When Do Ducks Molt

When Do Ducks Molt? 3 Seasons

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We are all familiar with chicken molts, however, little is known about duck molting. Any new duck owner when finds a huge amount of feather in the coop immediately goes into panic mode.

It is natural to think of the worst, a predator attack maybe or conflict between the flock members until you see them happily waddling and going about their business as usual.

Duck Molting

As you raise chickens, you get accustomed to flock molting once a year in the fall. Ducks are hardcore molters, however, the way they molt is different from the chickens.

Molting or dropping of old feathers is vital for their survival as well as flight, insulation, floatation, and the ability to attract a breeding partner.

Old, worn feathers are replaced by new ones. The new, clean, regenerated feathers reduce the risk of attracting mites and parasites.

Most birds follow a yearly sequential molt whereas ducks have a simultaneous molt.

The pattern of molt is barely noticeable in ducks, they tend to drop old feathers over the year in multiple molting periods.

When Do Ducks Molt?

Ducks nearly drop all feathers at once and try to speed things up by scratching and plucking them with their bills.

These feathers regrow quickly into a new, nice set of feathers in a matter of weeks.

Ducks go through two major molting periods, one in late winter/early spring molt and the summer molt. Besides these molting periods, ducks also go through juvenile molt when they are young.

Juvenile Molt

The Juvenile molt is the first molt experienced by the ducks at the age of 10 to 12 weeks as ducklings go outside. Ducklings grow their first set of feathers by 6-7 weeks of age.

At this point, it is hard to tell apart male and female ducks. As they begin to drop their first set of juvenile feathers, the new ones start to grow with different colors depending on the sex. Now, you can distinguish between male and female ducks.

Late Winter/Early Spring Molt

It is more of a subtle molt, the owner might not even notice as most probably only a few strands of feathers would be found around the coop.

As the spring approaches, the drake turns to romance, this particular time period is all about mating for a duck.

The young drake sheds its drab winter feathers for better and brighter “nuptials” plumage.

It is also called “nuptials molt” when the drake wants the best plumage than the other ones to attract females. During this time, hens will also be seen supporting brighter bars and wing speculum markings.

Summer Molt

As the breeding season ends, ducks go through a major makeover. The summer or eclipse molt happens in mid-summer and takes more than 2 to 3 weeks.

Saying goodbye to the excitement of the mating seasons, ducks molt out of their nuptial plumage and into plain, drab, eclipse plumage.

The drake drops its fancy feathers and replaces them with dull, muted plumage quite similar to hens.

During the eclipse molt, ducks will not only lose their feathers but some of their downy undercoats as well. Mostly, ducks shed all their primary feathers, fret not, they do not run around naked.

Ducks are covered by their top, sleek waterproof feathers that keep them afloat. Female ducks regenerate their flight feathers whereas male ducks retain their wing feathers for flying and defense. Learn Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails?

What to Do During the Molting Period?

Though there is no need to do anything differently, you can help by improving their diet and adding a specific quantity of protein. Duck and waterfowl feathers are made of 86% amino acids (building blocks of protein).

During molting, a duck’s body tends to regrow feathers, a protein-rich diet would be helpful. Wild ducks need to eat 1000 bugs and slugs to get enough protein for feathers regrowth.

According to studies, Switching to a high protein diet, give extra mealworms, or extra free-ranging time to get the essential boost of nutrients.

Conclusion

Like chickens, ducks molt as well, twice a year. It does not last forever, you can tell the duck is molting when there is a reduction in egg production, subdued behavior, or when clumps of feathers are scattered everywhere.

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