Thursday, 6 August 2009

It is fairly commonplace for keepers at the Park to rescue eggs that have been abandoned by the parent birds. If the eggs have been un-brooded for a period of up to 2 weeks they can still be incubated and successfully hatched – this incredible phenomenon is called ‘diapause’ – brought about by cold torpor (cool temperatures and low humidity levels) temporarily suspending the development of the embryo. The embryo begins its development once correctly incubated – whether under the parent bird or in the incubator! The gestation period for most eggs ranges between 21 and 30 days – after which ‘pipping’ occurs – this is when the chick starts to break out of the shell using its egg tooth. At this point the eggs are removed from the incubator and placed in a ‘brooder’ where hatching takes place and the youngsters spend the first day or two of life being monitored by keepers in this safe, warm, humid environment. Once the new arrival is feeding and moving around independently in the brooder it is moved to join other like-youngsters in one of our nursery boxes within the incubation house. The brooders and nursery boxes are on view to the public – we’ve been hatching out rare and common water fowl, guinea fowl and pea fowl on a continuous basis since early spring and although we’ll soon be coming to the end of our breeding season we expect to have the last of our hatchlings on view until the end of the summer holidays.

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