The good eggs at National Kiwi Hatchery

Late last week we got word that the last kiwi chick of the season at The National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa had hatched, making its way into the big wide world.

 
We were getting set to write a heart-warming story about this fresh little hatchling – the 89th chick of the year – and implore you to head to the hatchery, located at the entrance to Rainbow Springs Nature Park, to see him or her before he or she leaves the brooder room (i.e., kiwi day care centre) in a few weeks.
 
But then, stop press! Over the weekend, the hatchery received two more eggs – AND one of them hatched a couple days later (pictured below at just one day old), just in time for morning tea. The team put their lab coats back on and got to work inspecting their new charges, particularly since this pair of North Island brown kiwi come from an esteemed background.
 

Coming full circle


The eggs have a very special lineage as they whakapapa back to the aptly named Tahi, who was the very first chick to hatch at Rainbow Springs as part of the captive management programme back in 1987.
 
While in residence, Tahi (pictured below) contributed to the successful hatching of 20 chicks and “fostered” 16 others.
 
“He was such a good Dad that he even sat on his daughter’s eggs when he didn’t have a partner, as his ‘son-in-law’ wouldn’t sit and incubate,” said Emma Bean, kiwi hatchery manager.
 
In 2017, when Tahi was a 30-year-old and released into the wild, it took the new bachelor a while to find a special lady kiwi to settle down with.
 

Emma has known Tahi since 2007 when she joined the team. She said everyone at the hatchery is “super excited” that Tahi has started his own family and that they have the privilege to look after his next generation.
 
“Some of the team have been out with the fieldworkers to help monitor him since he was released in 2017, and we eagerly awaited the news that he’d paired up in Otanewainuku. Now we’re just so, so pleased to know that our fantastic kiwi Dad is out there incubating in the wild!”

The newly hatched chick will spend two days in the hatch room, then move into the brooder room where you can see him or her for the next three to four weeks – perfect timing for this long Easter weekend and the early part of the school holidays. But if you miss seeing this one, the younger egg will hatch in about a month from now.  
 
The hatchery incubates kiwi eggs and hatches the chicks to save our national bird. Out of every 100 kiwi eggs laid in burrows in the forest, only five kiwi chicks will make it to adulthood due to predation by pest species, particularly stoats.
 
“By hatching the kiwi eggs in safety, we have over a 90% hatching success. The National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa plays a vital role in saving kiwi, as we keep kiwi chicks safe when they are most vulnerable. When the chicks are released at a stoat-proof weight, it increases survival rates in the wild from 5% to 65%.”
 

How you can help our kiwi

Besides learning about – and possibly meeting – these precious birds, the next best thing about visiting the hatchery is that 100% of your ticket fees support the hatchery’s kiwi programme, which is the largest and most successful kiwi hatchery in the world.
 
The hatchery is open 8.30am-2pm, Thursday to Sunday in term time, and daily in the school holidays and public holidays. Tours depart hourly from 9am to 1pm.

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