Let me start by saying how much I love ducks, and how much of a surprise this came to be!
Back in May I acquired two breeding Muscovy ducks (chocolate color). These are the two pictured above, John and Jane. John is bigger and his carunkle (the red part on his face) is larger than Jane’s is.
I was introduced to these ducks by a friend. She has a flock freeranging on her property, and I was impressed at how resilient this breed was. Since I live in Canada, I tend to purchase animals who are better suited for our cold climate, and this breed of duck certainly fit the bill. Other than that, I had no real goals for these ducks other than to live happily and possibly make more duckies.
Here’s a bit of information about the breed overall. They are native to North America and are in fact considered a pest in parts of Texas. They are the largest breed of duck, at a full grown stage they weigh between 6-15lbs – more like a goose than a duck! One of their advantages is that unlike many other species of ducks, Muscovies do not absolutely need a pond to live in. They are more than content with a kiddie swimming pool, although precautions need to be made to ensure the newborn ducklings can get over the pool’s slippery edge. Unlike most other ducks, Muscovies rarely quack – the male hisses, the female coos. One of the best advantages to this breed are that they eat pests like no one’s business. I can attest to seeing a dramatic decrease in the fly population since the ducklings started hunting with their parents. They are also the primary consumers of over-ripe and scrap produce – watching their duckling battles over these tasty treats is always fun! And as with most birds, they lay an egg every 28 hours or so. If you’ve never eaten a duck egg, be prepared for the most creamy delicious egg imaginable. Healthy? Not as much as a turkey egg, that’s for sure. Sometimes the best things in life aren’t calorie-restricted, and this is one of those cases.
The ducks found a place in the chicken hierarchy – mostly to the side of it. They adopted a “live and let live” attitude, each species tending to its own. Overall there have been no problems with cohabitating the ducks and chickens, no quarrels, not even with the duckies. The ducks are overall one of the least burdensome species living on the farm.
In the middle of June, Jane hatched 10 ducklings all by herself, of which 8 have survived to adulthood. Here they are during one of their first days. Not only are they absolutely precious, they fend for themselves very well, and Mom is a great teacher about all sorts of duck things. Dad wasn’t much of a teacher compared to Mom, but nowadays he plays a guardian and hunter-chief role, hanging around a group of ducklings while Mom takes the other group out to do another activity. As of the end of August we can now tell the males and females apart, and the males are about the same size as their mother already! Compared to my chickens, the ducks are hands down more successful at raising their young and raising them to a larger size in little time. This came as a surprise to me, but now I’ve come to appreciate it, and my plans have now changed from focusing on chickens to ducks.
Muscovies come in many colors: white, black, chocolate, lilac, spotted, and others in between. I expect this will let me better identify what generation my ducks are from, but in reality this is likely just an excuse to adopt many different colors and crossbreed to produce spectacular unique patterned animals.
If you have always wanted ducks but hesitated due to not having a pond, or if you have tons of bugs, like meat, or rich eggs, consider a Muscovy flock. As a dual purpose egg and meat breed, they play a valuable key in a self sustainability-focused farm, and their bug hunting abilities are among the best that I’ve seen. Their lack of quacking makes them an ideal animal for a smallholding where sounds are of concern. And just look at those precious little duckie faces again – watching these guys and gals grow up and learn how the world works has let me reflect on my own life in a new and unique way. You can bet I’ll be expanding my Muscovy flock dramatically next year.