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Muscovy Ducks (Cairina moschata)

 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Anyone have experience with Muscovy Ducks?  I've been doing a bunch of reading about them.  Sounds like they might co-habitate with the chickens just fine.  I might need to clip some wing feathers to keep the females from flying over the paddock fence though.

We have a separate area completely wired in to put them in when we first get them.

We will probably also get a small stock tank or kiddie pool to give them a bit of a "pond" though I've read in plenty of places that Muscovy Ducks don't require a pond and that it could actually be detrimental during really cold weather.
 
Travis Philp
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Last year I had a garden at a friends farm who had muscovies living with bantam chickens. They seemed to get along just fine. He also has a guinea fowl in the mix. The muskovis' wings weren't clipped and my friend never had a problem with them flying over his fences though thats no guarantee of course.

I will say that the parents get very squaky and protective of their young and will fly at you in attack mode if you get too close, though not every time. Maybe this is standard behaviour for most/all domesticated ducks...
 
Alison Thomas
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Here in France you often see Muscovies in with the chooks (and geese) and most only have a small water area.  No personal experience but that may change.
 
Leah Sattler
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in my experience ducks make a huge mess within hours if provided  a water source. a big natural pond out in a pasure is one thing, having your chicken area become a wallow is another

the messy water thing was one reason why ducks left my place pretty quickly. no one had any clean water to drink unless I kept them locked up! mine were pekins though i don't expect breed would make much difference in that regard.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I have little automatic watering bowls for the chickens which should keep at least some water usable though I'll probably have to dump them more with the duck tendency to wet their food.

I figured I could set up a 50 gallon stock tank so the ducks could bathe and I would just have to dump and re-fill at least every other day or so.  I'll just have to place it somewhere that the plants will appreciate the extra water.  It might be the deciding factor around how often the paddock gets shifted around to water new areas.
 
Leah Sattler
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I have a ?three gallon? auto waterer for my chickens. it lasts the chickens days. my ducks )3 of them) emptied in about an hour or two.... repeatedly! just a warning ya! there are ways to mitigate the issue, you just need to keep it in mind. it just surprised me. I had no idea that they would be that naughty! hopefully they leave the drinking water alone if they have a pool or something. although mine had a creek. I guess it just was too much trouble for them to waddle down there to play. if it is a standard round chicken waterer I have seen people put a heavy chain in the water so that they can't get much bill in there presumably.... to do whatever it is they call it that they do which basically amounts to "play in it".  that pain in the rear coupled with them demolishing my cabbage bit by bit (thats what they were supposed to be protecting from slugs!) resulted in their removal from the premises. they probably would have been tasty but I......er...I mean my daughter thought they were to pretty to cut their heads off
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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In my reading it said it was important to allow them deep enough water so they could submerge their whole bill to clear the breathing holes and such.  Ducks of all kinds do drink a lot more water than chickens.  (Very important to note if giving any medication to them in their water, dosing might be really hard to balance.)

After only one night, I think I will need to set up whatever stock tank or kiddie pool with an automatic top up float valve to be sure they always have fresh.

Very funny this morning when I went in to re-fill their water.  One of the big males is very adamantly quacking at me but since it only like a whisper.

These birds I got don't seem to realize they are supposed to be good at climbing.  I guess it's because they were raised in a kennel with no perches or trees.  They spent the night huddled together on the ground out in the secure run rather than in the coop.  I wonder if they will get the idea in a few days
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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We wound up with some muscovies, and they are very entertaining birds.

All other domesticated ducks are breeds of the common mallard species. Muscovies are not. They are a species from South America, more like wood ducks, and apparently live in swampy areas. They like to roost as high as they can fly, and the hens will get up on top of any roof they like. The drakes are about twice the size of the hens, but I do see some of the drakes up there too.

The hens are great mothers.

They are usually raised for meat, the drakes can get up to 10 or 12 pounds, and they grow pretty fast. We haven't eaten any, but I understand it is tasty meat.  If you know where they are laying, the eggs are very good, but they are not highly productive layers, and they really do want to hatch out each egg they lay.

As with mallards, they are messy with water. Any pan of water you set out for them rapidly becomes thin mud. It's true that they don't need access to swimming water as much as mallards do, but they love to bathe several times a day if they can.

Even though they come from South America, they are perfectly hardy with no shelter down to at least 0.

They are QUIET. They communicate by hissing and head bobs. If you hear a quack, it means something terrible is happening. Under normal circumstances, you won't hear any quacking for weeks on end. I think they would make great backyard birds for this reason.

Their big drawback is housing and control. I have not yet found any ideas for housing them that I consider satisfactory - caging up such a vigorous bird seems all wrong. But without some kind of control, they proliferate endlessly and cover everything in sight with duck poop. On the other hand, depending on where you live, the predation rate can be pretty high. But I don't like to spend money to feed coyotes, and that's essentially what we're doing - not to mention how inhumane it is. We have not found them tameable, and catching them is a real nightmare. Yet they like to hang out where we like to hang out, and everything gets covered with runny green poop.

I'm working on the housing issue, and I have some ideas, but no experience yet. Any ideas or experience would be most welcome.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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We have now clipped their wings (well one wing on each bird.)  I feel a little sorry as they seem so unbalanced when they stretch and flap now, but I can't be letting them fly the neighborhood and become pests.  I still have them contained in a wired in run and large dog kennel converted to chicken coop.  I'm hoping to extend their access to paddock areas the way I do with the chickens.

As to the sounds.  Yes they are normally very quiet.  As I've noted before, the loudest noise I've heard from them is splashing in their bathing pool.  However, I have twice now heard a sound like a distressed quack/squak, I believe one of the females was not entirely happy about mating one time and I heard that same sound out of her when we caught her to clip her wing feathers.  One the one made such a sound during the process, the rest all just flapped and tried to get away.

Clipping their wings is definitely a two person operation, we would work together to catch a bird and then I would hold the bird while the other half trimmed the wing.  Sturdy clothing is a good idea.  Denim to protect the leg under their feet is a good idea.  No injuries to people or birds took place during the process.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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TC, how large are your pens, and how many ducks are in them? Do you provide roosts, and what is their size?
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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We only have 5 ducks, 3 females and 2 males.
It's an old dog kennel of about ten by ten that we converted to a chicken coup with some nest boxes and perches and such.  In addition to the ten by ten coop there is a wired enclosed run that is about ten by fifteen in front of the coop.  We have a kiddie pool size water container out there for the ducks to bathe in but that is the main reason I want to expand them to paddock runs since emptying and re-filling the bathing pond tends to make the area overly wet.  If moving around in a paddock space, I can shift the location of the pond and therefore water different areas.
 
Tim Canton
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I know this is old but was wondering if anyone else had muscovy?  I am thinking about getting some soon.  How does everyone like them?  keep them?
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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An update about my Muscovy's, they are in with the chickens and they all have the run of rather large paddock areas and I've added a duck-a-ponics system to keep the water for the ducks circulated and nice (so I'm not having to dump and re-fill kiddie pools every day.)
Our original 5 adults has changed a little.  We keep one Drake and 4 adult females.  There are many offspring which we now take to a butcher what wants live animals for processing.  Last time we took 8 still kinda small males to him and we got $50.  He would pay more for the full grown males and 8 full grown females would probably only get us $6-8 each.
We are using the electric chicken netting as paddock fencing since we had a problem with possum attacking the duck nests.
Here is a link to my Duck TV Cam http://www.aquaponiclynx.com/aquaponic-lynx-live-garden-cameras/duck-tv But since they have the run of much of the yard they will not always be visible playing in their duck pools or duck river.  There is a big stock tank in the background that you can't really see well in the picture but the adult ducks can get a good swim in that one.  The shallow pools are more for filtration and so the baby ducks can have a swim too but the big ducks love the shallows as well.
 
Burra Maluca
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We had a pair of muscovies but lost the female after a few days.  I think the male was a bit too heavy and a bit too enthusiastic for her.  Afterwards, he was a bit lost and lonely.  And frustrated.  Although the chickens were safe from him he would mount, forcibly, any duck (of either gender) that he could get close enough to.  He also managed to get at the goose while she was sitting on her eggs.  He's now in solitary confinement until we manage to get him at least six female muscovies to keep him company.  I don't think he's fit to let out in public unless he has a pretty large harem to keep him occupied.

Of course, it might just be him and I've no idea if other muscovies are the same.

On the plus side, he has an amazing character and seems incredibly intelligent compared to the other ducks. 
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Yes, please make sure you have enough females to keep your Drake busy.  Muscovy Drakes are big and have quite the procreation appetite and the girls will thank you for making sure they have other females around to share the duties (especially when they start sitting on eggs or have ducklings in tow.)  I have 4 adult females for our Drake and I think that is bare minimum (had two ducks sitting and one with babies and the remaining female has been looking a bit tattered from getting most of the attention lately.)
 
jacque greenleaf
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TCLynx, around here, muscovy breast meat sells for $13/lb,when it's available.

Also, what are the dimensions of your duck river, how many adults do you usually keep?
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Well the duckaponics system is ever changing and mostly built with junk or at least whatever I had around to play with.  The tank is a galvanized round stock tank that is probably 7 foot diameter.  I using a 3" uniseal to plumb through it with an overflow to feed into the duck river (which as you can see in the pictures I've expanded out to the side with some billboard liner I got free and that side pool which will hopefully act as a settling pond for solids before it flows into the long deep duck river bed) which is probably about 30 inches wide by 25 feet long give or take, it was an old beat up piece of liner I had from a failed aquaponics bed.  Anyway that duck river bed is probably knee deep before I put the gravel in it.

I've had problems with id clogging.  See the chickens were scratching mulch and dirt into it and the ducks like to bring mouthfulls of dirt into the water to swish for bugs.  So it wasn't flowing so well and you add to it the duck poop and I was starting to get a clogged mess and the water wasn't flowing back down to the little pump very well.

This is still a work in progress but I'm still keeping the water clear enough to the stock tank pond and avoiding the stink but Improvements are still in order.

Next step in the plan is to get some water plants to put in the river nearer the pump end and fence/net the birds out so the water plants will be able to grow and hopefully filter the water but still allow it to pass down to the pump.  Also a bit more distance between where the birds are allowed to play and where the pump is should allow more filtration with hopefully less blockage.

There is an auto top up valve down by the pump so when the thing totally blocks up, what I get is an overflowing duck river which is helping water and fertilize the bananas, but I'd rather not waste that much water or have to dig muck out so often.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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So it sounds as if you did not have an idea in your mind as to how much water it would take for each duck? They are much messier than fish! I try to dump the dirty water on plants that relish it, but there would be a lot to be said in favor of a more automated system.



 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Muscovy's don't need a huge amount of water.  The guy we got our original ducks from had 7 adults and a mess of smaller ones in a kennel with just one kiddie pool.

I like to give my birds far more than they need and make them really happy so no I really don't have any idea what the minimum number of gallons per duck is.  Our number of ducks is constantly changing as they are prolific buggers!!!  Just had 8 more ducklings hatch two days ago.  Gonna be taking 5-8 ducks of various ages to some friends Tuesday so they can try out raising and processing ducks.  We will take the 3 remaining grown out males from the oldest group of offspring to the butcher this coming week and it is time to clip the wings of the next set of babies as they have learned to fly.

The smallest container I've seen a duck take a good bath in was probably a 25 gallon tub though I've seen the adult ducks try to bathe in  a  2" deep plant saucer that I had put out for the babies.

If you have to go with small containers, a 25 gallon feed tub could serve probably 2 adult ducks (not at the same time.)  I've used a car top carrier lid as a pond for the ducks before and a little plastic kiddie pool will work just fine.  If you are up to dumping and re-filling on a daily basis a kiddie pool will serve probably 5-8 ducks just fine.
 
Tim Canton
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TCLynx wrote:
  I have 4 adult females for our Drake and I think that is bare minimum



oh  so 3 wont work too well then huh.

do you all do much for housing?  do you house them at all?    just something out of weather?  I will let mine free range at least during day time.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I've got a kennel with a roof that I turned into a coop but they only rarely go in there (chickens use the nest boxes but they abandoned the perch.)

My Ducks seem to prefer sitting out on the ground.  I suppose it would be possible to herd the ducks in at night but they really wouldn't like it, I've got electric net fencing to help keep predators out and it seems to be working where I am.

I'm in Florida so our climate is warm enough and the ducks don't seem fussed about rain, water off a ducks back and all.  The chickens will seek shelter though.
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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can I ask what your ballpark feed costs are for the duck flock these days?  any guess how much of their diet is forage vs feed?

thanks!
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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depend on time of year.  Right now with the over abundance of young ducks that I have and the reduced forage I have for them after this dry spring, I'm probably going through a 50 lb bag of layer pellets a week and probably 10 lb of scratch.  At the moment I have 4 adult females and one big drake.  There are 7 laying hens, 4 full grown "babies" of about 5 months old, 7 3 1/2 month old "babies" starting to fly, 14 1 1/2 month old little piggy ducks that will eat everything in site and squirrles raiding the scratch feeder which is why I don't refill it very often otherwise I would be going through 50 lb of scratch a week too.

Certain times a year they don't seem to need as much commercial feed because I have lots more greens from the garden to throw to them but the cool weather crops are running out here now and I didn't get much of my normal hot garden going very well this spring.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Are Muscovies able to eat whole grains or do they need the softer processed feeds?

BTW TCLynx, I follow you over at the Backyard Aquaponics forum, which I plan to join eventually. 

 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Muscovy's eat the scratch grains just fine.  They are good foragers and if you have enough space and natural forage for them I expect you could get away with very little in the way of commercial pellets.  Keep in mind I'm on a 1/3rd acre residential lot so It is really a challenge to grow enough bird feed.  Muscovy ducks also seem to be pretty good and getting rid of lots of bugs and I've been told they are happy to do in small rodents too but I've never seen that myself (though I don't think I've seen any mice or rats since I got the ducks.)  I can tell you the ducks and chickens both love fish cleaning days since they get the scraps.  Muscovy ducks are omnivorous like the chickens.  They don't run after the bugs quite the same way but it is terribly fun to watch the ducklings catching and eating small flying bugs.  I almost peed watching a duckling chasing a butterfly once.
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Sounds likea great flock - thank you for the info and nice website!
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Thank you, and you are welcome too.  I wish I could be of more help with more concrete numbers but as we should all remember, everything is rather site/situation specific so what is possible here might not be possible elsewhere or it could even be far easier.

Now if I ever manage to get a place with more land/agricultural hopefully, I'll probably need to learn more about protecting my flock from larger predators.

Anyone know of a good type of dog and how to train them to protect a flock at night?
 
Tim Canton
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Great Pyrenees  is the dog I always see on farms....with cattle, goats, sheep, chickens,  always a pyrenees.    I would like to be able to travel that road as well someday.  from what i know they do their job very very well.
 
Anna Carter
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Mom kept muscovies for quite a long time. Then, she bought a few from the auction. These ones would go after her ducklings and chicks and eat them. She saw them do it. Not saying muscovies are bad, I like them myself, but there are some out there that are great hunters, and some of those might go after other species' young.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I wouldn't put it past a Large Muscovy to eat an unattended chick of some other small bird species.  And I have seen the Drake pick on some of the muscovy ducklings before though so far as I know he has never really hurt one, just caused a lot of loud panicked peeping.
 
Nancy Sullivan
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Very late post to this quesry.

I have chix and muscovies in the same area with no problem. They mostly ignore each other. For some reason this winter for hte first time ever three female ducks have taken to getting into the chicken house at night. It is raised on stilts. Rain, snow, etc., really doesn't bother them, so this is a little perplexing.

In terms of water, the ducks will turn clean water filthy in a heartbeat- it is amazing how fast they can do it! I am convinced with the muscovies a lot of what I see in the water is actually food. They are probably really filter feeders- their beaks have little serrations that they sieve water through once they've taken a bite of food- which would explain why there appears to be a layer of food on the bottom of the water container, which is a kiddy pool in the summer.

This is, of course, a huge waste of water, since I don't feel like taking it out bucket by bucket to water and nitrogen-enrich different parts of the garden daily... there are a couple of YouTubes on "Duckoponic" systems, where you run the dirty water through beds with plants the ducks will eventually eat, then cycle it back as clean water for the ducks. THat is my goal for next summer.

 
Jay Angler
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Leah Sattler wrote:in my experience ducks make a huge mess within hours if provided  a water source.

I rescued both Musckies and some Mallard-based ducks (runners and Campbells, not Pekins) and the Musckies make far less mess in their water bucket than the other do. I'll swear the Mallard-based ducks can total a bucket of water in 27 seconds, the Muskies bucket is usually OK for 2 days. If running the different groups together I'd get one of the small cup or nipple water systems so that you'd be sure there was always some "clean" water available. Ducks need deep water (whole head in) but chickens don't.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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