As a wedding gift in 2020, some of our dear friends got together to surprise us with one of my dream livestock breeds : Cotton Patch Geese. The Livestock Conservancy lists this breed as critical, and we're lucky enough to live near breeders of these unique birds. As a history buff, I immediately fell in love with the fact that Cotton Patch Geese had a story to tell - no one is really clear about when and where they originated, but it's believed they most likely descended from European stock brought to the U.S. during the colonial period.
Notably, these birds would have been walking through Southern cotton and corn fields to weed things like crabgrass up until the 1950s. For someone who keeps herbicides and pesticides out of her garden, this is a highly attractive quality in any working livestock. I've
had high hopes for letting my gaggle wander through our garden to do the hard work for me, but haven't worked up the nerve just yet! Well-suited for the hot, humid weather of South Carolina, Cornbread and Butterbean (our two original geese), would probably have a fine time wandering our garden beds. Unfortunately, they and their offspring Pumpernickel, Lima, Pinto, and Chickpea, would have to watch out for natural predators like coyotes and foxes that sometimes lurk around the wooded edges of our garden - hence my hesitation.
When wedding through the history and breeding of Cotton Patch Geese, you begin to learn more about their lines. Our gaggle is sourced four farms back to Tom Walker, or the original Walker line. Walker made it his mission to find and collect a breed he hadn't seen since the 1950s, and began the search in Arkansas. Thanks to his work, farms and homesteads like mine can now raise and promote the breed. Other lines you'll see when looking to purchase your own Cotton Patch include James and Philadelphia. The great lengths that many farmers and homesteaders have gone through to obtain this breed is often heroic in nature, and I have to say, I'm extremely thankful that my geese came to me so easily.
As I write this, Butterbean is currently sitting on her second clutch, with eight eggs total. We were blessed to have one gander and three geese (or dames, if you're feeling fancy) hatch naturally from last year's clutch of seven. We're hoping for even better odds this year, but will be happy with whatever Butterbean brings! I look forward to continuing the support of this endangered species on our homestead, and hope you'll come by for a farm tour to meet these interesting birds.