OK, get your sniggering out of the way. This is what a handsome, red blooded Muscovy Drake should look like.
What Makes a Muscovy Duck Special?
Muscovies are not related to any other duck, in fact some believe they are descended from geese rather than ducks. They originate from South America where their name is believed to come from their insatiable appetite for mosquito’s and their larvae. How great is that – a critter that turns mosquitos into tasty protein! They also have a penchant for flies, small slugs, snails and even frogs & newts.
The most obvious difference between them and ‘other’ ducks are the carruncles (the red stuff) on their faces which is more predominant in the males. Interestingly, in females the bright red dulls to a deep orange when they’re broody, right through to raising their ducklings. A blatant visual warning to the males to stay away!
Another difference is they have long, sharp claws which are used to attach to tree branches at night when they roost. Due to these claws there’s a right and wrong way to pick up a muscovy and the wrong way will end in blodshed – yours that is. Put your carrying arm over and around its body, pinning both wings in place and taking hold of one or both legs (depending on the size of the bird and the size of you) gently but firmly. This needs to be done pretty quickly. as if they start to struggle with you they’ll lash out trying to find their feet, and you’ll have first hand experience of those claws.
Always an idea to do this manoeuvre with the duck facing backwards, as if they decide to relieve themselves whilst being carried you’ll end up wearing it down your back.
Yep, sadly I speak from experience.
Muscovy Duck Eggs
Ducks eggs are the richest, creamiest, smoothest eggs going. Actually, I feel so passionate about them that I’ve written an entire post on why duck eggs rock. However, as wonderful as the Muscovy duck is, this isn’t the breed to get if you after an egg laying machine. You may want to consider a Khaki Campbell or an Indian Runner as they lay far more per year.
Muscovies as Meat Birds
This is where the Muscovy excels, the meat is dark and very lean. If you’ve ever bought a supermarket duck (in the UK Aylesbury’s are the most common meat bird sold) to roast at home you can almost watch the bird shrink in the oven, as the inch or more of fat under the skin melts. This is all very well if you want to roast a gazillion potatoes to accompany the meal, but if you are striving for a healthier diet then the lean meat of the muscovy is definitely the duck of choice. If you do grow your own to eat, I can highly recommend this recipe for Happy Duck Pie.
It’s worth knowing that the boys weigh in much heavier than the girls, and if you’re not sure of the age of the bird I would recommend a very slow roast to tenderise the meat as it can be tough on an older bird, and baste frequently as it is so lean.
Feeding a Muscovy Duck
In the summer months our birds will require very little extra food as they forage plenty, but in the colder months they’ll need feeding a duck or unmedicated chicken feed twice a day. If you are growing them to eat, put them on a growers ration, but if they are just for laying or for looking pretty a layers ration will be fine. Make sure they have plenty of clean water close at hand as the dry food alone will make them poorly.
Muscovies make fantastic mothers and the most eggs we’ve had hatch is 15, which is pretty amazing as the girls aren’t all that big. We have had them hatch chicken eggs too, although that can lead to problems when the mamma duck wants to teach her chicks to swim!
The Quiet Breed
One of the many reasons I am so smitten with my flock, is that they are very quiet. They don’t ‘quack’ which if you’ve had the misfortune to meet a Call duck or an Aylesbury duck you’ll appreciate (I’m sorry for offending all you Call & Aylsebury fans but seriously – HOW do you live that noise???!) Instead these guys nod their heads and have a gentle kind of hiss as a greeting. Oh, and they wag their tails. Seriously they are really cute to watch.
Left to their own devices, they would be far happier sleeping on a tree branch safely out of harms way than on a pond or in a hut, and they are the one duck breed not so in need of a large area of water. We’ve raised birds here with just a 4 inch deep tray of water, a cat litter tray is good and pretty hard wearing. So long as the water is deep enough to get their nostrils and eyes under then it’s fine. It will need changing twice daily as they will drink, clean, and probably poop in it, and everything around this area will get very, very muddy.
If you do venture into the world of duck keeping, I’m sure you won’t regret it for a moment. Please, do let me know how you get on!