Visitors to Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary a few weeks ago might have been left scratching their heads as a crane lifted a container off the back of the truck and positioned it behind the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow. Its purpose? To boost capacity so more kiwi eggs can be incubated, and more kiwi chicks can be released back into the wild.
The Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow located at Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary, north of Taupō, is preparing for a bumper season of kiwi chicks. At the time of writing, the incubation, hatching and brooding facility currently has eight eggs and one chick, with more eggs due to arrive next week and a second chick expected to hatch today.
You probably wouldn’t think that having lots of kiwi chicks would be a problem but when it comes to brooding, having enough space for them can be. During incubation, eggs are stacked vertically in incubators. But when eggs hatch, chicks need to have plenty of room to themselves. For 3-4 weeks, until they put on weight and are ready to be released into the Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary kiwi creche or their new forever home at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, each chick sits in a brooder box which is around the size of a pinball machine.
Currently the Kiwi Burrow has 14 brooders available for chicks. If this season is as successful as we’re hoping it will be, we may run out of room – which is where the ‘brooder wing’ comes in.
The brooder wing is a specially modified 40-foot container that had been previously used at the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua. It’s fully kitted out with everything that’s necessary for the brooding of kiwi chicks. The Kiwi Burrow team is currently in the process of connecting the ‘brooder wing’ to the necessary utilities like power and water, and when it’s up and running will be able to cater for an additional 20 brooding chicks.
When it’s not a home to kiwi chicks, it can be used for other solutions like an ICU for injured kiwi and extra laundry space (because, fun fact, kiwi chicks make a lot of dirty washing!).
For Crombie Lockdown Kiwi Burrow site manager Helen McCormick, the arrival of the ‘brooder wing’ is almost like a re-opening.
“Even though the Burrow officially opened in December last year, this year feels like a new beginning,” she says. “We’ve had time to thoroughly prep for this season, we’ve hired more people who are amping to get stuck in, and now we have more capacity to hatch more chicks and release more kiwi back into the wild. This expansion of our facility will really make a difference to how much work we can do here. It’s really exciting.”