Script 31.3

Notes to broadcasters

Content: Muscovy ducks are a good choice for farmers because they are easy to care for, and they control flies. They forage for most of their own food, resist disease, and reproduce easily.

Note: Muscovies are raised in most countries of the world. In southern Europe and northern Africa they are called the Barbary duck. In Brazil, they are known as the Brazilian duck, in Spain the pato, and in the Guianas the Guinea or Turkish duck.


If you are looking for poultry that is easy to care for, resists disease, and controls flies at the same time, then Muscovy ducks are a good choice for you. They are healthy and hardy, they forage well for their own food, and reproduce easily. And they do a great job controlling flies. Muscovy meat is tasty and low in fat. Its flavour goes well with fruit and rice, and it requires less cooking time than other duck meat. What more could you ask?

You can tell a Muscovy duck from other types of ducks because Muscovies have large patches of puffy red skin around their eyes and over their bill. Muscovies can be white, greenish black, chocolate, or blue, or a combination of these colours.

Insect control
Muscovy ducks control flies and other insects the natural way. They are particularly helpful controlling flies, grasshoppers and locusts. In areas where rice is grown, Muscovies eat snails and slugs. If you put them in a pen with cows or calves they will eat most of the flies. In one experiment where two year old Muscovy ducks were put in cow pens, the fly population was reduced by 80 to 90 percent.

Muscovy ducks are easy to care for. They don’t need a pond nearby; just make sure they have clean water to drink. They need special attention only in the first few weeks of their lives. For example, ducklings need a dry shelter and warmth until they get feathers at about two weeks of age. Usually the mother provides these things, but a small shelter where the ducks can go during heavy rains is helpful. The ducklings should not get wet or go swimming until they are at least three weeks old and have feathers. So during this time, keep them away from streams and ponds in a small area with plenty of green weeds, grass, and insects. Leave small dishes of water for the ducklings for drinking and for cleaning out the breathing holes on their bill. Make sure the water in the dishes isn’t too deep so the ducklings don’t drown.

Muscovies eat grass and other vegetation. They can forage for all their own food. However, they grow much faster if you give them extra protein foods for the first two to three weeks. You can use broiler starter mash or chicken growing mash, cooked eggs chopped into small pieces, or cooked soybean meal. You can also feed them kitchen waste. These ducks may get sick if you give them medicated feed.

Muscovy ducks are great mothers and do a good job raising their young. Don’t worry if the Muscovy seems to be sitting on the eggs a long time. Muscovies take longer to hatch than other poultry. A Muscovy egg takes 33 35 days to hatch. A chicken, for example, hatches in 21 days.

Muscovies will lay up to 80 eggs a year and hatch about four sets of ducklings if they get lots of high protein feed. If the ducks forage for all their own food they will lay fewer eggs, probably 20 to 30 eggs a year, and hatch one or two batches of ducklings.

Nest boxes
You can make simple nest boxes to put in the duck pen or around the house. If predators are a problem the nest boxes should be in a protected place, such as a shed that can be closed at night. A simple nest requires dried grass or other soft material and shelter from rain. The duck will be more likely to lay her eggs in the nest box if it is dark inside. Use wooden crates or metal buckets turned on their sides as nest boxes. Or tie bundles or thatch grass together at one end and spread the bottom out to make a cone.

The first eggs a duck lays are usually infertile, so you can remove them from the nest and eat them. Usually, a duck will lay up to 20 eggs before starting to sit. A duck can sit on 15 18 eggs at a time. Remove any extra eggs and put them under a broody chicken. The chicken will hatch out the duck eggs even though they take longer than chicken eggs to hatch. The chicken will treat ducklings she hatches out the same as if they were her own chicks.

Sometimes male Muscovies are aggressive and hurt or kill the young ducklings. Watch to make sure this does not happen or separate the males from the ducklings.

For disease resistant, easy to grow poultry that forages for its own food, reproduces easily, and catches flies, nothing is better than the Muscovy duck.

Information Sources

This script was prepared by Harvey P. Harman. Harvey has worked on a community development project in South Africa and now farms in North Carolina, U.S.A. His address is: Rt. 2, Box 201, Bear Creek, North Carolina,U.S.A. 27207

Thank you to Dan Gudahl at Heifer Project International for reviewing this script. For information about sources of ducklings please contact Heifer Project International, P.O. Box 808, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203, U.S.A. ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), 17430 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers, Florida, 33917 U.S.A.

The complete East African poultry book, (167 pages) by Helen Cockburn, available from the Textbook Centre Ltd., Kijabe St., P.O. Box 47540, Nairobi, Kenya.

Poultry, (1990, 218 pages) by Anthony J. Smith, published by MacMillan Publishers Limited in cooperation with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, P.O. Box 380, 6700 AJ Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Raising chickens and ducks, (1990, 105 pages) by Harlan Attfield, published by Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA), 1600 Wilson Blvd., Suite 500, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A., 22209. “Natural fly control with the Muscovy duck” pages 30 31 of Countryside and small stock journal, Vol. 76, No. 1, Jan./Feb. 1992.