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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Muscovy Ducks Legal Again

Fish and Wildlife had an idea one fine day. Make ownership of Muscovy ducks illegal. Starting tomorrow, they are once again legal to own. What on earth happened?

Yep, they're one ugly duck!
 Muscovy ducks compete effectively for resources, and tend to overwhelm other species. If they mate with any other breeds of ducks, the offspring are sterile, like mules. While they are not native to the US, they have migrated up from central America and South America, which technically puts them under the control of the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Not so good for the ducks, or the farmers who raise them.

You'll see them in parks, by the water, but swimming is not necessary to their well being. Basically F&W targeted them for extermination, allowing people to shoot them on sight. Farmers who raised them needed to get rid of them.Thankfully no more problems with keeping them starting Thursday.

Why keep Muscovies? Economically they're a good meat producer, and less fatty than regular ducks. A drake Muscovy can weigh in at 14# or more. Once they reach maximum weight, they usually can't fly away. We trim wings anyway. Females weigh amazingly less, about seven pounds, but can set three clutches of eggs a year.
Babies are cute, though.

Females, however, can and do fly. In the wild, they nest in trees. They need to be confined for their own safety and that of their ducklings.

Muscovies don't require a pool, though they love them. The ducklings can actually drown if in water too long (no oils in their feathers). Your duck pen will be far less messy and aromatic without a pool. Just a deep bucket to let them clear their nostrils regularly is needed.

They are efficient foragers. One of our females saw us discover a nest of pinkie mice in an open shed. She sped up to the nest and gobbled down the entire litter, and looked for more. Bugs disappear, and small snakes, mice, and reptiles, too.

 They're interesting ( males hiss; females coo) and thrifty to keep. Muscovies are a dream to process, because they lack the heavy oils in other duck feathers. Plucking is so much faster and easier.

Lastly, they have the most personality of any duck breed. When I left early from work one of our girls would open a bleary eye at me, glare with raised crest, then subside back to sleep. I felt obligated to aplogise for my intrusion on the way to the car.

I understand the responsibility involved in keeping Muscovies from escaping. We've kept ours confined to protect them from predators, actually. 

I deplore those folks who get them as cute Easter babies, and let them go at the park when they discover Darling Duckling becomes large and sometimes agressive. Call a local farmer instead.

I was happy to participate in the online petition program to reinstate Muscovies as a legally kept bird. F&W was surprised how many folks keep them as meat birds. Have a place you can keep ducks? Get some Muscovies and celebrate the modification (repeal) of a regulation passed by folks with only part of their information lined up. Thanks to  F&W for listening to farmers and folks and recinding the section of the regulation that had kept an excellent meat producer off our tables.

Ugly to look at, personality plus, and tasty on the table; Muscovy ducks are another source of meat in troubled times.


  1. That brings back memories. 40-years ago one small farm where I worked raised and sold Muscovy Ducks (along with geese, chickens, sheep, goats,...)

  2. I didn't realize they weren't much water birds.....we were kinda thinking chickens to keep the tick and pest population down, but now I wonder about Muscovy's......hmmmmm shall have to do more research!!