Originally Published November 23, 2017. Updated 7/25/18.
These past few months raising Muscovy Ducks has been quite an experience. We moved out to Dryden, MI to start the next chapter in our life and our new home came with a great barn. I knew I wanted to start some sort of business with the barn and began researching all the livestock options I could think of. The more I researched the animal options the more I realized that big barn animals have big needs.
Around this time my sister mentioned that Tractor Supply was selling chickens and ducks in batches of 10. I knew I wanted to get the ducks but 10 was way too many. With very little convincing my mom agreed to take 4 and my sister would take 2. Four ducklings for us! Well — we went to town the next weekend and the chicks and ducklings were no longer available. At this point I was determined to raise ducks and felt obligated to provide my family with the ducks I promised.
The next morning I went on craigslist and found an add for ducklings – $7 each. I immediately called them up and we were at the house within an hour. Steve was great — knows a lot about Muscovy ducks. We knew nothing. I didn’t even know what a Muscovy was until we arrived at his house. (I do not recommend this approach to inviting any living creature into your home. Research your animal before you commit to raising it.)
We decided to get five ducklings for us and five ducklings for my mom. The ducklings were only a few weeks old so we had no idea what sex they were. We wanted them for eggs but were so eager to get ducks that day that we chose to risk them being male.
We delivered ducklings to mom and then welcomed our feather babies to their new barn. We used a box to transport the ducklings and they were fine. They did poop a lot though so the car smelled pretty bad by the time we got home.
We chose to keep them in the horse stall with the rubber mat flooring and added our own straw. The stall is 10 ft x 10 ft with floor to ceiling doors that open to the outside. The perfect space to set up a pool, food and heat light for the ducklings.
Every morning I would wake up early and open up the door so they could get fresh air. We set up a board so they couldn’t leave the stall but they still got all the sunlight.
My life soon revolved around the ducks — and I loved it! I gave them fresh water in their pool in the morning and spent hours coaxing them in and out of the water. I was quite proud of the ramp set up I came up with spare plastic shelving.
In time we moved the ducklings to the stall next door. The new stall was centrally located so it was safer from large predators. Also, the floor was already covered in wood shavings so we didn’t need to provide straw.
In just a few short weeks the ducklings grew fast. They learned to swim right away and picked up hunting as soon as they were big enough to fit the bug in their mouth. I was so proud the first time I saw one eat a spider.
According to the Muscovy Duck guides I read online — Muscovy ducks are avid hunters and when full grown they can eat prey as large as a mouse or small fish. I know for a fact they eat small frogs! They also did an amazing job removing the spiders and mosquitos from the barn.
Within a week of having the ducklings I was getting up with sun and heading out to the barn to tend to the ducks. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I adapted to the new early morning schedule I established for the ducks. No alarm needed – I just pop out of bed excited to see my feather babies!
Muscovy ducks need water to swallow their food. It is vital that if you decide to raise Muscovy ducks you always have a source of water available near their food. The ducks put the dry food in their mouth, take a sip of water and then swallow. This approach of course causes half the food to fall out into the pool – but it just gives them something to dive for later! Ha.
When it came to change the pool water I dumped the water in an area the ducks spend time so they can play in the puddle and eat the food that was spilled. Also, when the ground gets soaked by the pool water grubs and bugs come out of the ground and provide food for the ducks.
As they got bigger I was able to move the pool to a fenced area just off the back of the barn. The new fenced in area allowed the ducks more room to explore but still kept them protected near the barn. Hawks circle the property and I was terrified our little birds would get attacked.
While most ducks are known for their quacking — Muscovy ducks do not quack at all. Instead, the Muscovy ducks communicate mostly with body language and heavy breathing noises. I just can’t get enough of watching their butts wiggle and listening to them huff and puff.
One morning the dog and I head to the barn to start the day — same as we had every day before. I slide open the door to the stall and my heart sank. I actually screamed and even the dog looked shocked.
The ducks were dead. Slaughtered. Not eaten — just killed.
In tears I ran to the house to wake my husband and tell him what happened. We were devastated. It was our job to keep them safe. We thought the stall was the best duck house ever. We were in complete shock.
After hours of research online we determined it was a weasel that got them. Vicious creatures. Apparently they can fit into any space a mouse can fit. I even found the tiny hole in the floor that the weasel entered through. I had no idea that I needed to protect against weasels.
We held a memorial service for the ducklings and buried them in the yard. We were heartbroken. Devastated. Still are. Even writing about this is stirring up feelings I would rather not remember. Those little ducks were only with us for a month but will remain in our hearts forever.
Although their death was traumatizing — I was determined not to let it deter me from continuing to have Muscovy Ducks in my life. I had fallen in love.
The next day we called up Steve and got 6 more ducklings — the Muscovy Ducks of Functional Rustic! (Our bronze turkey came shortly after that.)
Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic
Stay tuned to Functional Rustic for the latest on the Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic.
Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic
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“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament
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