February 4, 2017

Learning How To Pluck a Duck

About a year and a half ago, I traded one American Guinea Hog piglet for six Muscovy ducks.

My six original Muscovies

I read that Muscovies are quite prolific and this turned out to be true - we ended up with 28 ducklings this past summer. That plus the six adults was a total of 34 ducks, way too many! Craigslist was flooded with pages and pages of Muscovies for sale, so I decided the prudent thing was to simply give a bunch of them away. Thoughts of overcrowding and higher feed bills made this idea worth it. I found a new home for my team moms and their 17 ducklings. Even so once the ducklings grew up and we still had too many ducks. I told Dan I thought the one drake and one duck would be plenty. We decided to harvest the rest for meat.

For our first go-round we pretty much treated them like chickens. I'd read that the down was a bit of a job to pluck, but I kinda figured it would be like pin feathers on a chicken - WRONG! After several hours of trying to get my first duck plucked clean, I suggested to Dan that we simply do the best we could and then discard the skin after roasting. This turned out to work pretty well, although said duck is very far from aesthetic both going into or coming out of the oven.

For our most recent batch, I found a video on how to use paraffin wax to pluck ducks. This looked a whole lot easier, so I bought a couple of large blocks of paraffin to give this technique a try.

Video presenter recommended about a pound of wax for each large duck.

The wax is melted in a large pot of water. The wax floats on top.

The duck is rough plucked leaving the down on the bird.

First it's dunked in the hot wax, and then dunked into a second bucket of
cold water. The cold solidifies the wax, which is then broken or cracked. 

The wax is peeled away, down and all. Definitely easier than hand pulling.

It was a learning experience, so I can't say that they all turned out as neat and pretty as in the photo above. Still, they looked better than our first batch.

Another option would be a mechanical chicken plucker. We don't have one, but Mama and Papa Pea recently processed some of their ducks with one. You can read all about that on Mama Pea's post here.

Dan also watched a video about simply removing the breast meat and that's it. Breast is the main thing most people eat from duck, although there is good leg meat as well. Not much on the backs. Ordinarily I would want the bones and fat, but he really wanted to try this so I said, "why not?" He got the breasts, legs, and neck for soup.

Muscovy breast meat is dark and red meat flavored.

When we first got our Muscovies folks told me the meat tasted like good beef. Well, I didn't believe that anymore than I believe that so many things taste like chicken. But do you know what? It's true. Muscovy meat is very unduck like and truly more like beef.

So our freezer is full of duck and we now have only three in the yard. That should be more than enough.

Learning How To Pluck a Duck © February 2017

31 comments:

  1. Well pluck a duck, thats just the coolest way of getting it clean. Poor ducks. When im really hungry i say "i'm so hungry i could eat the crutch out of a low flying duck". Wonder what that would taste like huh!

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    1. I've never heard that saying, Lynda, LOL. I remember having duck at a restaurant eons ago, so long that I don't remember much about it. The Muscovy is wonderful in more ways than one. :)

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  2. That is so cool! Who knew? If we ever process our own poultry again I will certainly try that process. I agree whole heartily on the good beef comment. I generally find duck too fatty but those Muscovies are delicious and flavorful!

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    1. The Muscovy meat is really good, I agree. A treat for us since we don't raise beef. :)

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  3. We plan on eventually raising meat gens, Jason has already been looking into the mechanical pluckers

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    1. We have plans for making a Whizbang plucker, although Dan has never done it. Someone told him the mechanical pluckers can beat up the skin pretty badly, so he decided not to go that way. I have no experience, so I have no idea how true that is. Mama and Papa Pea seem to have good results with theirs.

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  4. Wow, that duck dunked in the wax came out very clean! Was the wax receptacle (pail, bucket, small barrel, etc.) hard to clean out?

    We were fortunate to obtain our plucker at a very nominal price, and are soooo glad to have it. We have the mess of the feathers, but putting a tarp underneath the plucker takes care of 98% of them.

    Yep, we've been happy with our Muscovy duck meat (and the geese, too) just as you are. I think the greatest difference from beef is the texture which we find more dense. But yummy!

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    1. That's a good way to describe it, Mama Pea. Dan's not convinced about the plucker, so I reckon we'll continue chickens by hand and ducks this way for the time being.

      The wax wasn't too bad to clean out of the pot. I scraped most of it away with a knife and used a scrubber to get the rest. Definitely not a deterrent to doing again.

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  5. That wax idea looks like it does the trick nicely. Glad that you found it. I haven't had duck in forever...I don't even remember it. Glad you have a freezer full. :D

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  6. You have to develop a lot of different skills if you're a homesteads, and you have certainly done that. I don't think I've ever eaten duck, and having no pond I probably won't have any up here on the mountain.

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    1. Fortunately Muscovies don't need a lot of water! A small wading pool does them just fine. I also like them because they aren't a loud and noisy duck. They usually twitter. If they do quack, it's a pretty severe situation!

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  7. when we did our ducks they were dunked in hot water to make the plucking easier, might try the wax method next time thank you

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    1. We did hot water with our first batch too, but the zillions of pin feathers were a real pain. When I researched plucking ducks, it seems it isn't common to use hot water, except that this is mostly from hunters. Not sure if those who raise ducks for meat do the same.

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  8. Really well done for sticking with the learning process, and ensuring you weren't overstocked. Some may think it cruel to raise an animal to eat it, but nature does it all the time. It does so with a respectful balance to the ecology, as well.

    Once again, thanks for sharing your experience.

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    1. Well put, Chris. We humans have a different values for life and death than nature does, so it's hard to understand. We are so separated from nature that we have lost sight of its realities.

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  9. Thanks so much for those tips. We have too many ducks as well and when the weather warms a bit we may be processing some. We do have an electric feather-beater-offer machine but I have no idea how it will work with the ducks. We shall see.

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    1. It seems that the mechanical plucker works very well! Dan isn't convinced though, so I'll probably never know that first hand. :)

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  10. Timing is everything with duck-plucking! If you catch them at the right time, the pin feathers are hugely minimized. Love the visual of the wax plucking; I will have to get some for next time. Unfortunately, the harsh weather we have had the last 5-6 weeks has decimated my duck flock. I'm down to 2 females (I started with a breeding flock of 1 drake & 7 ducks, plus about a dozen that were freezer bound. Hoping to get a few more this afternoon).

    I only really need to pluck the breasts, since I love pan searing them. The rest of the duck can be skinned as far as I'm concerned. I slow roast the legs & thighs in whatever recipe I'm doing & can the results for future use (I did duck carnitas last spring, and I have a batch in the freezer that will become duck chile verde soon). I love duck stock for a variety of things, and mixed stock (duck, beef, pork, whatever combo you want) can be spectacular.

    I have a friend that made a Whizbang plucker. It worked like a charm on the chickens & turkeys. Not so much on the ducks. Since she doesn't eat chicken she sold it to someone who does.

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    1. Susan, I didn't know that about pin feathers. Can you give me an idea of when the best timing should be?

      Interesting about the Whizbang plucker. Hopefully those who have been commenting on pluckers will see your comment.

      Dan has decided that the skinning is probably the easiest and best route to go.

      I'm sorry to hear you lost so many ducks. That's always disheartening. At least you still have the two females. Of our two, we recently lost one. Found her dead in our small wheat field with only her throat bitten open. Not too sure what caught her, carried her off, and did only that.

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    2. P.S. Susan, do you have a blog? I keep wanting to make a return blog visit, but your blogger profile gives no clue.

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  11. When I read the title, I immediately thought of the wax method. I watched a video, too. Hmmm. I wonder if I could grind up the meat and put it in my chili so they wouldn't know...My "I don't eat venison" son spent all of last year eating venison chili without knowing it. I saved a ground beef wrapper (washed and dried) and put it out on the counter every time. I had 20 pounds of sausage. Where did he think it went?

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    1. Ha, ha. Maybe it's the old "don't ask don't tell." :) I used to do that to my own mother, who declared she was allergic to liver. I'd put it in things like stuffings, gravies, and soups, all of which she declared delicious (and never exhibited symptom one of an allergy).

      I'd definitely start out with it as an ingredient if I wasn't sure. Seasoning and other flavors count for a lot. I don't know about the other breeds, but Muscovy is so beef-like that I'm guessing most folks would never guess.

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  12. I know a couple people who have made their own mechanical pluckers and they work quite well for chickens. I'm guessing Dan should be able to make one if he can find the odd parts. Saying that however, for such a low quantity, it might never pay for itself.

    I've only eaten duck at the odd chinese restaurant now and then and I don't know what kind of duck I'm eating. It is delicious. I hear though that the duck fat is the best thing about ducks. Great for cooking high end meals according to chefs.

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    1. I have to agree that duck fat is wonderful. Muscovy meat is not especially fatty, but there is a wonderful layer of fat right under the skin that melts out when it's roasted.

      You're probably right about the mechanical plucker. We just don't do enough birds in a year to justify the time to make it, even if we could find the parts.

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  13. Leigh,

    I would assume the same process would be good for chickens. Interesting, I've leaned yet another processing step to make life a little easier when processing birds.

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    1. Sandy, I'm going to say that you could wax a chicken, but I don't think the extra step would be necessary. We've done more chickens than ducks and find that the hot water dunk does really well for us being able to get all the feathers out. The pin feathers are usually burned off.

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  14. I grew up on the farm but guess I am not really a farm girl as I wouldn't want to do this! So much for me being self sufficient! LOL Nancy

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    1. Keeping animals comes with hard decisions!

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  15. Wonderful information but the killing and butchering would be difficult for me as I wasn't raised with it. But the way our food supply is going and our country, I will never say never! What a great alternative to beef and some other animals.

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    1. I know what you mean and am fortunate that Dan steps up to the plate for the killing part. We work on the processing together. If I had to do it myself I reckon I could, but it's nice not to have to. :) Once the life has left, it becomes more of a procedure.

      Knowing that our animals had good lives and were killed humanely is part of why we do it. And letting them become overcrowded isn't humane either. Then some of them are too aggressive or are trouble makers, so there is no positive emotional attachment whatsoever. Often times it's a relief to have peace restored to the barnyard.

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