I just love Muscovy ducks. I have such great memories of my children raising the ducklings and carting them to 4-H events and to fall fairs. Over the years we raised lots of different kinds of poultry, from the fuzzy headed Polish chicken, to selectively breeding for the “Porcelain” strain of Old English Game Bantam hen and so on. But Muscovy always take first place as barn yard fowl in my opinion. They are such a great addition to the small farm or back yard. Very easy to care for and are often referred to as the “easy chicken” because Muscovy require much less labour in their management than chickens. Their benefits far out way the initial effort needed to set them up in a safe, healthy growing environment.
Muscovy are a unique breed of duck, unrelated to any of the other breeds, which are all part of the Mallard family. They are like distant cousins. Muscovy are also known as ‘Mute’ ducks because once mature their voice is muted and they only communicate with a soft hissing noise, which makes for a quiet yard. Originally known to come from the Aztecs in Peru. They like to perch in trees and really don’t require a pond to be happy, although they thoroughly enjoy romping around in the water. Provide them with a child type wading pool and they are quite happy, splashing about and generally having good fun.
Because they can fly and need protection from such as mink, eagles, hawks, raccoons, and wandering cats (cats will often kill the baby ducklings), among other predators, it’s important to provide them with a large open area that is netted overhead and includes a securely enclosed building of some sort. I modified an old chicken coop for use of our ducks, where they can go in at any time of day or night. In many cases our ducks are so accustomed to being inside the duck hut, that as the sun starts to go down they automatically go inside, in preparation for us to close the door.
The duck hut is basically a 10 ft x 8 ft shed with a tin roof and cement floor. The interior is divided into 2 sections, so that when the mother ducks get broody they can be in one half of the shed away from the rest of the flock and have a more peaceful space to brood and raise their ducklings. I let the moms do the work of hatching out their broods, as they never seem to need any help from me. I just keep them fed and make sure they have lots of clean water to drink. Once the ducklings get to the juvenile stage, then they can rejoin the rest of the flock.
Being less susceptible to common diseases and infestations, which are typical for chickens and other poultry, it is highly advisable to keep Muscovy away from the other poultry and you will not likely have anything to deal with as far as common yard bird problems go, like coccidiosis or parasites. The only time I ever had to treat my ducks for mites was because the 4-H children brought some in on their chickens.
Muscovy are also a delicacy to eat. Their meat is all a lean, rich, dark meat and is low in cholesterol, plus has a unique flavour unlike anything else to compare. In addition, they will lay 3, sometimes 4 clutches of eggs in a year, taking a break over the darker winter months. The eggs are large and usually contain more yolk than whites and are excellent eating in any way you chose, but most especially they are great for baking, as the thick whites beat up nicely for cakes or breads.
The best thing though, is Muscovy love to eat slugs and all kinds of garden bugs or pests! I have always wanted to install a perimeter fence around my garden so they can patrol the circumference and then I would never have an issue with pests getting at my seedlings again. Otherwise, if you let the Muscovy in the garden during the active growing season, they will eat some of the young plants and leaves off of the more mature plants, which is a sacrifice I never wanted to experience. Alternatively though, I have sectioned off areas of my garden during less active growing times, like late fall or winter, or just while I give an area a rest with a cover crop, at which point the Muscovy can have free reign to clean up any slugs or bugs they desire. I must say the garden does so much better the next time I plant after the ducks have been on it.
I thoroughly enjoy having the ducks around and they quickly learn to follow me about, especially if I have a garden tool in my hand and might turn up something yummy to eat.