Muscovy Male

The Muscovy


The Muscovy is a very unique breed of duck. In fact, it’s not even a true duck – it’s simply called a duck, but it is a completely different species of waterfowl, the cairina moschata. All true ducks originate from the Mallard. The Muscovy does not.

Muscovy colors include White, Black, Blue, Chocolate, Silver, Lavender (Self Blue), Buff, Blue Fawn, Lilac, Pastel, Barred, Rippled, White-headed, Magpie, Splashed, Wild Type, and more. The original wild Muscovy was mostly black.

Wild Muscovy from Wikipedia by SandyCole.
Wild Muscovy from Wikipedia by SandyCole.

Some people think Muscovies are ugly because of their caruncles, a red, warty “mask” around the face. They also have long, sharp toenails, so you should wear thick clothes when holding them! Muscovies are large, almost as big as a small goose. Males weigh up to 12lb (5.5kg) and females up to 7lb (3kg). These ducks have a wide, flat tail. Also, while they enjoy water, they aren’t as water repellent as other ducks, and water isn’t as necessary for them as some other breeds.

As adults, it’s extremely easy to tell apart the males and females. Males are nearly double as big as females, and their caruncles are much bigger. Their voice is extremely different as well, but unlike most other ducks, males do not develop curled “sex feathers.” Also, they have an erectile crest of feathers on their head, which they raise when they are excited or nervous. As juveniles, the males grow 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. Lastly, although you will not read this in any other duck book, and it is not a completely reliable method, I have found from my own experience that males are lazier. Often I would see our young males lying down while their sisters were busily foraging. Also, I’ve never seen a female “squat”, while males do it frequently.

Our two males are lazily lying down while their sister stands.
Those males are such lazybones; the two young males are lying down while their sister stands.

“If it looks 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 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 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.

Unlike other ducks, Muscovies perch. They don’t truly roost like chickens, but they enjoy perching on something. Some of mine sleep on their nest box. They also enjoy sitting on concrete blocks, old piles of wood, tractors, or any somewhat raised object. Even if their wings are clipped, they can jump about three feet high.

Females fly well and may have to be clipped, although males are often too heavy to be airborne. Muscovies are also excellent foragers. Interestingly, they wag their tails. Some people say they do it after a nervous experience or after some problem has been figured out, but they seem to also do it when they’re happy. They have a strange habit of meeting together at various times of the day and standing in a circle while throwing their necks forward and back repeatedly. They wag their tails excitedly, and the females utter their musical whimpers while the male hisses. It lasts for about a minute, and no one knows why they do it.

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 or more. My own ducks lay about that amount. 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 whitish.

Muscovies are excellent mothers. They frequently go broody and set on their eggs for 32-35 days, which is longer than for most ducks. If you let them hatch their eggs, they will usually take excellent care of the ducklings.

Our five little ducklings out on an adventure with Mom.
Five little day-old Muscovy ducklings enjoying the grass.

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 as fatty as meat from other ducks, and some people compare it to veal or beef. I like having deluxe meat right in my backyard, and you might be able to find a niche market for it.

Muscovy Meat
Muscovy meat.

Some people say Muscovies are the most sweet-tempered breed of duck. Others declare they are ferocious and aggressive breed. Yes, they can occasionally be aggressive, and they may sometimes attack other ducks, but they are generally docile. I can walk right past my ducks and they won’t budge. But they know exactly when I’m trying to catch them, and then they lead me on a merry chase around the yard. Often I still can’t catch them; they’re faster and more agile than they seem!

My tame ones, though, don’t mind if I simply walk right up to them and pick them right up. They are sweet and curious. They will pull my hair, dig in my pockets, and search all over me. Some enjoy being petted. I even had one female that liked having daily neck scratches.

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

Muscovy Ducks Gallery

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