Perhaps one of the greatest “secrets” in the homesteading world is that of the Muscovy duck for food production. We got into Muscovies, almost by mistake, in 2003. One of our kids said they’d like to get some ducks. I drove past a homemade sign, out on the highway, which read “Ducklings $4.00 each,” and decided to check them out. The ducks’ owner and I had a fascinating conversation about ducks and poultry, and, when I was about ready to move on, I asked if I could purchase three ducklings. He had a dozen. He looked at me and said, “Well, I’ve raised enough ducklings for the year. They’re $4 each or, if you’ll take the entire hatch, they’re free.” I accepted the offer and we launched into Muscovies!
We’ve dabbled with a couple other types of ducks, but always returned to the Muscovy. The Muscovy is great for so many reasons. Here are seven.
The Muscovy is great because it is beautiful.
I know, many people call them ugly ducks on account of their masks (technically called caruncles), they are, indeed, beautiful. I find moments of wonder when my ducks take flight and come in from our pond to eat. They’re especially beautiful when they fly. Most other breeds of domestic duck are much more limited in their ability to fly.
The Muscovy is great because it is so productive.
Though this duck is primarily known for it’s great ability to produce lots of lean, dark meat, it also does a respectable job of laying really large eggs, which I prefer over chicken eggs. We love to fix roast duck and then, with the leftovers, we’ll make stews and stir fries which are to die for! A typical duck will dress out to about 3 1/2 lb, and a young drake around 5-7 lb. A typical clutch will provide us with 50-60 lb of meat!
The Muscovy is great because it is a sustainable meat animal.
It multiplies on its own. The females, technically called “ducks,” can hatch three clutches a year. Clutch size is between 8 and 20 ducklings. We try to maintain a maximum of two drakes and three ducks for breeding stock, otherwise it is really easy to become overrun with ducks! Indeed, the greatest challenge we’ve had with them, is not to let them multiply until we’re over run with them.
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The Muscovy is great because it is really hardy.
Keep in mind they are not as waterproof as most other kinds of ducks, so they really need to have available shelter. The Muscovy is a domestic duck, originally derived from a cross of South American wood ducks, so it likes warmth. Yet, we’ve found them hardy down to -16 F, as long as they are allowed to seek shelter in the barn, and we provide liquid water for their needs. They are exceedingly resistant to disease and parasites. Muscovies have an amazing immune system.
The Muscovy is great because it forages for some of its own food.
These are large ducks and need to eat quite a bit, in order to grow properly. However, it is gratifying to see that they do not camp out at the feed pan, waiting for food. In fact, Muscovies thrive best when allowed to roam, in search of food. They eat weeds, grass, insects, small reptiles, amphibians and rodents. During the warm time of the year I estimate that they find 40-50% of their own food, out in the field. It’s fun to watch them fan out, combing the field for grasshoppers, etc. Young Muscovies are renowned for snatching flies out of mid air and eating them in quantity! They also eat ticks. Finally…
The Muscovy tastes great!
In our home duck is considered party food. It is so good that everyone gets excited about it. Duck meat is all dark. Muscovy duck meat is lower in fat than most other kinds of duck meat. It would be easy to mistake for roast beef. After roasting, it helps to put the leftover carcass in a crock pot and cook until the rest of the meat falls off the bones. This will yield a lot more meat than one might expect. It will also produce some fabulous soup stock. Duck fat, which is often rendered while roasting, is superb for making gravy and some kinds of bread. Nothing goes to waste!
If you’re looking for a great food producer, consider the Muscovy!