We are pleased to present an interview with Charlie from A Dove’s Nest.
VOW: Thanks for being willing to answer some questions, Charlie. Tell us a little bit about your name “A Dove’s Nest”?
A Dove’s Nest: Our first thought was to call it The Dove’s Nest, but after some research, we discovered a lot of other businesses with that name. So we decided that A Dove’s Nest would work just as well, and if we ever advertised in the phone book, having A in the title would put us further up in the listings.
VOW: Ha, that was smart. So did you ever end up advertising in the phone book?
A Dove’s Nest: No, just on the internet and word of mouth has been more than adequate.
VOW: Yeah, don’t know the last time that we would’ve opened up a phone book. How times have changed!
Any fond memories from the early days?
A Dove’s Nest: Oh, so many! There was the excitement of building our first web page, building and acquiring the equipment, and of course, receiving our first stock birds from CBS and Roger Mortdvedt. And the first time the phone rang with a customer on the other end and they booked us(!), doing the releases, music videos, photo shoots, special events, etc. All these have continued to remain exciting!
Daily Dove Duties
VOW: Wonderful. So, how many doves do you have?
A Dove’s Nest: 22 pairs of stock birds, 31 on the old working team, and 60 on the young bird team that is currently in training. That would add up to about 135 total.
VOW: Wow, that’s a good many birds. What does your daily interaction with them look like?
A Dove’s Nest: We feed them twice a day and the young birds are flown or road trained every day when the weather permits. In spite of our busy schedule with releases and flowers, I do get to spend some quality time with the birds every day.
Since the birds trap into a central hall to a feeder board, I will stand there and do a lot of hand feeding which makes the birds quite tame.
VOW: We have enjoyed hand feeding the doves as well. Not all of them are willing to do it, but we offer a special incentive to those that do: peanuts!
Do you have any special doves that have done an exceptional job for you over the years?
A Dove’s Nest: I have one little Roger Mortdvedt hen who has been my single dove release bird for a long time. There was one week where we booked five single releases, and she brought home $750 all by herself. I could make a living with just her if enough clients wanted single-bird releases.
Training The Doves
VOW: Nice! We had a bird like that before he retired. His name was “Glufo”, derived from German for “lucky bird.” No matter the circumstances, we knew we could depend on him.
We know it takes time to get doves trained properly. Could you give a short overview of your training process?
A Dove’s Nest: We vaccinate the youngsters right out of the nest and place them in the nursery section. Here, they are put out in the settling cage on the landing board every day, and taught to trap in to feed when I call them.
After about three times out in the cage, I let them out without it (hungry), let them look around for a while, and call them in. Soon they are flying to the loft roof and taking little circles over the yard.
They start flying as a team within weeks. After they have been flying for forty-five minutes to an hour and routing every day, I basket them up, let them sit in the training basket for about an hour, and release them in the backyard. The next day they go one mile, then two, etc.
VOW: You have a unique combination of offering doves and flower arrangements. How do you work in balancing those aspects of your business?
A Dove’s Nest: Nancy does the flower arrangements, and routes me for my deliveries. I will run to the wholesale supplier and get any extra flowers she might need. Very often we are doing both the flowers and the doves for a single event.
With funerals, I might be bringing the doves later, but still delivering the flowers early in the morning. We manage this by getting up early and working late into the night. But we are having fun the whole time – we love our work!
VOW: How do you split duties of running the business as a husband and wife team? Do you have any other helpers?
A Dove’s Nest: Our daughter used to work for us, but as she has since moved on to follow other dreams, so it’s just Nancy and me now.
Nancy does the floral design, billing, booking, promotion, logistics, basket decoration, and some of the releases. I do flower deliveries, the lion’s share of the releases, and handle the training and care of the birds.
Also, I help her as much as possible with the flowers, as far as carrying things and running for extra materials. I make a lot of the various props that she uses in her wedding arrangements in my workshop.
VOW: That’s neat, somewhat along the lines of how we work as a husband and wife team.
How do your customers find out about you?
A Dove’s Nest: Much of it seems to be word of mouth. Positive word of mouth is the best advertising!
Many of the venues and funeral homes consistently call us when their customers want doves; some book us so often that, instead of paying for each individual release, we simply send a bill at the end of each month.
Our web page and Facebook page have been valuable assets, and we are listed on every bridal site that we know of, as well as dove release association sites.
VOW: Any memorable feedback from customers about your doves?
A Dove’s Nest: Lots! I would have to look at the testimonials section from our website to even have a shot at remembering it all straight. But it’s always a big morale boost when people have kind things to say about our work.
VOW: Sure. We have people calling us and saying “My loved one loved birds and we thought that this would be such a fitting tribute.” Speaking of different event types, do you do more weddings or funerals?
A Dove’s Nest: Our initial thought was that we were going to be a wedding dove business. But then we got an offer from a cemetery group that owns four cemeteries, asking to use us as an incentive for funeral homes to steer customers to their cemeteries. They wanted a wholesale price per release but promised us a steady stream of bookings. We reluctantly took their offer, and began doing ten to eighteen funeral releases a week for them.
Through this contract, all the funeral directors got to know us. By the time our deal ended with the group, we were an established funeral dove release business. So really, that “less than ideal” contract was a blessing in disguise.
We do probably five funerals for every wedding.
VOW: Yes, we can relate, although our ratio in the Philadelphia area is about ten funerals to every one wedding. Any interesting dove releases that weren’t for weddings or funerals?
A Dove’s Nest: Yes, so many! We have done a lot of interesting hip-hop video work, as well as other music videos. A recent highlight was a single dove release for Congressman John Lewis. There’s also been numerous religious stage productions in outdoor amphitheaters and arenas. We were in an episode of The Walking Dead, as well as other various photoshoots and sporting events.
VOW: Sounds like quite the portfolio. And it’s amazing to hear about the dove release for Congressman Lewis. We did some sleuthing around and found a youtube video with that dove release.
What is the largest number of doves you have ever released?
A Dove’s Nest: We released 89 doves at the funeral of the president of Life University School of Chiropractic.
VOW: 89 doves, WOW!! The most we ever did was 40 doves at a wedding that was booked around two years ahead of time. Do you find that demand for your services fluctuates depending on the season?
A Dove’s Nest: There are definitely more weddings in spring and summer. The funerals used to drop off a bit in the warmer months, but since our growth in that market, it’s flat out year round now.
VOW: Hmm, we’ve seen the opposite. The funerals pick up in the warmer months ( as do the weddings). Perhaps it’s due to us being significantly more north of you.
How many doves do you release for a typical event?
A Dove’s Nest: The most common package for funerals is 4 doves. For weddings, the most common is 2 doves, released from a heart-shaped basket or cage.
VOW: And how many dove releases do you average in a year?
A Dove’s Nest: On average, we have been doing three hundred or so per year, but this year has been off the charts, mainly in funerals.
VOW: OK, no comment there… We dream of the day that we can hit the one hundred mark in a year. Our best year so far has been 2016 at 37 releases for that year.
Connections in the industry
VOW: How has your relationship developed with other vendors such as funeral homes and others?
A Dove’s Nest: The funeral homes that we have been dealing with know they can trust us to provide what they need for their customers, that we’ll always show up and do a good job for them. It seems to have become like old friends, who get along well, and know that we have each other’s backs.
Even when they forget to order the doves, we manage to cover them with no notice and act like everything is going just as planned.
As for our competition, we appreciate all of them, and will often refer releases to them when we are booked. They will often reciprocate, and we have helped each other with extra birds when there are requests for releases that are bigger than our flocks.
We have also gotten to know a lot of musicians, DJs, and officiants that we will recommend and, in turn, they will often recommend us as well. It’s nice being part of a community like this.
VOW: That is fantastic that you can collaborate like that with other vendors. Sounds like a group effort at times – wonderful!
Do you often meet people that have never heard of doves being released? Has that changed over the years in the business?
A Dove’s Nest: Oh yes! we still run into people who say, “I have never seen or heard of this before, but that was amazing!” And there’s always the one that asks, ”So when are the doves going to come back and go into the basket?” LOL
VOW: Haha, yep, heard that before. “No, they’re not coming back here, they’re on their way home, and food!”
VOW: How has Covid-19 affected your operation?
A Dove’s Nest: When it hit, we had a number of production gigs scheduled and the makings of a great wedding season, with a lot of flowers booked as well.
All gone in the blink of an eye.
The funerals dropped off as well for about a week, then the phone started blowing up for funeral releases. We and the birds have never worked this hard in our careers in this business.
VOW: Sounds like it bounced back well for you guys. We can relate in that 2020 has been a surprisingly good year for us notwithstanding the pandemic.
What’s most rewarding about releasing doves?
A Dove’s Nest: This might sound cliche, but I love seeing the joy on a couple’s faces when they release doves at their wedding, And there’s the comfort the doves bring to families who have just lost a loved one. I believe that death is not “goodbye”, but “till we meet again”.
A Dove’s Nest and the future
VOW: Yes, it’s quite the thing that doves can be used for such a diverse range of life events.
Where would you like to see the business go in the future?
A Dove’s Nest: I have never really thought about it, other than I know both of us are always striving to be better than yesterday, last week, and last year. We never want to just rest on our laurels.
VOW: That’s a good approach. We also try to learn from every release. One somewhat recent revelation has been the following: when placing doves into people’s hands, always ask, “Who is the most comfortable in holding a live dove?” That helps in preventing premature releases.
What advice would you give to someone that would like to start a dove release business?
A Dove’s Nest: Be original; don’t be a cheap copy of someone else’s dove release service. Create a service that will make you stand out from the competition. Maintain the highest standards in your business ethics and conduct.
Bring your patience and perseverance – while Nancy and I had a lot of luck coming into the business, it still took years to see any real “support your family” kind of income.
Learn everything you can about the birds, the feeding, training, health care. It is an art and science to work with the birds.
Always be punctual, and be patient with people when they are not on time. Always dress appropriately for the event.
VOW: Solid advice, Charlie. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, and best wishes in your future endeavors!
A Dove’s Nest: Thank you for the opportunity! Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page. 🙂