One of the most oft-asked questions I receive from new owners/enthusiasts is how to determine
the gender of young Muscovy ducklings. A lot of people are familiar with the sex characteristics
of the mallard derivatives, the curled tail feather, the green sheen on the head, the hoarse, raspy
quack of a drake or the loud boisterous quite audible quack of a duck. What some may not
realize is that because Muscovy are not a mallard derivative they do not possess these same
From hatch until about 4 weeks of age there is really only one way of determining the gender of
ducklings and that is by vent sexing them. This is something that isn't easily done if you're not
familiar with the process. As it can hurt ducklings if done improperly, I won't provide directions
here. It is best to find someone familiar with the process to show you how it is done in person.
It is at the 4 to 6 week mark that the drakelets begin out-growing ducklings and determining
gender becomes easier. It takes a certain familiarity with the differences to be able to pick them
out on the younger ducklings that are at that 4 to 6 week threshold, as the birds progress beyond
this point it becomes considerably easier for the untrained and trained, for that matter, eye.
There are a few basic things that we are looking for when we attempt to identify sexes. My
preference is to look at the bird in two ways, one is from the side, in profile, the next is from
When looking at the ducklings in profile, drakelets are typically going to be longer front to back
or bill to tail. I like to use the legs as the center point of reference for this. If you compare the
length from the leg to the tip of the tail and the length from the leg to the bill on one duckling to
that of another duckling, the difference will be noticeable on the different genders. Drakelets also
have more pronounced and prominent breasts. They will have a long tail and their 'underline'
will be fairly 'flat'. They have thick legs with a wide stance & larger feet. They will also begin to
obtain their caruncling sooner. Another thing that helps is when comparing them to ducklets of
the same age because they will not get their flight feathers as soon as ducklets will. Drakelets
should have some red caruncling by the time their flight feathers grow in.
Ducklets on the other hand will remain 'petite' and feminine. They will have round, compact
bodies. Their legs are thinner and their feet will be smaller. They won't have the breast that sticks
out from their body, it will be close to the body. Ducklets get their caruncling later than drakelets
however they will obtain their flight feathers sooner. Ducklets will be fully feathered by the time
their caruncling begins to appear.
I have wanted to do a 'duckling diary' for several years now where I provide a photo either daily
or weekly of a clutch of ducklings so that you can see the progression of the ducklings as they
grow and begin to develop the sex characteristics, unfortunately I haven't gotten that
accomplished. I will try to find a few photos that highlight some of the differences I've spoken to
here and put them on this page for a visual reference.
As always, if you have any questions, please don't hesistate to ask!
|Determining Gender in Muscovy Ducklings
This is the best photo of the size difference between genders that I could find that I have on hand.
These two ducklings are from the same clutch from a chocolate ripple drake x dark ripple duck
breeding. The chocolate ripple ducklet is in the background, the dark ripple drakelet (which
carries chocolate) is in the foreground. I believe these guys were about 4-6 weeks of age when I
snapped this photo although it's been a few years so I cannot give an exact age. Unfortunately this
only shows the size aspect, it does not show the difference in feet/legs nor the differences in the
shape of the ducklings.
This photo shows, although not well, the differences in leg thickness and foot size between
drakelets and ducklets. Drakelets are on the right, ducklets on the left. This also shows the size
difference between the two. At this point, the ducklings have feathered out identically, bellies,
breasts, tails, and those feathers covering the wings are all in. Caruncling is not evident at this
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