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Anyone have experience with muscovy ducks?

 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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We started with a few, and now have way too many - these things are fecund!

Also, we've let them free-range, and they have beaten significant areas of our already severely challenged "pasture" to death. And without duck containment, it will be impossible to reseed those areas successfully.

I'm interested in building an enclosure for them, to both control their impact and make it easier for us to find their eggs. What works for them in terms of roosts, nests, etc?

Has anyone tractored them, and what size tractor worked well? What kinds of greens did they seem to like? Ours are not eating much of the scratch we put out for them, and have pretty well policed the area of weedy annual grasses - which is good - but there must be more nutritious greens that would appeal to them.

They love animal foods, and I am thinking of growing meal worms for them - apparently it's not too hard. Other suggestions?

I would love to hear how other folks are meeting their needs and integrating them into their permaculture management.

One of the things I really LIKE about these birds is how quiet they are. Anyone dreaming of raising livestock in a suburban/urban environment should look into them. And their entertainment value is pretty high.

 
Emil Spoerri
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ducks can find a lot of food in leaf litter and mulch, they love to eat arthropods and slugs out of some old leaf piles here.
they can live in a structure as simple as a house made up of straw bales! all winter long...
geese make good companions as they help to protect the ducks from predators
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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That's a good idea, thanks! We can certainly corral leaves around here!
 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I'm interested in building an enclosure for them, to both control their impact and make it easier for us to find their eggs. What works for them in terms of roosts, nests, etc?


They do not 'roost' as chickens, so no roost needed.  They do nest, move their nests and reused old ones sometimes.  But all this they will manage on their own.  If you want to collect their eggs it would be best to confine them in an area where you can see and mange their nests.  They prefer bushes to hide their nests in, and will not lay as much if there isn't good cover for nests.

Ducks tend to lay a clutch of eggs - laying an egg a day until they have several (depends on breed) and then they will sit the nest.  If you take all the eggs they will think 'predator' and move to a new location.  If you take all but one you can sometimes fool them into laying more or at the least staying with the same nest.  You may find you'll need to leave a couple to work your supply. So play with this and your flock until you get the perfect system for you.

Has anyone tractored them, and what size tractor worked well? What kinds of greens did they seem to like? Ours are not eating much of the scratch we put out for them, and have pretty well policed the area of weedy annual grasses - which is good - but there must be more nutritious greens that would appeal to them.


Tractoring them would be a great idea to mange their damage to any one area.  Simple quarters, as asmileisthenewak47 states with good ventilation, protected from hot sun, heavy rain and wild animals are the choice of Muscovy's (meat ducks). The floor should be dry, and not overcrowded.  They require 3 sq ft per duck for inside and 15 sq ft per duck for run. 

Making leaf piles would be great 'animal enrichment'  a term used by zoologists
Animal Enrichment -helps satisfy both the physical and psychological needs of animals.
I am big on animal enrichment around my place.

They love animal foods, and I am thinking of growing meal worms for them - apparently it's not too hard. Other suggestions?


Any worm would be a good choice, just consider what worm-food is easiest for you to provide for your worm bins as different worms require different nourishment.   Ducks also enjoy garden surplus.

I would love to hear how other folks are meeting their needs and integrating them into their permaculture management.


I have Indian Runners (egg ducks) and I'm using them for eggs, mowing and bug/pest control in my backyard.  In the spring I turn them in to the garden area and they stop slugs coming from the neighbors side so well my neighbor doesn't have to put down snail poison along the side next to my property.

The ducks 'work' so great for us that I've cut back my chicken flock, and if it wasn't for the composting the chickens do I would get rid of them altogether.  The ducks require so little management/work from us as compared to chickens.  They are more self sustaining - in my backyard situation.  I will have to retest this belief when I get out on land.

~Jami
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I haven't had Muscovy's (want some someday, though!), but since they are tree ducks, I wonder if they might actually use a roost?  I know they are descended from a different wild duck than any of our other domestic ducks.

Kathleen
 
Emil Spoerri
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the superiority of waterfowl compared to other poultry is obvious. Geese can get fat on grass and grass is "free". or mabee I should make that without quotations. Free. Yet people spend more money per acre on their lawns than on the food they eat!
A good breed of duck is hardy and makes more eggs than a chicken and more nutritious. A chicken that lays anywhere near that amount is flighty and nervous. A good egg duck dresses nicely out into a delicious roast duck while a egg hen can make a chicken broth.
ducks and geese are awesome foragers but they don't mess up a garden like chickens or turkeys would.
I think when I get chickens it will be a nice big dual purpose chicken either a jersey giant or a buckeye... I have heard the buckeye cockerells make good mousers!
roosters and geese together can gang up on most any critter, save a pack of dogs or coyote

I think the musovys best feature is to sit and mother the eggs of other fowl besides being an even more self reliant duck. I have known people who kept these outside and gave them little food if any most of the year
 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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asmileisthenewak47 all that is soooooo true!  Maybe when I get out on some land I'll just get more ducks 

You reminded me that a friend uses her Muscovy's to hatch her Indian Runner eggs - they are good mothers.

So you've got me curious.... how do you butcher ducks?  I would guess a lot like chickens, but then I picture mine fighting back!

~Jami
 
Tim Canton
Posts: 175
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I know this an old threa but thought iwould throw it out there anyway.

My muscovy love to roost in the coop at night  and even during the day outside on some big rocks.  Each morning all of them are up the the standing pallets used to outline their "space".
 
Jami McBride
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Location: PNW Oregon
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roosting ducks - interesting    especially muscovies as they are a good sized bird.

It has been a while now and I've butchered a lot of ducks, but I really love their flavor.  I've heard that with each breed-size increase the flavor increasing.  For example, comparing duck to chicken, and then goose to duck, etc.  I can't wait to try goose now....

Cheers all
 
Emil Spoerri
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Wow, reading my old posts is so embarrassing! I really sound like a pretentious know it all! I actually know a lot more now, but I am much more reserved, I can't believe I said all that stuff in that way lol! I used to be such a judgmental idiot!... shame shame...

Anyhoot, so I lost almost all my poor duckies to an unknown predator, the day before the day I was going to move them to a new home!

I only had 3 males and 1 female left and a few days later, only 1 male and 1 female... I kept the biggest baddest one that was constantly mounting the other males... he had the largest caruncles on his head and he weighed at least a pound more. Nice silver drake. My female was a white headed silver hen. I bought another hen at the fair.

I over wintered them in a chicken pen in a heifer barn (they aren't cold hardy like other ducks) , as soon as April came and the grass started to grow, out they went! They got cow feed for about a week before it was all forage! Their eggs became so orange they were almost bloody! Best tasting eggs ever, raw muscovy egg is my favorite of all foods!

One day, 2 weeks before I left the dairy, my original hen disappeared!
I didn't see her, I left the dairy. I came to visit a bit more than a week later, but no one had seen her, however just as I was leaving, there she was scooting along, making a chirping noise. They don't usually make noise! The other muscovy hen had been found dead in a water trough...(not the best swimmers don't cha know?) A week went by, I came to visit again, no one had seen her. Then another worker boy came up and said "the ducklings hatched!"... The hen had hidden a clutch of 12 eggs in the back of the sawdust shed. What a blessing she didn't get covered up!

Those little suckers have been free range from birth, I just put them in a coop at night. Even at 3 days old, they snatch little bugs right out of the air! I saw a week old pair fighting over a great big nightcrawler! The winner swallowed the whole worm!
I was lucky enough to get 9 hens out of the 12 ducklings!
They were born in June, they are now almost ready to fly! Can't wait for loads of muscovy eggs this spring!

Oh... I have fed them.. I fed layer mash when they were tiny, for something like 3 weeks or a month, not a lot, but every day, they always cleaned it all up. I trained them to drink sour milk! I just give them a bit of scratch here and there, soaked in sour milk, they always clean it all up, I don't feed them every day either, just when I think about it. When it's rainy, they don't care much about being fed, there is plenty of grubbing to do!

Voracious things... Try not to order ducklings online, naturally reared ducks are the way to go IMO

Though I never tried mail order muscovies... So my humble opinion doesn't matter for much!
 
Tim Canton
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huh.....its interesting about the cold hardiness....I have seen folks in alaska say they do fine and then folks in ohio say they have it rough......I wonder if it has to do with year round temps  or just differs in some?    where are you?
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Organick/EmileSpecies: what size area do you have your muscovies on, and how many to that area?  Do you let them in your garden?

I'm wondering if I can run muscovies on my garden at a rate that will improve it rather than damage it, in the long term.  The bare minimum seems to be 3 birds (1 male/2 females).  They would be on about 300 square metres (3000 sq ft), it is mainly planted to polyculture with a few netted annual rotation beds.  I usually have to protect young seedlings from rodents anyway so they get a mesh over them most of the time.

Basically I need for them to mostly take care of themselves and not cause me more work...
 
Emil Spoerri
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You would not want them in during planting or when the plants are still tender. very small fences would work well to discourage them out of areas. Can't make promises since they have minds of their own, but I haven't ever seen them do damage to a garden. I would keep the male out since he is twice as large and twice as capable of trampling things. The females are capable of flight so they will visit him when they have the inclination.

Well, I didn't even make a garden this year, personally I prefer meat salads over vegetable ones!
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Meat salad... good term that, I reckon it could catch on.  Want to eat healthy?  Get yourself a meat salad!

So what size space do you run your muscovies in Emile (and how many birds)?
 
Emil Spoerri
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Last year I almost got wiped out by something.

This year my last hen was bred by my last drake and she successfully reared 11 ducks, 9 hens and 2 drakes.

They are free range, I think they cover around 2 or 3 acres  back and forth. It's a swampy hill side with LOTS of water. Lots of bushy weeds and grass.

I give them a coffee can of feed every other day or less.

They don't run away, they always come home to be put to bed.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Cool, thanks for the info.  I think it is one of those things that I will just have to try to see if it works or not.  There is plenty of comments about Muscovies online but they are usually saying "it will work" or "it won't work".  What I actually want is information about what factors (particularly space) will help to make it workable.

This is my list of pros/cons that I can see so far:

Pros:
- Birds breed quickly, produce lots of meat, some eggs
- Take care of themselves mostly
- Fun, entertainment value
- Don't need full pond

Cons:
- May trample or nibble garden, particularly small plants
- May always require at least a little feed brought from off-site
- May crap all over the paving all the time
- May have to design/build/maintain a coop, otherwise no control over them getting out each day
 
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