Hen proves perfect mum for crane

She may be only 22cm tall but she is proving to be the perfect foster mum for a sandhill crane five times her size.

She may be only 22cm tall but she is proving to be the perfect foster mum for a sandhill crane five times her size.

The broody bantam hen at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near Fakenham, has been smothering the 1m crane with motherly love for the past few weeks after incubating its egg for 28 days.

“The bantam hen has incubated other eggs in the past but we have never left her to look after the birds” said Andrew Reeve, Pensthorpe conservation manager, who added that they did yet know whether the crane was male or female.

“We have trusted her heavily with this chick and she has been fantastic.

“The crane is now about five times the size of her but she still walks around with it and looking up to it. That is good because cranes need lots of exercise to develop their muscles and keep their bones strong. It follows her around and she teaches it to feed and what to eat.”

The real parents are a three-year-old male crane and its two-year-old mate.

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Despite cranes not reaching sexual maturity until they are about five, the young female surprised excited reserve staff by laying two eggs in May while building work for their new home, the Pensthorpe Conservation Centre, was being completed.

Staff were worried that the construction work would disturb the crane's nest so they placed the two eggs under a bantam hen.

One of the eggs proved fertile and on June 6 the crane hatched out of its egg and has treated the little bantam as its mum ever since.

They are expected to stay together for about another month, and once the chick can maintain its own body temperature it will be moved to an area where it can associate with its real parents in the cranery.

The Pensthorpe Conservation Centre, which opened in May,

features a purpose-built cranery that houses the largest collection of cranes in the UK, including eight of

the world's 15 species. Sadly more than half the crane species are considered endangered or threatened by man.

The young crane and bantam hen will be able to be seen together by the public in about a couple of weeks.

Pensthorpe is on the A1067, one mile from Fakenham, and is open all year round.

For more information call

01328 851465 or visit www.pensthorpe.


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