Essex

Dog 'adopts' nine orphaned ducklings at Essex castle

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Media captionFred the dog took the ducklings 'under his paw'

A dog has "adopted" nine ducklings after their mother disappeared.

Fred, a 10-year-old labrador has become "dad" to the baby birds at Mountfitchet Castle, a tourist attraction near Stansted Airport in Essex.

The ducklings' mother was nowhere to be found when staff noticed them waddling around alone, but "Fred... immediately took to them and has been babysitting ever since."

They have even followed him into the castle moat for a swim, staff said.

The reconstructed Norman castle is home to a number of rescued animals, but Fred is "the resident dog".

Image copyright Mountfitchet Castle
Image caption Fred has become dad (and mum) to the nine ducklings
Image copyright Mountfitchet Castle
Image caption This headgear would have gone down a storm at the Royal Wedding

A spokeswoman said staff were "very worried" when the ducklings' mother disappeared on Thursday, leaving them "looking a little bit lost".

But Fred, who belongs to one of the attraction's owners, Jeremy Goldsmith, stepped in to help.

"We brought the ducklings into the house as they are too young to fend for themselves, and Fred just took them under his paw - rather than his wing," said Mr Goldsmith.

Image copyright Mountfitchet Castle
Image caption The ducklings follow the dog everywhere, its owner said
Image copyright Mountfitchet Castle
Image caption It is not known what happened to the ducklings' mother

"He's got a lovely nature and has grown up around rescued animals."

The ducklings sleep in the dog basket with Fred and follow him around as though he was their mother.

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"They absolutely adore him and he has now resigned himself to being a stay-at-home dad looking after the nine baby ducklings," Mr Goldsmith said.

Image copyright Mountfitchet Castle
Image caption When they are old enough to fend for themselves, Fred's babysitting duties will cease

Mr Goldsmith said he only expected Fred's babysitting services to last another few weeks, after which the ducklings will be free to stay at the castle or leave.

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