How to Raise Muscovy Ducks

Do you have some unused space in your yard, or are you looking for an animal that would be the perfect addition to your home and yard? Ducks are popular pets for good reasons. They are entertaining, intelligent, and often friendly, and Muscovy ducks are particularly good pets that may be the right breed choice for your family. Before you buy your ducks, though, it's important to familiarize yourself with the care that they will need.

Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata)
How to Raise Muscovy Ducks
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Physical appearance

Muscovy ducks have a unique appearance. According to Raising Ducks, Muscovies come in many different colors. While the wild Muscovy is all black with a white patch on the wing, domesticated Muscovies are available in the colors of all white, magpie, blue, chocolate, buff, lilac, and more.

Males and females have very different appearances, so they are easier to tell apart than other ducks. Males are much larger, weighing between 9 and 15 pounds, while the smaller females weigh only between 5.5 and 7 pounds. Often, by the time that Muscovies are eight weeks old, an experienced owner can tell males from females.

Additionally, males have more pronounced caruncles, which are the red fleshy parts of their face around their eyes and bill. These caruncles are highly defining characteristics, causing some people to recognize a Muscovy as being a duck with a red face. Caruncles can vary in size, and some females have just a hint of red, while some drakes have such prominent caruncles that they can hardly see.

Muscovy traits

Muscovies are popular ducks, and they can make great additions to your farm, farmette, or homestead. They possess many traits that make them ideal pets.

According to The Happy Chicken Coop, Muscovies are friendly ducks who enjoy human company. They don't particularly enjoy being picked up and fussed over, but they are social and are said to be good with kids. Muscovies are largely nonaggressive, with the exception of their mating and duckling-rearing seasons.

The mute ducks

Another notable trait of the Muscovy is its relative low volume when compared to other ducks. Raising Ducks explains that Muscovies are sometimes even called "mute ducks" because of how much quieter they are than other breeds. Male Muscovies tend to hiss hoarsely, while females have a soft whimper.

That's not to say that Muscovies are entirely silent, though. If they are startled, they can make a loud sound resembling a honk. When they are broody, they squeak. Sometimes, the ducks in a flock will all start vocalizing at once, but because they are naturally quiet, it's unlikely that they will irritate your neighbors.

Habitats and housing

Before you bring home your ducks, you'll need to design a shelter that can protect your ducks from the elements as well as from potential predators. Ducks have many predators, including raccoons, bobcats, bears, and raptors, so your structure will need to be strong. You may be able to modify a chicken coop, shed, or other existing structure, or you can opt to build one from scratch.

According to For the Birds, the shelter should have a flat floor, and it should be easy to clean. Because ducks are messy and tend to be wet, concrete is often an ideal option for the floor. However, you will need to cover the floor with straw, sawdust, or sand so your ducks can rest with their abdomen on a dry surface. You will need to remove wet bedding regularly, and you should completely clean the shelter when it's soiled.

It's also important to make sure that your ducks are inside their shelter by nightfall each evening since predators like raccoons become more active at this time.

Water and swimming

Like other ducks, Muscovies do enjoy swimming, so you'll want to be sure they have access to a body of water. This can be a pond or even a small swimming pool. According to Raising Ducks, Muscovies aren't as water repellent as some other duck breeds, and they have oil glands that aren't too well developed. This means that Muscovies don't need to swim as much as other ducks, but they'll certainly appreciate it if they do have the option.

If you opt to provide your ducks with a pool, then you'll need to clean the water regularly. Some duck owners install water filters to help keep the water clean, but you can make your setup as basic or as complicated as you would like.

Wings and flying

Muscovies can fly, and the females fly particularly well. Raising Ducks notes that you may need to clip your ducks' wings to keep them from flying away. However, many modern male Muscovies are too heavy to fly.

Even if you clip your ducks' wings, they're still skilled jumpers and will hop onto and perch on items like nesting boxes, fallen limbs, and more.

Diet for Muscovy ducks

A quality diet will play an integral role in your ducks' health. According to the Cosley Zoo, Muscovies are omnivores. In the wild, Muscovies will eat many insects, worms, fish, reptiles, snails, crabs, and more. They also eat plants such as leaves, weeds, seeds, and roots that are found in shallow water.

Your captive Muscovy will need a diet that can replace what he would consume in the wild. The Happy Chicken Coop recommends that you feed Muscovy ducklings a 28 percent game bird starter, which you should be able to find at your local feed store. When your Muscovy is an adult, you can transition her to a 20 percent layer pellet.

Supplementing the diet

You can supplement your adult duck's diet with mealworms, cracked corn, fresh greens, and other treats. Frozen peas that have been thawed are a popular treat for ducks. If your ducks are able to free range near a pond, they will find some of the foods that they would typically eat in the wild, such as fish and worms.

For the Birds states that your ducks will need plenty of fresh feed every day. You should throw out any uneaten feed every day, especially when the weather is wet or humid since feed can quickly start to mold. Your ducks will probably like to dip their feed into water as they eat, so provide them with a bowl of water near their feed.

Make sure that this bowl is small enough that the ducks can't fit inside it, or they will happily go for a swim in their water dish.

Muscovy eggs and mating

Female Muscovies do lay eggs, and if you have a male and female pair, they may mate and your flock may grow. The Happy Chicken Coop states that a female Muscovy will lay between 60 and 120 eggs per year.

The ducks' mating season lasts from August to May, though this may vary a bit depending on the climate. Females will find a safe place for their nest, ideally in a nesting box that is up off the ground or in your duck shelter. Males may help to guard the nest and the ducklings.

A female Muscovy will lay up to about 16 eggs and will incubate them for 35 days. Once the ducklings hatch, they'll stay close by their mother for the first 10 to 12 weeks. The mother duck will teach them the skills they need to survive during this time. If your ducks have access to a pool, it's important to either remove it or be absolutely certain that the ducklings can get into and out of the water on their own.

Health monitoring

Muscovies are hardy and generally healthy, but it's still important to monitor your ducks for potential health issues. For the Birds recommends that you check on your ducks twice a day and observe them carefully so that you're likely to notice if something does go wrong.

You should pick up each duck once a week for a quick health inspection. Check the duck's weight, look for parasites on his skin, and see if your duck is acting normally. You should also watch for changes in a duck's habits, appetite, or behavior since these can signify potential health problems. If you notice any changes, call your vet for advice.

It's a good idea to locate a vet who will treat ducks ahead of time so you know just who to call if you do run into a problem.

Getting your ducks

If you've decided that Muscovy ducks are right for you, then it's time to think about how you would like to get your first ducks. You'll have a few different options.

The simplest option is to buy young adult ducks from a local breeder. If you're looking forward to getting eggs from your ducks, then you won't have to wait as long for the ducks to start laying when you purchase young adults instead of starting with ducklings. Young adults are already fairly hardy and independent, and the work of raising ducklings has been done for you. Plus, you can buy ducks of the specific sex that you want without leaving things up to chance when bringing home ducklings.

Raising eggs and ducklings

Another option is to order ducklings from a breeder or hatchery. These ducklings will be shipped to you, or you can pick them up if you're local. Ducklings are adorable, but they require special care until they grow up. Depending on the time of year and your local climate, you may need to find a way to keep the ducklings warm, which can be a challenge depending on the location and layout of your shelter.

You may also decide to purchase or order fertilized eggs. This is probably the most challenging way to get your ducks since you will need to incubate the eggs until they hatch and then care for the ducklings. You'll need a quality incubator as well as some time and vigilance in terms of rotating the eggs on a proper schedule. Even when perfectly incubated, eggs don't always hatch, so you may or may not end up with the number of ducklings for which you were hoping.

Life with Muscovies

Before you get Muscovies, be sure that you're ready to provide them with the long-term care that they need. According to The Happy Chicken Coop, Muscovies can live between eight and 12 years in the wild, but domesticated ducks have been known to live up to 20 years. If you take great care of your ducks, you'll have some amazing pets for many years to come.