Debbie Kingsley talks to renowned poultry enthusiast Steve Dace, who has a great fondness for Sebastopol geese
Debbie Kingsley chooses this month’s favourite breed
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.
“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.cheshirepoultry.co.uk
Sebastopol geese An exhibition photo of a Sebastopol goose On the water...
Steve Dace and his son with an exhibition bird
They need plenty of water to keep themselves clean
Steve’s daughter Summer won Best Juvenile with a Sebastopol goose