Muscovy Ducks
Copyright 2006-2009 Thane's Neck Farm
The Muscovy is a unique ducklike species of tree-perching waterfowl.  It originated in the South American
rainforest where its wild ancestors still reside.  For lack of a better classification, it is generally referred to
as a duck, although it is as genetically different from ducks as donkeys are to horses.  In fact, as with
donkeys and horses, when you breed Muscovy to domestic, mallard-derived ducks, their offspring are
always sterile and are referred to as “mules.”

Domesticated Muscovies are bred in a rainbow of colors including black, white, blue, silver, chocolate, and
lilac.  Patterns include solid, pied, white-headed solids, barred, and ripple.  As adults, both sexes have
patches of bare skin around the eyes, rather than feathers.  Most of this is covered in bright red
“caruncles,” which superficially resemble warty outgrowths.  It is an interesting look that takes some getting
used to, but a "mother's love" is blind!  Both males and females are quackless, producing only a muffled
“puff” from the males; females are almost mute, usually chirping only to their ducklings.  However, both can
make a soft hissing sound when challenged.  Their feet have very sharp claws for clutching tree
branches.  The male has a unique crest of feathers on his head that will rise when he is alarmed or
protecting his bevy.  The male’s mature weight can reach upwards of 15 lbs; almost double that of the
females’ 9 lb adult weight.  Because of this, their flying skills are not quite as sharp as the females who are
well-known for flying around as though sightseeing, rather than for flying away!  With the lift of a hill, fence
or strong wind, a male’s broad and well-rounded wings eventually will get him successfully airborne.

Muscovy females are probably the best natural mothers of any fowl, as measured by their success at
incubating their eggs and raising their young to adulthood.   They will lay up to three times per year, 8-21
medium white eggs, and will loyally sit each clutch for an incubation period of 35-37 days.  They bravely
protect their young and have been known to beat off cats, dogs, foxes and other marauders.

Tame, quiet, and able to forage for most of their keep, Muscovies are inherently hardy, vigorous, and
robust.  They are not prone to disease; thrive in hot, wet & humid environments where most domesticated
waterfowl perish; are not affected by cold winters, and can also tolerate arid lands as well.  Muscovies can
be kept happily without access to a pond or other large body of water, providing they have a bucket deep
enough to clean their bodies and dunk their heads to clear their eyes.  Their underdeveloped oil glands
(as compared to mallard-derived, domestic ducks) limit their water play, although they can both swim and
dive well.

The Muscovy’s claim to fame is that it is particularly fond of insects.  It should be pointed out that
employing Muscovies on farms does not eliminate all need for other methods of insect control, but it
greatly reduces the amounts required with many natural benefits.  Muscovies are biodegradable, will not
cause a buildup of genetic resistance, are non-poisonous, and taste better than flypaper!  Indeed, it is
reported that their meat is excellent – compared often to high-grade veal (without the objectionable tactics
to gain this taste and texture).

If you are looking for a low-cost investment in rearing fowl for food, eggs, insect control, or even just
amusement, Muscovies should be seriously considered.
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