At around 12 days old it is time to sex and pinion the ducklings. This can be a daunting task and if you’re not sure how to do this. It is best to do it with someone experienced or get someone to come help you the first time. Sexing is done by opening up the cloacae and therefore it is also called vent sexing. Smaller bird species are being sexed using a microscopic probe. For the bigger birds like ducks, vent sexing works well as shown in the photos below.
- The Vent Sexing Process
Hold the duckling on its back with its head pointing down your wrist in your right hand and its legs up in the air pointing away from you.
- Expose the vent by holding the tail up with your left hand, and pressing in and up between the duck’s legs with the thumb and forefinger of your right hand. With very slow, gentle pressure, open the vent.
- Observe the genitalia through the opening. Female ducklings have a cone-shaped organ that is more easily observable. Males have a smaller, longer, pointed organ inside a larger cloaca. The male’s organ may not even appear for several seconds after the vent is opened.
Before explaining the process of pinioning we want to first make the following comment. Many people think it is very cruel to pinion your exotic ducks. However there is a very good reason for pinioning. These ducks are exotic species and the last thing we want is for them to breed and they may fly away and cross breed with indigenous species. If you argue that you are going to keep them in a fully enclosed aviary the question is still, how will you deal with excess breeding stock? The moment you want to sell to others, your ducks have to be pinioned because not everyone has the luxury of an enclosed aviary.
Once the sexing is done the ducklings can be pinioned. Males are pinioned on the right wing and females on the left wing.
This is a task not for the faint hearted. If done correctly it has very little impact on the health of your ducklings. The bone that is severed is less than the thickness of a match stick and the total length of the wing that is cut off is about 4 to 5 mm. (not even a quarter of an inch.) Ducklings are just starting to develop at 12 days but they grow in body size and most energy is used to build the body but the wings only really start developing when their real feathers start to come out. At 12 days the blood flow to the tip of the wings are minimal and the bones are still quite under developed.
First feel for the Alula the sharp nail like protrusion on the wing. The Alula is NOT cut off. Pull it out of the way thus towards the ducklings head so the last part or end of the wing is exposed and the bone can be severed as shown in the picture below. Pinch tightly on the joint. (Make sure that you pinch the joint between your finger and thumb because this will ensure that you do not cut IN the joint!) Cut the bone with a pair of sharp scissors or clipping tool. Cut where the black line is drawn in the illustration below.
Once done you can keep the pressure on the joint for a few seconds but I let the ducklings go directly into the water to wash off. Within minutes they are bathing and preening like before.
It is a good idea to spray the cut with an antiseptic or apply a suitable weeping wound powder. (Please check with your vet before applying any disinfectant to the duckling).
Note: The cut IS NOT made IN the joint as shown in the picture below. Remember if you cut away the Alula you are cutting in the wrong place.
If you are still in doubt about how to pinion after reading this we suggest you dig into your freezer and get hold of a chicken wing or two and study them and even practice on that….if you have to. Just remember that with a chicken wing you will cut through a thick and fully grown bone. When pinioning a duckling it is like clipping one of your nails….so it is not that scary…good luck. (While practicing on the chicken wing you can remind yourself that if you do not pinion your ducklings at 12 days this will have to be done when they are adults! You can imagine the trauma it causes to an adult duck when doing this.