About The National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa
The National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa is the national leader in kiwi husbandry, egg incubation systems, hatching techniques and kiwi chick rearing. National training courses for kiwi husbandry and egg candling are held at the Hatchery. Most staff at the other captive kiwi and kiwi rearing sites across Aotearoa, have trained or worked at the Rainbow Springs site.
There are about 68,000 kiwi left in all of New Zealand and we are losing 2% of our unmanaged kiwi every year. The brown kiwi population is steadily declining by about 2–3% a year. Without ongoing support, experts estimate brown kiwi will be extinct in the wild within two generations.
Today, a lot of dedicated people help to prevent kiwi from becoming extinct. Rainbow Springs first became involved in kiwi when they were displayed at the Nature Park in 1975.
Later, in 1995, Rainbow Springs joined the Operation Nest Egg (O.N.E) programme when they received their first egg from the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary. With the increase in hatching success rate, the number of eggs brought to Rainbow Springs rapidly increased over the years. A decision was made to launch a charitable trust that would work to save kiwi and enable New Zealanders and international visitors to see the great work being undertaken.
The National Kiwi Hatchery history
The National Kiwi Hatchery was launched in 2008 (as the National Kiwi Recovery Trust). Over the years the Hatchery has grown to become the largest and most successful kiwi hatching facility in the world, successfully incubating and hatching brown kiwi eggs from around the North Island. We now receive eggs from 15 sanctuaries and reserves around the North Island and have hatched over 1850 eggs at the facility. Our work has helped the North Island population of the brown kiwi considerably and The National Kiwi Hatchery has also provided an ideal facility for the continuation of research into kiwi eggs and chicks.
How does The National Kiwi Hatchery help kiwi?
Kiwi conservation is vital. Most kiwi chicks don't survive in the wild due to predators such as stoats. DOC (Department of Conservation) staff work in the forests to monitor male kiwi (male kiwi sit on the eggs). When male kiwi are observed to have established incubation of eggs in the forest, the eggs are carefully lifted from the burrows, kept warm with woollen blankets and specially knitted 'egg socks', then placed into plastic carry bins and brought to the National Kiwi Hatchery partially incubated. We then complete the incubation artificially using specially built incubators.
Kiwi eggs take approximately 78 days to incubate in artificial conditions, slightly longer when in the wild. When the eggs hatch and the kiwi chicks emerge, we give them a full medical checkup and then place the chicks into brooder boxes to keep them safe and warm. The chicks are fed and when they reach 3 weeks old, they are released into outdoor enclosures that closely mimic forest conditions. The chicks stay in the outdoor enclosures until they grow to 1kg in weight. They are then returned to the wild by DOC staff.
Our expert Hatchery team is now assisting with protocols for DOC and other institutions. The National Kiwi Hatchery also plays an important part in helping with kiwi research and is a centre of excellence for juvenile kiwi research and scientific data collation. The team is currently looking into making improvements to the artificial kiwi diet, lighting in nocturnal enclosures, the role of bacteria in egg shell contamination and coccidia (gut parasites) treatment trials.