This week we welcome the very first poultry to our farm- Muscovy Ducks! We found them on craigslist (yes, there is a whole agriculture community on craigslist!) and we brought home 6 in all- 5 ducks (females) and 1 drake (male). The youngest duck is 3 months old, while all the rest are adults. In fact, one of them has already hatched out and raised young before. The male is also an experienced father of many:). The birds are beautiful with a grey and white pattern on them. The male is a typical dark black color with a green sheen to him when the sun hits him just right. The most suprising thing to me was how friendly they are! While the previous owner allowed them to graze freely, she also hand fed them for fun. The result is a bird that is use to being around humans and seems quite comfortable. The birds were raised without the use of steroids, antibiotics or growth hormones and were basically allowed to go whereever they wanted on their 6 acre home. The owners did give them feed to suppliment their diet but otherwise the ducks (and their ancesters) were raised in a natural environment, which was just what we were looking for.
- Very hardy birds-They are more hardy and disease resistant than chickens. They can also withstand harsher weather. We actually put this to the test immediately because the second day we had them, our temperature dropped from being in the upper 40’s to a high of 28. For the last several nights it has dropped down to 14 degrees. Our birds are given nesting boxes but definately no heat! By morning their pools were ice rinks and yet they were basking in the sun happy as could be. They spent the day foraging for food and walking around like it was no big deal. I was very impressed.
- Prolific egg layers and excellent mommies- They are known to sit on 8-15 eggs at a time and can usually hatch out every one of them! The incubation time is a bit longer than chickens (at 35 days).
- Favorite desserts are flies and mosquitos- Native to South America, their original name was actually “musco duck” because they ate so many of their mosquitos. Living in the south east US, we should have some very happy Muscovie’s this summer! For those of you with other livestock, many people claim that having moscovies around is the perfect organic alternative to traps and sprays. They like to dine on roaches, maggots, mosquito larva, slugs, spiders(including black widow and brown fiddleback) and a large variety of other bugs. They also love to eat weeds, aquatic and terrestrial plants (including the roots, stems, leaves and seeds). They also eat small fish, reptiles, and even crustaceans.
- Muscovy’s are flying ducks and actually prefer to roost up in trees or roof tops. This can be easily remedied (if you choose to not easter egg hunt) by clipping their wings. Our male duck had his wing clipped, but not the females. We quickly took a crash course on how to clip them and immediately clipped the wings of the females when we brought them home. It was really easy and doesn’t hurt the animal in any way. Think of it like clipping your nails.
- These birds are very quiet. They do not quack. For those of you that live in more of an urban homestead, this is definately a huge bonus for you. They do make kind of a soft purring noise, but you can only hear it if you are standing right next to them.
- Muscovy Meat is prized among chefs both for taste and healthiness. The meat is suprisingly very lean and extremely low fat. It is by far one of the healthiest meats on the market. To be honest, I have not actually tasted this meat (yet) but have heard that unlike other duck meat, it is not greasy or oily and has a ham or even a steak like flavor to it.
- Duck eggs are the preferred egg in the chef world. They are especially favored among bakers as they add a rich flaver and a fluffy texture to baked goods. This is due to the high protein levels found in duck eggs. The average chicken egg has 7 grams of protein where the average duck egg has 9 grams. Here is a great link that will give you a nutritional comparison of duck, chicken, quail, and turkey.
So as you can see, these guys seem to be ideal candidates for our homestead. We are also in the market for 2 other breeds of duck, which hopefully we should be getting soon. We have heard that local duck owners have already started finding eggs. I can’t wait to find one in our nest!