New Muscovy keeper - advice needed

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Catie79, Aug 19, 2014.

  1. Catie79

    Catie79 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 19, 2014
    Mont Vernon, NH
    Hi, I'm new to BYC and I have my first Muscovies showing up this weekend. It's three ducks and a drake, all adults, from a local farm. We're getting things set up and want to check to make sure we're not heading for disaster.

    1. We don't want them to take off as soon as they arrive, so we're going to clip the wings on one side and keep them in their pen for the first week before free ranging. We want them to know where the food is, what people are providing it, and to associate 'duck duck duck' with a hand full of cracked corn. Too long? Not long enough? We taught our laying hens to come this way and those girls can run like the wind when they think 'chicken crack' is being tossed.

    2. The pen is 8x8x8 and will only be used for tucking them away for the night. It has a 4x8x4 box attached to give them a place to get out of the weather (New Hampshire, so we get some nasty Nor'easters in winter). Enough room for a night time pen, or do they need a 8x16x8 pen?

    3. Do we need nest boxes for September? Would September ducklings even make it? We're going to let the moms handle any brooding duties.

    Thanks so much for any help, we're very excited. We want to get these guys working the woods ASAP since the mosquitos this year are outrageous. We've got about an acre of wooded area with water running through it for them to manage. I'm hoping they get too fat off of bugs to fly!
     
  2. Onlyducks

    Onlyducks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 16, 2014
    My six muscovies are in a pen that is about 8 by 16 feet. They are fine as long as I let them out to free-range in the daytime.

    We clipped the wings on ours right away, also, and penned them up for a week before letting them free-range in the old garden patch and then the whole 5 acres. I don't know about calling ducks in for food—mine come when they see me holding up a bundle of lettuce or other food. I don't have to say anything! They just know!

    I have not let mine brood now because I live in Wyoming and I don't know that the ducklings would survive. The person I bought them from let them free-range and brood whenever they wanted, but I don't know if any tried it in the winter.

    They are great bug eaters and very quiet and well-mannered.
     
  3. Catie79

    Catie79 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 19, 2014
    Mont Vernon, NH
    I'll update in case anyone is searching for the same info:

    [​IMG]
    This is (L to R) Spot, Hershey, and Speckles with Draco in the back

    I got my little flock of three girls and one boy. They're adolescents, not quite flying when I went to pick them up but all feathered in. Their flight feathers weren't completely in, but it was very close. One girl gave flying a shot when we were catching her, but didn't get more than a bit off the ground. We popped them into the pen (8'x8'x8') with an attached house that's 4'x8'. They were very unhappy the first day, used to free ranging and stressed from the trip, but they coped. That night, all four got in the house to sleep.

    They stayed in the pen for a week. Two of the girls figured out flying during that week and started using the roosting bars we put in about 5' up in the pen. We didn't clip flight feathers since they weren't fully in and we didn't want to have a bloody mess if we cut them off too soon. During that week we visited twice a day with food, treats, fresh water, and using the call we wanted them to associate with snack time. The first couple days were rough, the ducks would hide in their house or plaster up against the fence. By the end of the week, they were adapting to us and had started looking for us when we called. We have a good sized tupperware tub in their pen which needed a lot of changes while they were in captivity, they amused themselves with baths and dabbling greens out of the water. It kept them from getting too bored, but what a mess. The bottom of the pen got a thick bed of straw and that kept things tidy enough. Their house has a thick bed of pine shavings.

    After a week, we opened the door of the pen but didn't serve breakfast. It took most of the day for them to venture out. Once they did, two of the girls decided the best place on the property was thirty feet up on top of our garage. That night, the drake and the one female not flying yet went back into the house when we called for dinner, but the other two spent the night on the garage. It took some false starts, but now we only feed them at night so they have a good reason to follow us into their pen at dusk. They get layer crumbles and some treats. Most of their food comes from their free ranging, which they now do from about 9:30am to 5:30pm every day. If we're too late and the girls have decided to roost for the night, the drake ends up sleeping in the house by himself. Once the girls have bedded down, no treat can lure them. The drake does have quite the greeting with the girls in the morning when he's let out and they fly down to join him.

    [​IMG]
    Girls on the roof

    We haven't clipped their wings because they're home bodies. Despite the girls getting to be very strong fliers (they can go over our two story house without trouble), they don't leave the yard. Even the drake can hoist his butt up enough to get on top of a 9' arbor. We figure a fox isn't going to get them if they can get that high up. The ducks spend a good chunk of their day up on the arbor, surveying their domain. They prefer the mowed lawn over the wooded parts of the property. The water has only limited appeal to them, though they love to muck around in the muck along the edges of the water. They work the lawn over as a group, rustling up bugs and nibbling on clover. They're more of a flock than the chickens, rarely separating.

    They're fairly tame now that they've been with us for a month. They come when called and stay put as we walk amongst them. They hop in the pen while we're cleaning to see if we have snacks for them. They don't want to be touched, but I'm okay with that. The girls are almost taking food from our hands, so that's enough. We've had the occasional scuffle between our Barred Rock chickens and the ducks while every one is out free ranging, but nothing serious. The ducks won that argument so the pecking order has been established. They hang out together in short bursts, but the chickens are more active and don't spend a lot of time lounging in the sun.

    [​IMG]

    Conclusions:

    Are they quiet? Pretty? Very. The male only makes a quiet sound like 'ha' and the girls make a quiet, adorable peeping sound. They make more noise with their feathers when flying. Mine are black and chocolate, very attractive. I get a lot of compliments on them.

    Are they friendly? Sort of. They like to check out what we're doing, but they could take us or leave us. Independent.

    Are they messy? Eh. The pen takes work because poop + water + webbed feet = slimy mess if we don't stay on top of it. Straw is a godsend for keeping things tidy around the water. They do have bigger poops than the chickens, but not too bad. They're out all day so most of it is fertilizer for my lawn. If chickens are a 5 on the messy scale, I'll give these guys a 6.5.

    Do they roam? Not for me. Locking them in the pen was crucial since they were pretty freaked out by the change, but after a week that was home and the place for the food. Now they stay close.

    I like them so far. They're quiet and take care of themselves. They're also quite attractive. I'm hoping for little ducklings next year!
     
  4. muscovy14

    muscovy14 Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 24, 2014
    Hello. I too am in nh northern nh. I have 2 nesting boxes and currently have 2 broody girls I plan on taking the ducklings inside once hatched. Your pen size is fine.
     

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