, Betty Ford), Terry Daktyl, Mama Whiteface, Scrappy Coco, Rusty Jones, and Speckles the Clown.  At the current date, the FCI Petersburg pigeon population numbers at around 150, but the day-to-day totals are, naturally, hard to quantify.  To learn more about the members of the FCI Petersburg pigeon flock, read "The Flock" blog post.

Pigeon Feeding Activities

A flock the size of FCI Petersburg's has a very challenging time feeding itself from nature's sources and surroundings.  As such, the FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project supporters make it our mission to ensure that no pigeon goes without.  Naturally, bird seed is not sold in the institutional commissary, but other good food sources are.  While peanuts are the favorite of the flock (which are very high in protein, mind you), they are the most expensive food source which can be bought ($3.55 per bag of shelled peanuts).  As such, rice ($1.55 per bag of cooked rice) and crunched up Ramen Noodle Soups ($0.35 each) go a long way.  Bread, muffins, and other flour products are also appreciated.  Muffins are especially good since the pigeons can gather around it to play birdy rugby as they eat!

The feeding of the FCI Petersburg flock is quite an event.  While dates, times, and locations must be, well, kept secret (due to almost certain official retaliation), both supporters and pigeons alike know the whens and wheres.  Upon hearing their feeding whistle, they all come flying in for breakfast or dinner (or even a mid-day snack!).  While some prefer to peck at the rice or soups on the ground -- they rank soup and rice "peckable" -- others prefer to take their food from an outstretched hand.  The pigeons will literally stand on a Pigeon Project feeder's fingertips and peck at what is made available for their dining pleasure.  God forbid if the peanut supply is not bottomless!

Pigeon Protection Activities

Many think of pigeons in less than enlightened ways.  Some see them as dirty (mostly false), flying rodents (certainly not true), or even stupid (empirically incorrect).  What's worse, many at FCI Petersburg wish, and engage in, actual harm against the pigeon flock.  As such, the Pigeon Project supporters must be men of mettle.  When rocks are seen being thrown toward, boots kicked at, or laundry bags swung at a pigeon, we must step up to the plate and protect the flock through either our cunning techniques of shaming or embarrassing the wrongdoer ("Don't worry, I'll protect you from the scary flying bird" or "Be careful, this is a fighting pigeon") or through force (in prison parlance, it's time to "Strap Up"), if need be.

Pigeon Rescuing Activities

The final major activity of the FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project concerns protecting the pigeons from themselves.  Unfortunately, the pigeons regularly get stuck in the outdoor stairwells leading to the inmate housing units, which are essentially chain-link fence cages.  When this occurs, it is up to Pigeon Project participants to enter the stairwells, locate the pigeon(s) in need, catch them, and bring them to safety.  After all, many of the prisoners and staff at FCI Petersburg wish the pigeons harm.  As such, leaving them in the stairwells not only results in them damaging their wings trying to escape, but putting them at risk of being attacked while trying to escape the stairwells.

The Pigeon Counter

As an indicator of the work we put in, and the compassion we have, for the pigeon flock at FCI Petersburg, we have erected the pigeon counter icon.  This is the icon you used to come to this page.  On this counter you'll see a number.  This number correlates to the number of pigeons the FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project has saved from the stairwells since October 8, 2013.  While we have saved literally hundreds of pigeons from the stairwells over the years, we wanted to give you, the readers of the Prison Law Blog, an opportunity to join us in celebrating the many successes of the FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project.  By updating this number of pigeons saved, we hope you'll be able to be with us, and support us, in spirit, even if in person is not possible.

What Can You Do To Help the Pigeon Project

Many organizations suggest that if you like them or support their activities that you should make a donation, purchase their product or service, or participate in some other promotional activity that is, generally speaking, self-aggrandizing.   We at the Prison Law Blog -- in particular, those of the FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project -- are of a different breed; a different flock, if you will.  We're not going to ask for your money and we're most certainly not going to shamelessly ask you to promote us.  Instead, we ask you to be good stewards of pigeons -- and other animals, for that matter -- wherever you might be.

If you have pigeons in your area, why not put out some birdseed.  Or, if you want to do something which connects you a bit more to us, why not some peanuts.  Our flying friends really like those.  Regardless of where you are, whether you're in Central Park in New York, Little Five Points in Atlanta, Georgia, or in Venice Beach in Venice, California, you can do your part.  It requires so little to make the difference between life and death for our flying pigeon friends.  Merely laying out some peanuts or soup or rice or birdseed could save a pigeon today.

We at the Prison Law Blog, along with the FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project salute you and applaud your efforts for our flying friends!