Ducks

Buff 

William Cook, the famous poultry breeder from Orpington, Kent, created a number of Orpington duck varieties including the Blue, Buff, and Black Orpington. There were also Whites but they never caught on in popularity. The Buff variety came about by blending Cayuga, Runner, Aylesbury, and Rouen ducks to create a the buff color that would allow him to cash in on the early 20th century English fad for buff-colored plumage. Cook introduced his Buff Orpington to the United States in 1908 at the Madison Square Garden Show in New York City.  In 1914, this breed was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection under the name “Buff,” which is unusual since in no other instance is a color used as a breed name. (Holderread, 60)

The Buff is a medium-weight duck of 7 to 8 lbs. It is a long, broad bird with an oval head, medium length bill, and long, gracefully curved neck. The Buff duck’s body carriage is twenty degrees above horizontal, its wings are short and it has a small, well-curled tail. Both the duck and drake have buff plumage, orange-yellow shanks and feet, and brown eyes. The drake’s bill is yellow while the duck’s bill is brown-orange. (Malone et. al., 313) A Blue variety of Orpington duck existed in the Americas, but it appears these were absorbed into the Blue Swedish breed. (Holderread, 60)

The Buff has much to offer the breeder who is looking for an attractive, dual-purpose bird. It is a good layer, typically laying about 150-220 eggs per year, and it gains weight relatively rapidly, making it ready for market within 8-10 weeks. (Batty, 108) Many consider the Buff a good meat bird that dresses out well because its light pin feathers do not show on the plucked carcass. Despite this, Buff numbers languished when industry growers followed consumer interest in cheap meat and focused attention on the faster growing Pekin  even though many believe it to be less tasty. (Holderread, 60)

When choosing breeders, select robust, active, strong-legged birds with a good laying  history. Avoid birds that are significantly under Standard weight and have bills with excessively concave top lines. Full-sized birds with straight bills attached high on the head make valuable breeders. Select against any non-buff plumage for show-birds.  Select for white pin feathers for production birds.

The Livestock Conservancy’s 2000 census of domestic waterfowl in North America found 793 breeding Buff ducks and the 2015 census found 1,088. Eleven people reported breeding Buff, and there are five primary breeding flocks with 50 or more breeding birds currently in existence. (Bender, 4) Consider this rare, beautiful bird for a lovely and useful addition to your flock.

Muscovies

Muscovy are the only domestic ducks that are not derived from Mallard stock. Originating from the Caribbean Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras where the native culture values them for their meat, Muscovy aren't really ducks, but rather large perching waterfowl (Cairina moschata).
Muscovy ducks are great on the farm to control insects the natural way. They are particularly helpful controlling flies, grasshoppers, ticks and mosquitos. 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.

The males are large, weighing up to fifteen pounds, with the smaller females reaching about nine. The Muscovy Duck can be crossed with mallards to create a hybrid known as Mulard, but to be honest, the Muscovy aren't very keen on breeding with Mallard-types. Additionally, the offspring is a mule duck because Muscovy are a different species of waterfowl. This outcross, Mulard, are mostly raised for their meat and they grow fast like mallard-type ducks but much larger like the Muscovy. Interestingly, Muscovy are cross-bred in Israel with Mallards to produce kosher ducks. The kashrut status of the Muscovy Duck has been a matter of rabbinic discussion for over 150 years.

Muscovy females are excellent flyers. As a matter of fact, given their preference, they like to roost in trees; their feet have strong sharp claws and are built to grasp, so that they can perch on branches. They do best in a chicken house as opposed to a ground nesting duck house. They like to nest high, like chickens and enjoy "perches" or "roosts," they will get on these at night. Some people consider them ugly because of the large red warty caruncles above the beak and around the eyes. However, they are very personable and interesting birds, and quite intelligent. 

Since Muscovy are genetically dissimilar to other domestic waterfowl, many folks believe that they're more of a goose than a duck. For instance, they eat grass, as do geese, have a similarly long egg incubation period of 35 days (compared with 28 days for ducks), and they don't quack. This is a good trait since they are "quiet" ducks. The male has a low breathy (huffy) greeting, and the female a quiet trilling coo as well as a few other quiet vocalizations. They are neither truly duck or goose, in fact, they belong to a group of waterfowl that like to perch high in trees (Cairininae) similar to the knob-billed duck and the African Pygmy Goose .

Muscovy eggs are rich and delicious. They're a cream color with a harder shell then most duck eggs and weigh about 2.7 ounces, which would grade as "jumbo". 

Typically, these birds have a calm temperament and are often described as "friendly as a puppy." It almost seems that the Muscovy are trying to "talk" when they come up to you, wag their tails like a dog, and look up at you as if to say, "Got a treat?" Mine know their names and clearly understand a wide variety of words and gestures. Mine love to be fed directly from the scoop and I've had some broody girls come to demand it from me each morning with little chuffs and fluffed out tails.

Females love to co-set nests... I call them the ya-ya sisterhood of the hatching eggs. I'll sometimes find 3 or 4 setting a nest together like bosom buddies and it's not uncommon for them to pal up with chickens in this endeavor. I'll sometimes find Muscovy ladies escaping the "local politics" of their own groups in favor of hanging out in the chicken yard and perching with those ladies overnight for a few weeks until whatever dust-up in the Muscovy ranks is finally settled. 
​Keep in mind that Muscovy males will sometimes be aggressive toward other males during breeding season, and females can also be pinchy little fireballs when it comes to protecting their eggs and babies, which is to be expected. Put your hand in that nest at your own peril!

Muscovy will lay up to 180 eggs a year and hatch about four sets of ducklings if they get lots of high protein feed. Muscovy ducks are great mothers and do a good job raising their young. Muscovy take longer to hatch than other poultry... an egg takes 33 to 35 days to hatch. A chicken, for example, hatches in 21 days.

Muscovy meat is one of the healthiest meats on the market today, being 98% or greater fat free. Many people say that the breast meat of a Muscovy is hard to tell from a Sirloin steak. Famous chefs know this and use Muscovy meat in a number of ways. They have become experienced at cutting and preparing the meat for various delicacies. It is even ground up and used as hamburger in a variety of dishes. Folks on a low-fat diet know that the meat is not only great tasting but very nutritious. And, being so lean, meat from the Muscovy duck is not greasy as is the case with other ducks. Some say that the meat tastes a lot like expensive ham, others say it is hard to tell from veal.

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