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Fancy rat - rodents make good friends; PETS.

RATS have always had an image problem - most people shudder at the thought of one.

They are almost invariably portrayed in films as verminous plagues and even George Orwell in his book 1984 made the rat the subject of the nightmare in Room 101.

However, that is just one side of the coin. The other is the growing hobby of Fancy Rat Keeping. Fancy Rats are the same species as the wild rat, but are as dissimilar as chalk and cheese.

Fancy Rats are absolutely beautiful with creams, lilac and chocolate fur. There is even a Rex, or curly-coated variety, with curly whiskers.

The National Fancy Rat Society holds shows and exhibitions. For a leaflet on rat-keeping send a large SAE to Angela Horn, 20 Kings Orchard, Eltham, London, SE9 5TJ, or visit its website on http://www.cableol.co.uk/nfrs. It also publishes a very informative newsletter called ProRata.

EACH year we hatch and rear a great number of poultry in our Children's Farm at Glasgow Zoo including chickens, ducks, turkeys and pea fowl.

Time after time, I'm surprised at the lack of understanding of the incubation process with many people thinking an egg automatically has to be kept warm.

Provided a newly-laid egg is not incubated, i.e. kept cool, it will remain capable of hatching for up to six weeks if, of course, it is fertile.

Fertility drops off by about 20 per cent after six days, but if the eggs are looked after and turned each day they remain reasonably constant thereafter. Incubation only commences when the mother bird sits in earnest on the eggs - going "broody" we call it.

From the date at which she goes broody, it takes 21 days until the eggs hatch in the case of chickens and 28 days for ducks, with pea fowls and turkeys taking longer.

If the mother is kept off the eggs for any length of time during this period, perhaps by being accidentally shut outside, the eggs will cool and may not hatch.

The broody hen alters in other ways. A bird's feathers are designed to keep her body heat in and act as an insulating layer.

When she starts to incubate her eggs, she moults many of the feathers on her breast thus creating a "brood patch".

Her bare skin is then in direct contact with the eggs and the incubation temperature soon rises to resemble that of a small oven. This behaviour is completely different from that of birds of prey, owls, parrots and parakeets.

Where a hen starts incubating when her clutch is complete at about 10 or 12 eggs, these sorts of birds start incubating on the laying of the second egg. As one egg is laid each day or every second day, it follows then that the eggs also hatch in a staggered manner.

This is nature's way of ensuring that any chicks reared by these species are strong .

If food is short, either because prey is scarce or because of drought conditions, in the case of many parakeets, only the biggest chicks or perhaps just one chick, will survive.

THE People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, or PDSA, has always had a most efficient and innovative fund-raising division .

In association with Oscars Pet Foods they organised the Great Escape last weekend.

Last Saturday three inmates and Bandage Barney, the PDSA dog, broke out of Cell Block H of Dartmoor Prison and set off to cover as much of Britain as possible. A significant amount of funds in sponsorship were raised.

SHOW NEWS

SATURDAY: Gordon Setter Club of Scotland First Championship Show in Cochrane Hall, Alva.

Land O'Burns Canine Society's Open Show at Ayr Racecourse at 9.30am.

SUNDAY: Working and Pastoral Breed's Association of Scotland Open Show at Wishaw Sports Centre.

Shih Tzu Club of Scotland's Open Show in Bargeddie Hall, Coatbridge Road, Coatbridge at 1.00pm.

Waverley Gun Dog Association's Open Show in Jack Kane Centre, Edinburgh.

MAY 22: Clyde Valley German Shepherd Club's Open Show in Lesmahagow. Secretary Mrs J. Swan, Star Hope, Southfield Road, Blackwood, Lesmahagow ML11 9PL. Tel: 01555 860389. Entries close May 4.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:O'GRADY, RICHARD
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 29, 1999
Words:688
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