Muscovy Duck: Eggs, Facts, Care Guide and More…

Muscovy Duck Eggs, Facts, Care Guide and More Blog Cover

The Muscovy duck is an unmistakable sight with its bright red caruncles.

This unusual looking duck has been kept for hundreds of years and is a staple, for many indigenous peoples of South America adding eggs and meat to their diet.

Although originally a tropical bird it has adapted well to a variety of climates and can thrive in temperatures down to 10°F.

It has become a common sight across much of the US and also as far wide as New Zealand, Australia, UK and Europe where small feral colonies exist.

In this article we will explain how to keep Muscovy ducks, egg laying, fun facts and more…

Muscovy Duck Overview and History

The wild Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata sylvestris) is actually a native of Mexico, Central America and Southern America. It is also called a Greater Wood Duck or Forest Duck.

Prior to the arrival of Columbus a domesticated variety of Muscovy was bred and farmed by the indigenous people of the area.

When the Spanish discovered the duck they named the wild Muscovy pato real and the domestic Muscovy pato criollo.

The Muscovy duck was mentioned in the writings of Ulisse Aldrovandi but was not scientifically described and cataloged until 1758 by Carl Linnaeus.

Although the Muscovy is called a duck, it isn’t really a duck. They are close to ducks but not really family members. The Muscovy is the only duck that is not bred from Mallard stock. If you were to breed a Muscovy with a Pekin for instance, the offspring would be a sterile Mulard. In fact some people do and use the Mulard as meat birds.

It is probably as near to the goose family as it is to ducks, it certainly grazes like a goose.

Muscovy Duck Appearance

Muscovy Duck

The Muscovy is a large duck and can have a wingspan of up to 64 inches. It is also a heavy breed and can weigh up to 15lbs; although the girls are slightly lighter at 6-7lbs.

As the males are so heavy they can struggle to fly, but the females are able flyers and you will need to clip their wings to prevent them escaping.

It has a broad, long body (males around 30 inches) and a wide, flat tail. Colors are usually black and white but there can be many variations: blue, black, chocolate, pied (white with any color), green, white, lavender, bronze, barred and rippled.

The black feathers of the male are iridescent in sunlight but the female coloration is more muted and drab in order to provide camouflage when nest sitting.

The head is very unique. The facial ‘mask’ will be a dark red/blackish color – the caruncles will grow slowly and the boys will develop them before the girls.

The caruncles are larger and more colorful on the male. The mature male will have a large dark red/blackish knob at the base of his bill.

On the top of the head there is a crest of erectile feathers which the bird will raise if excited or nervous – the crest is larger in the males. The crest will be raised by the males in courtship to attract a mate.

Eyes are a yellow/brown color. The eyes have a nictitating membrane that allows them to see underwater. The bill is flat and can be yellow, pink, black or any combination. It can also have pink ‘spots’ on it.

The webbed feet are unusual in that they have long claws.

These claws allow them to perch up in trees – hence the name “greater wood duck”. The feet and legs are black in color.

What Makes the Ideal Muscovy Duck Habitat and Diet?

Muscovies love a habitat of dense vegetation, large old trees and water of course! Wetlands, riparian areas or even the local golf course pond will attract them as long as there is some dense vegetation to hide in.

Although they do swim, they don’t swim as much as other ducks because their oil producing glands are small and underdeveloped.

They are omnivorous foragers, eating a variety of plant material, leaves, roots and shoots along with small fish, crustaceans, small reptiles and millipedes. They will eat mosquitoes and flies avidly and have been used as ‘pest control’ by some people.

In fact, a Canadian study of fly control methods found that Muscovy’s ate about 30 times the amount of the various fly traps, papers and other methods tested!

Feed wise, if you are raising them from ducklings, they should be given 28% gamebird starter which should be freely available. As they transition to adults they can be cut back to 20% layer pellets.

They also enjoy mealworms and cracked corn as treats along with fresh greens and scratch among other things. You can learn more here.

Muscovy Duck Eggs, Nests and Mating

Muscovy Duck BroodingThe Muscovy lays 60-120 large white eggs per year (a low number for ducks).

Males reach sexual maturity in 29 weeks and the female matures in 28 weeks. The mating season of the Muscovy can last from August to May. This can vary by climate and the females can have three to four broods per year as long as she has sufficient protein in her diet.

There really isn’t any courtship ritual except for lots of tail wagging and erecting the head crest. Males have been known to fight each other for mating opportunities with the females.

They are polygamous although a male may help with guarding the nest and ducklings.

The female will set her nest in a large cavity in a tree or in a suitably secure ready-made nest box off the ground or an elevated duck house; they do not like ground sitting duck houses.

Some folks keep them in with their chickens since Muscovies are not as mucky as a regular duck and the arrangement seems to work well enough.

Her clutch of eggs can be up to 16 or so eggs. She will then carefully incubate her eggs for 35 days until they hatch. Often a few females will brood together.

The ducklings will stay close by Mama for 10-12 weeks to keep warm and safe. During this time they will be learning all the skills needed to survive. At 12 weeks the ducklings will be a good sized bird although not yet adults.

Why Do People Keep Muscovies?

The Muscovy has been raised for eggs and meat for a few hundred years now.

It has the highest meat yield of any duck. The meat is 98% fat free, is much less greasy than other ducks and there is approximately 50% more breast meat than a standard duck. It also has less calories and fat than a turkey pound for pound.

The meat is said to have a strong flavor but this will vary on the diet of your duck as will the nutritional content. The taste of the meat has been likened to roast beef, veal or ham.

The eggs are white and large and loved by pastry chefs the world over. Duck eggs contain more albumin than chicken eggs and that makes for fluffier pastries.

Interesting Facts

Muscovy Duck at RiverThe Muscovy is a very quiet duck; they do not quack like other ducks. They are usually fairly quiet unless attacked or excited. The females have a soft trilling vocalization while the males have a low hushed call.

If upset, happy or excited they wag their tails a great deal and the males can also puff and hiss.

They are fairly long lived with an average lifespan of 8-12 years, but in captivity Muscovies can live for up to 20 years.

Health wise they are very hardy. Birds with large or excessive caruncles may be prone to frostbite in colder areas, so be aware and keep an eye open for any problems.

Is the Muscovy Duck Suitable For You?

If you want a duck that lays lots of eggs, grows rapidly and is thrifty, the Muscovy is not for you. Instead the Muscovy is a quiet duck that is friendly and personable.

It is also a slow grower and takes time to fill out to its’ full potential.

Along with slow growth comes the cost of feed, although they can usually find a lot of their own food from the wild.

The Muscovy is a friendly duck with a distinct personality. They don’t like to be picked up and petted, but they still enjoy some human company (they are also said to be good with children).

They are non-aggressive with the exception of the mating and rearing season when they can become protective and territorial of mates and offspring.

Whilst not really suitable for small backyards, a ¼ acre or more is preferable.

Summary

Muscovies are quiet, peaceful ducks with personality. They ‘talk’ with their tail, wagging it furiously when animated or happy much like a dog does.

They tolerate winter weather quite well as long as there is suitable shelter and rarely will they migrate unless the weather is severe.

They are a personable bird that loves to hunt flies and mosquitoes among other things. I may just get some for that skill alone!

Do you keep Muscovy ducks? Please tell us all about them in the comments section below…

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Comments

  1. lucy Hearn says

    We had a Muscovy duck years ago, some one dumped a cute little Easter duck that grew into a Muscovy. As a little guy he was super friendly, but when he got mature he turned mean. He would chase the kids, the sheep and the goose!

    • harriet gail says

      this brings me so much joy! haha the idea of a muscovy chasing a goose is amazing. It must have been fast! and big! I had a ginormous white duck once that used to chase my dogs around but I think he got a bit overconfident and ended up becoming food for the local fox. A sad end to his life but my dogs were glad!

    • Anna says

      Haha my male muscovy is the same we call him big birdy, when he was a young the other ducks we have use to bully him and really hurt him but now he teroises them lol. He cuddles me and knocks on my back door all day for me but hes started chasing me round the garden biting my feet taking my shoes off me it really hurt his bite is unbelievable and he teroizes my 3 dogs but alright with my 1 year old just dosnt like older kids, he comes in the house and watches telly , and he has a tin of hot dogs everyday lol

      • Lori Lantz says

        We have a mama duck who made her nest on our screen patio. She’s between the roof line and screen. She’s been up there with her eggs for more then two months. We refill and water bowl for her everyday. We don’t feed her. For food she has to walk across our screen patio and go into the canal behind our house. We know it’s past the 35 days. We feel horrible removing all of her eggs ( we think between 12-17) and she’s patiently been siting and waiting. What do we do!?!? We talk her every time we leave or come back. She’s been a very good mama duck and we feel bad that none of her eggs hatched. She we just remove everything while she’s in the canal? Will she finally give up?

  2. Engela Crous says

    I had several muscovies. No aggressive behaviour, but they bred prolifically and I was overwhelmed. They were great pets

    • Danny Leblanc says

      A Muscovy female know when her eggs are bad and will push them out. You can put them back in and mark them and they will be back out the next day. She will not set on dead eggs. How she knows is anybody’s guess, but she knows. I have been raiseing them for over 30 years and believe me , she knows.

      • June says

        My Muscovy has been laying 1 egg per day for the past 4 days. She only sits on them for a few minutes and leaves them alone at night? Will her eggs hatch?

        • Grace says

          A Muscovy, my son named her Brownie before ever laying eggs has laid 13 eggs right outside our window. We first noticed 11 of them on April 9th, they haven’t hatched. Any idea when we should expect them to hatch??

          • Suzanne M. Osborne says

            Is she sitting on them? Once a mama lays as many as she intends to hatch she sits on them all day long, only getting off for about 20 minutes each day. If she’s not doing that they’re just eggs you can eat.

        • Suzanne M. Osborne says

          Yes she will keep laying until she has the amount that she wants to sit on if she’s going to sit.

        • Roberta says

          This may be a silly question, but oh well. Will the female lay one egg a day and gather them until she has enough and then start setting? We just got a pair of Muscovy ducks and they are mating. My son is eager for ducklings and has been gathering the eggs, one a day, since we brought them home. We have them in an incubator now. If we had left them, might she have set on them? She doesn’t mass produce eggs that she’s going to set, does she? It’s always one a day?

          • Erich says

            She will lay one a day and when she feels that she has a full clutch she will start sitting. That way, they all hatch at around the same time. If your incubated eggs hatch, you are going to have a staggered hatch, which means that some eggs will be turning while others will not, and your incubator will be filthy after the first ones hatch. If you want to collect eggs over a couple of weeks for your incubator, keeping them in an egg carton in a 60-65 degree location; tilt them to one or the other side three times a day to turn them, and then add them all to the incubator at once to have them hatch at the same time.

            The birds themselves are much better at hatching eggs than an incubator, so if you want chicks letting the mother do it is the way to go. They really wet down the eggs when it’s time to hatch, which is difficult to duplicate in an incubator. They are also better mothers than we can be so you don’t have to brood them if they will do it for you.

        • Suzanne M. Osborne says

          A mallard can fertilize Muscovy eggs, but the duck hatched from the eggs will not be fertile. They will only be pets or meat ducks.

      • Howie Vandyke says

        can anyone tell me why my male will not quit drinking so much water all day long he eats well and appears in good health please e-mail me at hlv912.hv@gmail.com I need help to help my duck

        • Johnny says

          Welcome to the world of ducks. Ducks don’t need a pond (although they prefer them) but they do need a constant water source because they have to keep their bill and nostrils moist. They also consume a lot of water in the process. I wouldn’t worry. Its normal duck behavior.

      • J wipper says

        We call them Turkey ducks here in the midwest..lol
        But ours built her nest on the ground in our bushes. She hissed, she also sat on a few dead eggs. So I think each bird does their own thing.

      • Rosanna Soares says

        I have a female Muscovy and a male the female has just started laying and I found the first egg last night its shell is greyish in color and today I found one out by their pool and the shell is rubbery is this normal?

  3. harriet gail says

    Interesting how you claim they are not ducks but then refer to them as ducks throughout the rest of the article… plus the greater wood duck is something completely different… Overall really good information though! I kept muscovies for years when I grew up and never knew they weren’t even ducks! They were never aggressive towards me as a child. Just scary looking but they never minded me playing with them, even during the mating season. This article brought back such fond memories of my beautiful babies and how they used to wag their tails and hiss. the one thing I really loved about them is how they moved, head left, tail right and vice-versa. plodding around the garden always walking in a line with the mum in front long after the babies had grown.

    • Lynn says

      Most duck breeds were developed from Mallards. The Muscovy did not come from Mallards. When bred with Mallards, the offspring are not fertile, they are hybrids, like mules. A donkey and a horse are different, still they can mate and produce hybrid offspring. Lions and Tigers can produce hybrid Ligers. Mallards and Muscovys what? Mallovys? Muscards? Duvy? I dunno. 😉

  4. Claire McPhearson says

    We love our Muscovy ducks, we have a very handsome drake & 3 ladies. Darcy is broody, only sat on 3 eggs but is guarding them so well. It’s only been 14 days so we have a time to wait to see what happens, if anything.

  5. Mary says

    I live in an apartment complex with a lot of Muscovy ducks. There are many eggs that seemed to have been abandoned by the mother. Should those eggs be removed or left alone

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      I would leave them for the time being unless you had in mind to incubate. Let nature take its course.

      Claire

  6. Renee says

    My parents have a female muscovy. She bonded well with a brood of 4 chickens. When 2 chickens were killed by hawks, they were replaced and the pecking order changed. She was no longer welcome by the chickens. She isolated herself and I felt terrible for her. So I began to bring her treats every morning and sit with her. She is no longer afraid and even wags her tail at me. I wonder if this is the extent of bonding I can expect from an adult female. She was raised for eggs and I’ve taken her on as a pet. I just hope she is happy and its somewhat hard to tell.

  7. Suzanne M Osborne says

    Some good information here, but I’m going to have to disagree on the Muscovy not being a duck. The Muscovy and mallard ducks are all in the same etymology family, just a different species. It’s no different than saying a Hubbard squash and a butternut squash aren’t both squash. Well they are ; they’re just different species of squash, belonging to the same family. Also, I’ve been raising Muscovy for almost 5 years and I have never had one with black legs. All of mine have orange or yellow legs. I have a batch hatching out of the incubator right now and they have orange feet.

    • Courtney says

      I have 3 hens and 2 drakes, only one of mine has feet that are not black. But she is a mule duck and a different color than the rest of the flock.

    • Cathy Stall says

      Hi Suzanne, I was wondering if I could send you a picture of a duck, that Merlin is saying is a Muscovy Duck. I have reached out to the Audubon Society but they have not responded, It was found in a pond at a local conservation area. Reading all of these passages makes me wonder if it could belong to someone. but first, I want to confirm that it is a Muscovy. I will give you my email, so if you could respond that would be greatly appreciated.

      • kat crane says

        There are several Muscovy duck groups on Facebook that could help you know if it is Muscovy. Most have red or blak caruncles. They also have claws on their feet. They come in many colors.

  8. Ann Anderson says

    I noticed my Muscovy sitting at length on April 9th, she is still sitting on about 5 or 6 eggs with the others being pushed out. When can I expect them to hatch or will they ? Are there any signs I can look for ?

  9. Mary R. Lynn says

    Do muscovy eggs have a permeable membrane like goose eggs, that let bacteria in ? Or-is it like a chicken eggs-that are impermeable to outside bacteria ?

  10. Kristina Felty says

    I just had my first Muscovy duckling hatch. I was wondering if the mother feeds and Waters the ducklings until all of the eggs are hatched. If not how does the baby duckling get water from such a high nest.?

  11. Hena says

    We have a male Muscovy and for the past 2-3 days he has been walking very slowly and with his head pulled in like when he sleeps and doesn’t pull it out except to eat or drink…today we noticed he has a yellowish coloring on his chest area where his beak lays. Do you know what’s wrong? How can we help him?

  12. Bala Unagha says

    I do keep some Muscovy ducks in my yard they are friendly. Currently two are sitting on eggs one on ten the other on twenty one. In all I have two males and eight females. The males are always fighting. What should I do, eat one?

  13. Laura Skinner says

    I live on a ranch that raises Muscovy”s along with chickens of varying types. We don’t have any other ducks, just Muscovy”s so their is no in breeding. I have been using the ducklings as therapy animals ant the seniors and rehab people absolutely love them and my miniature horse. I try to keep ducklings around but there are times when they are too big and I don’t have any smaller ones. They are excellent therapy animals and people love them!

  14. Agadau says

    hi,I have six Muscovy ducks,4females and 2 males, they have been laying, but I’m not sure which ones, they’re laying in the open and not in the nest boxes l provided,pls help what should I do?

  15. Bob says

    I would love to have a few muscovy’s for my pond which is surrounded by woods. The problem is in the winter I am gone for 2-4 weeks. Should I forget about owning muscovy’s. Any help would be appreciated.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      They could take a break for a number of reasons- when they’re molting their feathers, if its the winter they take time off until it gets warmer. They also could take a week or two off during laying period, to rest because when they are laying it is about 5 eggs per week.

      Claire

  16. Kelly says

    I’ve got a drake and a hen in my yard right now. The eggs are just now starting to hatch. It seems like they have been there forever! She has been such a good momma. My neighbor (who is Amish and raises them) said the mom will push eggs out on accident when she turns them. Put them back after you have marked it and if she keeps pushing them out- they are not viable. We were curious and opened one that was pushed out and it was cold. It was alive. It killed me! I should have put it back and let it be. I learned from that trust me. After that, if she pushed them out I just put them back. Surprisingly she never pushed them out again. I can’t wait to see how many actually hatch. They are just now starting to break the shells.

    • Alien Pain says

      We learned to just let her sit for 39-40 days or 2 days after the first birth. After that they are almost always bad. Once the babies are born they need water within 48 hrs as their yolk sack is now their stomach and they live on that the first 24 – 48 hrs. So she must leave usually and take them to get some. Sad for the eggs left if they didn’t hatch. Hope you get lots. We have a had a great success rate with ours.😀

  17. Alien Pain says

    My Wife and I adopted 3 Muscovy ducks a year and a half ago. They are such awesome additions to any small hobby farm or small acreage dwelling. Ours love ground boxes and definitely have the ability to get into some small and difficult places in which to conceal the eggs. It is literally an Easter Egg hunt every day😂. Ours also don’t seem to like to roost except at night or in winter they get up on the horse hitching post during the day to keep feet warmer. We have had -28 degrees F here and had no problems. Put warm water in a small barrel bottom I cut off every morning though. It didn’t stay warm long. We let them be as natural as possible and only restrict them if it’s a life or death issue. Our flock is now 11 adults (2 males, which is not recommended as they are serious rivals) and 12 ducklings half way grown. We think 1 male and female would have been the best choice. And to control population we just keep taking eggs. Lol. They are a constant source of amusement, especially when you look over your shoulder out the kitchen window to find they can climb up onto the shed and stare in curiously . I think they want my coffee.lol. Anyways if you want an awesome pet, supply of eggs( 150 ish a yr) then get em. Don’t regret it at all.

  18. Debbie Doyle says

    we have a single muscovy duck – she flew in by herself and stayed with the chickens. Right now she is sitting on 5 eggs. She can fly and we don’t keep her in, still I’d think the probability of the eggs being fertile is fairly low. Should I let her keep sitting on the eggs? If so, for how long? I’m not sure how stressed she is, so I’m trying to do what would be best for her.

  19. Tony Bulmer says

    Hi got one drake its mate got killed by the fox should I get another drake or a hen will he take to it .
    Thanks Tony

  20. Lydia Zook says

    Yes . Male Muscovys will take any female as far as I’ve seen . I’ve had them for two plus years and I switch out males so the offspring aren’t interrelated.

  21. Ethel Aquila.. Muskogee Ok. says

    there is a muscovy at scalding park in muskogee ok. for about two years now,I go to the park every morning for my walk and I feed all the ducks corn every other day, they forge every other day for food, the muscovy is sitting on her eggs at this time, she lets me pet her and she eats out of my hand as do the other ducks,23 all together, I put water every day in her own little bowl I wedged into the bald cypress tree roots, and she eats from my hand and drinks the water daily, she has been sitting for about one month now, I do not see her off the nest at all,I just love her and try protecting her at the park she lets me pet her and she talks to me,,,

  22. Beckie says

    We have Muscovy ducks – 1 boy and 2 girls. Our boy quackers is wonderful – he is always so happy to see us and always comes wagging his tail to talk to us. The girls are much quieter unless Quackers needs putting in his place.
    They love their paddling pool and the girls have just started laying eggs. We wouldnt be without them!

  23. Vicki says

    I loved the article. Lots of good information. I have 4 muscovies which I think is 1 male and 3 females. They were hatched on April 20 and now its August 24. I have them on my property which is 1/4 acre. I have noticed them starting to exercise their wings (flapping them a lot when they are first let out of their pen in the morning). When should I clip their wings in order for them not to fly away? Thank you in advance for any advice.

    • HappyChicken says

      At five weeks is when they get their adult plumage. It is important to educate yourself on this before doing it. You may not need to if they are not the flying type.

      Claire

      • Shalee says

        Important question i have a drake hes 6 m old i love him to death i found him on side of the road couldnt been no.more hen 2days old. Hes and in side duck goes every where with us even walmart but the last couple of days his. Eyes have been watering non stop and he seens a bit slow heseating well i just know something’s wrong i cant get a vey to see him can anyone give me advice my email is shaleecobb7@ gmail.com thank you

  24. Carole says

    We have a 17 year old Muscovy- called Dottie – she is the sole survivor out of three which we had as tiny ducklings.
    They were always been free to live as they wanted putting themselves to bed with the hens, flying off up the trees and enjoying a swim in the pond
    Dottie still flies better than she can walk as she is a little lame, she is free to go where she likes and still enjoys nice fresh veg from the garden given the chance!

  25. Shirley says

    We have 9 muscovies – all female . They have been a pleasure to watch in the yard. There was an over abundance of crickets & grasshoppers this summer – the ducks had quite a feast :). We just do not like the mess they make with water in the barn , so sadly we need to downsize to 2-3 . We love the eggs for baking & scrambled eggs , they are so creamy & rich ! I do not appreciate them coming into our deck to leave a mess – it’s quite gross . But it is like therepy , just to sit & watch them 🙂

  26. Bilal Ahmed Dar says

    My son brought a adult pair of Muscovies last year , two weeks ago we have eight duckling with the mother; I want some advice about the male; he attacks me most of the time and I have to run. The female is very friendly. He is not afraid of any thing rather he attacks more furiously if I carry (stick) to safe myself from the big bird. ?

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