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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Part 1: Odd Ducks

Cherie Langlois
Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

Muscovy DuckAlthough I love them dearly, I must admit Muscovies are very odd ducks. 

For starters, while all other domestic duck breeds presumably descended from the wild Common Mallard (Anas platyrhychos), domestic Muscovies arose from a different waterfowl species, the wild Muscovy (Cairina moschata).

A long-tailed tropical perching duck, the wild Muscovy lives in wooded wetlands from the Rio Grande through Mexico and Central America, down to South America.  The Incas of Peru likely domesticated these big birds centuries ago to provide pest-control (on my farm, they eradicate slugs) and supply meat, eggs, and feathers.  

Over the years, I’ve discovered that my domestic Muscovies not only look different from Mallard-derivatives (see photo:  drakes have a face only a mother Muscovy could love!), they also behave differently. 

The lighter-weight females and young males can fly quite well, and they love to perch on fences, in trees, and sometimes (messily) on our barn roof.

nesting muscovy ducksInstead of noisy quacks, the drakes make quiet hissing sounds, while the females utter breathy squeaks (they’ll emit noisier squawks if scared).  They’re also more aggressive and less water-crazy than other ducks.

In the wild, Muscovies nest in tree holes. 

At my farm, the females keep me on my toes by seeking secret spots to lay their large clutches: under the pump house, in a corner of the sheep/goat stalls, hidden behind hay stacks.

This spring I was lucky:  two Muscovy girls scooped out depressions in the straw and laid eggs in the chicken pen – a nice convenient, safe spot for a change.   

For the first time, though, the two normally solitary nesters nested side-by-side, almost touching! 

They looked content enough  (I imagined them gossiping about the other fowl to fill the time), so I let them incubate their eggs for the requisite 35 days or so, curious to see what would happen.

Next time:  Find out what happened ...?

Do you have any odd animals on your farm?  I’d love to hear about them.       

 ~ Cherie  

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Part 1: Odd Ducks

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Reader Comments
This is the 4th time I've tried to write a comment and this box keeps disappearing and returning blank. Have you received any of the previous comments? I rescued 4 Muscovies today and want to release them on our community lake which already has a number of other ducks. Will there be behavioral problems? Please get in touch, I have several questions and this comment box is giving me problems. sigh
ali, Fallbrook, CA
Posted: 7/28/2013 4:58:29 PM
Love this site very informative
debbie, indianapolis, IN
Posted: 5/26/2013 8:59:27 AM
Hi Jane,

You must have taken such wonderful care of LucyGoose for her to reach 21 years--I didn't know geese could live that long! And it's amazing to hear how Duckie has taken on the role of "guide duck" for her.

It's hard for me to say with certainty whether or not the Muscovy male and Duckie would get along (I've never mingled mine with other breeds). Muscovy males are so large and so rough when breeding that my worry would be he might hurt her (though my female Muscovies seem to handle it OK!). If you're not interested in having baby ducks, maybe another female duck would be a better companion?

Cherie, Graham, WA
Posted: 3/7/2012 12:26:30 PM
Hi Cherie,
I have one old Tolouse grey goose and one Pekin duck in my barnyard. We have had LucyGoose for 21 years (originally had six geese.) Lucy is now blind, and that little duck has become her "guide-duck". She has guided her through the yard, and back home to their enclosed stall every night.
Lucy has become weak and doesn't venture out for the past week or so. She is at the end of her time. Duckie goes about her business of swimming in her little poole, beaking holes in the grass, finding bugs and slugs, etc. She goes in with Lucy for the night.
I was searching for a companion duck for our Duckie, and the shelter has a male Muscovie. Duckie lays eggs, so obviously is not a male! What do you think? Would Albert the Muscovie be a good barnyard companion?
Jane, Albuquerque, NM
Posted: 3/6/2012 5:52:59 PM
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