How to tell male and female ducks apart

Ducks and comfrey

If you purchase (or
hatch) straight-run chicks or ducklings, one of the things you’ll be
most interested in learning is how to tell the boys from the girls at a
young age.  Back in 2010, I was just learning
to sex young chickens, and now the time has come to do the same with ducks.

I’m assuming in this post that you don’t want to vent-sex your ducks, even though that is
the definitive and official way to sex young poultry of all
sorts.  I’ve never actually vent-sexed a bird, but the process
sounds very traumatic for the youngster, so I generally figure it’s
better to wait until the differences become more obvious.

Duck beak colorWith
waterfowl, the best unintrusive way of telling the drakes (males) from
the ducks (females) is by voice.  When our ducklings reached three
and a half weeks old, I started to notice that their whispery baby
voices were being interrupted by a quack now and then, a sound that only
female ducks can make.  If you want to be certain of the sex of
your waterfowl, wait until they’re eight weeks old, then capture them
one at a time and listen to their alarm calls — the females will quack
and the males will make a different call that’s supposed to sound more
like “wongh.”

Dave Holderread reports
that you can also sex ducks by bill color if the ducks are
purebreeds.  (Hybrids often have bills that are harder to link to
sex of the bird.)  In several breeds, the bill of a male duck is
grayish or greenish from a young age, while the bills of females can be
yellowish with a dark tip or can be dark brown with some orange. 
In most cases, the bills of female ducks are darker than the bills of
drakes by the time the waterfowl reach two months old.

One final method of
sexing ducks is to wait until the birds are four or five months old and
attain their adult plumage.  At this age, drakes generally have
curled tail feathers, and in many breeds, the heads and backs of males
are darker than those of females.

We’re still in the
waiting stage with our duckling-sexing project, so I don’t know how many
ducks and drakes we have in our nine-bird flock.  I plan to keep
all of the ducks and one drake, so the more girls, the better!

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