Peace, Love, and Pigeons
Tips for Improving Others’ Lives with Your Pigeon Business
Releasing white homing pigeons will surely add majesty to a wedding or enlightened spirituality to a memorial service. Throughout time, birds have been used in ceremonies and events. White homing pigeons (Columba livia domestica), which are often times advertised as white doves, can represent eternal life, love, faith, purity, and prosperity. Pigeons and doves mate for life, and at a wedding, they can symbolize faithfulness, commitment, everlasting love, peace, serenity, and new beginnings. Releasing them is environmentally friendly and reinforces the unforgettable occasion.
A professionally coordinated white dove release is a unique addition to an outdoor ceremony. Seeing the birds soar into the sky and circle overhead provides a breathtaking experience. For those getting into the hobby or those who wish to increase their business, here are our top 10 tips.
Invest in the Birds
Choose birds that come from lineages that provide reliable homing instincts, have pure white feathers, and are friendly. The homing instinct can be strong or weak according to heredity. If you are going to be releasing your birds only at the local church, then you will not need to invest in birds that can home long distances. However, if you want to expand your business range, choosing birds that have strong bodies and reliable homing instincts is a better investment. Although initially higher overhead, these birds will reduce your percentage lost, reinvestment cost, and can be easier to train. Feed your birds a suitable diet to prepare them for long distance flights.
Create a Business and Training Plan
Your business plan should include your basic business concept, the markets you’ll pursue, an advertising strategy (including social media) and your financial needs. A loft that allows two square feet per bird is recommended. “I spent around $4,000 for a 250-square-foot loft with water and electricity,” said Jackie Greenough, owner of Sarasota Dove Release, in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to the cost of birds and housing, you’ll need to factor in time for training the birds prior to selling your services. “First time around, it will take six to 12 months to prepare them for a release,” Greenough says. She purchased squeakers to train, rather than buying adult mated pairs and waiting for them to reproduce. “Once birds have flown — been trained from their home — it is always their home. Young birds are usually purchased at around 4 or 5 weeks of age. You’ll need to keep them in the loft area for a couple weeks before you let them out the trap to look at their new world.” Now, after 10 years in the business, she has a sufficient number of birds to breed and bring to events simultaneously.
“I spent around $4,000 for a 250-square-foot loft with water and electricity,” said Jackie Greenough, owner of Sarasota Dove Release, in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to the cost of birds and housing, you’ll need to factor in time for training the birds prior to selling your services.
“First time around, it will take six to 12 months to prepare them for a release,” Greenough says. She purchased squeakers to train, rather than buying adult mated pairs and waiting for them to reproduce. “Once birds have flown — been trained from their home — it is always their home. Young birds are usually purchased at around 4 or 5 weeks of age. You’ll need to keep them in the loft area for a couple weeks before you let them out the trap to look at their new world.”
Now, after 10 years in the business, she has a sufficient number of birds to breed and bring to events simultaneously.
Analyze the Competition
“The first question is price,” Greenough says. People often think, “What a great thing. Just reusing the same birds. Must be very lucrative.” And as poultry owners we know that this isn’t so. When coming up with fees for your services consider not only the bird’s costs, but also your training time, mileage, and release crates.
“Almost all clients ask what happens to the birds after the release,” said L.J. Meyers, owner of Homeward Angels, located in Landrum, South Carolina. “They are comfortable with learning that the birds are well trained and have a safe home to return to.”
On your website or social media, advertise your spacious loft and how they live the good life. Advertise the rearing and training process, the clean nest boxes and bathing areas.
Greenough says that some couples want sunset weddings, which she has to turn down. The birds cannot navigate during the night, which is stated and explained in the contract.
“I explain how well the birds are trained and how very important they are to me,” she adds.
Boast Beautiful Release Boxes
Part of growing a business is being professional. The beautiful white birds should not be coming out of a plastic carrier that you transport a cat in. White wood or wicker release baskets and boxes are ornamental and professional. Smaller heart-shaped boxes that hold two birds for weddings go for around $50. The box design and color will certainly affect the setting’s mood, so plan accordingly.
In addition to having the birds well trained (the ability to home and remain calm when handled), the business aspect must also be organized. Include songs, poems, sayings, and idioms as part of your service. Show up wearing appropriate attire and keep detailed records of booked events, fees, and organizations that you donate your services to.
Greenough offers the wedding couples the opportunity to come to her home and practice handling the birds. “I first hand them the bird, showing them how to hold them a few times and let them release the bird.”
She then gives them the opportunity to reach into the basket and practice retrieving them properly. For a couple that wasn’t from the area, she met them in a parking lot to practice. At funerals and memorials, she simply hands the birds to the participants. As an added touch of creativity, all of her clients get a thank you card with real feathers from her birds as an additional remembrance.
Provide Great Service
“As a white dove release professional, you will be invited to attend a private personal landmark family events,” Meyers says, “such as an anniversary, reunion, graduation, wedding, baptism, or funeral.”
Experienced dove handlers realize this is not just about letting birds fly.
“To some,” Meyers says, “this is a calling or even a ministry. We do this because we love sharing our birds with people and seeing how it touches their lives.”
“In an effort to give back to the community throughout the year, many dove releases are donating to fundraisers such as Cancer Relay for Life, Battered Woman and Children, military officers who have lost their lives in combat, to assist with raising funds for charity, or significant events,” Dolly Kouri the Treasurer of the National White Dove Release Society (NWDRS) added.
“I see the sense of peace the birds give to families and loved ones,” Greenough said, as she recalled bringing smiles to those remembering their friend.
Be a Pro
“The white dove release industry has trade organizations and national directories that set standards and code of ethics for members,” Meyers explained. For those already in the dove release business, NWDRS offers a second level of membership, called the Gold Level. “The benefits to joining Gold is a state listing on our professional directory website (whitedovereleasesociety.com) and a Google AdWords advertisement, along with professionally designed marketing materials for purchase,” Kouri says.
Gold level is $36 per year and includes a free membership to their Yahoo Forum.
When first researching this article, I initially thought that weddings would be the occasion that most often uses dove releases.
“Our most requested releases are for funerals and memorials and then weddings,” Meyers says. “The number one choice at a funeral is the Trinity Release.” Meyers’ company brings a flock of three birds, with a fourth being set free moments later. The symbolism illustrates the soul joining with God and ascending to heaven.
At a wedding the popular choice is two birds released by the couple with a flock set free to celebrate the joining of the couple. This symbolic gesture represents two lives getting together and sharing a life journey as one. For those wanting to branch out, open your services to all outdoor events. In addition to weddings and memorials, dove releases are the perfect event for family reunions, store openings, renewal of vows, graduations, and even divorce parties. Locally, a couple had the birds released at their wedding. Six months later, the woman had a divorce party in which she rehired the dove release company. The next day, the man had his own divorce party and released his own set of birds.
THE WHITE CHARIOT
During your journey on your final flight home.
White wings will carry you and you will be flown.
To the pearly gates of Heaven, where they will usher you in.
To the feet of your Lord, your Savior, and your friend.
He will hold you in his arms and the angels will sing.
As another one of His children is delivered by white wings.
Author: Julie Johnson, a popular recited verse to go along with a pigeon release at a funeral.
Originally published in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.