In Andy Cawthray’s piece about duck incubation he appears to be helping a duckling out of its shell. When I have done this the duckling ends up with a deformed neck and remains small. So now I do not give any assistance and the duckling eventually dies in the shell. Any comments?

Andy Cawthray replies:

Thanks for getting in touch John. The image in the article is actually a photograph I took whilst working with Graham Hicks (the well known waterfowl breeder) during his last year of significant hatching prior to his retirement. Graham rarely assisted birds during hatches preferring instead for it to make its own way out of the egg where possible. He would though peel back the membrane (as he’s doing in the image) if it was blocking the hatchlings ability to breath when checking over the hundreds of eggs hatching in the incubators.

Assisting a young bird to hatch be it duckling or chick is always a risk, and as with Graham, I rarely interfere as in my experience it frequently results in the youngster not thriving.

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