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Cygnets: Focusing on the Little Ones

Cygnets: Focusing on the Little Ones

As young ducks are called ducklings, in the same way, cygnet is a general term used for young swans. This general term was taken from the Latin word Cygnus meaning ‘swan’. Swans are famous for their mating routine. They form pairs as young as 20 months and start breeding at the age of 4 to 5 years. 

How Many Cygnets Does a Swan Have?

During one breeding rotation, swans have 4 to 7 cygnets. Younger swans tend to have more. 

The cygnets stay with their parents for about 4 to 5 months until they go their separate ways either through their own will or with force. The cygnets go through many changes and events in these few months. Baby swans are extremely vulnerable during the first 2 weeks and thus need more protection against predators during that time. 

Pens (female swans) are very protective of their young babies in the early days. They will attack anyone who they see as a threat to them and their babies. 

When Do Swans Have Cygnets?

Swans generally have cygnets in spring (March till June). After the process of eggs laying, they incubate the eggs for 35 to 41 days which is enough time for the eggs to hatch. 

Fact: Swans leave eggs behind which haven’t hatched after the incubation period. They will not return to the nest.

Why Do Swans Breed in the Spring?

Swans breed in spring because of shelter, food and warmth.


Food is required throughout the breeding process. The female swan loses a considerable amount of weight during the incubation period. The reason for this is that pens eat a very little amount of food during the incubation of eggs. Female swans fear that being away from the eggs might jeopardize the growth of their babies. 

Hence, they eat more than the average amount in order to make up for the weight loss.

Raising young swan is a very trying job. After giving birth to cygnets, that parent swans need to be extra careful and active in order to protect them from predators. This puts an extra strain on the parents, and the whole process requires lots of food. 

The male swan’s role is to guard the territory and chase off intruders away from the nesting site. So, the Cob (male swan) is also active and will be hungrier.

Once the cygnet hatches, it hatches and starts swimming around in the water, which will make it hungry as well.


The swans need shelter. The swans make mini nests using twigs, small branches and plants etc. They use these nests as resting spots for the next few months, after which they change their location and do the whole process over again.


In order for the cygnets to survive, the weather needs to be moderately warm. The cygnets tend to have a low growth rate. Their fur takes time to grow, and so they are more prone to the cold. 

It also takes less time for their surface area to volume ratio to decrease, due to which they are vulnerable to the low temperature for the first few weeks after hatching.

Being born in the spring allows them a considerate amount of time to grow enough that once the winters come, they’ll be old enough that the cold won’t affect them. 

Birds naturally born between mid-spring or early summer have a very low chance of surviving the whole year as they have a much shorter time period to grow strong and grow enough feathers to survive the winter.

What Will Happen if the Cygnet Hatches Late?

If a baby swan hatches late, the parents consider it as a weakling, and they (particularly the cob) remove the cygnet from the group.

Nature has synchronised the hatching of the baby swans, but there are always one or two eggs that hatch late. A significant difference between the hatching of the majority of the baby swans and the last swan (more than 11 hours) could lead to the circumstance mentioned above. 

A reason why they consider latecomers a weakling is that, for example, if a cygnet hatches late and the family goes for their first swim and the late arrival will be weak due to the exhaustion from the hatching process and will be unable to swim and keep up with the other.

Sometimes, the late emergence of a baby swan could be because of a problem with it. In that case, the cob’s reason for removing the weak link can be justified.

A New Born Cygnet

A newborn is like a clean slate waiting to be painted on. The same goes for hatched cygnets. When they first hatch, they are extremely vulnerable. They perceive the first thing they see or hear as parents. This is known as imprinting.

So, the male and female cob, due to this reason, start making sounds from the nesting period. They continue making sounds until the baby swans hatch so that it gets programmed in their brains to audibly recognise their parents. Another thing which they do to ensure that their babies imprint on them is that they place their heads close to their young and softly call them.

The cobs and pens are very careful that they’re the first thing that their younglings see. There have been cases where the young swans imprint on humans, ducks or other animals that they first see.

Final Verdict

Swans are famously known for their breeding and producing cute little fluffy monsters. Each time a swan generally lays a clutch which consists of 4 to 7 eggs, out of which cygnets hatch. The number might reduce due to various reasons, i.e. the predators might eat the eggs, or the parent swan might cull the cygnet after it hatches later than the other clutch of cygnets. 

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