Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's a turkey! It's a chicken! No, it's a Muscovy!

If you have ever visited the American West Heritage Center and taken a stroll around the 1917 Jensen Historical Farm, you might have encountered these odd-looking creatures. You can find them waddling among the ducks, turkeys, chickens, and peacocks that call our farm site home. Farm interpreters often overhear visitors trying to guess what bird this might be-- what kind of turkey waddles? What kind of duck doesn't quack?
Allow us to introduce to you the Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata). This quack-less duck is originally native to Central and South America, but now calls North America and parts of Europe home. Though the common name may lead you to believe that these ducks came from Russia, no one actually knows how they came to be called "Muscovies." (They are also known as Barbary Ducks, but they're not native to northern Africa either.) Muscovies eat the same bugs and plants that regular ducks do, and our small flock of bumpy-faced birds contentedly join the other farm birds in a daily breakfast of grain.
Throughout the summer you could find various Muscovy hens nesting in our horse barn, sometimes to the dismay of our volunteer cow-milkers. One hen insisted on laying her eggs right next to the milking staunchion, and it took her a week to catch on that an animal 120 times heavier than she belonged there. Another Muscovy hen and a brown and white turkey nested right next to each other in the barn (in a section dubbed "the maternity ward"), and when the Muscovy chicks hatched, the turkey took to thinking that she was their mom too. While the chicks were still young and yellow, they could be seen paddling around the puddle in the corral, their turkey mom standing close by.
Our Muscovies are friendly, but if you come to visit, please respect their space! Nesting Muscovy moms will not hesitate to go for your ankle if you get too close, and little yellow chicks need to stay with their mothers (as cute as they are). If you're interested in taking some Muscovies home with you, stop in at the front desk to ask about prices. Our Farmtastic Fall festivities will be starting September 19th, providing many opportunities to get to know our Muscovy ducks. See you soon!

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