Three top judges from the same family will be taking on the poultry judging at this year’s Royal Bath & West Show - an unprecedented first for both the show and the family.
Team Wakeham, comprising father Derek, 23-year old son Andrew and his 21-year old brother Daniel, have been showing pure breed poultry and waterfowl together for more than 10 years However, it is the first time they will be assuming joint responsibility for choosing the prize-winning birds at the Bath & West Show, which includes a prestigious Poultry Club of Great Britain Championship.
“We’re all qualified judges, which is unique in itself,” says Derek. “We’ve often exhibited at the Bath & West Show, and have been selling poultry on the site for the past three years after the two-day poultry show has ended, but judging together will be very exciting.”
With nearly 500 birds at the show, choosing a winner will be no mean feat. So what will the team be looking for in their supreme champion bird? “The most important thing is that the bird is true to type,” says Derek. “You want a good fit bird that is healthy and shining, and presented well by the exhibitor.”
The Wakeham family keep about 2000 birds at Sign of the Owls Bird and Pet Centre, Ugborough, Devon, breeding rare and pure breed poultry and waterfowl for specialist keepers. These include large Buff Orpingtons, heavily feathered Gold Brahmas, fluffy-headed Silkies, old-fashioned Sussex hens and tiny Pekin bantams.
“It’s important to preserve rare and pure breeds,” says Derek. “We’re members of the Rare Breeds Poultry Club and the Poultry Club of Great Britain – we feel it’s vital to keep the standards of each breed up.”
Derek first got into poultry showing when he was 10. “My father used to have a few birds running around the yard, and when he started showing I caught the bug,” he says. “I didn’t think my sons would be interested, but Andrew started showing when he was 10, and poultry now make up the majority of our business.”
The family sell eggs to hatch, as well as point-of-lay pullets and waterfowl, including geese and a variety of duck breeds. They also have parrots, budgies, and an Owl and Bird of Prey Centre, which is open to the public each summer.
However, showing is their real passion, taking them as far afield as Scotland, and all three have won supreme awards at both junior and senior levels. “From 1 January each year, we’re trying to produce a chick that will win best in show later in the season,” says Derek. “There is great camaraderie when going to shows – you meet a super bunch of people.”
High lights of Derek’s showing career include winning the Champion Waterfowl at the Federation Show in 2011 with his boys. “There’s an entry of 7000 birds, including 1000 waterfowl, so that was pretty special,” he says. “But to be honest, sharing my hobby with my sons is pleasure enough.”