I read this informative article posted on survivalblog.com that does a quick-and-dirty overview of post-collapse nutrition options in terms of farming. A very interesting option favored by the author are “Muscovy ducks”, which are supposedly easy to care for, produce lots of offspring and are low on the smell and noise factors.
Most ducks are very noisy. Muscovy ducks are extremely quiet. They don’t quack. They make a very soft hissing noise as a warning. They make this noise when you corner them or get too close to them. The sound is as quiet as a whisper. So they pass the first big test- noise discipline. The waste they produce is not too smelly. You will have to eventually compost it as they do produce a lot of it. Using a deep litter method, it can be done every 6 months. So they pass the second test- smell discipline. They are easy to care for. They do not need a lot of space. They are very resistant to disease and don’t require a lot of human intervention. Good fencing, minimum of 4 feet tall will help against predators. They free range/forage for their food. They do enjoy a high protein pellet food at the end of the day but it’s not necessary. They will produce eggs, meat and feathers. Feathers can be used to make pillows. They will lay between 80 to 150+ eggs a year depending upon their nutrition and if you remove the eggs or allow them to sit on their eggs. They will accumulate about a dozen or so eggs and then sit on them until they hatch. Training them to use nest boxes will help. Usually if you put their first eggs into the nest box, they will get the idea.
The process takes approximately 35 days for their eggs to hatch. They will hatch an average of ten to twelve baby ducks three or four times a year. After they hatch their eggs they will not lay eggs for 2 months. During this time they are great mothers and will spend all of their time with the baby ducks. The baby ducks will follow their mother everywhere during the first couple of weeks. The mother will protect them for older ducks that will occasionally peck at them. They can co-exist with chickens without any problems. They can eat table scraps or anything that you will eat. They forage well. They grow extremely fast. After 6-8 months the new baby ducks can reproduce. They do not need a pond. They only need water just deep enough for a quick swim, maybe a foot to eighteen inches deep. A kiddie pool or a nice sized bucket is all that they would need. They will dirty the water fairly quick.
To clip their wings or not? They have a natural instinct to roost up high in trees or on top of the barn. They can and will fly around. Best to clip their wings after they molt, usually in the early summer. Two people are needed. One to hold the duck & one to cut the flight feathers. It does not hurt the ducks. Sort of like us clipping our nails. You cut the flight feathers on one side only. They like the shade, will eat insects and most types of grass. They like fresh water. It’s better to have a small creek then having to haul fresh water everyday. Standard poultry crates can be used to transport Muscovy Ducks. Catching them at night usually prevents as much stress as possible. The more interaction you have with them, the closer they will let you get to them. They grow really fast. Butchering usually occurs around four months of age. Wet-plucking their feathers can be a real pain. Adding a wax or a dishwashing soap can help. They are very tasty.