Guidelines for Raising Muscovy Ducklings
Raising fowl is a rewarding experience in many ways, and Muscovy ducklings are no exception. They can be raised for meat, eggs or simply for the pleasure of watching these feathered friends forage around the yard.
Muscovy is the only domestic breed of duck that did not originate from Mallards. Large birds that are typically white or white and black in the wild, they have evolved through domestication to now be available in a wide range of coloration. There are some interesting, unique facts about this type of duck that is different from other breeds; for one thing, they enjoy roosting. As the evening draws to a close, the ducks fly to the fence tops, building rafters or rooftops to roost for the night. They also display a rough looking red “caruncle” around the area of the eyes and beak; a feature that some find endearing, while others consider it to be unattractive.
This breed is very personable, often waddling along after their owner amiably as they go about their daily tasks. A favorite attribute of the duck is the fact that they are virtually quackless; occasionally a small noise may be heard, but as a rule, the group will be very quiet.
The hens lay eggs beginning usually around March or April, with a clutch numbering around 15 eggs. When Muscovy mates with ducks of the same species, the majority of the eggs hatch into fluffy ducklings that will grow to reproduce. However, when crossbreeding occurs, only sterile offspring is produced. Male ducklings from crossbreeding are called mules, and females are called hinnies. Those who are interested in perpetuating their flock will only allow the production of Muscovy ducklings.
Tips on raising ducklings
The Muscovy hen is a great mother. Patiently setting on the eggs for the full 35 days for incubation, she leaves the nest only infrequently to eat and drink. Once the ducklings hatch, she is diligent in teaching her clutch the skills they need to mature. She will lead them to the food to encourage feeding, as well as to a source of water. Though Muscovy are not proficient swimmers, they enjoy bathing. Dipping their heads into the water, their bodies will contort as they clean their feathers around their bodies.
Young ducklings will range in color from light yellow to yellow with black accents. The ducklings need to be kept warm and safe for the first couple of months until their fluffy down is replaced with their adult feathers. At this stage, the ducklings are all the same size, and it can be difficult to tell males from females. Some people say that the key is in their feet, believing that the feet are larger in the male ducklings than those of the females. As they mature, however, males often grow larger bodies than the females.
If you have acquired baby ducklings without the hen, you will need to set up a brooding area for the ducklings. It can be as simple as a cardboard box or an area sectioned off in an outbuilding. The area should be protected from predators. A layer of straw or hay on the floor will provide warm, dry bedding for the Muscovy ducklings. Heat must be supplied to keep the tiny bodies warm; a heat lamp is perfect for this purpose. A dish of water and food should be supplied within their area. By the time they reach 3 to 4 weeks old, they can be placed in a larger sheltered area where they can begin to forage. At the age of 4 months, the ducklings should be fully feathered and enter into adulthood.
Raising Muscovy ducklings can be a fun and interesting experience, whether it is for egg production, meat or simply for the pleasure of it.