After moving to the mountains, one of the first projects, in addition to building our house, was to add a flock of ducks to replace the ones we left behind in Wellington. After some research, I decided to raise Golden Cascade ducks. I wanted good layers, and wanted to help keep this rare breed going. The Golden Cascades were different, pretty, should be good egg producers, and a little meatier than the Welsh Harlequins we’d had before. Besides, “Golden Cascade” kind of fit with our “Golden Gaits Ranch” theme. We ordered 8 Golden Cascades, mainly for layers, and 4 White Appleyard ducks for meat. We planned to keep 1 drake and 4-5 hens, hoping to continue breeding a few ourselves. The rest we would sell or butcher. From past experience, I knew that the White Appleyards would be good, large meat ducks.
“Cascades are excellent layers, produce gourmet quality meat and are naturally on the calm side. They typically weigh 5-7 pounds, and in many situations will lay as well as high-producing strains of Khaki Campbells and Welsh Harlequins. When Cascade drakes are mated to females of most other breeds, the resulting offspring are easily sex-able at hatching by their color and the resulting females are unsurpassed for high egg production.
Golden Cascades were developed here at Holderread Waterfowl Farm & Preservation Center in the late 1970s to provide a calm, high egg producing, medium-sized duck for small scale poultry raisers and international agricultural development workers. During the 1980s, we added so many older breeds of ducks and geese to the Preservation Center that we made the difficult decision to discontinue breeding the Cascade to free-up breeding pens for the new arrivals.
Over the decade since we discontinued breeding the Cascade, their production level seems to have remained good, but their colors have drifted noticeably from what we originated. We are breeding them again in order to restore their unique plumage colors that are both attractive and essential for producing easily sex-able offspring.”
The ducklings arrived June 4, after a mixup with the post office and a last-minute trip to the distribution center in Colorado Springs to pick them up. We still had the brooder box we had used for the previous ducklings, and it worked well for us again.
Soon we built a pen and housing for the ducklings, who moved into it when they were two weeks old. Using materials we had on hand, Tim put together this “duckagon”, to mirror our house. It’s not quite as deluxe as the duck house we’d had previously, but it does the trick, and cost us a lot less. Around the entire pen and overhead, there is netting to keep animals and hawks or owls out. There is 3′ of field fencing around the lower section of the pen, with the snow fencing to keep smaller bunnies and other predators out. The bottom of the duckagon is brick with an OSB floor, to keep predators out and to keep them from digging under, should they get into the pen at night–which is doubtful. The duckagon has venting near the top around 4 of its 6 sides, which are filled in with foam insulation and closed in the winter, with the exception of one section. Two of the roof panels are hinged and open up for cleaning, getting eggs out, catching ducks, etc.
When the ducks grew to butchering size, we sold a couple of ducks and butchered a few. We kept what we thought were 1 drake and 5 hens, but later realized there were 2 drakes and 4 hens. Not wanting to feed one more drake, and not wanting to deal with possible drake competition, one of the drakes soon went to our local wolf sanctuary, as we were done with butchering. Five remained: Wily (the drake who fooled us into believing he was a she), Spot, Gertrude, Bess & Ellie Mae. Ok, yes, I named them this time.
Eventually, in November 2015, one of the hens (Bess) began to lay. It was so nice to have fresh duck eggs again! The remaining hens began to lay the following January. Then things began to go wrong. In February, Bess began to experience a prolapsed oviduct. At first, there was a small protrusion of her oviduct, but soon after, it all came out and was irreparable. We weren’t willing to pay a veterinarian to help her. I fear her young body may have started laying eggs too soon, perhaps because we used artificial lighting to stimulate production. She soon took a trip with us to the wolf sanctuary, never to return.
Within a few days, Gertrude began showing evidence of a prolapsed oviduct as well! This time we began to treat her at home, and she managed to continue laying eggs and survive. In case Wily, the drake, was helping to exacerbate the oviduct problems, we decided to cull him from the flock, and off to the wolves he went. Surprisingly, Ellie May also prolapsed in May. Her’s was so bad we couldn’t treat it, and she met the wolves as well. The wolf sanctuary thanks us.
That left Gertrude and Spot, who continued to lay eggs faithfully. As the summer advanced, I wasn’t sure how long these ducks would make it, based on their past performance. I decided to get some new ducklings to replace these. Gertrude and Spot were given to the person who had purchased two of the ducks the previous summer.