October 8, 2017

Reconsidering the Muscovies

Dan and I recently revisited our "Winter Numbers" discussion with what to do about all our ducks. The original idea was to keep just two over winter, with the rest relegated to the freezer. But over lunch one day, we began discussing the Muscovies, our set up, and how much trouble work they are with our present barnyard arrangements.


Trying to decide what to do is not an easy decision, because we like the Muscovies; they are a neat bird. Very likable. Even though they supposedly don't need water, they love it so we keep a kiddy pool filled for them. That means there is the chore of emptying and refilling it. Ideally that water could be used on plants, but logistics aren't in favor of that.

Other considerations? Muscovies are flyers, so they are continually going over to root around through the neighbors' flower beds. Or I'm trying to shoo them out of the hay because they poop on it. Worse, they've been roosting on Dan's barn beams and leaving poop all over everything below. They provide eggs and meat, but the eggs are too rich for Dan. The meat is delicious, but ducks are very labor intensive to pluck. They are prolific, with M.O.M. setting on her third clutch of eggs for the year.


If we don't watch out we'll be overrun with Muscovies!

Any time an animal (or animals) creates an imbalance in time, resources, or benefits, it's time to rethink keeping them. We originally got them as a trade, and so didn't have a set-up specifically for ducks. We've discussed ideas to accommodate them, but for now, time and resources are demanded elsewhere. So, we're putting most of them into the freezer and will rehome our original pair. Kinda sad, but it's the right decision for now.

23 comments:

Fran in Aus said...

You could cut back one of their wings to stop them flying

Leigh said...

Fran, yes, that's true, if we could catch them, LOL. Seriously, once we have a proper duck area set up and have Muscovies again, we will definitely clip their wings.

Mama Pea said...

We find making the decision to let go of an animal (or bird) on the homestead (especially one that you like!) is a very hard thing to do. Good for you for making what seems like the wisest decision for now. It is not easy! (Ha! Much easier to become over-run with the species and sometimes mess and hassles they make. Okay, not easy in the long run, but if we don't keep thinking and making wise decisions it happens very quickly. Take it from the voice of experience! :o} )

Leigh said...

Mama Pea I thought about you while we were having these discussions. In some ways it was easier when the ducks still spent the night in the chicken coop. At least we could have caught them for wing clipping. But once they started roosting outdoors, it created more problems. Oh well. At least we have some valuable experience to help us the next go-round.

Patricia Forsythe said...

We had them years ago and did love them - funny, active and extremely watchable! BUT....oh my goodness, poop poop poop everywhere. We had two small children at the time and it was impossible to keep the kids from tracking poop everywhere. We reluctantly had to make the same decision.

Leigh said...

Patricia, yeah, the poop is pretty bad and it does tend to get everywhere! We've even got it on the front porch. And it's messy, not like chicken poop. The Muscovies need their own area with enough room to help keep that from being a problem.

jewlz said...

Timely post. I don't care for duck eggs, but was really considering keeping some for meat- but my hands are full as it is, I don't need more high maintenance mammals! Thanks for pointing out the problems.

majorasue said...

Sometimes the hardest decisions are the best ones. I got rid of my regular ducks (too loud & flighty for my taste), but the Muscovies are here to stay. I have a USDA butcher over the mountains that does a great job with all my birds. For me it is definitely worth the trip over & back (in fact I just did it last week with 17 ducks. Today's agenda involves turning a lot of them into canned meals for the winter - 2 finds of curry, stew, and soup).

I haven't had a huge problem with mine flying, thank goodness. Occasionally one will go over their fence, but they don't really go anywhere or get into too much trouble (not like when the chickens or goats get out!)

Ed said...

Better to have tried and failed (or realized it wasn't worth the effort) than to have never tried at all and wondered about it for the rest of your life. Next time, you will know exactly what you are getting into and need.

Paula said...

I'm glad you posted this. every year I get an offer of a breeding pair of muscovies from a friend, and while someday I'd like to do it, I didn't know that they flew, so clipping wings before letting them out in the yard would be something I'd have to remember.

Duck eggs are the best for pasta and baking cakes.

But! I'm doing bunnies before ducks!

Kev Alviti said...

I keep thinking about getting muscovies as they're supposed to eat grass like a goose, is this what you've found? If so they'd be great in my orchard as my wife won't let me keep geese. that said if fly and aren't easily confined they might not be best for me. I'd like to keep these animals away from any veg beds.
I'm always ont eh look out for another grass feed animal I could keep for meat.

M.K. said...

I really like how you sit down and discuss it logically and consider your overall plan -- I know that's what y'all are about, but still, it's refreshing. Because so many people just accumulate animals without thinking of the cost, etc. and then they regret it and don't know how to correct it.

Leigh said...

Jewlz, Muscovy meat is wonderful! More like beef than duck. Not greasy either. I think with a proper set-up they would be less work. That's what we'll aim for next time.

Sue, how wonderful to have a good butcher! Very few around here process meat and the few good ones are overwhelmed with customers. That's why we ended up doing our own. I have to say that ours don't fly far, but then our neighbors across the street are pretty close to us. More rural would be better.

Ed, that's exactly right. I couldn't pass up the offer for the trade, and don't regret that I did. But we did learn a lot that will help us out next time.

Paula, one nice thing about Muscovies is that they aren't noisy like most other ducks. They rarely quack, mostly it's more of a twittering from the girls and a breathy call from the drake. I agree that duck eggs are fantastic for baking!

Kev, they are excellent grazers and grass eaters. They like grass seeds as well. They don't actually fly far, however. They are kind of heavy for that. In a more rural setting it probably wouldn't be a problem. But like our guinea fowl, visiting the neighbors yards to help themselves isn't right, we don't think.

M.K., thanks! It's so easy to get in over your head when it comes to critters. Last year I gave away two ducks and their combined broods of about 17 ducklings. That was way over our heads!

Lady Locust said...

Sounds like it's been well thought. You know what's right for you right now. It's not forever and there might be a day when you're ready for them again. Have a fabulous evening.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Yes, I can see why you have decided against keeping them. Nancy

Barb said...

May I ask how long it takes to raise a Muscovy to harvest, and whether you've ever calculated approximately what it cost you per duck? I learn so much from your site. Thank you for sharing your lessons with us.

Leigh said...

Lady Locust, we try to think everything through rather than feel everything through. Having prioritized goals helps!

Nancy, maybe we'll have them again sometime in the future.

Barb, you're welcome! In regards to when to harvest, "they" say at about 18 weeks of age.They are basically full grown then but the meat is still young and tender. We like to wait until the weather is cool enough to deter flies during the butchering process. (Any "old" poultry is either canned or slow-cooked to tenderize) We've never tried to calculate cost per duck because of our set-up. Free ranging animals always keeps feed costs down because they are able to feed themselves. The Muscovies are good foragers, but they love chicken scratch as much as the chickens do, so they usually show up for their share. Sometimes they don't bother, which tells us that they are doing a good job of keeping themselves full. They have access to the chicken feeder inside the chicken coop and help themselves when they want, but it's not a lot. Our biggest "costs" have been in time, not only in duck wrangling, but processing - they are labor intensive to pluck. I'm not sure if that answers your question very well, but those are some factors to consider.

Rain said...

Hi Leigh, I like your posts because they are honest and show the really tough decisions a homesteader needs to make. To be overrun with any animal isn't a good thing, but I think you guys know best!

Sandy said...

Leigh,

You and Dan have made the right decision that works for you.

When I was a kid we used to have a very large fenced in pen and house for the ducks with fencing over the top so the ducks couldn't escape. Which meant cleaning the pen several times a week, and of course changing the mini pool water. More work added to the schedule. We only really used the eggs when baking because they were just to rich to eat by themselves. My Mom used to try to trick us kids and say they were chicken eggs when she made them for breakfast. We could tell the difference.

Leigh said...

Thanks Rain! I think it is so much better to share the downs as well as the ups, because ours may give others a chance to not struggle with some of the things we have. I'd like to see all homesteaders be successful!

Sandy, ha ha, you kids coudln't be fooled! Dan can't be either, so I rarely cook with the eggs. Fortunately Muscovies don't lay as many eggs as some of the other duck breeds!

Mama Pea said...

At this point, I feel we've made more mistakes with the Muscovies than not! We definitely want to keep a couple/few for breeding, but will never let them hatch out so many ducklings again! We wanted to see how fertile and what good mothers they would turn out to be and now we know.

We're in the process of catching (no easy task as you well know) and corralling them for butchering on the 22nd of this month. (We get a couple more each day.) Those talons (toenails) on the end of their webbed feet are lethal! Also clipping more wings on the ones we've decided to keep which seems a necessity.

They've yet to go over the poultry fence but fly up as high as to roost on the top of our solar panel tower!!

Renee Nefe said...

sounds like your neighbor might need a freezer duck. ;)

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, I know you can relate! Good idea about rounding the up. The are very prolific indeed. And yes, those claws on their feed are a weapon. Ask me how I know!

Renee, that is a good way to keep things neighborly! Although usually I give them eggs. Maybe it should be duck eggs!