At the beginning of lockdown, Mark and Julie Hinks were contacted by a friend who saw a cat chase a mother duck, causing her to abandon a nest.

The couple had previously kept chickens and still had an incubator so the friend asked if they could help.

The couple have spent weeks tending to the eggs and eventually welcomed 11 ducklings.

Sadly, two died and another two flew off but the remaining babies lived in a shed and pen in the garden in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Police officer Mark, 45, said: ‘This whole duckling project has completely taken over our lockdown, we’ve become obsessed with them.

‘It’s been so lovely seeing them go from eggs to ducklings and how they are now, which is pretty much independent.

‘The whole process has been a joy to watch.’

When their friend called about the abandoned eggs, the couple set up their old incubator in their spare room for the eggs.

After three weeks of tending to the 15 eggs the couple and their three children had ‘lost hope’ and ‘nearly gave up’.

Mark said he couldn’t believe his eyes when, on Easter Sunday, 11 of the eggs hatched and a family of tiny little ducklings emerged.

Since then the curious creatures have enjoyed spells living in the spare bedroom, then downstairs, in the garage and eventually in the couple’s garden as they grew bigger and bigger.

Mark added: ‘The first thing we do when we wake up is look out to see if they’re in the garden, if they’re not we get quite worried.

‘It’s like they’re our babies and I don’t think that will change.’

‘I’ll never forget the moment my son Emile ran downstairs and said, “they’re hatching”.

‘One came out and then another and the rest just followed, it was the most amazing thing to see.’

When they first hatched, Mark and Julie went out and purchased a small polythene greenhouse for them to live in and a cat litter tray for them to use as a paddling pool.

After a week living in the bedroom the animals moved downstairs to a room with a tiled floor, which is when pooch Lilly became obsessed with them.

Unfortunately, disaster struck one day when a couple of the ducklings somehow managed to escape and Lilly played with the fragile ducklings a little ‘too forcefully’.

Mark said Lilly was then banished from the room, much to her dissatisfaction.

Soon the ducklings were too big for the greenhouse so Mark built a shed in the garden for them and they temporarily stayed in the garage with a new paddling pool.

In late May, the animals finally moved outside into their new pen and it was around this time they learned how to fly and two of them made off.

Despite their ability to fly, Mark and Julie still see seven of the ducklings, which have relocated just next door, where their neighbour has a big pond for them to play in.

Mark said: ‘It’s fantastic that so many of them have stuck around, Julie and I are so glad that we still get to see them even though they have grown up.

‘We now have a rather splendid, but empty coop and pen – if any readers have any chickens or ducks that are unwanted and need a home.’

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