Muscovy Ducks: Sustainable Food for Post-TSHTF by Joe M.

Finding a good sustainable food supply post TSHTF has been a difficult and long journey. It’s going to be a lot more than storing dehydrated food, water and having some seeds. Eventually you will run out of food and will need a way to feed your family in sustainable way.  What are the best options of doing this? A remote retreat with several different types of livestock and a large garden all sound very nice but is it practical? Let’s go thru all of the options. In a post TSHTF situation we might have to consider mobility. Fire, radiation, large gangs or worse yet, our own government troops coming after us are just a few of the possibilities than could cause you to be highly mobile. I do believe it’s a great idea to have a remote retreat and even better if you live there full time. We also have to worry about security and maintaining a perimeter over all key infrastructure including livestock, barns, gardens, cisterns etc. We will have to maintain noise, light & smell discipline. It’s always better to avoid being a target going undetected. I would rather avoid a firefight at all cost. The sound of a generator or livestock, can be heard a long way off. It will mean I have power and or food. Same holds for maintaining light & smell disciplines. Cooking beacon or meat outside can let others know you have food. Blackout curtains will help with light shinning thru windows. The smell of a fire and or food that is cooking must also be avoided. Stealth is a key goal.

There will probably be long hard work days and or nights. This will cause us to need more calories and good sources of proteins. What are our best options?

Better have that garden already planted and know how to save seeds. There is a long learning curve with gardening. A large garden is very time consuming. There is a lot of hard work turning over the soil, planting, watering and weeding especially if it has to be done by hand. It usually takes several seasons to establish a good garden. How large of a garden will you need? A typical family of four will need between 1 to 2 acres of farmable land for use as a garden. Growing in pots or larger cans can help with mobility but the yield will be small. Drought, pests, diseases, deer and rabbits can all decrease production.  Higher calorie and protein needs will be very hard to meet with a garden. You might be an easy target for a sniper in a large open field maintaining or harvesting your garden everyday. Lot’s of work. So, having a garden as large as you can maintain is good but we will have to supplement it with some higher quality of protein. Pros: provides some necessary nutrition & vitamins. Cons: Can’t provide enough high quality proteins, hard work to maintain, poor mobility.

Fish can be raised in a pond if you have one. They can meet the protein requirements that you will need. Usually not too much work if it is already established. Raising fish in a barrel is another possibility. An aquaponic setup is another possibility. If you live in cold weather region where the water freezes you will not be able to produce year round. Pros: quality protein & fish oil. Cons: no mobility, seasonal, expensive set up costs, can be difficult to maintain, uses lots of water, water is very heavy to haul.

Small Livestock
There are many types of small livestock to consider. The best livestock will be one that is easy to care for, no special feed or supplements, reproduces fast, grows quickly, are very quiet, resistant to diseases, good mobility, no smelly waste, easy to protect against predators and large enough to feed a family of four. It would also be nice if it is easy to butcher, cook and tastes good. Let’s check out our common options:

Pros: Eggs (protein & fat) and meat are very high quality protein. Small space, good mobility and easy care.  High production of eggs- usually one a day.                                                                                            
Cons: Hens can be a little noisy at times, need a rooster for sustainability (lots of noise). Vulnerable to predators, need a good coop for protection at night.

Pros: small space, reproduces quickly, good mobility, quiet, good mothers, high quality meat protein, fiber, fertilizer- that can be used immediately.                        
Cons: high maintenance, don’t like the heat, messy, may have to grow some of the feed.

Pros: Milk, good quality meat protein, fiber.
Cons: harder to handle, get intestinal worms, need to rotate fields, hard to keep them penned in, must keep them dry, will need a large quantity of hay in the winter, management problems, noisy.

Pros: Milk, quality meat protein, wool, easy to handle.
Cons: Need to rotate fields, intestinal worms, need hay in the winter, can be noisy, management problems.

Pros: Good source of fat & quality meat protein.
Cons: Can be hard to handle, noisy, can take up a bit of space, poor mobility, can be escape artists and are messy.

Pros: Good quality meat, down, seasonal eggs. No special feed needed, good mothers.
Cons: need a large area to graze, noisy, aggressive, vulnerable to predators, 

Pros: Seasonal eggs, meat. 
Cons: need a large area to roam, noisy, difficult management especially when young.

Muscovy Ducks
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.

So Muscovy ducks are number one on my list. Since they get along well with chickens, I would include a few of them as well (no rooster). Rabbits would also be a must have. Goats, sheep, pigs and small cows are nice to have but do require a big step up in care, maintenance and are less stealthy. There is also a big learning curve as well. So if you plan on having these animals you should start now. Add as large a garden as you can care for. A garden may produce 25% of your food on average. Fruit trees and all types of berry type plants must be started now because it can take years before they will yield fruit. Bees can be added for honey and wax. Your time is going to be a big factor in any post-TSHTF situation. Lots of your time will be needed for security. Start your planning today.