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Hatching is underway at Mudchute, with the first of Spring’s arrivals making their way into the world. We welcomed our first ducklings last week. The newly hatched ducklings include a mix of Aylesbury and Runner ducklings and will be joined by further ducklings and chicks over the coming weeks and months.

These precocious youngsters spend nearly a month developing in the egg and are capable of walking and feeding themselves shortly after breaking free of the egg. However, breaking the eggshell from within is hard work. Chicks and ducklings first begin with an “internal pip” internally breaking into the air sac a the wide end of the egg, taking their first breaths. They then break the egg shell (an “external pip”) before they begin to unzip the shell.

Watching the growth and development of the embryos is fascinating and we’ve shared some of the process previously here on the blog. We’re also happy to share the experience with local school groups who participate in our Hatch and Brood programme, where eggs are incubated right in the classroom. Good luck to all of our participating schools! To find out more about the programme including how your school can take part, please visit our Education pages.


This Light Sussex cockerel and Rhode Island Red hens could be the parents of this year's hatching eggs.

This Light Sussex cockerel and Rhode Island Red hens could be the parents of this year’s hatching eggs.

Today saw the start of the 2014 Hatch & Brood programme. Coordinated by our Education and Farm departments, this scheme allows school groups to witness development firsthand in their own classrooms.

This year our hatching eggs come from Tatsfield and are a sex-linked variety, which means cockerels and hens can be distinguished by their feather colour at the time of hatching. The birds are a cross between Rhode Island Red and Light Sussex. This means a Light Sussex sire and Rhode Island Red hen will produce yellow male chicks and brown female chicks, something we hopefully be able to demonstrate for you in three weeks time!

Good luck to all of our participating schools! We’ll keep our fingers crossed for a clutch of happy and healthy chicks!

The parents of this years' Hatch & Brood eggs have plenty of room to roam.

The parents of this years’ Hatch & Brood eggs have plenty of room to roam.

Happy free-range chickens raised on organic breeders pellets.

Happy free-range chickens raised on organic breeders pellets.