Muscovies are excellent livestock for urban farming purposes.
While they are often referred to as a duck, they aren’t derived of the Mallard like other domestic duck breeds and scientists regard them as more of a goose than a duck.
Muscovies are much quieter than either ducks or geese – they hiss rather than quack or honk – so they’re less likely to annoy your neighbours.
Muscovies, like geese, are grazers and a large part of their diet can come from good forage. Like ducks, they’ll happily clean up food wasted by other animals and they love live food – like worms, slaters, earwigs, flies and mosquitoes. Ducklings will hunt flies almost as soon as they are hatched.
While they’re generally classified as waterfowl, Muscovies do not require water in which to swim. They do, however, need plenty of fresh water to drink. Ducks often mix food and water together when eating so their waterers need daily scrubbing. The waterers also need to be deep enough to enable them to immerse their eyes to keep them clean.
They have powerful claws that enable them to roost in trees. While they don’t fly far, they can still manage to soar over a fence into the neighbour’s garden. This can be prevented by removing the flight feathers from one wing.
Housing can be fairly basic but it should offer adequate protection from predators and it must be easy to clean if problems with odours (and neighbours) are to be avoided.
Muscovy drakes weigh up to 7kg and ducks weigh 3-4kg. They have a distinctive red caruncle around their face and bill. While they come in a variety of colours, white Muscovies make for a cleaner carcase if you’re keeping them for meat.
Muscovies should be about 7 months of age before commencing breeding. To ensure optimum fertility and hatchability, provide a suitable breeder ration at least a month prior to the commencement of egg production.
Muscovies set clutches of between 8 and 20 eggs and they can do it three or four times per year. Egg production can be extended if an electric incubator is used for hatching. The eggs take 35 days to hatch.
If a duck hatches its own eggs, she’ll also provide the warmth that the ducklings need during the first few weeks. Alternatively, this supplementary warmth can be provided by a small gas or electric brooder.
Small groups of duck eggs can also be hatched and brooded by chicken hens or bantams – assuming you have broody birds available and assuming that they will accept the ‘ring ins.’
Muscovies are usually better mothers than other ducks but it’s best to keep the drakes separate from the ducklings. Their sheer size presents a hazard and they will sometimes trample ducklings. Keeping them confined will also stop cats and crows from getting the ducklings and will prevent the duck from leading her young through wet grass which can chill them.
The ducklings take about 14 – 16 weeks to reach eating size. Day olds can be fed a chick starter ration if duck rations are not available. After 3 weeks, the ducklings can be switched to a chicken grower ration.
Preparing your own inexpensive duck rations is easy and will enable you to impart a unique tastes to the meat.
The Muscovy is highly regarded as a premium table bird by members of our Asian communities. The breast on a Muscovy is large and almost fat-free. Even the skin is less fatty than that of a regular duck.