Yesterday Ken and I drove a couple hours to pick up some Muscovy ducks that were being given away by a man who could no longer keep them. We had been planning to get some ducklings this year, either locally or shipped from a hatchery, but when I posted on a farm bird list my wish to find Muscovies, a couple people emailed me with a contact regarding some birds being given away. The contact was a lady who agreed to house all the ducks (and Toulouse geese) that the man needed to get rid of, and yesterday was moving day. There were a couple other people that came along to pick up both ducks and geese and we all motored over from her house to the man's place to round them up.
He had all the ducks caught and inside a large wire dog crate, so we picked out the ones we wanted, and the other people did the same, and then the rest went into crates in the woman's pickup. The geese were still loose, so they decided to come back and round them up later.
We took 7, after only figuring on taking 4 at the most. But there were so many, and not enough people to give them homes, and so we took a few more.
As we drove back, we were following the pickup. When the ducks stood up in their crate, you could just see their heads over the tailgate. It was quite amusing watching heads pop up every so often and swivel back and forth as they tried to figure out what this new circumstance in their life meant. Or maybe they were just complaining about the frost heaves! I started singing a silly little song about "all the little ducky-ducks, riding in their trucky-trucks". I was tired. That's my only excuse.
So, why Muscovy ducks? And what ARE Muscovy ducks, you may be wondering?
They are originally a South American species of duck, not related to the Mallard. Just about every other type of domesticated duck was derived from the wild Mallard. They are fairly large, with males weighing up to 15 lbs and females up to around 8 lbs. They love bugs, and do not need a pond to swim in, although they have webbed feet and can swim. They actually will roost like a chicken and have claws on the ends of their toes to help them grip. They are very very quiet as well. The males make a soft hissing sound, and the females a sort of soft trilling coo. And did I mention they love bugs? Slugs and spiders too. They are a great aid on the farm where there may be an overabundance of flies, mosquitoes, or other insect pests. They are very hardy and are excellent foragers. They also are wonderful mothers, and can raise a few clutches a year. Their meat is lean and it is said to resemble veal, but with less fat and calories than turkey, and is served in high end restaurants.
So, those are all reasons why they are popular on small farms and why we wanted to acquire them.
They are beautiful birds. The natural wild coloration is black, but in domesticating them, several colors were developed. They also come in white, chocolate, blue, silver, lilac, and probably a few other colors and patterns. They can also have various white markings with any of these colors. The ones we picked out appear to be variations of blue or chocolate. They have red fleshy growths called "caruncles" around their eyes and over the top of the beak, and the males develop these more than the females, rather like chickens and their combs and wattles.
So, on to the photos! These were taken while they were in a crate on our front porch where they spent their first night here. They are now outside in the poultry pen, in their own shelter.