This summer we welcomed the arrival of two penguin chicks! The first chick arrived on the 14th June weighing 90 grams, and wiithin a month had grown to a whopping 2 kilograms! Then, on the 11th July a second chick arrived also weighing 90 grams, but putting on weight steadily.
Our team of Aquarists are keeping a close eye on both chicks, making sure the parents are doing their job properly and everything goes as smoothly as possible. We'll be able to find out the sex of the new arrivals after about three months when they moult their soft, downy feathers. The keepers can use the DNA in these feathers to find out whether they're male or female. The chicks will then grow their waterproof feathers allowing them to swim, become independent and no longer rely on the parents to feed.
They're not the first penguin chicks we've had at The Deep. Our first chicks arrived in June 2016 and were named Attenborough and Lizzie after David Attenborough and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who both celebrated their 90th Birthdays that year.
All of our penguins have successfully paired since their arrival in 2014 with breeding and nesting behaviour observed each subsequent year – a clear indication that they are happy in their home.
You can still see Attenborough and Lizzie in our penguin habitat. They are rather playful and very inquisitive – you may be lucky to hear one of them call!
Did you know that Gentoo penguins can lay up to two eggs each year? They choose their partner by bowing their heads to each other, and once they are happy with their choice of mate, the male will start to collect stones to create a comfortable nest for his partner. But... penguins can be sneaky! You may often see them stealing stones they like from other penguins' nests.
The eggs are laid about five days apart and are exactly the same size. To make sure which one is which, our keepers mark the egg. They are then incubated for around 35 days. Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs in the nest and it is never left alone.
When the chick is ready to hatch, it must break through an internal membrane into an air space. The chick uses an 'egg tooth' on its beak to break through the shell. This is called pipping. Hatching is hard work and it can take up to a day for the chick to completely emerge from the egg. Our keepers closely monitor the chick's progress every few hours.
Chicks will be roughly 90gms in weight when they emerge from the egg. Their growth is rapid and they can grow up to 850gms at just two weeks - an increase of nearly 1000%.
Gentoo adults can be fed on the nest so the pair can keep their energy up whilst feeding the chick. Being this close up gives us the opportunity to check up on the chick and begin some training to hand feed them. After three months, the chick reaches adult size and their soft baby feathers moult. The adults then leave their chicks to go in search of food.