What do muscovies do in the winter? Can they survive cold temperatures, or do you need to make special provisions for them? I will tackle all this in the below article.
The muscovy duck is among the larger duck breeds, with males sometimes weighing as much as 18 lb.
They are often bred for meat production due to their size.
Although they are native to South America, these quiet ducks are today found in regions where temperatures can go very low.
And yes, in the wild, they are hardy birds that can survive harsh weather too. But domestic birds may not be as self-sufficient.
It is important to provide domestic birds with a coop to keep them warm in such cold conditions.
Cold weather depletes food sources and egg production and causes water to freeze over, making life tough for them.
A muscovy duck shelter (which isn’t too hard to make by yourself) should take care of all of these.
I’m here to discuss how else you can protect your birds from the winter.
Can Muscovy Ducks Live in the Cold?
But before I start – let me answer the main question first.
Despite being tropical birds, muscovy ducks can survive well in colder climates.
They are found in places with temperatures going as low as 10°F, and it’s possible they can survive in even lower temperatures.
This is because they have waterproof, densely packed feathers, which cover a layer of thick fat that helps keep them warm.
Can You Keep Muscovy Ducks Outside at 1 Degree Fahrenheit?
Most duck species can easily survive temperatures up to 20°F.
Muscovy ducks are hardier and go even low – however, it’s best not to let them remain outside if the thermometer starts to read 10°F.
If it goes below this, you need to provide them with some sort of housing or shelter so they can remain warm.
Ducks exposed to cold for too long can end up with frostbite on their feet due to the cold ground.
Also, keep in mind that windy nights can make the temperature “feel” lower than it actually is.
How Do You Take Care of Muscovy Ducks in Winter?
Ideally, if you own muscovy ducks, autumn is when you should start preparing their coop or duck house to survive the winter.
Here are some more steps that need to start planning for:
Preparing a Shelter
Covered coops with enough straw and shavings are good enough for muscovy ducks to survive the winter.
You need to enclose it but also provide enough space for ventilation to ensure that it does not dampen over time.
Muscovy ducks produce a lot of humidity; hence the coop should have circulating air.
Make sure the coop is away from access to waterbodies, and the water bowl you give them is not big enough for them to bathe in.
Wet ducks can dampen the coop, which in the cold can lead to frostbitten feet. Try to keep the place as dry as possible.
Muscovies need a bit of extra space because these beauties are pretty large. Ensure that you keep at least 15 sq. ft. of space per bird in the coop.
I don’t suggest adding any heat source. Since coops are usually made of wood and full of wood shavings and straw, this can be a potential fire hazard.
Heat can also generate a lot of moisture which can freeze over if the heat source is removed even for a short while.
It’s best to create a thick layer of straw and shavings for your ducks than rely on artificial heating.
Beating in the cold requires more energy! Add more fat to your bird’s diet.
You can do this by adding some corn to their duck food mix. Start prepping them with fattier food from fall onwards.
Low temperatures can cause your bird’s water bowl to freeze over. To prevent this – add fresh water every day.
Add a few ping pong balls into the water. They will move with the tiniest of breezes and delay the ice layer from forming.
You can also add a saltwater bottle to the bowl to lower the freezing point.
If you can, invest in a solar water bucket that can keep the water warm.
However, for the reasons mentioned above, I’d advise against bringing anything electricity or fire related within the coop.
Muscovy ducks usually don’t lay eggs in winter. But if they do, you need to make sure that the eggs receive enough warmth and don’t freeze over.
Despite winter, check the coop for eggs every day.
If you want egg production in winter, you will have to stimulate your birds with extra artificial light – but I do not recommend this as it disturbs their natural cycle.
Prey is rare during winter, which is why common predators in your area might be attracted to look inside coops.
Make sure your coop is sturdy and has proper fencing. Herd your ducks into the coop at the same time every day.
What Kind of Heat Source Do Muscovy Ducks Need for Winter Time?
Muscovy ducks don’t need artificial or additional heat sources to keep warm in winter.
In fact, adding a heat lamp or anything electricity-related can backfire very quickly within that closed space full of dry wooden shavings.
What you can do is provide your bird with ample amounts of bedding so that it can conserve its body heat.
The best bedding would be wood shavings, flattened bales of straw, and some high-calorie food items like corn and oats.
To change their bedding, you can use the deep litter method.
To do this, do a complete overhaul of the entire bedding within the coop just a few days before freezing temperatures set in.
Once done, keep adding more bedding on top of the earlier one to prevent dampness.
You can do a complete overhaul of the bedding again when temperatures rise.
The bedding below will also be full of moisture and semi-decomposed hay, which you can use as manure after some treatment.
What To Feed Muscovy Ducks in Winter?
The fat in their bodies is one of the main things that let muscovy ducks remain nice and warm during winter.
Winter is a time of recuperation, and it’s a good idea to fatten your ducks a bit as fall comes around the corner.
To do this, add some high-fat items to their regular food mix. You can add around 10% extra corn, oatmeal, peanuts, or peas.
Try to provide some calcium supplements as well. Continue feeding them their regular meal of greens like cabbages, kale, and fruits.
If you can find bugs, add these to the meal as well – though bugs might be hard to come by as winter rolls in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Muscovy ducks live in cold climates?
Yes, Muscovy ducks can live in cold climates. They are able to survive temperatures as low as 10 F and will often seek out thick vegetation in order to escape the elements.
Despite their natural adaptation to warmer climates in Central and South America, Muscovy ducks have been successfully relocated to colder climates in North America and Europe.
Large populations of these birds survive year-round, even in winter months.
Although they may require some protection during particularly cold spells and snowstorms, they are generally tolerant of cold environments, given their hardy nature.
How cold is too cold for a Muscovy duck?
Muscovy ducks tend to do best in moderate climates, with temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the temperature drops below this range, Muscovy ducks will preen and fluff their feathers as a natural adaptation to free themselves from the cold.
That being said, Muscovy ducks can generally withstand temperatures as cold as 10 degrees; however, they may become stressed or even die if exposed to temperatures below this.
It is important for those raising muscovies to ensure that the environment remains warm enough that their birds are comfortable at all times.
What is the average lifespan of a Muscovy duck?
The average lifespan of a Muscovy duck is between 9 and 12 years when in captivity and 4 to 5 years in the wild.
Muscovy ducks have been known to live up to 20 years in some cases, depending on their environment and care.
In the wild, living beyond eight years is quite difficult because of predation and other factors.
Do Muscovy ducks fly south for the winter?
No, muscovy ducks do not fly south for the winter. They are non-migratory birds.
They are quite hardy, and many of their numbers are spread all around the world, with a few living comfortably in very cold conditions as well.
These birds are heavier and can take care of themselves in colder climates. It is best to provide them shelter when the temperature reaches below 10 degrees though.
Winter can be hard for birds, both domestic and wild. I have outlined how you can take care of your pet birds above.
If you do see wild ducks around your yard, be kind and try leaving some feed and water for them.
Thank you for reading!