Creature Feature: Muscovy “Ducks”

Superb homesteading animal

  • Benefits
    • Eggs 50-125 per year, during their season. Birds will lay more if eggs are collected daily and they are not allowed to complete and sit a nest.
    • More muscovies
      • Consider even half of that number being offspring per year per laying Muscovy. They’re the flock champions of mothering and can pull off 1-3 large clutches (of up to 20 eggs!) per year.
        • Mulards & Hinnies
    • Meat
      • When not raised to obesity, Muscovy ducks are notable for meat significantly leaner and stronger-tasting than that of their mallard cousins.
      • Hefty carcass and unique meat flavor offset long, 12-20 week, grow-out period. Reviewers compare the flavor of Muscovy duck to roast beef, ham, and veal, varying by preparation method.
    • Feathers
      • The down structure of the Muscovy is the closest of domestic birds to that of the Eider duck, producer of the renowned eiderdown.
    • Fertilizer
    • Pest Control
      • Muscovies, possibly hence the name, can boast the ability and drive to snatch flying insects, most notably flies, out of the air.
    • Entertainment & yard company
      • I’ve always loved watching chickens, but these guys are on a different level. Intelligent and interested, without the raptor-like bloodlust thirst for flesh that chickens have. My drakes come up to me, tails wagging, arching and bowing their necks, and huffing up a storm, and will greedily eat from my hands. The females are more reserved, but Ankka will accept a nibble from me.
  • They are also said to be ‘silent’ ducks but, while quackless, Muscovies have a variety of vocalizations and are usually talking to me or to one another. My male, Oli, huffs with varying urgency as a response to most situations, and Utie and Anka chirp and trill. I also recently attended some sort of duck meeting, where they were all bobbing their heads, puffing their wings, and making a sound like geese whispering and croaking. Once in a while, one makes a single honk if startled or pecked by a chicken.
    • They are a good choice for a low-profile backyard flock
    • Draws fewer predators? Find citation of the noisy call ducks attracting predators in support
  • Strong foragers
  • All ducks resistant to disease/parasites compared to chickens
  • Lower water motivation
    • Runner ducks also not super into water
    • Less contaminated water better for multi-species situations and setups with smaller waterers
  • Good free rangers
    • Strong foragers
    • Competent fliers -ADDRESS FLYING YO. Trimming vs. pinioning.

Muscovies, along with turkeys, are one of two domestic fowl originating in the Americas and are, in fact, a distinct species from, Cairina moschata; often written CITATIONto be more closely related to geese than to the mallard-derived domestic ducks.

  • Producing less oil than true ducks (inside and out; the meat is also less greasy), CITATIONmuscovies are only slightly more water-resistant than the chickens, and are mercifully not compelled to bathe in any bit of water they see.

Background, Feral, Domestic

  • Used to hatch conservation species
  • American natives
    • Rio Grande Valley
  • Legislative Status
  • Kosher status
  • shared nesting, called dump nesting

Physical 

David W. and Mildred M. Holderread. Raising the Home Duck Flock. Storey Publishing, LLC, 1978.

Drowns, Glenn. Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry. 4th ed., Storey Pub., 2012.

A Reason to Grow On

An ongoing inspiration that keeps popping back into my head since reading, is the author, having foregone any economic delusions, stated their gardening purpose to be “grow as many flavors as possible”.

Goals 3/16/2019

Attained

  • Have Muscovy flock on the farm since last June
  • Have harvested & traded a number of drakes in 2018
  • We pick up unwanted roosters from other islanders and harvest them, offering one as finished meat in return when appropriate, but primarily , in return, I am able to offer a limited necropsy report, which can be indicative of the flock’s health.
  • Perennial onions & strawberry plants, among others, have made it happily through winter.
  • Have sold ducklings (6) again this year, as well as a number of eggs, mostly chicken
  • Have an indoor light rack & shelving for indoor plants & seeds
  • Traded eggs for live rabbits & processed them
  • Perennial woody herbs in front yard bed.
  • Sold 2 adult Muscovy hens to R.

What’s New

  • Flock has expanded to include 14 hens and, temporarily, 1 rooster.
  • With ducks, flock total is almost 80 birds between the home property & farm.
  • Intent of processing facility is solid, and progress continues to be made toward the end of legal meat.
  • Doing others’ roosters is largely new to this year.
  • On waiting list w/ Holderread Waterfowl for Hookbill ducks.
  • Lentil, The House Chicken, and her currently 18 eggs
  • GP of SB expressed a conversational interest in the purchase of Muscovy ducklings.
  • ~40 lbs of meat we didn’t have to raise, house, feed, or love, harvested so far this year
  • Truffles (Oregon whites?) grow in the rhododendrons below our window.
  • Kaffir lime died

Now

  • Complete processing area & produce legal meats
  • Continue to harvest roosters & trade for rabbits
  • Complete new, larger coop
  • Determine and do first harvest/thinning of Muscovy hens
  • Continue w/perennials
  • Keep up w/food kitchen garden
  • Safe & attractive baby bays for mother ducks to brood
  • Water automation – watering for plants & birds
  • Many strawberries, alpine
  • Oca
  • Continue to build soil level in wet yard and fence gaps
  • Keep up a trickle of positive community activity via birds
  • Increase perennial food crops
  • Produce next generation of laying hens
  • Increase family’s enjoyment of the flock
  • Portable/movable duck run cycle

Goals 6/12/18

Attained

  • Been eating (snacking out of the garden for over a month
  • Garden area fenced from chickens
  • Many soil bags awaiting planting
  • Helping others w/their gardens while mine is well underway.

New

  • People want my ducks!
  • I can keep ducks on the far. No longer tightly confined to yard.
  • Ankka’s a great mom and hatched many babies. Also Papi & Greycie.
  • People also want my garden labor – I’m apparently a steal, and I can’t believe how quickly the time goes when I’m somewhat literally digging into a project.

Ideal

  • Hannerz, Empress of Duck, with enough happy birds for a regular stream of meat & eggs, selling to small wholesale customers.
  • Duck charcutienne

Realistic

  • Partially offset muscovy cost w/meat, egg, and live bird sales
  • Have a happy, healthy flock that family enjoys.
  • Through birds’ presence on the farm, increase my own.
  • Build perennial landscape
  • Grow for flavors and educational interest together
  • Build on small citrus collection
  • Grow Thai and other unique Asian flavors
  • Plan and work on indoor food production
  • Develop winter garden plan

May 19-22, 2018

All Gardener’s Sweetheart tomatoes planted out, and most Gold Nuggets. Planted hopefully-hardened squash plants, and it made it easy to see the difference between the vigorous hybrid squash, and my somewhat gimpy heirlooms.

All of Ankka’s babies are out – 13? perfect things. One baby came out before it was ready and died, and is now under the lemon balm plant. Two of the babies look to be chocolates (They weren’t. Those are atipico or ‘dusky’ solid blacks) with most predominantly yellow as hell. (barred blacks)

The first of Papi/Greycie’s eggs has pipped externally, ever so slightly.

Runner ducklings sleep in the coop now – it’s warm enough, and they’re mostly feathered out. Plus we needed them the heck out of the house.

Every one of Ankka’s fertile eggs made it to term – good mama!

May 20, 2018

Transplanted Greycie & Papi’s early-hatched baby to Ankka, as the two mamas were having custody issue. He’s a little small and tired, and not quite ready for his valiant stumbling after his more mobile siblings, but the lot of them soon went to bed. And better to be pushed a little early than stepped on by two fussing mamas.

Later this evening, another baby was/is nearly completely out, but not looking quite ready, and the two mamas are too eager to eat the eggshells, and crunched on the egg a bit w/baby still in.

I moved that babe-in-shell to under Ankka w/all the other babes, and wished it a restful, warm night and good luck.

Ankka and her babies spend much of the day and are sleeping in a blue storage tote of shavings on its side under the coop, w/ food, water, and some cardboard for warmth and privacy.

While stressed and busy-feeling, I am bursting at the seams with a sense of satisfaction re: gardening, rat-catching, and did I mention gardening? And real ducklings!

I am to make 6 Zeppelin delicata starts for the farm, and dad wants super sweet corn and microgreens shopping help for Earthen. High Mowing will be the house with the answer.

May 21, 2018

Perhaps all ducklings that we’re going to have hatched. I gave all hatched babies to Ankka, in the hope that Papi & Greycie will sit longer on the last 3 eggs. P8 definitely has a live baby in it, who sometimes taps.

I ate the second radish o the year/garden/probably the first ever on this property.

Moved the main tray of starts outside to begin to harden. THe outdoor ‘alley’ has good light for a middle step.

Sudden thought: move the table to the alley over the straw to harden things en masse in a nice mid level brightness.

Ordered a nice, large, glass hummingbird feeder, after a hummingbird stared in the window, reminding me that not all birds are into seeds. The 12 or so evening grosbeaks was very neat.

Considering 5-10 gallon felt planters for smaller/temporary plants, and to add a bit of visual variance without using as much soil

The cats (Wembley) mowed the lemongrass again.

Gotta get them honeyberries all repotted.

A next large step for the garden will be the establishment of the soaker hose system. It is beginning to get hot in the season, and I would like to relieve myself of handwatering BEFORE it’s an unbearable burden.

May 22, 2018

There are 20 perfect babies w/ Ankka. 15 yellow w/black tail fans + schmutz, and 5 black +brownish babies w/yellow bibs. One has all-black legs.

  • The first super-sugars have blossomed.
  • One of the mason bee tubes is mostly capped.
  • The direct-seeded squash have sprouted, esp. Sweet Meat
  • A 2nd comfrey plant arises
  • 2×2 Lettuce patch looking good
  • Corn salad has second tiny leaves
  • Sowed nutri-red carrots last night around tomato

May 15-16, 2018

Having another burst of progress. 2×2 patch of lettuces sown yesterday.

Yesterday, moved outside: owari satsuma, squash, tomatoes, pepper, tomtato, catnip, horseradish, goji, tea plant onto table in covered carpot area. Moved many to covered bed to hopefully harden off further, and not just cook and die.

Black specks that look like invertebrate/insect poop on many plant leaves, and the leaves of some of the covered radishes appear to have been nibbled. Strawberry plant was definitely nibbled.

Shifted trellis to straddle the peas, not the aisle. Easier access to the duck water for watering again.

Neighbor H. gave us a great deal of soaker hose yesterday – must learn how to get them in place ASAP to make adequate watering possible/not grueling.

Goumi in full bloom, saw a mason bee pollinating it, and then fly into the mason bee house over the gutter!

Sowed more of both chive types today.

I find the astonishing variety of the Wild Garden lettuce mix beautiful and awesome, and they grow so quickly-ish and gorgeously. I want to grow more, just because they’re so cute. Also food. Some are too cute to eat!

Eugene picked a beautiful giant pink pot for the owari satsuma. I plan to pot it in a mix of the garden soil, and either sand/vermi, or coir, based on what else I read about their needs. And some Down To Earth citrus mix.

I want to start a few onions, even if far too late, in the new good soil mix I made, vs. the garden soil the others are in, and see if it makes the same crazy difference as it seemed to with the lettuce. D

Ducklings spent most of yesterday and all of today outside. Very cute.

MAY 16

Still a warm week, though chiilly today, despite the sun.

Saw that the sunchoke I planted towards the front of the house has grown! must lavel, lest it be mown.

Muscovy ducklings any time now. It lookied like perhaps I was seeing an internal pip today.

More black grow bags arrayed. Planted purple viking potatoes. Organic yellow store potatoes and the blue apron multicolor potatoes are still to go.

Ordered Japanese Rakkyo (from Japan) from ebay.