10 Effective Ways To Sex Your Muscovy Duck (With Pictures)

Newbie duck owners all over the world constantly ask, “What sex are my Muscovy ducklings?” Sometimes, even the gender of adult Muscovies is unclear to duck owners. I answer this question frequently.

Here’s the complete list of methods to determine whether Muscovies are males or females, whether they’re ducklings or adults.

Table of Contents

The methods to sex young ducks are approximately in order of when they show up.

  1. What DOESN’T Work
  2. Vent Sexing
  3. Bill
  4. Feathers
  5. Feet
  6. Body Proportions
  7. Behavior
  8. Tails
  9. Caruncle Growth
  10. Voice
  11. Body Language
  12. How to Sex Adult Ducks
  13. Comparison Photo Gallery (Adult Ducks)

What DOESN’T Work

Most of the standard methods for sexing ducks don’t work on Muscovies.

Whether Muscovies are even true ducks or not is disputed. Some think they’re closer to geese.

“Sex feathers” on an Aylesbury drake.

It’s a well-known fact that male ducks have curly sex feathers,” or drake feathers, on their tail. I’ve seen many people asking on forums whether their Muscovy is a male or female being told to wait until the sex feathers come or don’t come in. I suppose Muscovies are always girls then.

Nope, Muscovy drakes do not grow these “sex feathers.”

You can discern the sex of many other breeds of ducks by their color or bill color. For example, female and male Mallards have very distinctly different coloration, and Abacot Rangers not only have different coloration, but show a different bill color even before they are feathered. However, you can NOT sex Muscovies by their color or bill color.



Some people also think only Muscovy drakes have the tall crests that resemble mohawks. However, both drakes and ducks have crests. It’s just that ducks generally have smaller crests.

Sometimes an owner will see their duck investigating their nest boxes and jump to the conclusion they’ve got a girl. Wonderful, they think! They wanted it to be a girl so badly. But is it?

Not so fast there! Drakes also investigate nest boxes, even when they’re occupied by females – simply out of pure curiosity. However, scratching and scraping in nest boxes, or creating those bare depressions often used as nests, usually signifies a female, although this only shows up around four to five months of age. They will only start laying around six months of age.

Gracie scrapes and scratches to create a depression in the dirt to be used as a nest. As usual, however, she abandoned this depression and called her work “good practice; unworthy of eggs.” Females will often scrape out nesting areas but never lay in them.

And now, here are ten ways that do work to tell whether your Muscovy duck is a male or a female.

Method #1: Vent Sexing

Since there is no sexual dimorphism in ducklings, there’s only one surefire method to know the sex before eight weeks of age: vent sexing. This involves using your hands to invert a duckling’s vent, or cloaca, to reveal the sexual organs. This is easiest on day-old ducklings, but it’s easy to hurt the duckling if you don’t know what you’re doing.

See a video about vent sexing from Metzer Farms here:

Beginners may find it hard to get the hang of vent sexing, so until you’re a pro, it’s not entirely reliable, because you’ll either end up with “definitely male” or “maybe female, maybe male.” Just because you don’t see a penis doesn’t always mean it’s a female, because you may not have fully inverted the cloaca.

However, you can usually see visual differences in Muscovies as soon as the feathers start coming in. In general, you can see the difference when your ducks are four to eight weeks old, sometimes even younger, depending on your experience level and how fast they grow.




Method #2: Bill

There is a very subtle difference in the bill. Males will have flatter, wider, straighter bills, and females will have pointier, more narrow, curvier bills. Again, this is very subtle and hard to describe. I’d say that boys have “platypus” bills, rather flat on top, and girls have bills with a ridge in the middle, on top. I don’t trust this, as it’s such a slight difference and not always reliable, but it does give me an early clue.

This can show up extremely early, even before ducklings start gaining feathers, possibly even as early as two or three weeks of age.

Head of a young female Muscovy duck
This is the head and bill of a young female Muscovy duck. A good example of the “girl bill.”
Head of a young male Muscovy duck
This is the head and bill of a young male Muscovy duck. A good example of the “boy bill.” If you don’t see a difference, never mind. If you’re a beginner, there are better ways to sex your ducks.

Method #3: Feathers

The earliest clearly visible difference is the growth of the feathers. Ducklings start growing feathers when they are approximately four weeks old. The females’ feathers grow much faster and earlier than the males. The first ducklings with feather sprouts around the wings, tail, and belly are likely females. The clearest difference is usually found in the wing and tail feathers.

Note that it’s only the feathers that grow first on females. Their body and caruncles grow SLOWER than the males.

Besides showing up early, this difference is quite reliable and, for experienced duck raisers, at least, fairly easy to spot. It’s by far my favorite method for sexing ducklings.

If you look closely, you can see that the wing feathers are sprouting. This one was the first of the batch to sprout wing feathers, and sure enough, she was a girl! Her name is Sweet Pea.
Maple
This young drake, Maple, is about the same age as the female, if not slightly older (I believe about six weeks old). However, his feathers haven’t come in as much and his wing quills haven’t sprouted yet.
Muscovy Male Wing Development
This is the wing of an eight-week-old male Muscovy. Side note: The blue wing quills will turn into dark feathers, and the pink quills will turn into white feathers.
Muscovy Female Wing Development
This is the wing of a female Muscovy. She’s the same age as the male above, about eight weeks old. The wing is noticeably more developed than the male’s.

Method #4: Feet

The feet of young male ducks tend to look out of proportion in comparison to their body. Even before there is much body size difference between males and females, males often have much larger feet than females. Their legs will also be thicker, while females will have very slender legs.

Sometimes this difference is quite noticeable. Other times, it never really is, even in adults.

You’ll usually notice this (if you do at all) around six to seven weeks of age.

Captain and Mocha
The drake’s foot, on the left, is noticeably larger than the duck’s foot on the right. The female’s leg is also quite slimmer than the male’s. These are both adult ducks; however, the difference is usually just as noticeable in younger ducks.

Method #5: Body Proportions

As adults, drakes are often twice the size of ducks. In ducklings, it won’t be the first difference, but males start outgrowing the females around eight weeks old. Males also tend to have a more pronounced and prominent breast; females’ breasts will be smooth and streamlined. Males will have longer bodies; females will have shorter bodies. Males will also have a slightly bigger and longer head. In general, males will be chunkier and more ‘boyish’, and the females will be more round and curvy. (I call males “boxes” and females “circles.”)

Juvenile female Muscovy duck
A young ducklet, showing a smooth chest.
Juvenile male Muscovy duck
A young drakelet, showing a prominent breast. I realize his head is down and hers is up, which does exaggerate the difference, but unfortunately I did not have a good side view of a young male with his head up. This example will be updated once I hatch another batch and take new pictures.

Method #6: Behavior

Males will often appear lazier than the females. Their legs grow quicker (as well as the rest of the body), which perhaps makes them sore (remember “growing pain”?). Whatever the cause, males won’t be as active as females in the early stages. Eventually this difference fades, but it is most evident when the ducklings are two to four weeks old.

Various Muscovy keepers, including myself, have observed that males appear to nibble fingers and clothes more than females, but this is not a proven method. This can even be noted in ducklings under a week old.

Males have a wider stance than females. In fact, females step on their own feet frequently. Of course, this doesn’t mean females won’t have their feet wide apart at some point and the males won’t ever have their feet close together. I can’t tell you exactly when you might start noticing this, but I believe it would be about when they are eight weeks old.

Mitzi steps on her own foot, the signature female pose. She’s NOT walking, she’s just standing there. So even though she’s a duck, she’s pigeon-toed. (Ironic, right?) I think it’s really cute.

Method #7: Tail

Males will have wide, U-shaped tails and females will have narrow, tapering, V-shaped tails. However, this isn’t always reliable. Females can fan their tail out, such as when they’re broody, flying, or upset. And males’ tails can look almost as pointy as females’ tails at times. However, most of the time, there is a clear difference. The only problem? This difference is too vague to be reliable until the ducks are nearly fully feathered (about twelve weeks old). By then, you’ll probably know anyway.

A V-shaped tail and a U-shaped tail. It’s pretty easy to tell who’s who, isn’t it? These are adults (Mocha and Captain).




 

Method #8: Caruncle Growth

The males will be the first ones to start growing caruncles (the red warty facial mask on adult Muscovies). The females will grow caruncles as well, only a lot slower, and their caruncles will never grow as large as the males’ will.

This is quite reliable. I’ve never seen a female with more caruncles than a male, or a female that grew her caruncles earlier or even at the same time as a male.

Males start growing caruncles around sixteen weeks of age; females only kick in when they’re about twenty weeks old.

Saucy
This is a juvenile Muscovy drake, Saucy, at about five months old. Note how large his caruncles have already grown. He will still grow more, but he already has more than most females will ever get.
Mitzi
This is a juvenile Muscovy female, Mitzi, lazing in the grass, at about five months old. She’s much more petite than he is (although that may be hard to see as they are not next to each other). Also, her caruncles are barely developed at all (although within a few weeks, she will have some caruncle growth), whereas the young male already has quite prominent caruncles.

Method #9: Voice

The males will lose their voices as they transition from adolescents to adults (about when they are twelve to sixteen weeks old) and will appear dumb for a while. Eventually, the males will gain the adult male’s hiss, or huff, an obvious difference from the females’ musical murmuring.

This is a surefire method to tell the sexes apart. Drakes can make no other sound, apart from their hissing or huffing. However, it shows up so late that you’ll probably already know for certain what sexes you have long before the boys start hissing.

Both the males and females are talking simultaneously here, but you can still clearly hear the difference between the drake and his girls:

Method #10: Body Language

There is one final difference that is not easily apparent to a first-timer, but with some time and experience, it will become the first visible difference. Simply, the males will just act masculine and the females will just act feminine. Once you learn duck body language, you will start noticing the little indescribable quirks that differ between males and females, things such as the duckling’s posture and walk, etc. They’re impossible to explain and only visible through experience.

Male and Female
In the foreground is a male, and in the background is a female. (The third duckling visible is two weeks younger, which is why no feathers are visible at all.) Note how the male’s feathers are less developed than the female’s, especially in the tail. However, being experienced with Muscovy ducks, I can also see several other differences, such as the head shape, body shape, and posture. (That funky sit/stand thing the young male in front is doing is something I mostly see boys do. But girls do it too, occasionally, so it isn’t reliable.)




How to Sex Adult Ducks

As adults, the males are easily identifiable, even to a complete beginner. Their caruncles are much fuller and more prominent, and they are approximately double the size of the females. The females are small, petite, and have minimal caruncling. Males also still have larger feet, U-shaped tails, and a wide stance, although their wings at this point look the same and they are generally just as active as the females.

Even if you only have one individual and don’t have others to compare with, the voice will tell you. Drakes have a hoarse hiss, while ducks utter a pleasant, quiet sound something like a musical whimper. This is a surefire method. Females ARE capable of hissing, but only do so when trying to fend off a threat, especially when they’re broody or trying to protect their babies. But if they’re broody, you know it’s a girl anyway.

This is the comparison between two Muscovy siblings, a drake (BB) and a duck (Skylar.)
This is the comparison between two adult Muscovy siblings, a drake (named BB) and a duck (named Skylar.) The difference in size and caruncles is especially evident here. You can also see the tail difference.
BB courting Moon. Look how huge he is in comparison to her.

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It’s good to look at ALL the features when trying to sex ducklings, because sometimes boys and girls will be approximately the same size, have feathers come in at about the same rate, or be identical in other factors. One factor isn’t necessarily enough.

In 2015, we had one duckling we had no gender consensus on. We thought it might be a girl, but its feathers came in slow, its caruncles came in fast, and its feet were huge, as big as our boys’ feet. And…she turned out to be a girl. In fact, she went broody and hatched four ducklings in the summer of 2017. One of those was Mitzi, whom you can see earlier on the page.

Another time, we were buying two drakes to add genetic diversity to our flock. The seller’s Muscovies were all small, and in adults, that’s the first thing I go by because it’s the most obvious. I asked her which ones were males, and she pointed at a puny white Muscovy that I was positive was smaller than my girls. I didn’t believe her until he hissed (which is a dead giveaway).

But take heart, even if you have boyish girls or girlish boys. You can always wait until they’re adults. And with practice, it gets easy.

One day, you may show a visitor your duck flock and tell them, “This baby is a girl, and this is a boy,” and they may reply, “How do you know? They look identical!” And then you will know that you’ve mastered it.

If you have Muscovy ducklings or even adult ducks and aren’t confident with your “diagnosis” after reading this article, don’t worry! We’re happy to help. E-mail us here: Please include pictures of your ducks. A view directly from the side is best, but other angles are helpful as well.

Comparison Photo Gallery

All of these are adults. Drakes are on the right, and ducks are on the left. Click any image to enlarge it.

For more information on Muscovy ducks, see our Muscovy Duck page in the Duck Breed Guide.

Muscovy Duck

Liked this article? Comment below and tell us what you thought!

20 thoughts on “10 Effective Ways To Sex Your Muscovy Duck (With Pictures)”

  1. I liked your article as it gave clear definitions of the gender difference. Also, I have a couple of ladies from last years hatch with very little caruncles and was concerned that they didn’t look true to breed – but reading you notes it would appear its not that unusual.

    1. Glad you liked it! Some Muscovies have so little caruncles that the patch around their eyes doesn’t even connect to their bill. Personally, I like it that way, but it’s possible that show birds are “supposed” to have more.

      This duck has the most minimal caruncles of my flock:

      Closeup of Fly the Muscovy duck's head, showing minimal caruncling.

  2. Wonderful. You sound so experienced w Muscovies. Can you email me? I’m new and having a hard time.. lots of questions!
    Thank you!!!

  3. Quite impressive and will be put in practice as it really helps a lot in contributing to my Muscovy Duck backyard farming. Can you email me more about?
    Big thanks

  4. This page is EXCELLENT! We have 4 ducks and one drake. Two clutches from two hens (who ended up sharing the nest and lings) with the other two now sitting on eggs. Yikes! I have a world of questions, but your explanations are so clear and beautifully illustrated, that I will wait to ask them until after I have finished reading all of your articles. Good work, girl, and thanks so much!

  5. I sent an email regarding 4 of my muscovies, pretty sure we had a strait run of males. Just wanted to verify.Thanks so much for the article. very helpful!

    1. No, the drake doesn’t assist. Most drakes ignore them, or peck them if they get too close. But I’ve heard of some Muscovy drakes killing ducklings. You can keep ducklings in the same area as a drake, but you have to be careful and very observant at first to be sure they are not being bullied or worse.

  6. Interesting, my wife and I made our living for over 40 years, vent sexing millions of day old chicks and turkeys and also ducks, geese, pheasants and one type of quail.

    Vent sexing is a highly skilled job, requiring at least a year of practice nearly every day to learn chick sexing. Turkeys are also difficult, ducks are easier but still require skill to avoid having some die. We didn’t sex too many Muscovy but did do some for Ridgway Hatchery in La Rue, Ohio. They are still in business, selling back yard chicks, turkeys and ducks. They do sell some Muscovy if anyone is interested in buying some day old ducklings.
    Chick sexing was the main part of our business, working at commercial egg layer hatcheries that may hatch 50,00 to 100,00 leghorn egg type chicks in a day four days a week. Later they developed a feather sexed strain that didn’t require as much skill. So we worked for years at a turkey hatchery that hatched over 10 million turkeys a year. We were always self employed and traveled all over Ohio, Indiana and neighboring states to do our trade.

    What is interesting is I also raised Muscovy ducks when I was a kid, raising them for showing at fairs and for meat. Loved the breed.

  7. I have 4 ducklings, unsure of their sex.
    I believe I may have 3 boys and 1 girl. I do not intend to breed. They are simply pets. My question is this…… will we have problems because there are more boys than girls?

    1. Yes, unfortunately, you will almost certainly have problems. They are likely to kill her. You would need about fifteen girls to be safe, with that many boys. I think the best option would be to rehome the female, if they’re only pets. You could also rehome all three boys and get more girls, although that would be more difficult. Or you could only rehome two of them, although sometimes there can be problems with overmating even with only one drake. Or you could even get a whole bunch more girls.

      I hope you find a good solution!

      1. I started with a chocolate drake and two ducks, a black and blue all as ducklings. Another much older drake that was abandoned near our home has become buddies with our drake and than last year we had two stakes that survived out of the litter the girls shared =4 drake+ 2 ducks. We haven’t had a problem so much with the girls as they have a pen they can fly into to eat//nest in peace and my boys are not as eger to fly. But my younger boys are often bullied by the stray. I have to feed and water in separate areas. The The younger ones sometimes stay with the girls , as they still are small enough to fly some, we now have 14 babies that no one bothers. Both my brothers get along fine. I will add that in the spring I will be more protective of my girls by putting a screen on the shared wall as my boys will walk the fence and stress my girls. All mine are pets and fair winners so we didn’t want to get rid of any of them. I plan on keeping most of the girls we have and maybe one boy who looks very promising. I am always watching and have noticed most of the differences you shared but its so nice to have the about ages they show up, etc. I have found a new way that has so far (only 3 litters) been 100% accurate with 1-2 old muscovy ducklings. I’m so excited! Now if I could know what they were going to look like prior to being fully feathered!

  8. We have a variety of ducks, if the females Muscovy gets breed with say a khaki Campbell will her off springs be sterile? I read where the Muscovy drakes breed a different breed they will be sterile. Just wondering if its the same for females.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Yes. The offspring of a Muscovy drake to a duck of a different breed is called a mule or mulard, while a Muscovy female to a drake of a different breed is called a hinny. Both are sterile. However, female hinnies do lay eggs (although they cannot hatch), while female mules don’t.

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

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