I have too many pigs. And now because I have too many pigs, I have too many ducks. Let me explain and maybe you’ll learn something about Muscovy Ducks along the way.
Becoming an accidental pig farmer
Pigs breed fast. I mean REALLY fast. Their gestation time is God’s little joke of 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. And they can get pregnant basically as soon as the last piglet pops out.
Historically, that’s been fine with me. I started off with two pigs, added a few extra breeders along the way to diversify the gene pool (nobody wants an inbred jed pig) and just kept them all together. There weren’t very many and I figure the more babies they made, the more I could sell and the better the farm would do.
This worked great for years.
Then I got busy.
They bred and bred and bred and I didn’t have time to sell the piglets. Imagine if one pig can have a litter of up to 14 piglets 3 times a year… It doesn’t take long to be overrun with pigs. That’s why wild pigs are such an issue in certain parts of the country like Hawaii and Texas. Pigs are pretty rough on the environment, not to mention even domesticated pigs can be aggressive and wild pigs are super dangerous. I’ll have to tell you my theory one of these days on how pigs changed the course of civilization.
Anyhow, so halfway through last year I realized that my little herd of two pigs had become closer to 50 and if I didn’t do something by the end of the year I would have hundreds. When your animals begin to exponentially increase you know there’s a serious problem.
Ducks instead of pigs
I began to sell pigs, heck I even gave pigs away. And most recently I have traded my pigs for ducks.
I have a love hate relationship with ducks. I think they’re adorable (and they taste good), but I hate their quacking. I don’t know why my flock of geese doesn’t bother me in the least, but give me a few quacking ducks and I will go insane.
Fortunately, the ducks I traded for are Muscovy ducks which actually don’t quack. They have a cute little hissing squeaky sound and they wag their tails. I mean c’mon! They. Wag. Their. Tails. How cute is that?
What is a muscovy duck?
So muscovy ducks are obviously unique. The only duck that doesn’t quack. They’re also a tree duck so they like to perch right along with the chickens. They also have these big claws that help them to hold onto branches as well as give farmers scars if the farmer isn’t careful.
Muscovy ducks are native to Mexico and south america and some people actually argue that these ducks should be classified as geese. So maybe I don’t like ducks period and I’m just a goose person??
I have never ever in my life owned an aggressive muscovy (making them different than a lot of geese), but I’ve heard the drakes can be. Mine are sweet and let me pet them despite not being hand raised.
Purpose of a muscovy duck
They usually live for a little less than a decade and yes you absolutely can eat them. They are actually the number one raised duck because they are such good meat birds. They are hefty little guys with the mallards (boys) weighing up to 15 pounds. If you are butchering ducks, you want to keep good records about their birth date because there are specific times to butcher. This is when their pin feathers (or immature) feathers are all grown out. Pin feathers are horrendous to pluck out. Pin feathers are grown out at about 7, 12.5 or 18 weeks of age and should be the only time you butcher ducks if you value your sanity.
Do remember though that Muscovy ducks aren’t kosher unless crossbred with a Mallard to make a Mulard. No I’m not making that up.
They also are pretty decent layers if you want duck eggs laying up to 195 eggs a year during their 40 week season (they usually stop laying during the winter). This isn’t as good as Khaki Campbells, the best egg laying duck breed out there who can lay up to 300 eggs a year. Then again Khaki Campbells are skinny little things that you won’t get any meat from so it’s a trade off.
Now here’s the best thing about Muscovy ducks. They are fly eating machines. One experiment put ducks in a cow pen and the population of flies dropped by 80 to 90 percent. Flies are a huge problem in our area of the High Desert whether you have livestock or not. I spend 3/4 of the year fighting flies. I’m looking forward to using our new duck patrol for this purpose. Muscovites are also willing to eat grasshoppers, ticks and mosquitos.
If you want them as pets, the nice thing is that they are really resistant to disease so chances are you aren’t going to be dealing with any illnesses assuming that they are kept in good conditions. And like I said they’re super friendly having once been described as “friendly as a puppy”, so that’s a pretty good quality. Just be careful of those claws.