Breed Spotlight: Muscovy Ducks

by Lauren R

Published February 13, 2024

In this breed spotlight, we’re discussing a dual-purpose homesteader’s favorite: the Muscovy. While most duck breeds can trace their ancestry back to mallards, Muscovy ducks are unique because they are the only ducks in the APA Standard that do not originate from mallards. Despite being labeled as ducks, Muscovies possess several distinctive traits that set them apart. Their large bodies, flight capability, quiet vocalizations, caruncles on their faces, roosting habits, and non-greasy meat make them a practical and endearing waterfowl addition to any homestead.

Black Muscovy Ducks with carnucles Meyer Hatchery

History and Origin

The origin of the Muscovy duck sparks some debate. The term ‘Muscovy’ is derived from the Russian word for a region surrounding Moscow. However, the Muscovy duck did not originate in Russia. They were first observed in Western Europe in the late 16th century and are believed to have been traded in England and France by the ‘Muscovite Company’ or ‘Muscovy Company,’ possibly leading to the name.

Wild Muscovy ducks can be found in regions like New Zealand, Australia, Central, and Eastern Europe, as well as the Americas, with populations in Mexico, South American countries, and even some in the southern United States, including Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii, and as far north as Massachusetts and Southern Canada.

While wild Muscovy ducks are confined to specific regions, domesticated versions have comfortably adapted to various climates, thriving in temperatures ranging from tropical to as cold as 10°F in places like Texas and Alaska.

Characteristics and Personalities

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the Muscovy is the caruncles on its face – a quick and easy identifier compared to other waterfowl. Muscovies come in various colors, including black, white, blue, chocolate, pied, green, lavender, bronze, barred, and rippled.

Known for their calm and friendly nature, Muscovy ducks make excellent pets. They exhibit quiet behavior, with distinctive vocalizations often described as similar to a goose’s hissing. Drakes have a low breathy call, while hens produce a high cooing sound. With long claws, a wide flat tail, and the ability to fly and roost in trees, they efficiently forage and contribute to pest control by consuming flies, ticks, mosquitoes, insects, and some rodents. Domesticated Muscovy ducks have long life spans, ranging from 8-12 years and potentially up to 20 years in captivity.

20 week old Muscovy duck roosting Meyer Hatchery
White Muscovy Duck Pair Male and Female

Size and Meat

Muscovy ducks are large, with males being among the largest North American ducks, boasting a wingspan of up to 64 inches and a weight of up to 15 lbs. Females are considerably smaller at 6-7 lbs. Typically butchered between 12 and 16 weeks, males can reach about 4-6 lbs by 16 weeks of age. Their meat is described as exceptionally lean, flavorful, and non-greasy.

Assorted Muscovy Day Old Ducklings outside Meyer Hatchery

Eggs and Reproduction

Muscovy ducks typically mature between 28 and 29 weeks old and then lay 100-150 eggs annually. Their eggs are similar to other duck eggs in size and richness. If you want to hatch them, Muscovy eggs do have a longer incubation period compared to other duck varieties, taking about 35 days to hatch. Unique among domestic breeds, Muscovy ducks will nest, brood, and raise their young up to 10-12 weeks old, and they have been known to adopt other breeds’ eggs and ducklings too. Even the drakes will stay with the young for several weeks. Not descending from mallards, if a Muscovy crosses with a mallard-descended domestic duck, they create a sterile hybrid known as a mule duck that will not be able to reproduce.

In conclusion, Muscovy ducks prove to be a stellar dual-purpose option for homesteaders, combining unique characteristics, versatile contributions, and a rich history that spans continents and centuries. Whether for companionship, high meat yield, or pest control, Muscovy ducks are valuable allies in the homesteading journey. If you’re seeking a hardy, friendly, dual-purpose duck, Muscovies are worth considering! Meyer Hatchery carries Black Muscovy, White Muscovy, and Assorted Muscovy Day Old Ducklings!

Do you have any experience with Muscovies? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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