Raising Muscovy Ducks

OK, get your sniggering out of the way. This is what a handsome, red blooded Muscovy Drake should look like.

What Makes a Muscovy Duck Special?

Muscovies are not related to any other duck, in fact some believe they are descended from geese rather than ducks. They originate from South America where their name is believed to come from their insatiable appetite for mosquito’s and their larvae. How great is that – a critter that turns mosquitos into tasty protein! They also have a penchant for flies, small slugs, snails and even frogs & newts.

The most obvious difference between them and ‘other’ ducks are the carruncles (the red stuff) on their faces which is more predominant in the males. Interestingly, in females the bright red dulls to a deep orange when they’re broody, right through to raising their ducklings. A blatant visual warning to the males to stay away!

Another difference is they have long, sharp claws which are used to attach to tree branches at night when they roost. Due to these claws there’s a right and wrong way to pick up a muscovy and the wrong way will end in blodshed – yours that is. Put your carrying arm over and around its body, pinning both wings in place and taking hold of one or both legs (depending on the size of the bird and the size of you) gently but firmly. This needs to be done pretty quickly. as if they start to struggle with you they’ll lash out trying to find their feet, and you’ll have first hand experience of those claws.

Always an idea to do this manoeuvre with the duck facing backwards, as if they decide to relieve themselves whilst being carried you’ll end up wearing it down your back.

Yep, sadly I speak from experience.

Muscovy Duck Eggs

Ducks eggs are the richest, creamiest, smoothest eggs going. Actually, I feel so passionate about them that I’ve written an entire post on why duck eggs rock. However, as wonderful as the Muscovy duck is, this isn’t the breed to get if you after an egg laying machine. You may want to consider a Khaki Campbell or an Indian Runner as they lay far more per year.

Muscovies as Meat Birds

This is where the Muscovy excels, the meat is dark and very lean. If you’ve ever bought a supermarket duck (in the UK Aylesbury’s are the most common meat bird sold) to roast at home you can almost watch the bird shrink in the oven, as the inch or more of fat under the skin melts. This is all very well if you want to roast a gazillion potatoes to accompany the meal, but if you are striving for a healthier diet then the lean meat of the muscovy is definitely the duck of choice. If you do grow your own to eat, I can highly recommend this recipe for Happy Duck Pie.

It’s worth knowing that the boys weigh in much heavier than the girls, and if you’re not sure of the age of the bird I would recommend a very slow roast to tenderise the meat as it can be tough on an older bird, and baste frequently as it is so lean.

Feeding a Muscovy Duck

In the summer months our birds will require very little extra food as they forage plenty, but in the colder months they’ll need feeding a duck or unmedicated chicken feed twice a day. If you are growing them to eat, put them on a growers ration, but if they are just for laying or for looking pretty a layers ration will be fine. Make sure they have plenty of clean water close at hand as the dry food alone will make them poorly.

Muscovy Ducklings

Muscovies make fantastic mothers and the most eggs we’ve had hatch is 15, which is pretty amazing as the girls aren’t all that big. We have had them hatch chicken eggs too, although that can lead to problems when the mamma duck wants to teach her chicks to swim!

The Quiet Breed

One of the many reasons I am so smitten with my flock, is that they are very quiet. They don’t ‘quack’ which if you’ve had the misfortune to meet a Call duck or an Aylesbury duck you’ll appreciate (I’m sorry for offending all you Call & Aylsebury fans but seriously – HOW do you live that noise???!)  Instead these guys nod their heads and have a gentle kind of hiss as a greeting. Oh, and they wag their tails. Seriously they are really cute to watch.

Left to their own devices, they would be far happier sleeping on a tree branch safely out of harms way than on a pond or in a hut, and they are the one duck breed not so in need of a large area of water. We’ve raised birds here with just a 4 inch deep tray of water, a cat litter tray is good and pretty hard wearing. So long as the water is deep enough to get their nostrils and eyes under then it’s fine. It will need changing twice daily as they will drink, clean, and probably poop in it, and everything around this area will get very, very muddy.

If you do venture into the world of duck keeping, I’m sure you won’t regret it for a moment. Please, do let me know how you get on!

This post featured in the following places; Homestead Prairie Barn Hop
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44 Responses to Raising Muscovy Ducks

  1. Pingback: My first article – Raising Muscovy Ducks |

  2. Sandra says:

    They are adorable. A bird very much on top of my wish list. :)

  3. Jo says:

    We’ve just got a garden, live in the suburbs and keep hens – currently 16 including the younger ones, the middleaged ones and the OAPs. Do you think that the muscovies would be ok in a garden? How much space do they need?

    We’ve been saving to move out of the city but can’t seem to get enough money together to buy a place with a field withing visiting distance of the family and grandchildren. Now all these cutbacks look like my husband will be taking a big cutback on his pay and therefore pension and the field looks like it will just remain a dream. I’ve always wanted ducks so if they can’t live in a suburban garden, then I can’t have them. I envy you your fields!

    Don’t misunderstand me please – I’m being positive about the situation and just trying to work out if we can realise some of the dream here in the city. Your advice – from someone who keeps muscovies – would be helpful.

    thank you!

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hi Jo, how big is your garden? Muscovies don’t need huge amount of space to be honest, some grass and dirt to scrabble round in – they love freshly turned soil – and an area where they can get as wet and muddy as they like and they’ll be really happy. If you are really short on space then maybe just a couple of girls as they are almost half the size of the boys.

      Of all the ducks out there they will probably be the most suited to being in the ‘burbs as they are fine with just a tub of water to splash in rather than a pond. They’ll all live together perfectly well, the ducks may get a little hen pecked initially and that’s why I’d recommend getting at least 2. Good luck and please let me know if/when you get them! xx

      • HedgeComber says:

        Another couple of thoughts, they are really good flyers so you may want to clip their wings if you want them to stay put. Also, the biggest downside is they will turn a confined area to mud, especially over winter. It’ll be very well fertilised mud, but mud all the same!

  4. Jo says:

    The hens have 3 moveable runs in an area about 40 foot by 12. I would hope the ducks could have a large run within that. My husband has ideas about fencing in that whole area including roof at our head height – bit like a giant fruit cage. The sides would have to be buried deep because we get foxes through quite regularly. There is not a single blade of grass in this area – the hens have seen to that. I have to admit that the cost of this leaves me in need of a restorative :) but it would restrain the ducks. We tend to fill their runs with leaves or bark chippings to keep their feet off the wet and it also keeps the ground sweeter – and fills our compost bins. Ducks would not happen until we leave work either next summer or the summer after although that depends on just what changes to our income the government makes (education changes/cutbacks). We have “grown” young cockerels to go in the freezer (just once ) but they probably didn’t get to grow quite as much as they could have because as soon as they tried to crow, they had to go. It took a lot of persuasion for the neighbours to accept that hens would not wake them up at dawn by crowing so one squawk and it was curtains for the cockerels. The ducks, being of a quieter variety, might help as we’d really like to be as self sufficient as we can in as many areas as we can. If we stay where we are, I can’t see meat being on the menu much and I can also see eggs being a main source of protein… Besides, I’ve always had a fondness for muscovies ever since I first saw them, years ago. Reading your replies has made me quite hopeful so many thanks!

    • HedgeComber says:

      The longed for fenced run sounds just perfect for the chooks and ducks to live in together. Muscovies will certainly provide you with good quality meat through out the year and although you don’t get masses of eggs from the girls they are such a treat when you do!
      Please let me know how you get on and if you need any ducks let me know :D

  5. Marvin Estrella says:

    I’ve always loved raising Muscovy ducks! I have a pair in my backyard here in the Philippines. Thank you so much for those wonderful pictures of this kind of fowl. For me, these ducks are wonderful to take care of, not for their meat, rather as a pet.

  6. Pamela Gideon-Hawke says:

    We live in Las Vegas and its Summer now. Very hot at 107. We’re surrounded by two man-made lakes and 6 Muscoveys have adopted me. There’s Darth, as in Vador, and he’s huge with black body and red face. He likes to strut his stuff and tries to intimidate the other males. Then came Princess, a small white one. She’s very timid and very sweet and just wants to stand on my feet while being fed. Molly is very white with a little curl on top of her head. She too is a bit timid and she likes to ‘talk’ to me. Lucy is a miniature of Darth. Gee, I hope Lucy is a she! Lucy squeeks ‘me too! me too!’ if she doesn’t think she’s getting her fair share. Jake is basically brown and white and is loving and follows me like a puppy. He lets me stroke his white feathered chest. He tries to nibble my hand like little kisses, and lastly comes Renny, as in renegade. He’s still a bit new and is easily scared off by Darth. Renny is gray and white.

    I feed them lettuce in the mornings along with corn flakes, popcorn in the afternoon and bread at night. Now when I feed them I sit on a tiny stool so I am at their height. It’s the most amazing and loving relationship I have ever had with animals or birds.

    • HedgeComber says:

      Pamela, I felt like I was sitting at your lake with you as you introduced them all! I love that little nibble on my hand too, so adorable!

      I’ve read that in the US they are so prolific they are treated as vermin. It’s lovely to hear how you have bonded with them and get so much pleasure from them. Did they have any young this year?

      Thank you so much for popping in, your message made my day! xx

  7. Leisa says:

    We have been in our house 3 years and because we have 2 ponds, I was pining for ducks. After much research I decided on Muscovy ducks for their hardiness and ability to fly to roost. We have coyotes, foxes, racoons, hawks, possum, etc. We got a drake and 2 hens a month ago and love them! I was attempting to gather the eggs to keep them from starting to sit on a nest for fear they would become “sitting ducks” for the predators but they got very good at hiding them in the woods and other places. They are now sitting on a nest under a bush right against our foundation and so far, so good. Do I need to provide the hen with food and water or is she leaving the nest for that? I haven’t seen her leave in several days. I am concerned about having any food smell around her for fear of attracting predators. Also, if she successfully hatches them, should I get a new drake, or is “inbreeding” not an issue of concern for ducks. Thanks for any guidance!

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hi Leisa, thank you for stopping by!
      I do understand your worry re predators – the only predators our clan have are foxes and badgers and we have sadly lost several over the years. I wouldn’t be able to leave a duck out with her nest at night here, she’d have to be shut up in a house so I wish you good luck! She will come off the nest generally once a day, will have an almighty poop (the smell is like nothing you’ve ever smelt!) and will eat, drink and wash.
      If your ducks are used to being fed by you then you will need to put food down for her, and she does need a bucket of water close by to drink and splash her face in.
      Don’t forget they take much longer than hens to hatch their eggs, off the top of my head I think it’s 35 days for a muscovy egg. As for inbreeding, I guess in an ideal world you’d have a fresh drake every season but I figure in nature inbreeding happens continuously so I have kept the drake for 2 – 3 years. Trouble is, he has become one of the family now and I’d hate to lose him!
      I wish you the best of luck with your brood, Jane x

  8. Leisa says:

    Thanks so much for your thorough response and words of encouragement! By my calculations we have a little less than a week before the eggs hatch and we are all holding our breath hoping no predators discover her clever hiding place. Then we will have to worry about the safety of the ducklings. If necessary I will complete the enclosure I started for them to keep the 3 adults and ducklings in at night until the ducklings can fly.

    Our pond and her food bowl are just a couple of hundred feet away from her so I have not taken food or water closer to her for fear of attracting attention.

    We are fond of our “Elvis” too so I think we will just let nature take it’s course as far as the inbreeding goes.

  9. Steve Gillmore says:

    hello, we have just go our 3 female muscovy ducks,there at the fledging stage at the moment.would you advice to have there wings clipped as we have been told there good flyers and we don,t want to loose them,i don,t want to keep them in a pen,just roam around the garden.

    thankyou

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hey Steve, that’s a tough one.
      If your only reason for wanting to clip their wings is to stop them flying away I don’t think you should worry. I feed mine twice a day and they are always waiting (not so patiently!) for me even though they are free to fly wherever they want. I think they know when they’re onto a good thing!

      We leave ours unclipped as we have a real risk of foxes round here and I like to think that my girls have a fighting chance of getting away from one if cornered.

  10. julie says:

    I have seven bantam chickens. Two silkies, two araucanas, one polish, one barred rock and a wyandotte. Do you think that I would be able to keep a couple of muscovies in the same yard? I have about a quart of an acre.

    • HedgeComber says:

      I’ve kept them in the same barn as chickens before and there was no problem. They will find their own place in the pecking order, but just let them all get on with it. So long as you have more than one they’ll keep themselves to themselves mostly.
      The only downside to housing them together is the mess that the ducks make. Our barn is dirt floored, so the water from their unavoidable splashing turned the floor to mud. However, it’s even worse in a floored house as their big feet, messy poop and need for water 24/7 turns any dry, pristine chicken coop to yuk pretty quick.
      Hope I haven’t put you off! x

  11. julie says:

    I am not put off quite yet, but am concerned. I was more worried about having 1.6 to 2lb chickens with 8plus lb ducks. I have heard they can be aggressive. I have also heard that they can be kept outside of the coop? I live in the Willamette Valley and it is mostly rainy with not so much snow or super cold temps. What is the minimum amount of Muscovies I can keep. Would one girl be ok with my bantams to start or would I need more? Do I need a drake or can I just keep a girl? Will .25 acres be enough for them?
    Thanks,
    Julie

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hmm, we’ve never had an aggressive Muscovy. They will nip the feathers of a hen that’s in the way of a food treat, just as a hen will do the same back. No blood is drawn or harm done. I wouldn’t say they were best friends with the chickens but they all seem to cohabit quite painlessly.

      Do you have much in the way of predators where you live? Our only real problem is with foxes and we have lost many ducks to them. Nowadays however, they keep themselves safe by roosting at night on an island on our pond. Great for us as it’s one less job to do, and since we’ve given them that freedom we haven’t lost any to foxes.

      The reason I suggest no less than 2 ducks is for the same reason that you wouldn’t put one goat in a field or one ferret in a cage. It just feels nicer if they have a friend! 2 girls will be very happy together, you only need the drake if you want little ‘uns. 1/4 of an acre sounds ideal, they are pretty hardy birds and not in the slightest fussy.

      Why do you like the idea of Muscovies in particular?

  12. julie says:

    I actually see that you said I need more than one. Is two enough? Am
    I better raising them until they are larger myself or letting the chickens act as nannys?

  13. julie says:

    . I was thinking about some call ducks, because they are so darn cute and they would go with my banties… ;-) But I hear that Muscovies are a bit quieter I also read that they are very, very good at controlling fly populations. I haven’t been able to find mention of any other ducks controlling flies. The people behind us graze cattle and we had a terrible fly problem last summer. I am not sure if two Muscovies would make that much of a difference…but I am willing to give it a shot…I have seen videos where they looked like fun pets. I also saw a whole flock of them yesterday and they weren’t quite as scarey looking as I thought they would be. ;-) The only things that really concern me about them are that I don’t want them to completely decimate my garden next spring and I don’t want them to hurt my little hens… ;-)

  14. Glen says:

    The musovies are awesome for catching flies. We have a huge fly problem where we are and I can sit and watch our muscovies catch about 30 flies an hour. They are the best duck for around the yard. At times we tie up our dogs and let a couple of the young drakes out for the day, when no foxes are around. They just go crazy cleaning up all the bugs, lizards, frogs etc they can find. (sometimes they snack on the veggies garden too the little buggers.)

  15. Louise Bethel says:

    Help! can you mix different ducks together???????????

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hi Louise! Yes, you can! There will be a hierarchy in any bird grouping, so there will be quarrels but yo’ll get that when keeping just one breed. So long as they have plenty of space to escape from each other they’ll be fine!

  16. Louise Bethel says:

    Help ! can you mix different ducks together ???????????

  17. Julie Sanders says:

    I have a hen sitting on several eggs. We are very new to raising Muscovy’s, but have had chickens a while. I’m concerned when the eggs hatch the hens will kill them. Do I need to separate them once they are born or maybe even before?? Thanks, Julie

    • Julie Sanders says:

      Hmmm. I said hen. It’s a female Muscovy.

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hi Julie, don’t worry – a hen will hatch any egg as her own. Leave the babies with her as the hen then does all the work for you (keeping them warm, safe & teaching them to feed etc) The ducklings must have enough water to be able to duck their head under.
      Also, if you have mixed duck & hen eggs under your hen, the hen eggs will hatch several days before the duck eggs, and the mother will abandon the duck eggs and they won’t hatch.
      Good luck Julie! x

      • Julie Sanders says:

        I realized I was plain as mud. I have the ducks mixed with chickens in a electric netting large area enclosure within my yard. The coop(within the enclosure) is where the duck is sitting on her eggs. My concern is the other hens (chickens) or rooster will kill the ducklings when the are born. I’ve never hatched anything before. What do you think? Thanks for replying I found your site last night as I was searching Muscovy info. We live in Southeast Texas in the US. Yes, Texan. Thanks, Julie

      • HedgeComber says:

        Ah, OK! If the Muscovy is lowest of the entire chook/duck pecking order the hens may attack the babies, but she will generally see them off.

        However, the ducks energy reserves will be pretty low after sitting on eggs for so long, and she ideally needs to be in a pretty stress free environment for the first few weeks to regain her strength. By then of course the babies will be bigger and more independant.

        As the ducklings will need constant access to clean water in a shallow bowl (the hens will drink & poop in it!) and they need constant access to chick crumbs (the hens will eat it!), can you create a small run & coop inside the bigger run designed to keep the duck & babies in? They won’t like being confined so much but it’ll keep them safer and in better condition.

        One thing I also found useful was 2 water bowls in with the babies. One tall, narrow tub that the babies can’t reach but the mummy can duck her head in and drink & wash with, and the shallow bowl as above. Trying to keep that shallow bowl clean is a nightmare and it won’t be deep enough for the mum.

        I hope that helps Julie, please let me know how you get on! Janie x

  18. {laureen Kehaulani Zdvoracek says:

    ive been raising moscovies for about 5 years now but i still cant find information on how long a drake is able to produce progeny. i need to thin my stock by 3 more drakes and would like to keep the original 2 who are 5 years old now but will put them in the pot if they are to old to procreate can you give me any idea how long as in years that i can use them as breeders

  19. Ellen says:

    Dear HedgeCombers,
    Your photos are truly beautiful! I’d be swept away with duck envy if I weren’t torn between having chickens instead and wondering if I could handle both. We visited Cornwall a few years back while homeschooling our son. It’s absolutely breath-taking and we dream of retiring in the UK. Thank you for sharing your lovely home and delightful critters. If we go for the ducks, I’ll try to document the adventure. Continued happiness to you and yours — Warm Wishes, Ellen — San Andreas, CA, USA

    • HedgeComber says:

      Ellen, what a lovely message to wake up to! Thank you for taking the time to write.
      Cornwall is indeed a little piece of heaven, I truly feel blessed to live here.
      As for the chicken/duck dilemma – good luck with whichever you choose (and don’t worry, as soon as you start, you’ll end up getting more, and more… and more!!!
      :)
      Have a great day Ellen x

  20. Hi, I have a Mascoy hen who as be on her nest for what seems a long time . Worried that shes sitting there for nothing. How do I know for sure?

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hi Kerrie, the only way you’ll know for sure is candle an egg when she next leaves the nest to eat.

      If this isn’t her first brood, I would imagine she would know by halfway through if the eggs weren’t viable and abandon them.

      Muscovies do take a real long time (I think it’s 35 days off the top of my head) but sooo worth it!

      Good luck, hope they make an appearance soon!

      Janie x

  21. Jen says:

    Wonderful post on Muscovies… I’ve had mine for over 2 years now.

  22. Jenny Hogshead says:

    Love your lesson on Muscovy’s. We visited our cabin to find a wild Muscovy sitting on our barn porch roof. That evening we discover she is sitting on a nest. By evening 3 of the eggs had rolled off the roof. Not being able to stand this demise, I climbed up a tree to place a board on the roof to stop the eggs from rolling. Every day I would visit with her and talk to her. I know this sounds insane but it makes me happy. She seems to be tame. She didn’t attack me. Just stood up and stared at me while I placed the board near her nest. Then sat back down. She does leave the nest in the early morning to take a short swim in our pond. Ive read that it takes 35 days for the eggs to hatch. My question is am I correct in worrying about the babies once they are born. Or are they like wood ducks and have no problems in flying from such a high nest.

    • HedgeComber says:

      Hi Jenny, what a lovely story! I have a broody nesting right outside my backdoor and I talk to her all day long :D
      The babies will drop of the roof with no injuries (they won’t be able to fly for weeks) but obviously they won’t be able to get back up to the nest once they are on the ground.
      This isn’t a problem if they all hatch at once/mamma doesn’t leave the nest until they are all hatched as she will make a new nest for them on the ground somewhere. However if you are still at the cabin when they hatch, and if you want to intervene, you can collect up any abandoned ones and pop under a heat lamp until mamma is settled on the ground.
      Good luck!
      Jane x
      PS her nest on the groun will be more open to predators so please don’t be too upset if some or even all of the babies don’t make it xx

  23. A muscovy duck keeps coming to my yard. Don’t know if it’s wild or not. I live on 3 acres on a river which is ideal . Yesterday it came to my front porch and stayed all day so I fed the duck and brought to to my backyard
    (and he followed me) put out an opened dog house with hay , birdfood and water. The duck loved it and stayed all night. I watch him from my bedroom window. I looked out and it just flew up and to the other side of the river because a cat outside spooked it. Will the duck come back. I really wanted to take him in as a pet. What do I do?

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