Durden’s Christmas Update

After a very long wait sitting on the eggs to keep them warm, the eggs have finally 
hatched and we now have two tiny little baby penguins in our nest. It took the 
chicks several hours to break open the egg, and to free themselves from the egg 
shell. They began by pecking a tiny hole with their little beak, and then they 
gradually made the hole bigger, pushing with their legs until the egg finally 
broke in half. They then had to free themselves from the piece of shell stuck 
to their back, which is not easy for a baby that cannot walk yet.

Once they were free of the egg shell, we threw the bits of shell out of the nest, 
and tucked the little babies under our feathers to keep them warm and safe. We 
use our beak to gently push them under our bodies, and we lie over them carefully 
so as not to squash them. The chicks are very weak and delicate for the first 
few days, so we have to be very careful not to hurt them. 

That is why we cannot take any photos of the chicks yet, but when they are a 
bit older, and leaving the safety of the nest, I will send you a photo of our 
chicks. In the meantime I attach a photo of a neighbour’s chick that was born 
3 weeks ago, so it is now much bigger than our chicks.

As you can see from the photo, the chick’s feathers are very different from our 
adult feathers. The chicks have fluffy feathers, like soft toys, but we have 
short waxy feathers. That is because our feathers are suitable for going into 
the water, and the chicks’ feathers are not. The chicks’ feathers are really 
warm, much warmer than ours, but if the chicks get wet, their feathers soak up 
the water like a sponge. So we have to keep the chicks nice and dry, even when 
it is raining. That is not too difficult living in a burrow underground, but 
penguins living under bushes have to hold the chicks tightly under their bodies 
to keep them dry when it rains.

For the first two or three days the chicks do not eat anything, using the egg 
yolk in their stomachs as food. Then we start to feed them bits of fish which 
we catch at sea and bring back to the nest for the chicks. When the chicks are 
little the fish we give them is mashed up in our stomachs, but as the chicks 
get bigger they eventually start to eat larger pieces of fish.

The fish we bring back to the chicks are called Sprats, and they are very similar 
to the sardines that you can buy in cans, but without the tomato sauce of course. 
These fish are high in protein, and the chicks grow very quickly on such a diet. 
The chicks weighed just 100 grams when they hatched from the eggs, and will grow 
to weigh more than 3000 grams in just two months. That is like a human baby growing 
into a full grown man in just 2 months. I will write to you again in about a 
month, by which time the chicks will be much bigger, and I will send you a photo 
of them.

The people who work in our colony to keep us safe, keep talking about Christmas. 
I don’t really know much about Christmas because penguins don’t celebrate Christmas, 
but even so I would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. 

Lots of love from Durden




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