Cheyenne Mountain Zoo recently celebrated the hatching of a healthy African Penguin chick on December 13.
When the new chick hatched, it weighed approximately 51 grams, or just shy of 2 ounces (about the same as two slices of bread). Thanks to successful care by its first-time parents, it has already grown to about 2.5 pounds, or 40 ounces, in just over a month. That means the chick has grown by 20 times its initial hatch weight in approximately 35 days.
“Even at just over 30 days old, it’s already pretty feisty,” said Patty Wallace, lead Aquatics animal keeper. “That’s a good sign, since it’s a natural defense mechanism for chicks in the wild.”
The chick is being cared for by its parents, Murphy and Joe, in an off-exhibit area for now and is not currently viewable to the public. Once the chick molts for the first time and grows its adult feathers, it will be safe for it to be socialized with the rest of the flock in the main exhibit. Until the adult feathers come in, the chick doesn’t have waterproof protection, so it needs to be kept away from the exhibit’s pool for safety.
Keepers named the chick “Penny”. Although they will not know the gender of the chick until DNA testing is conducted, this unisex name serves as a nod to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s founder, Spencer Penrose, and the fact that the Zoo considers the chick their “lucky Penny.”
Although the Zoo has had previous Penguin hatchlings, past chicks were, unfortunately, not viable past 10 days. However, the Zoo felt that it was still important to allow the birds to do what came naturally by laying eggs, and keepers saw the egg incubating experience as helpful to the adults in the flock.
Veterinarians and Penguin experts are not sure why the offspring have been unsuccessful until now. However, several theories trace back to the Zoo’s aging Hippo and Penguin exhibit that was built in 1959. The Zoo is currently working to address those concerns with a $10.4 million capital campaign called Making Waves, which will fund new state-of-the-art buildings for both Hippos and Penguins.