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Rare Chinese Owls
We were curious when we saw an ad for the National Chinese Owl Club (NCOC). Turns out they’re actually pigeons, not owls.
  “It’s an old breed that goes back to China,” says Dick Holmberg, secretary/treasurer for the NCOC. “They were brought to the U.S. in the early 1900’s.”
  The breed went through a serious makeover in the 1950’s after being crossed with Spanish Owl pigeons. Today the breed is all about longer feathers and frills.
  There are three distinguishing features, Holmberg says. Neck frill feathers grow up to the eyes framing the face like a collar. Breast frills part in the center with feathers angling up near the top, down at the bottom and straight across in the middle. Pantaloon frills made of fine, hairy-like feathers puff up like cotton balls in front of each leg.
  Officially there are 35 recognized color classes, and breeders are working on another dozen colors.
  Holmberg has had the breed for more than four decades. As owner of a variety of pigeon breeds, he is especially fond of Chinese Owls.
  “They’re small, very active birds that have their own personalities,” he says.
  Other than tail feather trimming to make it easier for breeding, the Chinese Owls don’t have any special care needs. The biggest challenge is balancing the breeding to get the desired frills and colors.
  “Our club is really good about getting new people started. This is a breed that if you get the right birds you can win at shows in a few years,” Holmberg says.
  The best birds average $100 to $150 per pair, and stock birds sell for about $20 per bird. They breed for 7 or 8 years, with hens laying up to six sets of eggs (one or two) a year.
  NCOC has a certified judging program to ensure quality at club shows as well as national shows with other pigeon breeds. Illinois was once the hotspot for Chinese Owl pigeons, but now interest in California has increased because several members from that District have been very generous to new members. The breed is also popular in the New England region. The club has 140 members.
  More information is on the website, and Holmberg invites people interested in the breed to check it out.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, National Chinese Owl Club (www.nationalchineseowlclub.com; dickcpa@frontier.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #4