Wednesday, May 22, 2013


We've been under an attack of sorts here at Chicken Scratch.  Something has been eating our ducks and chickens by the boatload, and right in the middle of the day.  To date, we've lost 5 pullets and 10 ducks.  Some ducks were taken at night because they refused to go into their house, but several were taken during the day, right in the woods where they were foraging.  The culprit?  Unknown.  But the chickens are on lockdown until further notice, and because the ducks are still ranging (they escape no matter how I lock them in), they're kind of on their own.  Luckily, we have had no more losses, as the remaining ducks stick to the open areas of the property, as well as the stream right off the back.

It's been rough, with so many losses.  I had hopes that possibly the ducks that we lost may not have been lost, and were in fact forming a rag-tag duck colony in the woods, where they free range and bolster their numbers.  I was hoping that because we lost all our Runners (my favorites) and our two White Cresteds.  They were all the prettiest ducks we had.  Unfortunately, I know this is not the case, and the ducks have become a meal for whatever it was, leaving us with the motley crew of "homebrews", all the ducks our ducks made, a mish-mash of genetics and colors.

What I have discovered, however, is that free-ranging the ducks is far less destructive than free-ranging the chickens.  They don't eat my flowers.  They don't eat the vegetables.  They don't scratch.  They're actually pretty well behaved for ducks who run around willy-nilly all day.  So it caused me to re-think ducks in general.  As a rule, I kept ducks for my daughter, who loves them.  I don't find them to be of much use, other than egg laying.  I find them dumb, and flighty.  But with all the losses, and the discovery that the ducks remaining are actually not all that bad, I felt like I should bolster the numbers a little bit.

So I did.  But as domestic ducks are still dumb and flighty to me, I went in a different direction, and chose the Muscovy.

If you don't know much about Muscovies, here are some facts:
  • They are often called the "quackless" duck, because they are very quiet
  • They can fly, and like to perch
  • They have claws and can climb over obstacles
  • The males can get to be 15 pounds, the females 7 or so
  • Muscovy ducks can lay 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.
  • The meat has a fine texture and is lean, like veal
  • Although the Muscovy Duck is a tropical bird, it adapts to icy and snowy conditions down to –12°C (10°F) and below without ill effects
  • They don't like to swim as much as other breeds because their oil glands are not as active. When they do wash they are incredibly thorough and most of the water is dispersed over a wide area ie, they like to splash and play
  • When a Muscovy is crossed with other breeds, it produces a sterile off spring called 'mules' which are good meat ducks
  • They are foragers and eat insects, small vermin like mice and rats and (unfortunately) frogs
Why did I choose this breed?  Flies.  We have flies.  And mosquitoes.  Lots of them.  These guys eat them like it's going out of style, and that's a huge plus in my book.  Also, I was looking forward to having an animal that can "care for itself" in a way.  You know, one with a little bit of brains to it.  And I like the idea of supplemental feeding, and allowing them to find their own food for the most part, especially if it's in the form of the bugs I don't want.  On the flip side, I was very hesitant about introducing Muscovies because A) they are kind of hard to find, and B) they are kinda ugly (ooh, I know!  Bad!).   But the biggest reason I held off for quite a while is because I don't know how their behavior will be--they're such an unknown.  I've heard they can be aggressive, as they are such "wild" ducks.  Then I've also heard they're not aggressive at all.  Whatever the truth of it is, I'll soon find out because I took the plunge, and they arrived today.

There are only 6, and they are all different colors.  And can I just say, I already like them.  They're nosy as all get-out.  They wouldn't remain in their box and instead jumped out/climbed out all over the car on the way home.  They are curious and talkative and much more precocious than a domestic duck.  I like sparky animals.  These guys seem sparky to me. 

So we'll see how this goes.  I am hoping that these guys will become another tool in the arsenal here and will provide a real benefit to us with their foraging habits and easy care.  I'm also hoping that they'll be a nice animal to have around and won't get eaten like their domesticated cousins.  No matter what, it'll be an adventure.  Stay tuned to see how this all turns out!

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  1. Sorry about your losses. You have had your share this year. I gave up on ducks for this very reason. I can't stand to see them penned up and they never make it through the summer alive. Geese on the other hand - fight back. Good luck with the Muscovies. Can't wait to watch them grow up.

  2. Aaack!
    We're having the same problem. We've lost 4 hens. 3 pullets and 1 old girl! It's like a buffet out there.
    I've had to lock them all up. I'd be interested in seeing how your ducks play out for you...I've heard that they eat flies. This is something interesting to read about. Perhaps even give it a try!

    I'll be reading too.

  3. I've had Muscovys and I like the females - the males? Meh. Not as much. They hiss. I would recommend that you handle them a lot so they grow up friendly. If they are not - they will chase you and bite at your legs!

  4. p.s. Jocelyn, you've won my giveaway!


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