Duckling Hatching Experience at Treetops Nursery
Duckling hatching guidelinesYou know both Spring and Easter have arrived when eggs and fluffy, new-born ducklings can be seen at Treetops Nursery. To explain, the nursery took delivery of a duckling ‘hatching kit’ in late March and children at this Willesden nursery have had an absolutely magical time ever since. Over the course of ten days, the children and staff watched as the little duck eggs were incubated, using specialist equipment, right in the heart of the nursery. After just a few hours, fluffy yellow ducklings had hatched, much to the delight of everyone who saw them. More details follow below …

Background — Incredible Eggs

Let’s start at the beginning. A group of 7 small, family-run farms runs a programme called Incredible Eggs. It provides education in the form of chick-hatching experiences for settings like childcare nurseries, schools and care homes across the UK. As part of this, it helps with wildlife conservation too, breeding several rare and pure poultry breeds to safeguard biodiversity and avoid losing some of the breeds forever.A duckling being cared for by a child at Treetops Nursery This also includes breeding and releasing the endangered ‘Grey Partridge’ back into the wild as part of the overall programme. Incredible Eggs also supports several charities and social enterprises. Animal welfare is a top priority and the programme aims to give every bird “a good life, and a life worth living.

The Hatching Experience at Treetops Nursery

The team from Incredible Eggs arrived at the nursery, bringing with them all the equipment we would need, along with the precious duck eggs, of course. They professionally set up the equipment for us and explained to nursery staff everything we needed to know for the days ahead. Printed hatching guides, information sheets, posters and instructions were all supplied, so staff were fully briefed as to what to expect and what they would need to do to ensure the welfare, safety and health of the new arrivals once they came.

One of the delightful ducklingsThe Little Miracles Arrived

The eggs had already been partly incubated while at the farm, so in no time at all, tiny ‘cheeping’ noises could be heard from the eggs as they began pecking away at the egg shells, from the inside. It was absolutely magical for the nursery children and staff to witness the little ducklings gradually break free and enter the world for the first time.

A Magical Experience for Children & Staff

Children enjoying the magical experience with the ducklings

Once hatched, the ducklings were gently moved into a ‘brooding’ unit, a lovely warm area where they could dry out, gather their strength and rest for a couple of days. They settled in comfortably and were cared for, fed and watered by knowledgeable staff — all under the watchful eye of the delighted children. Once they were strong enough and adorning their beautifully soft, fluffy yellow plumage, the nursery children were allowed to gently handle the ducklings under close, adult supervision, of course. The children were told to stay calm and quiet and to avoid sudden movements, so as not to scare the ducklings. It was a dream come true for many children and their delight was clear to see. They loved seeing the ducklings learning to eat and drink in their lovely warm brooding unit. It was also fun to see them get excited when staff or children gently scratched around at their food, making them run over to peck it.

Ducklings can swim just a couple of days after hatchingOne of the joys of having ducklings this time (the nursery had hen chicks a couple of years ago) was that ducklings absolutely love swimming! Containers of water or a paddling pool can be set up and ducklings are able to take to the water within just a couple of days of hatching. It’s great fun to watch them learn to dive and to dart around — and it’s super cute!

An Educational Experience

As well as getting to know the beautiful little creatures, the hatching experience was an educational one, touching on several areas of the EYFS curriculum. This includes, primarily, the key area of Understanding the World including learning about nature, living creatures, life and the world around the children. Learning about how animals come into the world and about how they all have their own individual needs and feelings is incredibly important.The ducklings are as cute as can be! So the hatching experience also teaches children respect for nature and may even grow a long-term love of nature and the natural world within them.

“If children grow up not knowing about nature and appreciating it, they will not understand it, and if they don’t understand it, they won’t protect it, and if they don’t protect it, who will?” (Sir David Attenborough)

Returning Ducklings to the Farm

It will be sad to say goodbye to the adorable ducklingsOn April 1st, the ducklings will leave Treetops Nursery and go to live back at the farm. It will be very sad to see them go, but it was always a part of the plan and, in any case, the farm is set up to care for them very well as they grow into adulthood. Looking after any creature is a huge responsibility, so it’s good to know that the ducklings will be in just the right environment and will be cared for by professionals. The nursery looks forward, however, to next year, when we hope to do it all over again and watch with the children as more magical lives begin.

A Place for your Baby or Child at our Nursery in Willesden

Are you interested in nursery places for babies and children in Willesden, or near Willesden Green, Kensal Green or Harlesden? If so, Treetops Nursery may be able to help. We’re a high quality childcare setting in Willesden, London NW10 and would be happy to discuss a possible place for your child here, while a few spaces remain available. If this is of potential interest, please contact us using one of the buttons below:

Microgreens: fun, nutritious, food growing for little ones

There are now microgreen farmsThere is one class of edible plant that can be grown all year round and is perfect for kids to grow indoors, for example on a windowsill. Some types of this food will sprout in as little as a week. What’s more, it’s tasty and highly nutritious. Growing it is super-easy and a perfect way to keep kids entertained, educated about nature and eating healthily. It’ll also be a welcome addition to mealtimes for the whole household.

Growing Microgreens

We’re talking about Microgreens (also referred to as micro leaves). These are the early, edible, sprouting leaves of very young herbs, leafy greens and some root vegetables that might usually be thought of in a larger, more mature form. The tender new leaves are cut just days after they first sprout and can be made into wonderful salads, garnishes or meal accompaniments. They also bring some very tasty flavours to mealtimes. The young micro leaves are full of vitamins and minerals, look fantastic on the plate and will grow back time and time again after snipping. The secret is simply to harvest the immature micro leaves and to stop them from growing to full size. Just harvest … re-harvest … and re-harvest.

“Micro leaves are usually eaten fresh and raw, and the fresher the leaves are, the more vitamins and minerals they contain. Each little leaf is a gold mine of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals such as iron, folic acid and potassium.” (Gardeners World)

Various microgreen leaves sproutingHere are just a few examples of plants that make suitable microgreens and can easily be grown by children indoors:

  • Basil — their tasty baby leaves are full of flavour and can be harvested just ten days after seed planting. They’re wonderful on salads, pizzas and can even be made into pesto sauce.
  • Coriander — their tiny, delicate leaves pack a unique and punchy flavour that’s perfect with salads, stir-fries, chopped onions and curries. They can be harvested a couple of weeks after sowing the seeds.
  • Rocket — ready to harvest just a week after first sowing, rocket microgreens are another flavoursome and slightly peppery leaf to add to salads and put onto pizzas. Very tasty!
  • Mustard leaves — these may not be to every child’s taste, but many adults will enjoy the slight heat they’ll bring to salads, stir fries and Eastern dishes. Ready to first harvest in 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Salad with microgreensFennel — just 10 days after first sprouting, leaves from young fennel seedlings will give a pleasant aniseed tang to dishes like pasta salads, risottos, soups and even stuffing.
  • Beetroot leaves — the sprouting microgreen leaves from the beetroot take just ten days to appear after sowing. With their rich green leaves and red stems, they look wonderful in salads and lend their mild, earthy flavour to garnishes for some fish dishes.
  • Radish leaves — in just a week, the young, fiery leaves from the radish seedlings will be ready to snip and add to salads, stir fries and sandwiches. For some, their microgreen leaves are even tastier than the traditional root.
  • Spinach — tender leaves from young spinach plants can be harvested in ten days or so. They’re really good for you too. With their mild flavour, they’re a perfect addition to leafy salads, risottos, pastas and noodles.
  • Broccoli leaves — these will be ready to first harvest in just a week and have quite a different flavour than their fully-grown counterpart. With their slightly spicy taste, they’re also great in salads, risottos and omelettes.
  • Red cabbage microgreens are packed with nutrientsRed Cabbage micro leaves have one of the highest Vitamin C concentrations of any microgreen. They also contain Vitamin K, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants. As with many of the microgreens, many top chefs use them as an attractive and tasty garnish. They can be sprinkled over soups, salads, grilled vegetables, stews and cooked meats. After sowing, they take only days to appear.

How children can grow microgreens at home

Your children will need very little to get started. You’ll need to buy them some packet seeds, which you can get at your local garden nursery or online. If you’re unsure who to order from online, Suttons are probably the best-known supplier and seed packets there seem to start from as little as just a pound or two. You can also find mixed seed packets. (If you’re on a really tight budget, you can alternatively take a look at the excellent post about growing food virtually free of cost, by our sister nursery in Streatham).

Along with the seeds, your child will need some multi-purpose or seed and cuttings compost (peat-free is more eco-friendly) and something to sow the seeds in. If you’re going to grow the microgreens on the windowsill, you could use flower pots, slim seed trays (perhaps left over from plants or herbs you have previously bought), containers, yoghurt pots with drainage holes pierced underneath, egg cartons, or even the cardboard cores from used kitchen rolls, cut down to a suitable size. Any of these will need something to sit in, to catch any draining water, for example a saucer or seed ‘drip tray’.

Lemonbalm micro leaves sprouting in compostYour child will need to fill the chosen containers with compost, not quite to the top. Tap it to level the soil, then pat it down just a little to firm it. Some gardeners also indent the compost where the seeds will go. The seeds then need to be carefully placed or lightly sprinkled into the indented areas. It’s important that your child spaces the seeds out so there is no clumping, otherwise significant problems can occur (the crop might get diseased or even completely fail). The seeds don’t need to be covered but a light dusting of sieved compost will keep them in place while allowing light to get through. The seeds then need to be lightly watered. It’s best for your child to do this part outside, just to avoid potential mess indoors, taking care not to over-water nor to wash the seeds away. A way to water them indoors is to simply stand the vessels in some shallow water for 30 to 60 minutes, so the compost naturally draws up the moisture.

The rest is also very easy. Your child simply needs to place the potted seeds on a light windowsill and ensure that the compost is always kept damp, taking care not to over-water. Also consider a label for each pot for identification purposes, particularly if several different seed types have been planted. Some people cover the seed pots or trays with a single sheet of kitchen towel, newspaper or even cling film to keep the moisture in while the seeds initially germinate. Your child will need to check under the covering every day. The moment little shoots can be seen, the covering will need to be removed, so long as the soil is kept moist thereafter, so it never dries out. Ensure the potted plants get full light and ventilation too. Within a week or two depending on the seeds chosen, the young shoots will grow baby leaves and can then be harvested. Snip them near their bases before mature leaves start to replace the baby leaves. If you want to benefit from them for longer, snip them like this rather than pulling up their roots, so they can sprout and re-sprout time and time again.

Eat & enjoy!

A sandwich with microgreens as a garnishOnce rinsed, the tender young micro leaves can be enjoyed in meals by the whole family. They’ll add often exquisite tastes and textures to meals as well as adding much-needed vitamins and minerals to the family diet. That’s even more important for growing toddlers and preschoolers, of course. And, throughout the growing journey, the children will absolutely love seeing the new shoots grow into young plants. They will have learnt new skills, had great fun getting to know more about nature and have a real sense of achievement. Chances are, too, that they will love the taste of the micro leaves.

Treetops Nursery in Willesden

We hope you and your family enjoyed this article and will have fun growing your very own microgreens. The post was brought to you by Treetops Day Nursery in Willesden, London NW10. We are a childcare nursery and pre-school, suitable for babies from 6 months and children up to 5 years of age. We’re also convenient for parents and carers who are looking for high quality weekday childcare near Willesden Green, Harlesden, Brent, Kensal Green, Brondesbury Park, Kilburn, Mapesbury, Dollis Hill, Church End, Roundwood, College Park and Park Royal. Please do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about a possible nursery place for your child.

For further details, contact Treetops Nursery: