If you’ve been thinking about adding a few egg-layers to your backyard, you may want to consider the Muscovy duck. Muscovy ducks, or “Muscovies” for short, are different from other domestic ducks, and in many ways are more suitable for the backyard gardener or small farmer.
Why Muscovies Are The Perfect Backyard Duck
Muscovies are friendly birds and bond well to people. They don’t quack and are very quiet, which makes them a great choice for suburban environments. Instead, they communicate with one another by wagging their tails and raising and lowering their heads. Males also make a dry hissing call, while females have a soft, trilling coo.
Any shelter similar to one you would provide for chickens will work fine for Muscovies. They do like to roost, unlike most ducks, and have sharp claws for that purpose. Provide your birds with a dry, secure area, with available food and water, and a place to roost and they will eagerly find their way to it every evening. Muscovies are perfectly content without a pond. In fact, they don’t spend a lot of time in the water because their feathers are not as water-resistant as the mallard types. All domestic ducks (pekins, campbells, runners etc.) except the Muscovy, are descendants of the mallard.
Free Range Is Best
Because they are better foragers than most other domestic ducks, Muscovies will supply much of their own food if allowed free range. Though Muscovies like vegetables, they are safe to have around the garden.
Ducks For Pest Control
These ducks are especially valuable to keep around the backyard or barnyard for pest control. They like to eat many kinds of insect adults, larvae and pupae, and will most certainly reduce your local population of flies and mosquitoes. Some sources even claim that the name Muscovy is derived from “mosquito,” as a testimony to the bird’s propensity for mosquito consumption.
Which Duck Feed is Best?
During winter, these hardy birds do well on cracked corn and chicken feed. Just make sure it is unmedicated feed, because medicated feeds can make these ducks ill.
What Kind of Eggs Do Ducks Lay?
Muscovies don’t lay as many eggs as chickens or some other breeds of duck, but the costs for feed are much lower. And the 100-or-so per season thick-shelled, high-quality eggs that you will get are a gourmet delight. If you decide to raise your own stock, plan on a long 35-day incubation period. Muscovy females are great mothers, but males can become aggressive toward the young ones and may have to be separated. Be sure to keep the ducklings dry for the first three weeks, until they develop feathers. Use small dishes of water during this period.
Raising Ducks For Meat
Muscovies can also be raised for meat. They are fast growers and are usually slaughtered at three months. At this point males are twice as big as females. The meat from Muscovies is not greasy like most duck and is often compared to veal. It is a high-quality meat that is 98% fat free and has less fat and calories per pound than turkey. Muscovies have 50% more breast meat than other ducks.
Wild Muscovies are native to Mexico, Central and South America, and are even sometimes found in Florida and South Texas. In the wild, Muscovies are black and white, but domestic varieties can be black and white, all black, or all white, chocolate, and blue. All have the characteristic red skin patches around the eyes and over the bill called the “caruncle.” Male muscovies are huge, and can weigh twelve pounds or more; the female is a lot smaller at six or seven pounds. Muscovies are good flyers; though males eventually get too heavy to easily get off the ground. Females sometimes take advantage of this by avoiding males’ advances with a quick flight to the nearest roof.
Muscovy ducks are a delight to own for so many reasons. Make some room for them in your backyard, and you won’t regret it.
Paul Robert lives in Hartford, Maine, with his dog Raymond. He has been an organic gardener for over 35 years, and raises some poultry as well. His special interest is trees. Several kinds of oak and elm, as well as Korean mountain ash, American and Chinese chestnut, persimmons and many other specimens grow on his 1.6 acre mini-farm. He may be contacted at [email protected]