Charles Robbins has a loft that he built in his backyard. It has plenty of southern exposure for sunlight, a landing platform, and food and water. It …
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Charles Robbins has a loft that he built in his backyard. It has
plenty of southern exposure for sunlight, a landing platform, and
food and water. It also is full of racing pigeons.
A member of the Foothills Racing Pigeons Club, Robbins has been
racing the birds from his home for decades, a fact that has just
recently become somewhat controversial.
Racing pigeons are different from the birds you see looking for
handouts in the park or on city blocks. Racing pigeons, also known
as homing pigeons, will fly hundreds of miles at a time, unable to
fight the powerful instinct to get back home. The pigeons would
even abandon their babies to fly home.
“Home is the most important thing to them,” Robbins said. “My
job is to get them into physical shape to be able to fly that
Robbins, a retired Arapahoe County deputy sheriff, once had a
bird that flew home from Des Moines, Iowa — a distance of more than
600 miles on the Interstate — in one day. He had one bird return
home six years after being released.
When training for a race, Robbins exercises them by dropping
them off 55 miles from his Littleton home and letting them fly
“They usually beat me home,” he said.
On the day before a race, Robbins explained, club members load
their racing teams onto a truck, which drives to the start
location, and releases them the next morning at daybreak. When the
pigeons make it back home, a computer chip in an ankle band records
their time of arrival and determines a winner.
A single racing team could have as many as 40 pigeons.
“We have a lot of trouble with hawks and falcons and barbed wire
fences, so we have a lot of losses,” Robbins said. “That’s why we
have such large teams.”
All of the pigeons are banded and registered with the American
Racing Pigeon Union, and don’t pose a health threat or carry bird
flu, Brown added. Robbins said his birds are vaccinated and he
sanitizes the loft frequently.
Robbins has been racing and training pigeons from his home on
South Prescott Street since the early 1980s.
But after nearly three decades practicing his hobby there, a
city zoning officer says Robbins’ pigeons violate the land-use
A Feb. 2 letter that Robbins received from zoning officer Pam
Hall states that raising pigeons as livestock is only allowed in
agricultural districts. If the pigeons are pets, then only three
would be allowed in Robbins’ zoning district.
The problem is that the city zoning code, written in 1992,
addresses dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and rabbits, but not pigeons.
Robbins says his birds are neither livestock nor pets.
“My pigeons are not pets, but are in competition,” Robbins told
city council at its March 2 meeting. “Domesticated fowl does not
include pigeons, game birds does not include pigeons.”
Now council must decide whether to proceed with enforcement or
amend the zoning code to allow Robbins to keep his pigeons. If it
chooses enforcement, Robbins can either comply and whittle his team
down to just three members, an impossibly small number in the
racing pigeon world, or he can let his case be decided in municipal
Council could also amend the code with an ordinance and allow
the keeping of pigeons, but with regulations, or it could allow the
keeping of pigeons as a conditional use, which would require
Robbins and anyone else with pigeons to go through an application
and public hearing process.
“We amend [the code] all the time,” City Attorney Suzanne
City Senior Planner Ernie Rose said his office is working on a
pigeon ordinance, which will come before council some time in
For now, the city has decided to hold off on enforcement and
Robbins can continue to train his pigeons for the upcoming spring
The city says it received complaints about the pigeons, and
that’s why it looked into the matter. But Robbins has his doubts.
He says none of his neighbors have a problem with his birds. The
birds do not land on their property, he said.
Two of Robbins’ neighbors spoke in support of his pigeons at the
March 2 meeting and Robbins has collected 30 signatures from his
neighbors, all in support of his pigeons.
“You would not ever in a million years know they were there,”
said Bea Evans, Robbins’ next-door neighbor for all of his 36 years
on Prescott Street.
“We really enjoy them. We would hate to see anything happen to
them. It’s his hobby, his life.”
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