The Muscovy Duck, (Cairina moschata), is a large duck, native to Mexico, Central and South America. Although a tropical bird, it adapts to cold conditions down to –12°C and below, without ill effects. They are the only domestic ducks not derived from mallard stock. In the wild their colouration is black and white, but domestication has produced many different colours. Muscovies are unique because of the bright red crest around their eyes and above the beak.
Their feet are equipped with strong sharp claws for grabbing tree branches and roosting – they prefer to roost in trees. They do not swim as much as others as their oil glands are under-developed compared to most ducks. When they wash, they are incredibly thorough and most of the water is dispersed over a wide area.
The only real illnesses they get as a breed other than those suffered by all breeds, is a tendency to anaemia if not allowed sufficient foraging or supplementary feeding with scraps. This is very obvious as they lose colour around the eye and become listless. This is easily rectified by supplements of meat or tinned pet food.
They’re self-dependent, better foragers than other ducks, they grow fast and they seldom get sick. Wild Muscovies feed on the roots, stems, leaves, and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants, including agricultural crops. They also eat small fish, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, millipedes, and termites, they are food “hoovers” and quite happily eat small vermin including mice, rats and even snakes.
Although relatively silent, the male produces a low hissing sound, and the female has a short, weak “quack.” but “chirps” and talks to the eggs as they hatch making the babies very independent as they recognize their mothers’ alarm call.
Muscovies lay up to 4 clutches of eggs per year, and are superb mothers and brooders. They will protect the young from predators even if it means their own life in order for the young to escape. Keep as a pair or 1 male to 3 females.
When a Muscovy is crossed with other breeds, it produces a sterile offspring called a mule which is a good meat duck.
Birds reach full size in 120 days, but can be slaughtered after 90 days. The meat yield is higher than any other duck, with 50% more breast meat, which is 98% lean, and the skin has 50% less fat than other ducks.
Eggs: weigh 75g and are cream, ranging from 8 to 21 eggs per clutch, up to 195 eggs a year over a 40-week season. They’ll nest three or four times during the season, hatching up to 20 ducklings a time.
Incubation: 35/36 days maturity, not the 28 for most ducks
Uses: fine down, meat (fine texture, very little fat, and a unique and delicious flavour), foie gras and eggs.
Size: Drakes – 4.5 to 6.5 kg, Ducks – 2.2 to 4.5 kg. Average drake dressed weight – 3kg