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 usually shows up during the second year.
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.
These ducks have a wide, flat tail that they wag like a dog. Why do Muscovies 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.
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).
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 (I don’t approve of breeding Muscovies like this).
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.
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).
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.
In the wild, they sleep 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.
Females fly extraordinarily well and may have to be clipped, although in many modern strains, the males are too heavy to be airborne.
Muscovies are also excellent foragers and can find a good portion of their own food.
Muscovies lay 60-120 large white eggs a year.
Muscovies are tropical ducks and even prone to frostbite in cold climates. They are excellent mothers and frequently go broody. The incubation period for Muscovy eggs is 35 days, unlike the 28 days for most duck breeds. Muscovies are devoted and protective mothers.
Muscovies can breed with other breeds of ducks, but the offspring will be infertile “mules.” Some people cross Muscovies with Pekins to produce a meat bird called a Mulard.
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.
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. (If you have an aggressive drake, he CAN be cured. Read more here.)
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.
Most animals spend a lot of time eating. As you probably know, factory-farmed chickens are constrained in battery cages and not allowed to find their own food. Here’s an eye-opening, fascinating video called “Eat To Live” that explores what those things actually symbolize for us in the Word of God. It’s certainly food for thought! 🙂
Video from Inspire4.