Se­bastopol geese

Deb­bie Kingsley chooses this month’s favourite breed

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

Steve Dace is a big name in The Fancy, the world of poul­try show­ing, and has achieved a num­ber of top na­tional awards for his Wyan­dotte chick­ens. He runs Cheshire Poul­try and has kept nu­mer­ous breeds over the years – but he has a par­tic­u­larly soft spot for Se­bastopol geese.

“I have kept poul­try since I was 10 years old grow­ing up in North Wales, “said Steve. “When I moved to Manch­ester at the age of 17, all my birds had to go while I went through my later teenage years. When I set­tled down with my wife and chil­dren in Manch­ester all I wanted was to pur­chase a small­hold­ing in Cheshire and get some poul­try again.

“It was in 2001 when I was 27 that my dream be­came re­al­ity and I pur­chased a small six acre farm with my wife and four chil­dren. I owned my own busi­ness in the mo­tor trade and could not wait to start my hobby off again in breed­ing poul­try, which is a hobby that has grown way out of hand.

“I have kept over 28 dif­fer­ent breeds of chick­ens in both large fowl and ban­tams over the last few years, but over the last three years I have got rid of them all and now only keep Large Laced Wyan­dottes in Sil­ver Laced, Blue Laced, Gold Laced and Buff Laced, as well as pure Blue and Black Wyan­dottes.

They are great for a small­holder as all they need is a small pond and shed and they will do a bet­ter job than a lawn­mower.

First pur­chase

“In 2010 I bought my first Se­bastopol Geese, and I also keep Valais Blac­knose Sheep, which come from Switzer­land, and they are amaz­ing an­i­mals. My chil­dren also have a few Call ducks.

“When I first saw Se­bastopols at a friend’s house I took some pic­tures of them and showed them to my wife. We both agreed that we needed to get some for our farm. We pur­chased a trio from an auc­tion and didn’t know if they were boys or girls. They weren’t the best qual­ity birds, but I re­ally liked them, and that’s when the ob­ses­sion started. The Se­bastopols look fan­tas­tic, and I was then de­ter­mined to pur­chase some top-qual­ity birds and work on the breed my­self.

“The Se­bastopols come in full-curly, which is curly feather all over, and also in smooth-breasted which have long, trail­ing feath­ers on their back hang­ing down to the floor and a smooth breast. They come in three colour va­ri­eties: white, buff and grey. They are very easy to keep and are not ag­gres­sive like some geese. My Call ducks some­time chase them around, which is quite com­i­cal to wit­ness. Their tem­per­a­ment is a big pro as they have great per­son­al­i­ties and are fan­tas­tic to look at. They are great for a small­holder as all they need is a small pond and shed and they will do a bet­ter job than a lawn­mower.

“They are very dif­fi­cult to breed; they only lay for seven to eight weeks when in breed­ing sea­son and can lay from seven to 20 eggs. They are just dif­fi­cult to hatch and can die in the shell be­fore birth; you have bet­ter suc­cess hatch­ing un­der a goose than in an in­cu­ba­tor. I have a few dif­fer­ent blood­lines that I use so that I don’t in­ter­breed them too much. They make very good par­ents and look af­ter their goslings well. They are pop­u­lar all over the UK and I have sold them all over the coun­try, in­clud­ing Ire­land, Scot­land and Wales. As for keep­ing them with other goose breeds, they are quite soft na­tured so will prob­a­bly get bossed around. You could keep them as a pet be­cause they are friendly and are suit­able geese to have around young chil­dren; they are not ag­gres­sive and my three chil­dren have been around them for years. I have never sold one for meat and nor would I. They are too pre­cious for that!

“Since I have kept them I have won all my classes with Best Se­bastopol at the Na­tional, Scot­tish Na­tional, Bri­tish Wa­ter­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion, Do­mes­tic Wa­ter­fowl Club and Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Poul­try Clubs Cham­pi­onship shows, and breeder of the year for the last six years. I want to keep try­ing to im­prove them in both va­ri­eties, smooth and curly, and work on the colours es­pe­cially the Buffs and Greys. You will not re­gret keep­ing this breed as they are stun­ning to look at with great per­son­al­i­ties and make great lawn­mow­ers.” MORE: www.cheshire­poul­

An ex­hi­bi­tion photo of a Se­bastopol goose Se­bastopol geese On the wa­ter...

Steve Dace and his son with an ex­hi­bi­tion bird

Steve’s daugh­ter Sum­mer won Best Ju­ve­nile with a Se­bastopol goose

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