Chickens get all the love as an urban or rural homestead pet, and as wonderful as they are, there may be better reasons to keep backyard ducks instead, specifically Muscovy ducks
Muscovie ducks aren’t descendants from mallards as other domesticated ducks are—they’re actually genetically more similar to geese. This makes them quieter than other breeds where neither the males or females quack. The males hiss and the females make a cooing sound and they communicate by wagging their tails and bobbing their heads at each other. Since they’re friendly and bond well with people, they make a neighbour-friendly pet for the backyard gardener or small farmer.
Muscovy ducks are also less reliant on feed
If you have a yard that’s filled with grasses, weeds and bugs, then the Muscovy ducks will be happy. They’re better foragers than most ducks and can supplement their entire diets from foraged foods (as long as there’s enough to go around).
They’re natural pest-controllers
If you’re growing crops or have a garden, you’ll want Muscovy ducks around. They love to eat slugs, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, flies and many other types of insects, whether that’s adult, larvae or pupae. They aren’t interested in eating the majority of your garden (aside from lettuce greens and strawberries); however, if you feed your ducks tomatoes and other vegetables as a treat, they might start going for those too. Also, be mindful around newly transplanted seedlings as the ducks' webbed feet can trample those.
They won’t dig up your lawn
Unlike chickens, who love to scratch and dig and eat everything in sight, muscovy ducks are a little slower moving and will leave your landscaping and other “manicured” areas alone. With ducks, you don’t have to say goodbye to your butterfly garden, mulch or grass the same way you would with chickens, which means they’re fine to freely roam around your yard.
You can keep males
Many cities and towns won’t allow backyard roosters along with hens because of their noisy morning crow, but that’s not the case with Muscovy ducks. You can keep male ducks, or drakes, because they’re not loud. This means that once you buy a few ducks to start, you can begin to breed your own and just incorporate new male genetics every few years.
Their eggs are filled with rich nutrients and protein
What better way to get your eggs than right from your own ducks? Many folks haven’t tried duck eggs because they’re an expensive luxury, but having your own means an abundant supply. Ducks don’t take a break from laying eggs like chickens do, unless they’re sitting on their eggs to hatch or for two to three weeks in moulting season, which means a more consistent food supply.
They’re healthier and more disease-resistant
When people think of keeping birds, or specifically chickens, they think of the potential risk of illness. Chickens are fairly hardy, but illness can spread easier than with ducks. Ducks very seldom get sick and aren’t exposed to topical parasites as much. Overall, they’re a little less maintenance than most foul.Photo by Daniel Holland on Unsplash
Want backyard ducks? Here’s how to get started
Integrate them into the coop: If you already have chickens, don’t worry! These birds co-exist very well as long as they’re introduced slowly. Keep them separate for the first few days to sleep and only allow them to mingle under supervision at first.
Get them in the springtime: If you’re getting baby ducks, the best time to get them is in the springtime because they will only require a heat lamp for a short period of time before it warms up. You can find a local and trusted hatchery near you, or contact a fellow gardener or farm friend to see if they’re hatching any extras. Alternatively, if you don’t want the responsibility of babies right away, find out if anyone wants to donate their older birds to you.
Make sure they have a source of fresh water: Muscovy ducks don’t bathe nearly as much as other duck breeds, but they still love their water time and need fresh and clean water every day to clean their nostrils and beaks as they drink.
Supplement with feed in winter: Muscovy ducks are generally pretty easy to feed and do well with corn and chicken feed. Make sure to give them organic feed that is unmedicated, which can make muscovy ducks sick.
Give them a place to sleep and roost: Make sure they have a nice and cozy home to tuck themselves into at night, and be sure to include ramps as they don't step and jump as well as chickens do. Give them a place where they can lay their eggs and be sure there is enough room to lay in case they decide to roost on their eggs.
Muscovy ducks are a wonderful addition to your urban or rural homestead. They’re fantastic with kids, aren’t fussy with food, are hardy during the winter and the summer months, and will help you on your journey to becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient.