Keeping Muscovy ducks
PUBLISHED: 08:11 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:43 28 March 2014
MAY 7, 2013: Career smallholder Tim Tyne writes about some of his favourite breeds in Country Smallholding each month. Here he features Muscovy ducks
Just before Dot and I moved to Bardsey Island I spent some time working for the out-going tenants, who paid me in ducks! I don’t recall what the going rate was, but I must have worked hard, because we ended up with an awful lot of Moscovies! In fact, we ate our way through 50 ducks during our first winter on the island, and were glad of them, as we didn’t have much else to eat. The Bardsey Muscovies were a pure white strain which existed in sufficient numbers that inbreeding never became a problem.
We brought some with us when we moved back to the mainland, but with a reduced population evidence of inbreeding soon became apparent. A replacement drake was sought, and eventually I bought a black and white one at a farm sale. In due course he was replaced by a lavender, and that’s the colour of all our Muscovies today.
Muscovies aren’t to everyone’s liking, with their strange, rather reptilian faces, and their odd behaviour, but we find them to be ideal farmyard fowl. They can be pretty much left to their own devices, scavenging about, always on the lookout for any leftover feed from the other livestock. We don’t shut them in at night, and they generally have the sense to either go into the sheep-shed or sleep outside the dog kennels.
The Muscovy ducks make fantastic mothers, and ours invariably appear from time to time with a dozen or more fluffy offspring in tow. This is the only time that we pen them up and feed them, because the ducklings are just too vulnerable to be left wandering around the yard, even with with their mother’s protection.
The young ducks are ready to kill at any time from about 10 weeks old.
Whether or not they’re any good as egg producers I can’t really comment, as ours always lay in inaccessible places, a clutch at a time, and then sit on them. However, I believe that the shelf life of Muscovy eggs exceeds that of other poultry. In fact I heard of someone who ate some eggs in the spring that had been laid the previous November, and found them perfectly satisfactory!
* Unlike all other domestic ducks, which are descended from the wild Mallard, the Muscovy is related to the South American Tree Duck.
* Has retained the ability to fly, and has feet suited to perching.
* If more than one drake is kept they will fight at times, quite severely, and the loser may well pine away and die.
* Does not quack, but makes hissing and squeaking noises.
* A good table bird.
* Visit: www.waterfowl.org.uk