Preserving Sebastopol geese, one gosling at a time.
Story and photos by Megan Marion. Have you ever considered that a bird could be your therapist? Many of us have heard the advice: “Having frequent interactions with birds can boost your mental health.” Well, one day I purchased geese and promptly told them, “You’re going to fix my life you little s@$&.” And then, in ways I didn’t anticipate, they did exactly that.
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One day, we saw a sign advertising Sebastopol geese outside of my (now) mentor’s house. An internet search later and I was hooked. Sebastopol are listed as a threatened species by The Livestock Conservatory (TLC). I decided to help preserve the breed and work on gray Sebastopol’s recognition by the American Poultry Association. Our family live happily on our Little Dove Acres homestead, with our two livestock guardian dogs, Aurora and Baron.
Typically, goose eggs are difficult to incubate successfully. I had originally decided to incubate all my eggs, and I collected them daily from my unhappy geese so I could have more control over outcomes. I was wrong. Only three of the many eggs I incubated hatched and only one gosling survived. As a cancer nurse, I’ve come to loathe suffering.
While I’d heard from numerous breeders that last season yielded poor hatch rates nationwide, Persephone, my buff goose, hatched seven out of eight eggs. Queen, my lilac saddleback, had three goslings hatch. Piper, my gray smooth-breasted (and most dedicated mom) hatched five out of five eggs.
I watched in awe over the next few months as a money-making hobby turned into a passion and respect for the species I’d previously sought to exploit. My geese worked together to raise their goslings. Fathers kept goslings warm so mothers could eat. Both geese communicated with their babies, teaching them to navigate the new — and at times scary — world.
Incubating works well for some species (such as quail), but Sebastopol, especially those at Little Dove Acres, are good moms. We’re going to let nature take its course.
I’m especially grateful to my mentors: Jean Ribbeck, Laura Huey, and Barbara Rudolph, whom I’ve likely driven crazy with my many questions. Please check out the National Sebastopol Geese Association for great information on the breed!