I have a favorite saying on the farm: “Sometimes the best chicken… is a duck.” There are several reasons I came up with this saying, and for why it tickles my funny bone. One of them is something I saw in the movie, “Babe.” “There’s something about that duck…” Apart from that, I love the saying because we raise Muscovy ducks for food and in many respects they out-perform chickens. Let’s consider the advantages of raising Muscovies.
We raise Muscovies because the meat is out of this world!
Muscovy duck meat is all dark and, relatively low in fat. The Muscovy produces less body fat than other breeds of duck, which are all derived from a different species. We love to feed them heavily in the fall, in order to render some duck fat, when we cook them, yet even a fat Muscovy has lean meat. The fat is mainly in and under the skin. Duck fat is the bomb! It’s about the best thing I know for cooking and baking. Click here to read “My Recipes” extol the virtues of duck fat. Muscovy meat has been mistaken for roast beef because of its texture and color. We adore it roasted, but it also makes superb stir fry and amazing stews and soups.
In my opinion, there’s no down side to Muscovy duck meat. Just keep in mind that many folk have only tried wild duck, and that, without knowing how to cook a duck. Muscovy duck, when properly prepared, is tender and juicy.
We raise Muscovy ducks for food because we love the eggs.
These ducks are not often recognized as egg producers. This is because there are other duck breeds which produce an insane amount of eggs, whereas Muscovies are just “good layers.” Since we primarily raise them for meat, we’re quite happy with their egg production. Muscovy eggs are easily twice as large as large chicken eggs. The yolk is larger, in proportion to the rest of the egg, than in a chicken egg. Some folk say they don’t like their flavor, yet we can only barely detect a slightly more cohesive texture to a duck egg, than the texture of a chicken egg. Personally, when grabbing an egg for breakfast, I almost always select the duck egg. Speaking of eggs…
Muscovies reproduce like crazy.
On our homestead it’s obvious that each female (known as a duck) can hatch two clutches a year. Others report up to four clutches a year. We’ve had ducks hatch between 2 and 24 ducklings, with an average of 8. The fact is, we don’t need more than, perhaps 20 ducks a year, for the freezer. This is an easy quota to acheive. One year, we had a rough start on hatching, due to weather. We lost the first couple of clutches. I switched into “hyper mode,” putting duck eggs under broody hens and allowing every broody duck to hatch eggs. By the time I came to my senses, we had eighty-eight ducks on our place! They ate us out of house and home, and it took weeks to finish butchering. Incidentally, ducklings mature to butcher size in 5 months.
Still, it is wonderful that our own birds reproduce every year, providing us with a constant source of meat and eggs. We purchased our first ducklings in 2008 and have had a steady stream of meat and eggs, ever since. It’s hard to beat Muscovy ducks for food production. Here’s where we got our first ducklings: Freedom Ranger Hatchery White Muscovies. Any Muscovy is good. The French White strain, carried by these folks is larger and produces a cleaner carcass when processed.
Special Considerations for raising Muscovy ducks
- These ducks thrive best when allowed to roam and forage. They eat lots of insects and even small rodents. Sometimes, when kept penned, they fail to thrive.
- Muscovies are not as water proof or cold tolerant as mallard based ducks. Ours have done well when allowed to seek their own shelter, their own way, during inclement weather, but one time, I penned them, fearing they’d die in the cold, if left free. Because of my action our ducks suffered frostbite.
They’re pretty smart, so let them decide how to cope with the cold. They will get into out buildings and even the chicken coop, if they consider it necessary.
- While they are good mothers, Muscovies are derived from Central American wood duck species. If they hatch ducklings during cold weather, it is highly recommended that one pen them with shelter and heat lamp. We learned the hard way, that, unless penned, a mother duck will lead her babies through the cold, until every one has dropped dead of hypothermia.
- Muscovies fly. If this is a problem where you live, try another kind of duck, or learn to clip wings, which is neither permanent nor painful. Clip only one wing, or the duck will still be able to fly. Cornerstone Farm on clipping wings We only clip wings when selling stock, and this, to prevent them from trying to fly back home.
- Ducks are harder to pluck and more laborious to process than chickens. We believe it’s worth it, but you need to know they are harder to process.
All in all, it works really well to raise Muscovy ducks for food on the homestead. They forage for much of their food. Their meat is wonderful and their eggs large, plentiful and delicious. They love to eat insects and are relatively predator resistant. The chickens are sometimes jealous.