The Muscovy: Not Just Another Pretty Face
There are a
number of things about the Muscovy that make it unique among the ducks in the
APA Standard. Its appearance, especially the fleshy caruncles around its eyes
make it stand out when compared to the other ducks in the Standard. The significant difference in size between
males and females is unusual. The fact is that it is the only duck in the APA Standard
which is not descended from the Mallard. It is actually in the Shelduck family and
its closest relative in the Standard is the Egyptian Goose. Even its name is
unusual. At the time that many of the breeds of waterfowl were being
standardized, it was considered important to maximize their commercial potential
by making them seem more exotic than they actually were. Thus the Muscovy‘s
name suggests Russian heritage even though it actually came from Central and
South America where it can still be found in the wild today.
As far as I
am concerned, the Muscovy is the ideal meat duck. It can earn much of its own
living when given a chance to forage. In size, it can dress out larger than all
of the ducks and only the large geese rival it in that regard. While it is true
that the Muscovy matures at a relatively slow rate, its ability to gather so
much of its own living and its excellence as a parent make it an ideal farm
duck. I know of at least one top breeder of Muscovys who almost never hatches
them in his incubator. He says that he gets the best hatches when he allows the
females to incubate their own eggs. In many markets, there is a premium paid
for Muscovy meat so culls are still valuable.
Standard needs an update when it comes to Muscovy weights. Males of several
years of age in particular of good exhibition strains will far exceed the 12
lb. weight that the Standard presently calls for. Personally, I would much
rather see the weights changed from static weights to a range of weight as is
done in the U.K Standard. Anyone familiar with waterfowl in general realizes
that a given bird (at least in the large breeds of ducks or geese) can gain or
lose as much as 20% of its weight depending on the time of year.
Muscovy can be found in a range of Standard and non- Standard colors as well as
the original White and Black varieties. One can find Muscovys in Blue,
Chocolate, and Lilac colors among others. In most cases, the colors are pure
and the overall quality of the birds is good.
caruncling on the faces of both sexes is not only a unique characteristic but
today, it can be a source of some concern. The caruncling seems to grow in the
male in particular for at least the first several years of its life and the
caruncling over the eyes can develop to the point where is covers the eyes. No
Standard feature should ever be allowed to be overdone to the point where the
bird’s ability to see, walk, or mate is impaired. The same should be true of birds which are so large in size that they cannot function normally. It would follow then that
birds with over- developed caruncling or so large in size that mating cannot be
accomplished are more fit for the table than the breeding pen. No breed of fowl
should have to depend on artificial breeding due to our follies as breeders.
can be somewhat of a challenge to fit for shows due to the fact that their
plumage (especially the White and other light colors) is vulnerable to staining
if the birds are not kept in clean conditions. Their plumage is not as water
repellent as that of other breeds of waterfowl so once stained, it can be
almost impossible to get clean. It is wise, therefore, not to overcrowd
Muscovys and to eliminate mud and muddy puddles in their yards. Muscovys tend to be prone to picking up E.
Coli infections from muddy puddles so when I raised them, I put down a layer of
sand in their pens. E Coli problems then ceased.
From my observations, there are several lines of
exhibition Muscovys that have been brought to a high level of excellence. Now
it is up to those breeders and those who judge them to see that excesses are
not permitted to become prevelant. Originally published: 12-23-2015
Last updated: 12-25-2015