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Local dove breeder earns hardware at provincial competition

Feb 28, 2012 01:31 pm | Doug Numan

A Westlock man has earned some national recognition for his somewhat uncommon hobby — breeding and raising pigeons and doves.

While Harold Boss might be one of only a handful of people raising the birds in Alberta, his hobby is the third-most popular in the world, ranking behind only stamp collecting and coin collecting.

And he obviously knows what he’s doing, having won several awards at the North Central Alberta Poultry Association’s annual show Feb. 18-19 in Wetaskiwin.

Boss took top honours in several categories: Reserve champion of show for white homers, best in class for a young male white homer, best of breed for a white frillback. He also earned several 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-place wins for several white homer categories.

“For the whites, there was over 30 in the competition so it was pretty good,” he said.

While judging can be a subjective exercise, as a general rule judges will look for some basic traits like standing posture, feather structure and clarity of the eye in deciding which bird is the best.

Boss pays careful attention to these traits when breeding his birds, which is a large part of the reason he was as successful at the competition as he was.

“My goal is to have the best,” he said, noting the breeding, nutrition are all carefully monitored. “It’s kind of extreme, but it’s paying off.”

The accolades that come from breeding and raising the doves, however, is only a small part of his motivation. He first got into the hobby several years ago after trying to find someone to provide a dove release at his mother’s funeral. He was dismayed to discover nobody in north-central Alberta providing that service, so decided to do it himself.

“I said to heck with it, went to Calgary to pick up some doves and it started from there,” he said.

Boss now has about 40 birds in his yard and in his home in Westlock, some of which are very rare. He has some Silesian Swallows, which look somewhat like a traditional pigeon with the addition of feathers around their feet that look almost like bell-bottoms, and also has some very rare white Frillbacks.

“As far as I know, I’m the only breeder in Canada with those,” he said, adding he had his breeding stock for that variety shipped in from San Diego, California.

Boss continues with his hobby because it’s something he’s become passionate about, developing a close enough relationship with his birds that some of them have names.

The breeding process itself is fairly involved. He first decides which birds he wants to pair, then puts the males in specific nest boxes for about a week so they recognize it as their own. He then takes the males out and puts the hens in the nest boxes, closing them off from the males for the time being. After they’ve become accustomed to each other, he puts both birds in the box.

“About 10 days later I have eggs then 18 days later I have babies,” he said.

While his hobby has become a person passion he also shares his birds with others through a business, Westlock Wings of White, through which he provides dove releases in the Westlock area.

Twenty-one of his doves were released at the Westlock cenotaph on Remembrance Day this year, and another seven were hand-released in the Flatbush area — each one representing a fallen soldier from the area.

“That one was pretty emotional, given what each dove represents,” he said.

Despite his own passion for the hobby, he worries that most of the people he sees at shows and competitions are from an older generation, and wonders what the means for the future.

“I’d just like to see more people doing it in the area,” he said, “It’s a fantastic hobby.”

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