Muscovy Duck Breed Spotlight

The Joy of Raising Muscovy Ducks

muscovy-duck

By Dr. Dennis P. Smith – During the more than 40 years that we have been in business, I must confess that we have hatched and raised several duck breeds. However, absolutely none can compare with the uniqueness, the adaptability, the pure pleasure, and the usefulness of the Muscovy duck. Because many people think that this is a “strange” poultry specimen, I would like to set the record straight. Native to South America, their original name was “Musco duck” because they ate so many mosquitos. The Russian Muscovites were one of the first to import them to their country. Being very hardy, Muscovies are still roaming wild in the South American jungles today. Even here in North America, several states, such as Florida and Georgia, have wild Muscovies. These “wild” Muscovies are responsible for eating literally millions of pests every year. Were it not for them, these states would undoubtedly have more millions of “pests” that like to dine on people.

Muscovies come in several colors. Probably the most numerous is the White. Then there is the Pied (about half black and half white, but actually any Muscovy that has black and white coloring is called a Pied), buff, brown, chocolate, lilac and blue. There are also several other color combinations. We even have some Muscovies that have the feather pattern of a Barred Plymouth Rock. Dark-colored ducks have brown eyes. Whites, lilacs, and blues usually have grey colored eyes. Healthy ducks that have black coloring should have a greenish sheen in the right sunlight.

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Muscovies have a “crest” on the top of their heads that they can raise at will. During the mating season, a male sill often raise this crest to fend off other males and claim his dominance. He will also raise this crest to impress the females and help to get them in the “mood” for mating. Muscovies communicate with one another by wagging their tails and raising and lowering their heads at one another.

Muscovies are excellent flying ducks. As a matter of fact, given their preference, they like to roost in trees. If you provide a house or duck shelter for them with “perches” or “roosts,” they will get on these at night. Be careful of the claws on the ducks. They have these to help them cling on to the roost. I have never seen them use these claws to scratch the coil. If you do not want your Muscovies to fly, you can clip off the third section of one wing before the ducklings are one week old. When we do this, we use “Blood Stop Powder,” even though they very seldom bleed very much. While this might seem a bit cruel, it is necessary for people in the commercial Muscovy duck business to do this, otherwise the ducks could all fly off.

muscovy-duck

Fuller Muscovy Drake: Muscovys, unlike other duck species, have no genetic influence by the great granddaddy of all other ducks…the mallard. They are their own species.

Many individuals believe that Muscovies are more of a goose than a duck. For instance, they do not quack. Many people like this trait since they are “quiet” ducks. The males make a “hissing” sound while the females make a sound known as a “pip.” This “pip” is a very exotic sounding call. It is somewhat similar to a flute quickly alternating between the notes F and G. Also, their eggs take longer to hatch than other duck eggs — 35 days. Unlike all other breeds of ducks, Muscovies did not originate from the wild Mallard.

Mature drakes (males) will weigh anywhere from 12 to 15 pounds, while the females (ducks) actually weigh from 8 to 10 pounds. The females are much smaller than the males. Both sexes have what is known as a “caruncle” on their head.

Muscovy eggs are delicious and are used in many dishes prepared by individuals or by famous cooks. Their taste is rich and they are considered a delicacy. And Muscovy meat is one of the healthiest meats on the market today, being 98 percent or greater fat-free. Many people say that the breast meat of a Muscovy is hard to tell from a Sirloin steak. Famous chefs know this and use Muscovy meat in a number of ways. They have become experienced at cutting and preparing the meat for various delicacies. It is even ground up and used as hamburger in a variety of dishes. Individuals who are required to be on a low-fat diet know that the meat is not only great tasting but very nutritious. And, being so lean, meat from the Muscovy duck is not greasy as is the case with other ducks. Some say that the meat tastes a lot like expensive ham. Others say it is hard to tell from other expensive cuts of meat.

muscovy-duck

Fuller Muscovy Hen: The popularity of the Muscovy duck stems in part from its superior natural reproductive ability, that has very little need for an incubator. It is quite common for a hen to incubate and raise two and sometimes three broods a year. Tom Fuller’s most impressive hatch was from a white hen that brought off 24 ducklings out of 25 eggs, a record in his history of enjoying these excellent mothers.

So, what do ducks eat … and more specifically, what do Muscovy ducks eat? Once people find out what Muscovies like to dine on, then this duck becomes a must for their farm or estate. Every year, our neighbors complain about the flies and mosquitos that they have to put up with. They purchase lots of chemicals and go to a lot of work to keep these pests down. However, we use nothing except the Muscovy duck itself. Muscovies love to eat flies, maggots, mosquitos, mosquito larva, slugs, bugs of all sorts, black widow spiders, the brown fiddleback spider and any thing else that creeps and crawls. As a matter of fact, they will search in, under, around and through places to find these tasty morsels. They will even eat ants and destroy ant dens. The Heifer Project Exchange of Africa quotes a development worker in Togo reporting that the local people were not bothered by flies because their Muscovy ducks killed them all. They even slaughtered some ducks, opened the crops, and found that the Muscovies had their crops filled with dead flies. The organization ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) has reported the same findings. In addition, a Canadian study of fly controls with dairy goats found that Muscovies caught 30 times more houseflies than commercial flytraps, baits or flypaper. The ducks also ate spilled feed and the flies that were in the feed, along with any maggots that happened to be there. In addition, Muscovy ducks love roaches and eat them like candy.

As for commercial feed, naturally, being a Hatchery, we want to feed a high protein feed. We start babies on a 28 percent Gamebird Starter. We will feed this until the ducks are mature and begin to lay, at which time we will change their feed to a 20 percent Protein Laying Pellet. Young ducks are kept on a restricted diet so that they will be encouraged to look for pests.” Mature ducks, on the other hand, when they begin to drop eggs, have feed before them at all times. This method of feeding helps to increase egg production. Even with feed readily available, the Muscovies continue to search for bugs. On many farms that have Muscovy ducks, about the only feed the mature ducks get is what is spilled in the various pens and in the feed houses. In cleaning this feed up, the Muscovies are making use of a product that would otherwise be wasted, as well as keeping down the mice and rat population that would be likely to eat this feed and multiply.

Some people will tell you that Muscovy ducks are hard to hatch. Actually, we have hatched them for years and have had very good results. The best “incubator,” however, is a Muscovy duck hen. She will lay anywhere from 8-15 eggs and set. (Sometimes more.) Many times, she will hatch every egg. And, she will do this three or four times a year, depending on your climate. In addition, she is one of the best mothers of all.

Many people like to have the Muscovies on their lake or pond. The Muscovies will eat a lot of the algae and weeds. What about their dropping? While it is true that the Muscovy duck, just like other creatures, will “go” when the pain hit, their droppings are a natural part of the ecosystem and are easily biodegrade.

Are Muscovy ducks aggressive? No. As a matter of fact, my children love them. It almost seems that the Muscovies are trying to “talk” when they come up to you, wag their tails like a dog, and look up at you as if to say, “Got a treat?” About the only time a Muscovy male might be aggressive would be toward another male during breeding season. Females will also be “picky” about protecting their young, so we give them their space. So are they nasty? Absolutely not. As stated earlier, their droppings are soft and are very easily biodegradable. We use the manure from Muscovies in our garden every year since it is rich in nitrogen.We even have customers who come to our hatchery and ask to clean out our pens just so they can have the manure. (We do not allow this since we are participants in the State of Oklahoma and the National Poultry Improvement Plan. Not allowing visitors to go into your breeding pens helps to keep down on the spread of disease that visitors might bring to your place.)

Muscovy ducks like to breed with other muscovies. However, if you have a single muscovy male or female, he or she will breed with whatever duck is available. These ducklings are called “mules” because they are sterile and cannot produce offspring. Many people will deliberately cross Muscovies with a Mallard duck and get a Moulard. They use this duck for meat. At Country Hatchery, we do not cross Muscovies with other ducks.

In conclusion, Muscovy ducks are my favorite duck. Each one seems to have his or her own unique personality. We find them interesting to watch, friendly, and just fun to have around the place. If I could have only one breed of poultry, it would be the Muscovy duck.

For more information on the Country Hatchery, please visit their website at www.countryhatchery.net

Originally published in Backyard Poultry October/November 2007 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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Comments
  • Very informative! I learned a lot of interesting facts about Muscovies.

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  • We have Muscovies here in Florida in the wild. We live on a fresh water canal. Before Hurricane Charlie hit, there were about 6 hens and 8 or 9 drakes. When they would come into the back yard I would feed them cracked corn. At one time there were over 80 ducklings between the 6 hens. They would eat out of my hands. As the ducklings got older I was allowed to pick them up and pet them. There was one older drake who was missing a flipper, he would come right up to me and grab my shorts and shake looking for a handout. My daughter who was ony a year old at the time, used to love them. But after Hurricane Charlie they all disappeared. We have a hen new to the area now and she has 12 ducklings with her. She does not come into the yards, they stay down at the edge of the canal or in the canal. My children now love seeing the hen with her ducklings out swimming in the canal.
    The Florida Fish and Wild Life, consider the Muscovy a nuisance, disease ridden, nasty tempered fowl . That is because they are not native to Florida. My observations is that they are one of the cleanest and friendliest fowl here. I do wish this hen was more friendly like the older Muscovies were.

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  • We live in N. Central Texas, Muscovey ducks have laid eggs at my sisters house, she has been sitting on them close to 35 days if not 35 days. Is there a chance the eggs won’t hatch?

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    • Give it a few more days. Can sometimes take a little longer for hatching. Watch close though, our big drake killed all the babies after they hatched.

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  • Hi: we lost our black/white Muscovy after 12 years. We are seniors and want to replace him with a female and male. We need an age where they are able to fend for themselves as we can not raise ducklings. Henry did not migrate. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Randy

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  • Hello, I have been interested in Miscovies for a while now, but have been unable to find a farm or place that happens to sell them. Can you tell me if you know of a farm around southeast Oklahoma?

    Thanks!

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    • Country Hatchery in Wewoka, Oklahoma sells muscovies. They are great people to deal with and will treat you right.

      countryhatchery.net

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      • I have used Country Hatchery on several occasions and they are a 1st rate organization with excellent stock.

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  • I need some help. And I saw this article and am hoping that someone can help me. I am looking for anyone in the Jacksonville, FL area who might raise or take care of orphaned ducks. They are the Moscovians that you mention in this article; that’s why I am reaching out. I have 12 eggs that need a home. Mommy duck was killed and eggs have been in our care ever since. Only problem is that I have no place to keep them or even know if the babies are alright or not. Can anyone help? Please contact me via email if you can. I’ll check back on the site daily. And thank you btw for the article; very informative.

    Reply
  • I have recently purchased two Muscovey ducklings without doing my research first. I have never bought before researching until now. I am very pleased to find this article and read the depth of facts that I wanted to know. Therefore I will be getting more in the future. Thank you so much for having this article online for new viewers! I have saved your website for further reference.

    Reply
  • Hi, my hen has just started to hatch her brood, she also has sat on chicken eggs and they are also hatching. We have separated her from the male and other chickens and was wondering if we just leave her to her own devices, we have made sure there is water and crumb for them. It’s our first time so feeling anxious. Thanks in advance.

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  • We have put our Muscovy hen in a run with her 4 babies to keep them safe from predators. How long should we keep mum in with the babies for? Never done this before so want to make sure we do it right because we love them so much

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  • They ARE aggressive!!! My father got two ducklings from his friend when I was little and put them in a fenced off area of our garden. As they grew we realised they were males, and whenever my mother went in to feed them and refill their water carriers they would jump at her and attack her, with their claws and beaks. She even bent a beach umbrella pole over one’s back. After that kept going on my father swapped them for two females.

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  • Your article is so correct. We live in Brisbane, Australia and have 25 ducks. We have 2 older males and 4 younger ones. The older males keep the younger ones behaved around the females.
    We find that we only have a few crabby ducks (aggressive). We have no problem breeding the ducks as we just leave the females on their own eggs. We have at times put some other ducks eggs under a hen, and the hen seems to “adopt” the eggs as her own. When the ducklings hatch, we make a point of leaving them with their mother, but picking them up each day to say hello. Where we have done this, the ducks grow up to be very social and friendly. In the one case where we left the ducklings alone and did not pick them up, some of them grew up to be the crabby ones discussed above.
    We have a pond down the back of our property where some of them spend the night. These were the ones we couldn’t catch to clip their wings when we should have. The mosquito population has dropped dramatically.
    Eggs are typically between 90 to 100 grams (metric measure), so quite large, and very popular with chefs. Unfortunately, muscovy meat is not well know in our part of Australia.
    Once again thanks for your great inspiring article. Totally agree with all you said.

    Reply
  • I have a male and female I love them so much. She just raised a dozen babies this year and was so excited. I recommend this breed of duck to any duck living person cuz they r friendly very fun to watch due to personality differences from our other birds and r amazing at raising there young

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  • I have two sweet Muscovies drames and one just started laying yesterday. Today she followers me to their own and made lots of noise (more excited than mad) when I took her egg. Should I replace these eggs with fake eggs to let her nest or take them all? None are firtle

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  • A sweet Muscovy hatched twelve eggs two days ago in a confined area of 4-feet high, where they can’t get out. I have been giving them bread and water twice a day. This is at an unoccupied home next door to me. What should I do?

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  • Dianne D.

    I would like to ask a question, my daughter lives in Florida on a lake. She has muscovy ducks and babies.
    3 of the babies where having trouble walking their leg was all drawn up, and the feet wasn’t working. My daughter took in 2 of the worse off. And after 3 days she released them and they just fine. She did the same with other baby and leg healed. So she returned it to its family. The family is so mean to it. Momma duck truer to drown it. And siblings attack
    It real bad. She took the baby back. Why is this happening, and why did they have leg problems, it’s hot there in Florida. She thought maybe the lakes water was too hot in shallows.
    Can u give us help

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  • Iam planning to rear hundreds of them so far having 20 and finding it interesting to rear them .Martin, Uganda

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  • Thank for the wonderful information on the Muscovy ducks. We recently moved to SE FL and I have a Mama duck and she at one time had 10 babies. Unfortunately, someone has poisoned my babies and now Mama is down to 4. One is very ill, it is very sluggish and appears to be having mild tremors. It breaks my heart because Mama duck keeps looking at me to help but of course there isn’t anything I can do but fish the dead baby from the canal once in range. Please give any advise for future babies so I can help them survive the wrath of Man.
    Heartbroken in paradise,
    Diania

    Reply
  • I Have A White Beautiful Meascovies That Hatches 14 Eggs Out Out Of 15 She Brought Them Up Not Up To 4weeks She Start Laying Another Eggs Furtunately She Was Attact By My Dog 4 Days To Hatchery And Among Her Growing Kids The Dog Killed 9 Of Them Which As Of Known She Is On 18 Eggs Mixed Up With Anothe Breeds That Take 28 Days As Of Hatchery. Can I Leave The Eggs Together? Do You Think My Duck Would Be Pacient Of One Week To 10 Days In Hatchery Time On It Eggs? Or Shonld I Remove The Mixed Egg For A Week And Return Back Thanks From Midbealt Nigeria

    Reply
  • We rescued 8 baby (Muscovey) Ducks 1 1/2 yr ago from a grocery store prk lot no ponds fast cars etc learned quickly how to raise them! we now have great grand ducks about 30ish ! LOVE them sweat friendly raised with chickens, they get along great, cute to watch, talk to me daily with the throaty noise they make! Have had my share of cuts from the claws wouln’t trade them for any thing!

    Reply
  • I have some muscovy ducks.sometimes we allow them to walk in our yard but we havent cut their feathers.could they fly and leave our farm?

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  • I have searched my computer & I believe I have one of these ducks in Charlotte NC is that possible. I feed it bird seed and it wags its tail – it is mostly grey with white tipped wings
    and looks for me every day in the window of my apartment to give it some birdseed – I am so
    glad I found out what kind of duck this is – my apartment surrounds a lake and there are mostly mallards & canadian geese – this duck just turned up one day and I am wondering where it might have come from – thanks

    Reply
  • Because females lay an egg a day. Do they need to be fertilized daily by the male to have fertile eggs. We want to put her in a pen when she starts laying because of predators but don’t know if she has to have access to the drake daily.

    Reply
  • There’s a network here where I live called wild at Hearts Animal Rescue. What they do is they say wild animals but they have people in other states if they’re able to contact that are able to sometimes help with other animals if you can’t find somebody if you go online type in Wild at Heart Animal Rescue and tell them where you are and they should be able to help you find a network or somebody in your area to help you with the wild ducks are duck eggs. It’s against the law to bring wild animals across state lines to get help a different animal rescue so it has to be somebody in your state in your general area good luck hope you find somebody and if it’s already been passed and you haven’t found anybody in the time is already expired and they died always remember you can always go online and look up animal rescues and you should be able to find somebody in your network alright good luck bye

    Reply
  • Hi, I’m really hoping you can help me. I live in Miami, Fl and have a situation with Muscovy baby ducklings that are in danger. Of course no Wildlife rescue group will help me since they are not protected here. So Mama duck and her 12 ducklings have been visiting my front yard for the past 5-6 weeks. I’ve fed them regularly and they’ve always hung out at or very near my home. But suddenly, about 3 days ago, only the ducklings showed up. Mama was nowhere to be seen all day. The next day, same thing. I became worried for their safety and decided to catch and trap all 12 of them (what a mission that was!). Even after all the noise they made, no Mama appeared. So I had to assume something really bad happened to her and she was gone for good. I’ve been keeping them in a crate, safe and with plenty of food and water but they refuse to eat. Then today (3rd day of her gone missing), Mama suddenly appeared! I was so happy!! She was wagging her tail and they all ran up to her and they all walked away together. But several hours later, I saw the babies all by themselves, again, all huddled up in my front yard. No mom to be seen.
    I am so saddened by this! I now have to assume that she is abandoning them on purpose! Or maybe they are refusing to follow her? Either way, I’m so worried for their well-being… they are unprotected and not eating. I know it’s especially dangerous overnight.
    Please tell me… do you have an idea of what could be going on and if there’s anything I can do to help? I don’t know how long mom will be gone for this time and if she’s even coming back! Is it best that I trap them again? Or leave them out for mom to come back for them again?? I know they wont make it without protection! Thank you so much in advance for any info that you can provide.

    Reply
    • I know my response is late – but I want it out there for other readers. This is the problem with feeding ducks (and other wildlife). You have trained the ducklings to come to your yard. The mother is doing her (wild) thing, but the ducklings have become habituated to coming to you for food.

      Reply
  • Too bad. The ducklings come to you for food. Mama does her wild thing.

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  • I am very much confused about gender and breed of my ducks . I think they are muscovies because of carucles. Only difference is that one has yellowish feet and other has dark grey coloured feets. One with yellowish feet has white tip feathers on both sides other is all black with some white patches. Can you help me in this regard?

    Reply
  • Our housing addition has 2 large bodies of water (one North one South) we have one male that lives on the north side & one on the south side. The one on the south side is almost in our backyard & has a lame wing. He’ll definitely never fly again. We want to help him but aren’t really positive how to go about it. Any advice would be great. I bought some squirrel/wild bird feed. We feed him maybe 1 1/2 cups a day. Like you’ve described he’s quiet & shy. Is it common for them to be in South Central Kansas?

    Reply

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