In the Middle Ages, and later, the right to keep pigeons and build cotes was a prerogative of the Lords of the Manor. The pigeons were both a means of sustenance and a source of income.

This right, however, proved a severe problem to tenant farmers who saw their crops raided daily by the birds but were powerless to protect them -  the shooting of pigeons was an offence that carried severe penalties, and in certain circumstances could be punishable by death.