I never wanted ducks. But, several years ago I was swayed to consider Muscovies when told of their positive attributes: they are good layers, good meat birds, good mothers, don’t need water the way other ducks do and don’t quack. That last one really sold me because one of my objections to ducks was how noisy they can be.
I’ve had them now for 2-3 years and they’ve lived up to their reputation. While they only lay during the season which runs from about Feb through Oct, when they are laying, they are compulsively regular. Chickens lay on a cycle: several days in a row, then take a day or two off. Not so ducks. They lay first thing in the morning every morning like clockwork. By about 9am, I’ve collected all the duck eggs I’m going to get for the day.
For meat, they are phenomenal (if you like duck meat). They grow to eating size in only about 14 weeks and the males are huge – almost twice the size of the females. I butchered a drake a week ago and got so much meat I had to use a large container just to keep it all in the fridge. I’ve never had a chicken that rendered nearly as much meat.
They are excellent mothers. Four weeks ago I had a duck start to hatch in the coop and at the end of that day I decided to move her to a broody pen. She was under a quarter barrel in the coop so I couldn’t see her or the ducklings, but raised it enough to grab 2 ducklings, carried them to the temp coop and went back for more. I kept making trips back to the coop and they just kept coming. In the end I found she had hatched 13 ducklings! Four weeks later all 13 are still alive and well. Not only that, but I had two duck eggs in the incubator and they hatched 10 days later. Not wanting to set up a brooder for them, I asked the mother duck to add them to her brood. She was reluctant at first, but ultimately adopted them and when one got stuck a few days later, she anxiously waited for me to free it and return it to her, clearly as nervous for its welfare as if it had been one of her originals.
They have loads of personality. The people door of the chicken coop is on two gold hinges that reflect light. I had it held open one day and the chickens just walked in and out of the coop through the open door. Then along came a duck and on passing over the threshold, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the hinge. She peered at it, tilting her head one way and another, then walked around to the back of the door to find the other duck! This lasted several minutes and required several trips to the back to assure that there was no duck hiding there. She eventually moved on but before long, along came another duck. And another. Each one had to examine its reflection and look for the duck behind the door.
The ducklings are growing fast. Since hatch, they have tended to pile up together when resting – safety in numbers. BOF saw this one day and deemed it to be a “pile of cute”. Its hard to believe there are 15 ducklings in this picture, isn’t it?