They may not be the most exotic animal at the Houston Zoo, but the animals kept in the chicken coop play a bigger role there than you might realize.
The blue-billed currasow, a bird found only in Colombia, is an endangered species that has quite a bit of trouble populating the wild. The Houston Zoo is working to rebuild the species, and it has a coop full of chickens to thank for what success they've already measured, according to a report by KHOU Houston.
Living in a large coop at the Houston Zoo, a group of hens are working to help the rare and endangered bird babies by nesting on top of currasow eggs. In some cases, the hens will even raise the chicks as one of their own once they've hatched.
"The chickens are very maternal and pretty much that hatches out under them, they're pretty good at taking care of right away," birdkeeper Kelly Pardy told KHOU.
This specific population rebuilding program may be essential for the currasow, who's increasing loss of natural habitat is threatening the existence of the entire species. In addition to keeping newly hatched babies alive with the help of their dutiful hens, zoo workers are educating partner programs about their findings in an effort to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
"They've actually worked with the zoological institutions there and some of their keepers," Pardy said. "They've taught them a lot of incubation practices and done a lot of important work with that."
For more examples of inter-species parenting, check out these nine mama hens who took orphaned babies of all variety under their wings, including pigeons, kittens, and even puppies!
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