bahama ducks

Q. I am new to raising ducks and would like to know a simple and easy way to vent sex waterfowl.

A. Personally, I don't particularly like to recommend vent sexing to beginners because I think it could possibly cause discomfort and injure the sexual organs of a waterfowl if done in an incorrect and overly forced manner. It takes practice and knowhow to do it correctly and safely. But if it is done expertlHooded merganser ducksy, I think it can be easy and safe. There are persons who can sex any species of duck, goose or swan with the greatest of ease, while others never seem to be able to get the hang of it. If you produce a wide variety of species, you should probably learn this method because there are some species in which both sexes are identical in appearance.

The best thing is to get another breeder who is an expert at vent sexing to help you and supervise you until you've picked up the nack of it. Most ducks are very easy to sex while the geese and swans resist you more, that is tighten their vent muscles so that it is most difficult to invert their cloacal region so the inner parts come into plain view. Perhaps the best time to sex any water-fowl is when they are a week or two old, and some say best results are achieved at just 3-4 days old.

If you are raising such species as Emperor, Ross's, Brant, Snow Geese and other ducks, geese and swans where both sexes are pretty much alike, you should consider becoming proficient in the vent method so you can reliably sell this stock to others. Such birds as Cereopsis Geese, Coscoroba Swans, and I am sure there are others too, can be reliably sexed by voice if you are sexing them at the stage in their lives when they make adequate noise for you to compare their voices. But here again, if you want to sell tBlue-winged Tealhem when they are young and cannot wait for them to disclose their own sex vocally, the vent method may be the way to go.

My own experience indicates that vent sexing is best done in the spring on adult birds, when the sex organs are beginning to swell. At this time of year the gentle manual manipulation of a male's vent will cause sensitive twitching and reflex movement. This does not occur when handling female waterfowl and is a good indicator of sex in my judgement, but as mentioned before, an expert can apply the right amount of pressure and easily cause the vent to invert itself and expose the inner parts so that there is no doubt as to sex. Check the drawings that illustrate vent sexing in various publications so you know what to look for, and the penis on a male will stick out especially when the right manipulation of the anal region is applied, so there is really no guess work involved when done right. Also, before doing vent sexing for the first time, it is my recommendation that you first consult with and receive instructionfrom an avian veterinarian. Family of European Shelducks

Now as to determining sex other than by the vent. We've already mentioned that voice can be used with certain species if you know what you are listening for. Also you can watch behavior with each other. Males tend to be larger and more aggressive, and, of course, during the courtship period of many geese and other waterfowl you can tell without any question. Males as a rule tend to be more vocal. Females more retiring in behavior, and when they do this is a sound off, it is at a higher pitch with the exception of certain ones where the males have a high pitch voice and the females the low. The shape of a bird's outline, especially the head, is often a good indicator of sex in geese, swans and some ducks. Males tend to be bolder in appearance, and their features larger, and coarser looking, especially their heads and feet. --JB

Q. I've just sent in a subscription to the Gazette, but while I'm waiting for my first issue I am wondering if you could give me some advice on feeding swans?

A. We like to feducksed our adult swans entirely in the water (mixed grains and greens placed along the shallow side of our ponds) except during the breeding season when a pan of game bird layer crumbles is made available near the edge of the pond where they can eat and then wash it down with water. If you are letting the parents rear their own young, then you'll want to make sure to have feeders that are low enough so the cygnets can easily reach the food. Also, make sure enough food is available for both the swans and any ducks you have in the same enclosure. Swans feed much more slowly than ducks so if there is not sufficient food for all present, then the swans are unlikely to get all they need. The ducks in particular will be quick to take whatever is available. To help with this problem, you can put the swan food in a bucket that is raised up out of the water or in a barrel or other dispenser where the swans can reach but the ducks cannot. Of course, where the swans are brooding their own young, you must have a shallowp an with feed available to them unless an adequate and continual supply of nutritious greens are thrown into the water for them to forage upon. There is more complete information on feeding in the next issue of the Game Bird Gazette magazine. In the magazine you will find great information on feeding and all aspects of swans management. You'll also see lots of swans for sale! --JS

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