Husband-and-wife team Jadia and Michael Ward are trying to develop a full-fledged business on the wings of 200 homing pigeons.
And while the early 2013 take-off went smoothly for Bright Eyes Dove Release, the Wards are still waiting to see a return on investment for their Vancouver company. The business offers dramatic releases of snow-white doves to commemorate weddings, funerals, special occasions and all kinds of veterans events. Profits from such a venture can take between four and five years to materialize, said Jadia Ward, who initially researched the idea and convinced her husband to give it a try.
“It took almost two years of talking about it,” she said.
But Jadia saw the endeavor as an opportunity to supplement the couple’s income, she said. Michael, 61, was laid off in 2009 from his management job at a local boat-building company. He has since returned to his former profession as a mechanic, a job the couple fears could one day prove too physically demanding.
“We’re trying to prepare, so he won’t have to be a mechanic until he is 80 years old,” Jadia said.
The dove business also involves hard work, along with upfront expenses, she said. The Wards invested several hundred dollars to build a heated loft and buy feeding equipment for the flock, which they keep in the back yard of their Burton-area home. The birds and the loft are hard work to maintain, Jadia said.
“Cleaning is our biggest chore,” she said.
Monthly feed bills run between $400 and $500 for the birds, called rock doves, which are purchased at a very young age. The couple had to wait six months before training their birds, which must be raised in a place they will know as their “home loft” so they will always head for home after release at events, Jadia said.
Birds in the Wards’ flock are released daily for exercise. In the evening, the doves are kept in the loft, away from predators.
Bright Eyes Dove Release charges between $100 and $500 for its services, depending on travel time and the number of birds used. Each release is specialized for each client.
Wedding ceremonies might include two doves that are hand released by the bride and groom, followed by several more doves released from a nearby basket or box. The two single birds fly high while the rest of the flock circles them before they all head back to the loft, Jadia said.
“It represents the uniting of the two families,” she said.
Although the doves are gentle, the strongest birds are generally selected for release, which can involve anywhere from one bird to a flock of 50 and flights of as many as 250 miles.
In its first 11 months, Bright Eyes Dove Release has logged 11 events, including a bridal show, a handful of celebrations and two veterans events.
“It’s a slow start, but we hope this will eventually grow,” Jadia said.