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Muscovies

 
Jay Angler
Posts: 125
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Welcome to Permies, Victoria!

I live near Victoria, BC and last year I rescued a couple of male muscovies and then we adopted a couple of females to keep them company. Does your book have a section on them?
There isn't as much info out there about them, but I find them very calm and friendly.
Unfortunately in the recent unusually cold (for here) weather, we lost one male to an eagle. I've never owned a dog, so apart from that, have you any suggestions of how to keep them out there eating grass but reasonably safe? I'm wondering if I can make up some chicken wire tunnels for them to run to if threatened, but I'm not sure if that would even work.

Thanks Jay
 
Andreae Callanan
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada zone 5b
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I'd like to be part of this thread, too. My husband and I are planning to get a few ducks this year, and we're strongly leaning toward muscovies. We're in an urban area (St. John's, Newfoundland) with a relatively small, partly shaded back yard. The ducks will be there primarily as slug control, with eggs and eventually meat as secondary benefits. My father raised muscovies when I was young and I am quite fond of them, even if they can be a little standoffish! My questions are: what is the smallest number of birds I can have in my flock? And will I need a drake in order for the ducks to be socially content?

Thanks for being here to answer questions, Victoria! I'm looking forward to checking out your book.
 
Jay Angler
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Hi Andreae,
Glad to see someone else interested! I actually find our drake more sociable and more willing to take food from my hand than my females, so upbringing may be a key factor. I've seen web postings of people having trouble with the males, but I think it's like the "dog control" thing - you have to be the alpha male, and you have to become that through firm body language and eye contact (and you don't have to be male to be the "alpha male" either!)

Re back yard: How small is small? We had to move our muscovies to the back field, as when they were near the house they were caught on the road and on the top of my neighbor's greenhouse. They aren't the type of creature that runs at the sight of a car either, as this was a problem noted in the newspaper relating to a farm south of ours. Now that they've got 3 acres to play in, I've not seen them straying.

Re eggs: my partner read that if you keep removing Muscovy eggs, they stop laying. I've read similar articles that specifically stress what good moms muscies are and how they tend to go broody, so if you support Paul's take on Permaculture "respecting the nature of the creature", I would suggest that if you don't get a male yourself, you need to know where you can get fertile eggs to tuck under the girls so they get to be Moms occasionally.

Re slugs: our male will eat the small grey garden slugs I've offered at times, but I haven't seen the girls eat them. It may be that the girls are eating the ones they find and are just too skittish to take them from whatever I'm holding out to them (usually a bucket). The Wet Coast grows these humongous slugs (google "banana slug") that the big muscies don't seem able to eat, but my tiny runner duck gamely hoovers them - go figure!

Re meat: we had a 5 mnth old Muscovy for Thanksgiving dinner and were very impressed, so I could see it being a good way to turn grass and bugs into protein.

Hopefully some people with more experience than me will join in to this discussion.

Jay
 
John Devitt
Posts: 34
Location: Belfair WA
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Muscovies are great layers and mothers. One of mine just hatched out 18 ducklings.

They are one of the best tasting ducks on my opinion as well. The breast are nice dark meat with the consistency of steak.
 
Jay Angler
Posts: 125
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Hi John,

How long have you been raising Muscies?
I have no experienced moms, but my two females were raised by a mom. Have you had birds that have set for the first time? Any advice on how to support its success?
My two females are full sisters, but I was surprised at the difference in maturity rate. Is that typical?

Thanks Jay
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1331
Location: northern California
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In my experience muscovies are more like geese than other ducks. They can survive mostly by grazing if there is enough green stuff around. They tend to lay only one or two clutches a year. And, despite what others have written, I've often found these ducks can be pretty aggressive, and tend to pair off in couples, again like geese.
For slugs and bugs you want small active ducks, like Indian Runners or Khakis. These can be skittish, but they also lay more eggs.....
 
Andreae Callanan
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada zone 5b
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I love the idea of khakis, but where I'm in a downtown area with lots of neighbours, I have to pick quiet ducks (although even the loudest ducks would be less annoying than the rock band next door... ). Our climate is cool and wet, and our slugs are of the smaller variety, not those banana monsters. I know a few people here with muscies and cayugas, so I'll be picking their brains, too, for advice. Two years ago neighbours of ours had muscovies - 4 ducks and a drake - in the back yard and ended up with 25 of them by the end of the year. They came through the gate and ate all my onions! So at least I know how many is too many

Our space is maybe 12'x 30', with a small patio area where we will likely build a shelter. I have raised veggie beds that I can fence off to protect the produce. Another consideration is water - we can put in a small pool for them, but we can't build a major water feature right now, so a duck that has relatively minor needs for paddling would be best. We don't have foxes, coyotes, or roaming dogs where I am, so my concerns about shelter are minimal. I'm starting to wonder if chickens might be a better choice, but in my iffy climate I feel that a hardy duck would require much less maintenance.

I forgot to mention in my earlier post that what I really need is animals that can help me keep on top of food scraps. So job 1 would be pest control, job 2 would be scrap eating, and then eggs and meat would come after that. When I have my parcel of land someday I'll definitely be looking for better layers, because I love duck eggs, but for now that's the lowest priority. I do want to be able to keep them happy, though, so if they're going to want to be moms, I'll have to figure out how to work with that. (I'm a mom, I can sympathize with the broody ducks!)

When I was a teenager, my father had the biggest, fiercest, ugliest muscovy drake that used to guard our property. All my friends were terrified of him!
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 488
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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I loved living with Muscovies. They are the perfect urban meat livestock - although I've never eaten one. (They were a co-inhabitant's project, and I hardly ever eat meat.) I don't think they are a good egg bird, they don't lay year-round. Very serious mothers. Females are pretty good fliers when they feel like it, a full-grown drake has a harder time getting off the ground. They do like to roost up off the ground, would rather be 6 feet or more off the ground in the open during a snowstorm than in a ground-level shelter. One drake should have at least two females, and at their rate of reproduction, three or four birds adult birds could keep a family in meat. They love water, but you don't have to provide a pond - just enough water for them to dunk their heads. Although I never had the chance to implement the idea, I think you could spread their impact and make use of their plentiful droppings and the nutrient-rich water they make in an orchard by rotating a small stock tank around the trees - move it every two days or so, dumping it first. I'm pretty sure they would learn to follow the tank, rather than stay in the same place to trample it flat. Yes, I do miss those birds.
 
John Devitt
Posts: 34
Location: Belfair WA
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Jay Angler wrote:Hi John,

How long have you been raising Muscies?



I have these for the second year. I purchased 2 ducks, a drake and a bunch of ducklings last year. The ones on eggs this year were the mothers from last year. we will see as the season goes how last years do. I am waiting to see so I can do some selective culling.

I find that muscovies are very happy just walking around and grazing but will eat out of the chicken feeder if available. As with most ducks they like to have water for swimming and bathing but it is not necessary.

They are good flyers and like to roost on the house. I have caught a number of them and trimmed the wings.

I will have to be a bit more aggressive this year to keep the population in check. They are kinda like tribbles
 
Jay Angler
Posts: 125
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Like tribbles eh, John. I've heard that about Muscies. Good thing they taste good! What age do you cull for food? What do you base the decision on? We only culled one last year, as it was a full brother to the two sister females and I didn't want him cross-pollinating with known sibs.

I've just been given a stock tank for bathing, but I'm suspicious that the drake that was killed by an eagle may have been cleaning itself in the winter creek, putting it at a disadvantage. (it may have been protecting a female, but no one who can tell the truth was there!) I'm thinking I'd be more comfortable setting up the tank in some sort of protected space that would discourage at least the flying predators. However, as Jacque mentions, having both the tank and the protection easily moveable to spread both the water and the nutrients would be desirable. It's always a balance between all the parts of the eco-system! I speak quite good chicken, but have never had to learn dog - maybe it's time!

 
John Devitt
Posts: 34
Location: Belfair WA
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I basically cull when I have time. Usually to late than to early.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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