Keepers at Edinburgh Zoo are looking after a group of nine rhea chicks. The zoo had hoped to breed just one chick this year so nine hatchlings was a massive surprise. With the species becoming increasingly threatened they are very excited.
The chicks parents were both born in France throughout 2011. They moved to Edinburgh in 2013. They have received a special exercise routine and a range of weeds from around the grounds. It is believed this lead to the successful birth. Darwin’s rheas have only been bred a handful of times in the UK.
Nick Dowling the senior bird keeper at Edinburgh Zoo said, ‘Our Darwin’s rhea pair, Evita and Ramon, are in their first breeding season together here at Edinburgh Zoo and we were hopeful we might successfully help them to hatch and rear their first chick this year. It was beyond our wildest expectations that we would end up with so many – an incredible total of nine.’
The rhea chicks needed to be incubated for 35 days. The chicks are all different ages with a pair of two months old and four who are only 1 week old. Their sex is yet to be determined. Soon vets will take a small blood sample for DNA analysis which will reveal their gender.
Keepers have had to devise a special method of getting these rheas to eat as Dowling explained, ‘Feeding these nine large birds has been a big, but enjoyable challenge. To stimulate feeding in the new hatchlings, we encouraged them to peck at food with a “puppet” rhea parent made up from old rhea feathers, a photo of an adult’s head and an old sock to cover our hands!’
The rhea chicks have also been engaging in an exercise routine. ‘We believe our other key success has been their exercise routine. From only a couple of days old, we built special little pens in an sunny off show area of the Zoo and let the chicks run riot in there. This exercise mirrors what would happen in the wild as from a very young age the birds have to chase after their parents as they forage for food. Believe it or not the exercise actually helps to keep the birds regular, which can be a real problem for Darwin’s rhea young’ said Dowling.
The pair of two month old chicks can now be viewed in front of the zoo’s monkey enclosure.
You can see a video of the chicks below.
Photo Credit: Edinburgh Zoo