I had my heart set on getting some ducks for our mini-ranch. What I was hoping for were Muscovy ducks. Having done a little research, I found that these ducks were native to Mexico, therefore, did not require as much water as other types of ducks, roosted and behaved more like chickens and didn’t quack. But we couldn’t find any.
One day, we saw a sign that said ducks for sale (se venden patos) and went to investigate. An elderly, invalid couple, had some cages and ducks they were trying to sell. We came to an agreement on a pair of white ducks, and my husband went for the cage to bring them home. When he came back for them, the elderly wife asked my husband to help her bath her old wheel-chair bound husband. My husband assured her that as soon as he got the ducks home, he’d be back to help her. Needless to say, he didn’t return. Bathing the previous owner wasn’t part of the deal for the ducks.
I wasn’t too pleased with these ducks. They made a lot of noise and scandalized the chickens. But they were great toasted over an open flame with a beer, parsley, and butter sauce. Finger licken’ good!
So then, we thought to try some baby ducks. We bought three small ones from a place in town. I was still hoping for those Muscovy ducks, but when we asked the attendant what types of ducks they were, he said, “duh, ducks.” which didn’t really answer the question. So sure enough, when they grew, they became duh, ducks. Of course, we had to make a small moat for them to swim in. My husband used an old tire as the mold, then cemented its sides for easy egress and exit. And when they ducks were big enough, we ate them, still unsure what sort of ducks they were.
Then, out of the blue, the cow-barn guy, our neighbor, had a pair of Muscovy ducks. I bullied my husband into getting the pair. Success at last! However, there were some problems. They are more aggressive than other types of ducks and take 35 days to hatch their eggs rather than 21, and they aren’t really cute. Both the male and female have red carbuncles that form a mask over their eyes. But a duck is a duck is a duck, right? The sound factor though was much improved. Mr. Muscovy hissed when disturbed, and Mrs. Muscovy sang, somewhat like a chicken after an egg is laid, soft and melodious.
The first year, Mrs. Muscovy, after several weeks of noisy 5 am copulation with Mr. Muscovy, presented us with 9 ducklings. They were as cute as can be, yellow and black downy ducklings. And they grew up fat and happy, chasing flies and eating other insects and grains. They wouldn’t leave the compound, even when we attempted to shoo them out for spring cleaning and made no other attempts at escape. One night, the rains converted our backyard into a pond, much to the ducklings’ delight. My son and I waded out in the middle of the night to rescue them as even the hardiest duckling will tire and drown after too much of a good time swimming about.
Soon enough we had 9 large ducks (11 with the Mr. & Mrs.), and my husband traded them all for 2 bridles for the horses. Overall a good deal, however, I was upset he didn’t save even one other breeder duck for Mr. Muscovy to start his harem.
Year two, presented 13 ducklings, however, the very first day out of the nest, Mrs. Muscovy accidentally stepped on the littlest one in all the hubbub and broke its neck. Two days later, one chick disappeared. And then another. We finally fingered the culprit, a large rat (about groundhog size) that had taken up residence under the wood pile. After a few days of moving the woodpile hither and yon, we finally convinced it to leave. We lost another duck to Snowy the dog and ate 2 or 3 ourselves. The rest we sold when Mrs. Muscovy hatched her new bevy of 14 ducklings, now 13.
Flavor-wise, the Muscovy ducks have a stronger flavor than other ducks we have eaten. My mom sent me a book about preparing wild game that has a few recipes I want to try and a few tricks to reduce the gamey taste. But as the ducklings are still pint-size, I expect that won’t be until after the rainy season at least.