What Muscovy ducks might lack in good looks, they make up for in temperament and usefulness. Muscovies are affectionate, waggling their tail when they see you at the gate to the poultry yard. They eat pests, are quiet, lay extra-large eggs, and make less mess than most duck breeds. It's also easy to tell females and males apart from an early age by their physical characteristics.
Video of the Day
Muscovy duck female and male masks
Muscovy ducks are famous for the bright red masks around their eyes. The red, rubbery-looking masks have wartlike bumps called caruncles that can be so extensive that they cover large parts of the head and neck.
Males have the most expansive, bumpiest masks that can surround the sides of their bills and even descend down the neck. The Muscovy duck female has a mask that looks more like a masquerade ball mask — typically just around the eyes — with less bumpiness than the males.
When the caruncles get injured, such as when male ducks fight with one another, they usually heal with additional bumpiness. Females sometimes get caruncles on the back of their head from where a male has gripped them during mating.
Feathers offer clues
Like most types of ducklings, the Muscovy duck female's feathers start erupting sooner than the males. First feather sprouts generally erupt on the wings. This is a good time to band the leg of the early feathering ducklings as potentially female.
Adult males generally have more vivid colors than females. Wild Muscovies are deep black with white wing patches. The black areas of their body have a green sheen in the sunlight. Females have a less green sheen in daylight than males, where sheen is very pronounced.
In domesticated Muscovies, feather colors range in buffs, white, lilac, and gray. However, Muscovy male feathers still have a sheen in sunlight, whereas Muscovy duck females of these dilute colors tend to be duller.
Let them tell you
Juvenile Muscovy ducks peep much like any other duckling. However, like other ducks, female Muscovy ducklings tend to be more vocal than males. As the birds mature, Muscovy duck females develop a trilling sound. Males, on the other hand, hiss, huff, and puff.
Check the growth
A male's rapid growth begins right after hatching out of the egg. Within the first few days, a male's legs will start to get longer, and he'll have a bigger body than any of his female siblings.
At what age do Muscovy ducks start laying eggs? By approximately 6 months old, a Muscovy duck female will start ovulating. Ducks don't always use a nest box, so you might not notice if your free-range Muscovy is doing this. You'll also need to catch her in the act to determine which duck is actually laying eggs.
Get an auto sex strain
Muscovy ducks are the only domesticated duck breed that doesn't descend from the mallard. As a result, sex-linked traits are slightly different than in mallard-type duck breeds. In mallard duck breeds, males carrying the brown or buff gene can be paired with females carrying the blue or black gene to produce sex-linked offspring.
In the Muscovy duck, chocolate is the only sex-linked color gene, but you can't just mate two chocolate Muscovies together, or you'll come out with 100 percent chocolate ducklings. A chocolate drake must mate with a female carrying either black or blue genes. A black Muscovy duck female will produce black-downed drakelets, and a blue female will produce blue-downed drakelets. The young males will carry the chocolate gene to pass on to future generations.
The female offspring will have chocolate down if their mother was black. Ducklets that came from the blue mother will have chocolate or lilac down. You can purchase sex-linked Muscovy ducklings online from a hatchery so you can be sure of whether you're starting your flock with males or females.