A BOLTON couple have had an absolutely “quackers” lockdown experience after hand-rearing nine ducks.

Mark Hinks and his wife Julie were contacted back in March by an old school friend of their daughter, who had seen a cat chase a duck off of a nest.

Mr Hinks said: “We used to keep chickens and she remembered that we had an incubator.

“These eggs were brought over from Chester, there were 15 of them, and we didn’t expect them to hatch at all – I nearly threw them out after about three weeks but I did some research and read the incubation period was four weeks so I thought we might as well keep them another week.

"On Easter Sunday they started to hatch, I couldn't believe it."

The couple suddenly found themselves looking after 11 chicks, rushing out to the Range in Astley Bridge to find something to keep them in.

After buying a yoga mat, a cat litter tray, and a small polythene greenhouse, the pair were set, and grabbed some chick crumb before heading home.

The duckings shot up in size, and were soon splashing around in their new home, much to the delight of the family dog Lilly, a miniature poodle who doted on the chicks, watching them for hours at a time.

Some of the chicks were named by the pair, with Duck Rogers, Quack Sparrow, and Samuel L Quackson all making the cut.

One of Mr Hinks' work friends donated £20 to the RSPB to name one of the chicks Bojangles.

Unfortunately, two ducklings managed to break out of the greenhouse, and tragically met their end after Lilly tried to play with a little too much excitement.

The dog was banished from the room, pining for her new friends, when the pair realised that they needed a new plan.

Mr Hinks added: "They really took to the water and were making such a mess splashing around, and you could smell them as soon as you came into the house, so we knew they had to move if we wanted to keep the carpet in the spare bedroom.

"So my wife got a little paddling pool from Aldi and we moved them into the garage before we ended up buying a shed to give them an outside home – we thought they'd be tame and wouldn't be able to be released.

"They stayed in there for about a week and then we could see them starting to learn how to fly – one escaped and then was trying to get back in, and then a few escaped, so we just opened the gate and they all went in this little pond.

"Soon after that they found my next-door-neighbour's pond and that was that, they all flew the coop so to speak and found somewhere else to live."

Each duck left on their own or with a partner, but they haven't gone too far.

The couple often see a group of their ducks enjoying the pond in their neighbour's garden, a more spacious piece of water for them all.

Mr Hinks added: "It's been a fantastic adventure, it's really kind of taken over our lockdown.

"We had so many people asking for updates and pictures, we've learnt some new skills, it's been absolutely crackers.

"They're absolutely brilliant to watch, two of them always stay on next door's pond and last week we saw eight of them there.

"They still come into the pen I build and take the food so we know they're still enjoying the place."