Marvelous Muscovies

Fun, easy to care for and a great source of meat, Muscovies also can help control flies and other pests on your homestead.

  • Muscovies
    Muscovies are super bug killers, efficiently converting pesky protein into tasty protein.
    Photo courtesy Cherie Langlois
  • Muscovy Ducklings
    The American Poultry Association recognizes four colors of the Muscovy - white, black, blue and chocolate. Muscovy breeders, however, have created more than two dozen additional color and pattern varieties.
    Photo courtesy Cherie Langlois
  • Muscovy
    The Muscovy, our only domestic duck breed unrelated to mallards, is an excellent setter and protective mother.
    Photo courtesy Cherie Langlois

  • Muscovies
  • Muscovy Ducklings
  • Muscovy

With its head dominated by brilliant red, fleshy outgrowths called caruncles, the male Muscovy probably wouldn’t win a beauty pageant for domestic ducks. But that doesn’t bother fans like Corine de Wit of Reva, Va., who began raising this unusual species of waterfowl in the 1970s, when she lived in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa.

“Muscovies are perfect for the small farmer,” she says. “They multiply fast — a drake and five ducks can produce 100 birds a year for consumption — and Muscovies are super bug-killers, so they convert pesty protein into tasty protein. Plus they’re fun, friendly and more fun. I just love having these ducks around.”

The Muscovy found on farms today traces its ancestry back to the wild Muscovy, a perching duck indigenous to the tropical regions of Mexico, and Central and South America. All other domestic ducks — including the white Pekin and the comical Runner — are derived from mallard stock. According to some sources, the Incas of Peru domesticated Muscovies centuries ago, keeping them as pest-controlling pets and suppliers of feathers, eggs and meat. Conquistadors brought these ducks from Columbia to Spain during the 1500s, and from Europe, the birds eventually traveled to Africa, Asia, Australia and back to North America. Today, Muscovy ducks can be found hunting bugs in Asian rice paddies and on American farms, and they’re served up for dinner in villages and gourmet restaurants around the world.

Domestic Muscovies are large, well-muscled ducks. Females weigh about 8 pounds and drakes can reach 15 pounds. Extremely self-reliant, these birds will forage for tender grasses, and pond and dry-land weeds, and their healthy appetite for flies, mosquitoes, slugs, snails and even mice make them very handy to have on a homestead. Just be careful to protect young plants: Muscovies sometimes uproot flowers and vegetables in their zeal to locate worms and other soil-dwelling delicacies. They also love reaching up to pluck ripe blueberries and raspberries from bushes.

Muscovies have powerful legs, sharp claws, long tails and rounded wings to help them navigate around trees. If left unclipped, many females and juvenile males fly very well and enjoy roosting on lofty perches such as barn roofs. Given an appropriate diet, uncrowded conditions and protection from predators, they’re unlikely to fly off in search of greener pastures. The adult drakes, on the other hand, are basically grounded by their hefty size. They also have feisty temperaments that can sometimes lead them to pick fights with each other when territory or females are at a premium. Many plucky drakes will even try standing up to predators much larger than themselves.

For folks accustomed to the noisy quacking of a flock of Pekins or mallards, the vocalizations of the Muscovy may come as a pleasant surprise. Drakes emit a breathy whistle while the females normally make a soft squealing noise unless they’re frightened or angry. This can be an advantageous trait if you have close neighbors who don’t appreciate ducks as much as you do.

Janice Blanke
7/29/2008 4:51:32 PM

We are raising Muskovy ducklings and would like some help in the amount of protein needed during their different stages of life. We have our own grains and mill, and make our own recipes.

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