IMG_0035

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.


IMG_1758

In addition to our striking white Aylesbury ducks, we’ve also welcomed new waterfowl on our duck pond. One breed are rather large and the other rather small!

IMG_1751

The large, heavy set ducks with mallard-like markings are our Rouen ducks. This is a very large imposing breed which looks like an oversized mallard. Female ducks are brown with black lacing on the outside of the feathers and males (drakes) have a green head, claret bib and grey body.

The Rouen originate in from France where they were used as a meat bird and crossed with the Muscovy to produce the Barbary duck. They take 2 yrs to reach their full size of 12 lbs, and because of this they are now kept more for showing. Exhibition females only lay between 100-150 eggs per year. They are a docile breed and tame reasonably easily and due to their size they cannot fly.

IMG_1781

The other duck breed now on the ponds are diminutive, particularly in comparison to the weight Rouen. These are call ducks. A call duck drake weighs only about half a kilogram! Despite their small size, they have a very loud, high-pitched call. These birds were originally bred to lure wild ducks into traps during hunts. The call duck has been in Britain since the 1850s and in addition to their small size have a distinctively round forehead and broad, short bill. Find out more about the breed from the Call Duck Association UK.

To find out more about any of our animals, visit the animal pages of our website.

In the video below, you can see the new ducks on their pond and enjoying the falling leaves. You’ll also hear the unmistakable sound of the call ducks. They are extremely loud, especially considering their small size!


IMG_1772

There have been many new arrivals to meet in Pets Corner, including a flock of large, handsome white ducks. These are our new Aylesbury ducks. The Aylesbury duck derives its name from the town of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, where the breed was developed as a table duck to supply the London market in the eighteenth century.

IMG_1762

The Aylesbury duck was a leading waterfowl exhibit in the first national poultry show held at the London Zoological Gardens in June 1845. This was the beginning of live poultry exhibitions, and it was the Victorian stress on size that led to the development of the modern Aylesbury duck with its pronounced keel and long pink beak.

IMG_1768

The Aylesbury is a heavy duck with the drakes weighing 4.5-5.4kg (10-12lbs) and the ducks weighing 4.1-5.0kg (9-11lbs). The females are not very good layers only producing 80-100 eggs per year.

Here’s farmer Tom moving them to their daytime quarters in Pets Corner.