Muscovies are often overlooked due to the male's warty red caruncles that look like blisters around the bill and eyes. What many people feel is an ugly face keeps them from being able to benefit from having a small flock around. They are friendly, quiet, clever, and hardy, with a different personality than their mallard-derived cousins as well as different interests.
All domestic ducks derive from the Mallard family, from the giant Pekin to the tiny bantam Calls. The muscovy, on the other hand, is a South American tree duck. This is why offspring between a Muscovy and another breed of duck results in sterile offspring usually called moulards.
Out of all the duck breeds we have tried so far, we have been the most impressed with Muscovies. It is quiet and tame, not quite as messy as Mallard-derived breeds, and both sound and look exotic, having the ability to raise its head feathers when startled.
Personality-wise, we have found Muscovies to be the most relaxed out of all the ducks. They will come up to people they know and bob their head, wagging their tail like a dog while chattering in a quiet, raspy voice. Even as ducklings they are less skittish and make trilling noises while watching you.
I have heard a lot of stories about aggressive Muscovies, especially drakes, but have never personally come across one. Even under the worst conditions the Muscovies we have had have been fantastic.
In addition to personality, they are excellent foragers and have been proven to be 30 times more effective at fly removal than commercial products. We have watched young Muscovies spend hours darting around the yard, catching flies out of the air to gobble down. They clean up any spilled feed that flies like to grow in and wolf down any insects their sharp eyes happen to see.
While geese grow on grass, muscovies will easily grow on flies, making them an extremely efficient lean, tender meat that tastes a lot like veal, with a fine texture that isn't greasy. It's a great way to add variety to your diet if you're tired of eating things that taste like chicken.
They are seasonal layers and seek out a nesting spot in early summer, laying until early fall. A single pair can set up to three times a year and can hatch up to 20 eggs at a time. You can easily expect a pair to provide you with anywhere from 30-50 ducklings in a single season and they will lay around 75 eggs per year if you decide to incubate them for yourself.
Drakes grow twice as large as hens, and at 12 weeks of age can weigh around 10lbs if kept on a high quality feed. Young hens will average around 6lbs in the same amount of time, dressing out to be the size of a rabbit. Full grown, drakes from some strains can reach 15lbs and 10-12lbs for hens.
Like other waterfowl, Muscovy eggs are great for baking. They make your cakes, pies, muffins, and more light and fluffy. We've even bought the cheap little offbrand cake mixes at the store and made an incredible dessert befitting a five-star restaurant.
As they grow, Muscovy drakes become too heavy to fly, while the hens take off a few times a day to fly a circle around the house or across the field. Well cared for Muscovies don't fly away - they fly around. If you are trying to keep yours in a pen without a roof expect one or two of the girls to get out on occasion. Those who do tend to stay close to the pen while trying to find a way back inside. Like other ducks they can be allowed to free range during the day and will go back up at night, usually to perch on roosts meant for chickens.