AFTER a confused mother duck hatched her babies early, Walton Hall stepped in to keep the family safe until spring.

The mum and eight ducklings were discovered in the children’s zoo by zoo ranger Peter Cookson-Dean.

The mild weather had confused the mother and led her to believe it was spring, resulting in her hatching her babies early.

If the ducklings had not been discovered they would not have survived.

Peter said: "Walton Hall zoo is well known for providing the perfect home for all kinds of animals and I’m really pleased that we have welcomed these new arrivals.

"We’ll be keeping the ducklings at Walton gardens children’s zoo until spring.

"They will then be released back into the wild, up near Appleton.

"I was surprised to find the ducklings as it’s not the season for them but its’s lucky I did as they wouldn’t have survived this cold winter weather.

"It really is a Christmas miracle!"

The ducklings are being kept in a special brooding box which is heated to keep them warm and dry.

All eight are doing well and are expected to survive.

The public will be able to visit the rescued ducklings once they are old enough in the New Year.