Incubation instructions: Australian Spotted ducksIncubating the eggs under a broody duck or chicken hen gives higher hatch rates than use of an artificial incubator. The incubation period for Australian Spotted bantam ducks is 26 days (unlike the 28 day period for larger ducks).
Do not wash the eggs: the external mucous layer provides a barrier against bacteria.
Do not use an automatic turner. For optimal hatch rates, we recommend hand turning as follows.
1. Turn on the incubator two to three days before you set the eggs to ensure that the temperature and humidity stabilize. (You may have to do this before the eggs arrive.) The target temperature for Australian Spotted eggs is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Target humidity is 63%.
2. After the eggs arrive in the mail, let them settle for a few hours before putting them in the incubator. (If you plan to candle the eggs before incubating them, do it now.) Unless the eggs are excessively dirty, do not wash them. The external mucous layer serves to protect them from internal bacterial contamination. We remove the bulk of dirt or wood chips on the eggs when we gather them.
3. Around the equatorial line of each egg (the imaginary circumferential line between the small and large ends) lightly mark an X in pencil. Turn the egg 180 degrees and mark an O on the opposite side along the same imaginary line.
4. Turn the eggs half-way round five times a day (averaging four hours apart), alternating between having the X or the O marks upright. Do this while keeping the small end of each egg tipped down about 45 degrees during the entire incubation period. Hand turning results in higher hatch rates than use of an automatic turner.
5. On day 24, increase the humidity to 75% and stop turning the eggs in anticipation of hatching.
6. For high-percentage hatches, it is essential that eggs are incubated in the correct position. Always set them on their sides with the large end (air cell) slightly raised. When duck eggs are set with the air cell lowered, their chances of hatching are decreased by up to 75 percent.
Do not feed ducklings chicken food. Their niacin requirements are higher and the antibiotics, if present, are dangerous. We recommend Purina Duck Starter crumbles (about $18/50 pound bag). After two weeks, we recommend switching to Purina Duck Grower pellets (about $13/bag).
For the brooding period, feeding instructions, and other information specific to bantam duck raising, we highly recommend Dave Holderread's book, Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks (available for about $13 on Amazon), though the book pertains to ducks of all breeds. Australian Spotteds are described on pages 31-33. Detailed instructions for hatching are found in Chapter 12.