King the Muscovy Drake

Muscovy Duck

The Muscovy is a very unique breed of duck. In fact, it’s not even a true duck – it’s simply called a duck. The Muscovy is to the duck world what the donkey is to the equine world. In other words, it’s a different species, although quite closely related. Crossing a donkey with a horse will produce a sterile mule, and crossing a Muscovy with a duck will produce a sterile “mule duck.”

All true ducks originate from the Mallard. The Muscovy does not.

Muscovies originated in South America, and are now feral in many parts of the world, where they are often considered a nuisance, like pigeons. They’re also called the Barbary duck.

Muscovies come in a tremendous variety of colors. The original, wild Muscovy was black with a white patch on the wing.

Today, there are all-white strains, magpie strains (bi-colored, usually solid black and white), and blue, chocolate, silver, lavender (self-blue), buff, blue fawn, lilac, and pastel.

The feather patterns can be laced, barred, rippled, or self, and many have a gene for a white head, which shows up during the second year.

True wild Muscovy. Image by "SandyCole" on Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
True wild Muscovy. Image by “SandyCole” on Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Some people think Muscovies are ugly because of their caruncles, a red (sometimes partially black), warty “mask” around the face.

Their claws are long and sharp, like talons, so take care when handling them.

King's claws.
WARNING: Beware of the drakes brandishing their claws. Like cat claws.
The females have claws, too, just not so impressive…
The consequence of not bewaring the claws.

These ducks have a wide, flat tail that they wag like a dog. Why do they wag their tail? Well, some people say they wag their tail after a nervous experience or after some problem has been resolved (such as after they have been picked up and held), but they seem to also do it when they’re happy or while conversing with other ducks.

Also, while they enjoy swimming water, they aren’t as water repellent as other ducks because their oil glands are not so well developed, and swimming water isn’t as necessary for them as some other breeds. Some of mine only take a bath about once a month.

Daphne enjoys her bath…
…but she’s far from waterproof.

 

As adults, males and females are extremely easy to identify.

Males are far larger than females. They’re about 9-15 pounds (4-7 kg), and females are only 5.5 to 7 pounds (2.5-3 kg).

Drake
An older Muscovy drake with his crest raised (click to enlarge).

The caruncles of the males are also much more pronounced. Some females have only a trace of red caruncling around their eye and bill. Some drakes, on the other hand, have so much caruncling that they can barely see.

Please do not breed Muscovies with excessive caruncling. It’s the result of man’s bad breeding and should not be encouraged.

The voice of drakes is extremely different as well, but unlike most other ducks, males do not develop curled “sex feathers.”

They have an erectile crest of feathers on their head, which they raise when they are excited or nervous.

est of a female Muscovy duck
The crest of a female Muscovy duck. Males generally have taller crests than females, but this female has an exceptionally tall crest.

Females have one too, but much smaller.

As juveniles, the males grow faster and develop caruncles before the females, while the females develop wing feathers earlier than the males.

Females will look feminine and slender whereas males will be chunkier and more masculine.

By eight weeks old, many experienced Muscovy owners can already identify the sex of their ducklings.

For more information and pictures, see 10 Effective Ways to Determine Your Muscovy Duck’s Gender (With Pictures).

10 Effective Ways To Sex Your Muscovy Duck (With Pictures)

 

Drakes vs duck
Notice how much larger the two drakes are compared to the duck (click to view full image).
Drake vs ducks
Another example of the size difference between the sexes.

“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck,” is proof Muscovies aren’t ducks.

In contrast to the noisy quacking of other ducks, Muscovies are extremely quiet. However, although they are often called “mute ducks,” they aren’t completely silent.

Males have a hoarse hiss, and females are often described as having a soft musical whimper, which isn’t too loud, sounds nice, and isn’t likely to disturb your neighbors.

Muscovies can make a loud sound, almost like a honk, when they are startled, and they squeak when they’re broody. From time to time the flock will also gather together and have a loud “conversation,” with all the ducks “talking” at once, but this is the loudest they get and even this isn’t likely to annoy anyone.

They’re the quietest of all the poultry. Chickens are noisy, geese are noisy, guineas are noisy, and female Mallard-derived ducks are noisy, but the Muscovy is, overall, quiet.

Unlike other ducks, Muscovies perch. They don’t truly roost like chickens, but they enjoy perching on something.

Perching
Oreo, a four-month-old Muscovy duck, perches on the side of her water tub. She tucks one of her legs up to rest it. Sometimes they tuck it into a pocket beneath their wing so their foot is completely invisible.

In the wild, they slept in trees. Some of mine sleep on top of their nest box. They also enjoy sitting on concrete blocks, old piles of wood, tractors, wheelbarrows, or any raised object. Even if their wings are clipped, they can jump well.

Muscovy ducks are good jumpers! Coffee, whose wings are clipped, leaps for a cucumber peel.

Females fly extraordinarily well and may have to be clipped, although in many modern strains, the males are too heavy to be airborne.

Excellent flier
Muscovies are excellent fliers! This picture was of Skylar’s last flight before we clipped her wings.

Muscovies are also excellent foragers and can find a good portion of their own food.

Foraging duck
When it’s not too hot, Muscovies spend a lot of their time foraging for food.

I’ve found that in some duck books, Muscovies are said to lay only 60 eggs a year. Others say they lay up to 120. My own ducks lay on the higher end of the scale.

The difference comes from your climate. Muscovies are tropical ducks and even prone to frostbite in cold climates, and they lay less where it’s cold.

Muscovy eggs are large and white.

Muscovies are excellent mothers. They frequently go broody and set on their eggs for 35 days, which is longer than for most ducks.

If you let them hatch their eggs, they will usually take excellent care of the ducklings.

Muscovy with ducklings
Muscovies are excellent mothers and very protective of their young.
Broody Muscovy duck
A broody Muscovy duck. Many Muscovies go broody at every opportunity.

Muscovies cannot be crossed with other breeds to produce a fertile duck. Instead, the offspring will be a “mule.”

However, some people cross Muscovies with Pekins to produce a Moulard, which is used for meat.

Muscovy meat is prized. It’s dark and delicious. It’s not fatty like the meat from many other ducks, and some people compare it to veal or even sirloin steak.

Some people say Muscovies are the most sweet-tempered breed of duck.

Friendly duck
A friendly Muscovy duck named Sugar eats from a human’s hand.

Others declare they are ferocious and aggressive. Now, broody ducks are as ferocious as crocodiles, and there are occasionally drakes that attack humans, but in general, they’re very docile and friendly.

Some say they have more personality than other breeds of ducks. That’s probably just personal opinion, but although I have not yet had the privilege of raising other breeds of ducks and can’t give you any comparisons, I can tell you that Muscovies certainly have distinct personalities. Learning about my ducks’ personalities, in fact, is kind of a hobby of mine.

Muscovies were the first animals I ever raised. They are quiet, sweet, lay enough eggs for a family, have excellent meat, are good mothers, and make good pets.

I wholeheartedly recommend them.

GALLERY (click an image to enlarge)

17 thoughts on “Muscovy Duck”

  1. Question, I have several wild Muscovy that live in the neighborhood more specifically my yard and I absolutely adore them. There’s only two girls and five males. One of the females had babies a couple months ago so they are pretty big now almost the same size as mama. I just wanted to know when will they start to fly?

    1. It won’t be long! Muscovy wings are fully developed around four months of age (about sixteen weeks). However, it can vary between various strains, and males’ wings often develop slower, so it usually takes longer before they figure out how to fly. Many males in modern strains are too heavy to fly, but wild males should be able to.

      I bet watching the babies grow up was fun. 🙂 Ducklings are the most adorable things on earth.

      Also, I realize wild ducks may not be under your jurisdiction, but two females to five males is generally too much and can often result in males injuring each other through fighting or accidentally killing the females. They may be okay, at least for now, but please do keep an eye on them! If they seem to be fighting too much or injuring each other, maybe you could find a way to rehome/relocate some of the males.

  2. Hi, I have a single male Muscovy. Found him abandoned on the street of all places. He’s happily living in my front yard now. Question is, does he need a female? Lately, he’s become pretty aggressive towards mostly everyone. He doesn’t necessarily attack, to me, it seems as if he’s biting out of frustration.

    1. Muscovy drake aggression is almost always because the drake is either trying to dominate you or mate you. I don’t know if they bite out of frustration, but I can say he most likely wants a female. Please get more than one, if possible, because having one male and one female can sometimes result in the lone female being mated too much and thus injured.

      If that doesn’t stop the problems, you probably need to actually show him that you are “flock boss” and on top of the pecking order. It isn’t necessarily easy, but aggressive birds can be quite stubborn. If you’ve ever seen drakes fight, the winner will always, in the end of the fight, pin the loser down and hold him down for several minutes. Many drake owners have had success doing this. Other people have tried using a broom to push him away and fend off all his attacks, and some drakes give up when they are repeatedly treated like this every time they try to bite.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Hi! I am designing a barn-stall-turned-into-a-coop for a mixed flock of chickens and muscovies. I am having a hard time finding out much about nest boxes. Will they lay eggs in the same boxes as the chickens, or do I need different boxes/areas?

    The chickens and muscovies are not here yet, and it will be several weeks before they are coop-ready.

    Thank you for your help.

    1. Ducks have no problem sharing nest boxes. The only possible problem is that Muscovies are pickier about where they lay their eggs than most chickens and may not like a box that chickens are perfectly happy with.

      I wrote an article about ducks who hide their eggs and how to get them to lay in nest boxes here:
      http://www.raising-ducks.com/hidden-nest/

      It’ll tell you how to build nests that they will actually want to use. I intend to write more about nest boxes in the near future, but I think that article will have enough information to help you.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

    2. It is dangerous to house drakes with chickens. Drakes are horn dogs that will mate anything relatively close to the shape of a duck. If a drake mates a chicken it will kill her. Chickens are not made to take the corkscrew penis of a drake, it will literally rip her inside out.

  4. my 2 year old layed eggs in a HOLE in the ground. I moved the eggs to fill in the hole with dirt so she could rotate them. Now I don’t see her sitting on them anymore. Is there something I can do or is it to late? also last year I had 3 females and they all only layed one time. is there something I can do to get them to lay more often? I live on the coast of Ga. thanks cindy

    1. I’m sorry, but yes, it’s too late. Most ducks do not like if their nest is changed or moved and will stop being broody.

      It’s strange they only laid once. That’s usually not normal. There are a number of possible explanations, however.

      When did they lay – December, August…? Have they laid this year yet? Duck will take a break from laying once a year for approximately one to two months, while they molt. Also, many ducks don’t lay much, if at all, in winter. But if they’re not molting and it’s not winter, they should be laying, even if not every single day.

      Stress is one possible reason a duck might not lay. Is there anything stressful that frequently happens to your ducks–they get chased by dogs/kids, they get picked up and petted or held a lot, they are in a pen that is too small, they are beaten up by chickens or other animals frequently, they don’t always have water available, etc.?

      An improper diet or not receiving enough calcium could also prevent a duck from laying normally. What are you feeding them? Do you give them a calcium supplement such as oyster shell or eggshells?

      Overweight birds won’t lay. If you have food constantly available, it’s possible for them to overeat and become obese.

      Parasites and disease are another possible cause. You may want to read about the symptoms of parasites and diseases to rule this out.

      Did you buy these three ducks as adults from someone else? Even if they said the birds were young, it’s possible they’re old and are now too old to lay.

      I don’t know what the climate is like in GA, but weather extremes can also stress a duck and make them stop laying.

      Finally, maybe they ARE laying and you just don’t know it. Many times, people complain that their birds aren’t laying, only to find out, at some point, that foxes or other predators are eating all the eggs. Sometimes, even the ducks themselves start eating the eggs, a habit that is difficult to break. Or they could be laying in secret nests that you don’t know about.

      Artificial light can be used to make the ducks thing the days are longer than they really are and trick them into laying during winter, but I don’t think that will help in your case.

      Thanks for bringing this up. I’m going to put “why aren’t my ducks laying?” into my list of posts I need to write. And I hoped this helped you or gave you a clue as to why your ducks might not be laying normally.

      1. they lay one time in the spring. they already layed this year. she laid 17 but after 2 weeks she just left the nest again. I think next time I will but the eggs under my hen. I will add calcium to there diet. I do for my chickens but never thought of it for the ducks. thank you! they don’t have anything that would stress them that you listed but I will check into things much not clearer from a different perspective. Thank you so much for the response!!

  5. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I love the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, wonderful site!

  6. I live in Hawaii . I have one female one male Muscovy duck . Recently the male is attacking me . I know it’s spring . He continues to attack even after I push him down . I love him but need help . Please help what should I do ? I do not want to get more female ducks . Am I doomed ?

    1. I’m working on a complete, in-depth article on this right now. I’ll try to get it finished ASAP and give you the link. For now, though–no, you’re not doomed, and you probably don’t need to get more female ducks, although it might help.

      1. Thank you I’m going to put drake in barn for now . Considering getting rid of him but it breaks my heart . I love him so much . That seems crazy . I’m attached to him too . But I can’t get attached. When I whack him he keeps jumping on me again and again . Even when I’m protecting myself with take he attacks take and gets stuck I drop take run out shut gate . It’s awful
        .i have always talked to and petted him . This aggression is just in last week . Before he was loving came to me followed me . Let me pet him lots . 😒😂thank you so much for writing me back . I’ll wait to hear from you and leave him in barn .

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