You have finally done your research on why you should have ducks, but now need help sexing them. Sexing ducks or even young ducklings is possible using a variety of simple to difficult techniques. Depending upon the method you choose and your skill set, sexing of chickens can occur when they are merely days old.
Once you discover what physical and audio cues to look for when staring at a batch of baby ducklings, the sounds they make and actions they engage that once seemed identical, can help you separate out the future hens from the future drakes.
The most reliable method of sexing a duck is through a vent (or cloaca) check. While this method of separating the boys from the girls is essentially 100 percent accurate, it should never be tried by a novice.
Damaging a duck, a duckling especially, by improperly or too roughly conducting a vent check could severely injure or even kill the poultry bird. While details about vent checking and an overview of the process below are included in the how to sex a duck guide, only professional or individuals formally trained should attempt this process.
How To Sex A Duck
1. Vent Checking
Checking the cloaca or vent reveals the reproductive organs of the duck. All of the reproductive organs of both male and female ducks are tucked completely inside their bodies. When a vent is checked the right way by skilled hands, the duck is neither harmed nor emotionally traumatized by the sex check.
But, if the person doing the vent check does not do it properly and applies more than extremely gentle pressure on the belly or the duck or the vent area, the poultry bird could be irreparably harmed.
Only slight pressure is needed to expose the vent just barely to see the internally housed reproductive organs of the duck. This exam should only be performed by a veterinarian or experienced duck keeper. You can safely and successfully sex a duckling when it is a day or a few days old, but it is recommended to hold off completely on a vent check until the duckling is close to two weeks old. The younger the duckling, the more fragile and susceptible it will be to injury during a cloacal exam.
How To Sex Ducklings Via The Vent Method Overview
- Place the duck on a level and solid surface.
- Place the ducks legs away from your and it’s breast face up.
- Make sure the duck’s tail is hanging away from the vent so the area is completely exposed.
- To find the vent, feel along the tail feathers to locate the small opening.
- Place your thumbs on either side of the cloaca opening and only then should slowly use very mild pressure to open the vent slightly apart to expose the walls.
A female duck will have an oviduct opening in her cloaca and a male duck will have a thin and protruding penis. The penis will be sheathed in male ducklings and young ducks and unsheathed in mature drakes.
The duck vent checking video below showcases the process. Remember, never should the cloaca be opened any wider than necessary nor should it be held in that position for any longer than a maximum of 30 seconds.
If conducting a vent check sounds too complicated or you cannot find someone to teach you, there are other less intricate ways to determine the sex of a duck.
When ducklings are only a few days old a distinct difference in size often becomes apparent. Male ducklings regardless of breed, are almost always taller than female and weigh more. In the case of Rouen, Welsh Harlequin, and Mallard duck breeds, males tend to have both a larger head and a thicker neck than females.
3. Plumage Check
Some duck breeds can be sexed by their plumage even when they are merely ducklings. Domesticated duck breeds that show plumage differences that can be used to help determine sex include: Cayugas, Pekins, Magpies, Indian Runners, Anconas, and Swedish.
Doing a little bit of research into the specific breed of duck that you are keeping can help you learn about any plumage coloration variances that may exist and how they can be used to sex a duck. In some breeds, it is not entirely uncommon for all ducklings to boast only female plumage colors until they are roughly 90 days old.
Regardless of the breed, all maturing males will develop a drake feather. Either one or two curly tail feathers will develop on the flat tale of a drake.
4. Wing Characteristics
Ducklings in some breeds grow feather sprouts on their wings – and sometimes even tails and bellies, at different rates. In some if not many breeds, a female duckling will show signs of the first true feather sprouts more quickly than males of the same age.
Watch the changes on the ducklings as the fuzz they boasted when hatching starts to turn into true feathers. Also, take the feel as well as the weight of the wings into consideration when sexing a duckling based upon wing characteristics. A female’s wing will lose the thin and papery feel more quickly than a male, on average.
The sounds ducks make can also help a keeper determine their sex, even from a fairly young age – six weeks old, on average. Until ducklings hit this growth milestone they tend to sound just alike.
Choose one duckling at a time to work with when attempting to sex the poultry bird by their voice tone. Pick up the duckling and move away from the rest of the birds to ensure you are hearing only it and doing so clearly.
At six months or older a female duckling will have a demanding tone to her voice. Female ducklings and ducks also often make a louder sound that can rattle the ear in pitch. Male ducklings usually create a more soft quack in an even tone. All of the duck breeds we have ever kept boasted females that sound like they are honking more than quacking. The honking sound truly comes out more when the female ducks are agitated or excited.
6. Breeding Season
Whether you are raising ducks to grow your flock or to lay eggs, the characteristics during breeding season should help give the sex away. During the breeding season some varieties of drakes develop small red freckles on their bills. Mature drakes will sometimes put on elaborate displays for the females to garner their attention.
A drake throws his head back and kicks at the water wildly while swimming to coax the ladies to choose him as a mate. Drakes in some breeds will hold both their heads and tail up and erect while floating around on the water to show off their most attractive selves to the females in the flock.
Head bobbing initiated by a drake is reciprocated by a female it swims over to and positions itself in front of to entice her to accept his desire to mate.
Drakes also often engage in a nod swimming motion just prior to mating. He swims only a short distance with his neck laying low against the water level and its body as flat and close to the water as possible. It is not uncommon for a drake to show this type of behavior both before and right after mating.
7. Bill Identification
Male and female ducks of some breeds boast bills that differ in size, color, or even shape. If you are keeping ducks from a breed with bill distinctions, do not expect to be able to notice any true differences until a duckling is at least two months old.
While the differences in the duck bills vary by breed, some males are prone to orange or orange-brown bills and males are more likely to have green bills. If bills are the same color, the shape or size of the bills can still be different.
Duck breeds that develop bills that are easiest to notice differences in include: Khaki Campbells, Muscovy, Fawn Runners, Rouens, Abacot Rangers, Appleyards, Black Runners, Welsh Harlequins, and Indian Runners.
With Muscovy ducks, for example, the male has a bill that is straighter, wider, and noticeably flatter than those on females of the same breed. A hen of this breed typically produces a platypus style bill that is curvy, narrow, and has a distinct ridge in the middle.
When hatched, both Fawn and Black Runner ducks have dark bills but once they begin to grow and age the common differences noted above start to appear. Both male and female Abacot Rangers have green bills, but the hens of this breed are dark green and the drakes have bills in a lighter green hue.
Pay attention to the waddling habits of your duck to help determine their sex. Long before you can tell a male duckling from a female based on plumage, bills, or even body size difference, their feet might offer clues to their sex.
The feet of male ducklings is often disproportionate to their body size. Male ducklings often get their feet crossed when walking about more than females and have legs that are more bulky than females. The stationary stance of a male duckling also tends to be wider than that of a young female.
9. Duckling Behavior
Female ducklings are often more active than the future drakes. Maybe the little female ducklings move about more frequently and with greater ease because they do not usually have the same issues with disproportionate feet.
When the ducklings are only a couple of weeks old the differences in activity levels can become readily apparent. Any ducklings that seem to prefer lounging about most of the day or look lethargic in comparison to some of their peers, are likely male ducklings.
Being able to sex a duck properly aids breeders and small scale keepers plan flock increases with a healthy male to female ratio – and expand the coop and run, if necessary.