Rockhopper Chicks Born at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium welcomed five rockhopper chicks between December 23 – 27, 2013. The Zoo has always been successful breeding penguin chicks each year, but never more than three at a time—making this birth all the more unique. Stay tuned to this page for the latest on how they’re doing.


March 31, 2014

Peyton's relatives have been named! Meet males Flynn, Taz and Yoshi and our female Daphne!

You might have a difficult time telling the chicks apart from their adult rockhopper mates. They practically look like the others! Below is a photo we shared back in February to give you perspective.


March 11, 2014

Last night, the rockhopper chicks' adult feathers have truly settled in. The keepers determined that the chicks are able to roam free outside of their playpen. They're now happily getting their feet wet with the other adult penguins. If we had to guess, Peyton is feeling a little daring on that rock there. 


February 27, 2014

All of the chicks are around two months old today. What's even more exciting is that the chicks are now on display in the Scott Aquarium's adult penguin exhibit, where they'll be hanging out in a playpen.

This playpen will give the chicks a chance to acclimate to the other penguins and their surroundings. The chicks also need to allow the rest of their waterproof feathers to come in, so the playpen will keep them from entering the water.
It'll be about another month before all of their feathers are in and they can explore beyond the playpen.

Once the playpen is removed, they'll have the opportunity to meet 25 king penguins, 32 gentoo penguins and 23 other rockhopper penguins. All of which are on display.

A naming contest is currently being held to name four of the five chicks. Visit the Scott Aquarium to submit your favorite name. Entries will be accepted until Friday, March 14. The winning names will be announced on our website Monday, March 31.

February 26, 2014

Only a few poofs of down remain. The chicks' small yet robust bodies are almost covered in slate gray and white waterproof feathers. The yellow lines commonly found above a rockhopper's eyes are also starting to show. In due time, their signature yellowish plumes will extend from these distinct lines.


February 19, 2014

The chicks are maintaining their weight and ready for new adventures! Full-grown rockhopper penguins weigh between 4.4 and 5.5 pounds.


February 14, 2014

The chicks were exposed to snow for the first time today and continue to grow their adult feathers.

Our keepers brought a bucket of the snow used in the adult penguin display down for the chicks, who all weigh between 4.27 and 4.76 pounds, to waddle around in. They took to it right away, packing it down with their webbed feet and even ate some of it.

The keepers are no longer using non-toxic paint on the chicks and are now using colored wingbands. So, instead of having a foot marking, the chicks now have a bracelet-like bands to help the keepers identify them.

We all seem to be familiar with Peyton, but he (or she) is not to be confused with the ornery one of the bunch. One of the chicks is making a name for itself as the new center of attention in an entertaining and very daring sort of way. The other chicks seem to take its lead and play along, even Peyton at times, but we have to laugh. One of the chicks is quite shy and overly calm—often standing aside and looking on when its relatives make a commotion.

If only we knew what they were actually thinking…



February 12, 2014

Halfway there to the five-pound mark for two of the chicks. The rest of the gang isn’t too far behind, with Peyton remaining the smallest of the bunch.. And the weights are: 4.14, 4.25, 4.51, 4.51 and 4.65.



February 7, 2014

Incoming! The chicks are starting to molt, which means their adult feathers are on the way. As for today's weigh in, the group came in at 3.66, 3.88 and 4.18 pounds and two at 4.1 pounds.


February 5, 2014

Four pounds, here we come! As of yesterday, the chicks all weighed between 3.35 and 3.86 pounds.

They're growing up to be quite the social birds, which we're happy to see. This social nature will serve them well once they're ready to go on display and acquaint themselves with the other penguins.

Typically, adult penguins at the Zoo will raise their own chicks on exhibit. But, due to the increased activity levels of the penguins in the exhibit during breeding seasons (beings in October each year), the five chicks were pulled for hand rearing.

Sometimes, nesting birds experience unnecessary stress amidst all of the activity. This can lead to potential aggression between nesting and non-nesting birds. In the best interest of the chicks, the keepers have raised them under their care.

Another fun fact: Once found in a nest - constructed by a breeding pair on artificial rookeries created by the keepers - laid eggs are pulled and replaced with dummy eggs. These dummy eggs encourage adult females to continue their natural nesting behaviors.


February 1, 2014

Peyton and the gang are all tipping the scale over the 3-pound mark and enjoying temperatures in the low 40s these days. That's close to that of the adult penguins on display in our main exhibit: 38 to 40 degrees.

All of the chicks are also down to getting fed three times a day and taking to some tasty new entrees in their diet: fish filet and capelin.

While you can't see them in action just yet, a new video of their recent activity is now being projected onto the penguin exhibit inside the Scott Aquarium. In the video update, Zoo visitors can watch Peyton in true rockhopper fashion - hopping, of course - and the rest of the chicks waddling about their enclosure, getting ample face time in front of the camera.

We won't spoil the footage, but below, you can spot the chicks at their current growth stage. All 3-plus pounds of each of them.


January 30, 2014

The rockhopper chicks are all almost a little more than a month old now, but we certainly recall the days when they were teeny tiny (as shown in the video below). We continue to weigh them every morning and just yesterday, the chicks all weighed between 2.62 and 3 pounds. It may not seem like a lot, but when you think about them each weighing less than a pound at birth, it truly is.

Peyton is still the smallest of the bunch, but really, this chick might as well be the largest. Peyton has garnered so much media attention over the past several days and now, even has it's own Facebook page. Click here to check it out.

January 28, 2014

Peyton and the others are hopping right to it. See for yourself in the video below. Did you know? Other than this webpage, you can also see how our rockhopper chicks are doing at the penguin exhibit inside the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium. There, you’ll currently find information and a short video projected onto the glass of the exhibit about how we raised the chicks since they first hatched. We’ll continue to provide updates every so often until the chicks are on display. That way, you can put everything into perspective—you can see our chicks at their current state while watching the adult rockhoppers on display interact with one another.

January 23, 2014

The chicks are hopping, preening and investigating all over their new enclosure. Remember? The one we told you about, where their bodies will adapt to the temperature of the actual penguin exhibit. Yep, that's the one.

Almost all of the chicks are down to three feeding times a day. Two are getting fed four times a day due to their size, one being Peyton. He (or she) is the smallest of the bunch (pictured below), but certainly the most active. We won't know for sure what gender Peyton is, or the other chicks, until they're a bit older and we can send one of their juvenile feathers in to a lab for genetic testing.

What we do know: Keeping their balance as they hop on and over the rocks in their enclosure has been the most fun for these little ones. Hopping is actually a natural behavior exhibited by rockhoppers. Whereas other species prefer to climb rocks, these guys would rather hop over them. 


January 21, 2014

Peyton and crew are still up in arms over the Denver Broncos' latest victory against the New England Patriots. Peyton more than anything. I mean, c'mon, his namesake is going to the Super Bowl.

In case you didn't know, one of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's five rockhopper chicks was named over the weekend after Peyton Manning, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. His pre-snap Omaha mentions created quite the buzz for the city and, as a thank you and sign of appreciation, we thought it was fitting to name him after one of our own. We know Mr. Manning's shouts of Omaha were all in an effort to win the big game, but we'd like to think it had something to do with our great city either way.

Anyway, the chicks are having a hay day exploring their soon-to-be holding room. The chicks weigh just under two pounds and aren't quite big enough to call it their new space just yet. But, the keepers have been introducing them to the area as they tend to their current holding facility.

Once the chicks are big enough to move into the larger space, they'll start getting acclimated to the temperature of the actual penguin exhibit. Then, they can adapt to what life would be like on display with the other adult penguins - with the exception of more scenery to mimic their natural habitat, water to splish and splash (once their waterproof feathers come in, of course), other penguins to watch their every move and the general public viewing from the outside in.


January 17, 2014

It's not every day you get to witness a penguin chick "pip" from its egg; let alone, watch it take its first baby step - or in this case, crawl of sorts. As you can see, rockhopper chicks look pretty sluggish and uncoordinated once they first hatch. Their heads look a bit too heavy to hold upright and it looks as though their wings may take some getting used to.

No matter appearances. This chick had to "pip" out of the egg somehow. It had to poke a small hole in the egg and then chip at the shell until it could push the top off. Just look at that egg (see below).

All this leads us to believe is that we have some strong-willed chicks in our "coop" - or, if you want to get technical, waddle. They each weigh about a pound now and, with more formula and small pieces of fish, we'll see them fledge soon enough.

Since 1998, 28 rockhopper penguins - Southern rockhopper penguins to be exact - have hatched at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, making us one proud and lucky institution.

January 16, 2014

The chicks continue to grow right before our very eyes, and they will do so rather quickly. You'd think the more they grow, each chick would expose more of their unique features. Well, at this stage, they look very similar and most likely will clear into adulthood.

Sure, we have a wobbler of the bunch and another with a single blue foot. But are those features enough for our keepers to tell the difference?

Of course! However, you can never be too careful, as each chick needs equal attention.

Each chick has been given a special marking on one of their feet. This marking is made with a non-toxic paint and each chick is marked with a different color. Once the chicks are old enough, they'll receive wing bands, just the other adults on display. What else is so unique about these wing bands? They even help Zoo visitors identify with our penguins, too.

Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, though. Here's a look at the chicks back in the brooder days, before they could even hobble on one foot. To give you some perspective: The photo to the left was taken in late December, when they were just a few days old. The other was taken on January 10, 2014. It's already January 16 and the chicks are moving around their space quite independently and recognizing different cues from the keepers.


January 15, 2014

The rockhopper chicks are finally settling down after such an exciting media reveal yesterday. Their personalities are starting to shine through, but just because they're young and adventurous, our keepers still have to be mindful of the surrounding temperature.

This can take a toll on the chicks if their environment isn't monitored correctly, as under and overheating can occur.

Rockhopper chicks at the Zoo start our needing their environment to be between 91 and 95 degrees. But, the larger they grow, the lower the temperature they will need.

At birth, after they've hatched out, the chicks were placed inside a temperature-controlled brooder. This cooler-looking space provides the low humidity and good air flow needed for the chicks to survive beyond the casing of their shell.

Now, covered with down and tireless feet, the chicks are waddling in a cozy tub in our hatchery space, with a thermometer nearby for our keepers to watch the temperature and a heat lamp for the chicks, should they need a little more warmth.

Meet Beverly, an Aquarium Birds senior keeper. She can tell you a lot more about the process, among other things the keepers do to ensure the chicks grow up to be healthy adults.

January 14, 2014

Today was the day the rockhopper chicks got to meet the media, all for their big debut to the outside world.  Before all of the publicity, the chicks received their second meal of the day. The chicks are fed five times a day in three-hour intervals. The keepers must follow these strict guidelines, as each chick is only allowed to consume 10 percent of its body weight at each feeding. The chicks are also weighed each morning to determine the amount of food that’s given to them for the day.

A tasty fish and krill formula is made fresh daily for the chicks. This formula is packed will the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to help them grow to adult size. The keepers distribute the diets to the chicks individually, using their middle and index fingers to form a beak around the chick’s mouth. This resembles their mother’s beak.

Once the chicks have reached half a pound in weight, small fish filets will be introduced to their diet. It won’t be long now.


January 13, 2014

The rockhopper chicks are preparing for their media debut. Only two to three weeks old, the chicks are full of fur and eager to explore. It seems as though it were yesterday the chicks were still growing inside of their eggs.

Rockhopper chicks undergo a 32- to 36-day incubation period. Then, it may take another 24 to 48 hours after the initial pip for the eggs to fully hatch. Temperature and humidity are crucial to this process. Without the proper distribution of either, the eggs could lose moisture and not receive the proper air flow, therefore, harming the embryo.

Our keepers checked up on the chick eggs inside the incubators three times a day to ensure proper temperatures and humidity levels were in place.

Oh, will you look at that? They're already playing with one another.


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