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Although they have their own feathers, they still rely on Mom and Dad to keep them warm until their adult set of feathers grow in.

During their tender age, chicks are covered with fine down feathers. Since these feathers are not waterproof, the chicks must stay out of water.


Both the Mom and Dad penguin take their turns feeding the baby penguin with regurgitated food. Chicks need constant feeding in order to stay healthy and happy! When feeding the chicks one penguin parent stays with the chick as the other forages for food.

Baby Animals

Chicks are dependent on their parents for anywhere from 7 weeks to 13 months! As penguins get older the chicks grow a thick and downy protective coat of feathers. These feathers will keep them warm and dry independent of their parents. When the baby penguin gets large enough, it comes with the parents to hunt. Penguin Baby name: Chick. Join the Critter Club! I agree to receive occasional offers from Critter Babies.

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Until then it is up to the parents to keep the chicks warm. Since they are still very small they fit comfortably in the brood pouch. During the chick rearing period there is a lot of activity in the colony: parents coming and going, chicks looking for anybody willing to feed them; there is a lot of walking around and calling. Both parents take turns brooding their offspring until the youngsters are able to stand on the ice by themselves. By September, the chicks have grown a thick cover of down and are developing quite rapidly.

Series - Baby Animals

Growing requires a lot of energy so they are always hungry. It now takes both parents to go out and gather food for the youngsters.

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When the little ones are left at the colony they form huddles, especially at night, to keep warm. In early December the chicks are nearly as big as their parents. Suddenly little black patches appear on their flippers. The youngsters are beginning to grow real feathers and they start shedding their down. At this time of year, the number of adults in the colony gets smaller and smaller. There are parents that lost their chick and other adults that missed out on breeding and maybe young adults that are not quite ready to reproduce yet.

These birds tend to go out to sea about now to start fattening up for their annual moult. Parents still feeding chicks have to make a decision as to how long they are going to continue to look after the little one. If they leave the chick too early and it has not got enough energy reserves to finish the moult it will die and the parents have wasted an entire breeding season.

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If, however, they continue feeding the chick for too long, they may compromise their own ability to feed and fatten up for their moult. Adults have to just about double their body mass before the moult.

When they start shedding their old feathers their plumage is no longer waterproof and they cannot go to sea and feed. So for the month that it takes to replace the old feathers they depend solely on the body fat that they accumulate after leaving their chick and before they start to moult.

A Penguin Chick Grows Up

It is not necessary for the penguins to return to the colony to grow their new plumage. While some birds do return, others travel great distances and find themselves a place where they can sit on the ice and moult. As long as they can stay out of the water it does not matter where they haul out. Replacing every single feather is energetically very expensive.

By the time the new plumage has grown the penguins have lost nearly half their body mass. It is January or February now and the emperor penguins return to sea to fatten again in preparation for the next breeding season. Emperor penguins engaged in courtship behaviour Photo: Robyn Mundy.