An old dog has become a stay-at-home dad for nine ducklings after their mother suddenly disappeared.
Fred the Labrabor took the baby orphans under his paw after their mum vanished on Thursday.
The 10-year-old pooch is the resident pet at Mountfitchet Castle near Stansted, Essex, where a member of staff found the lost siblings waddling around the battlements.
Staff at the popular tourist attraction said they were very worried about the ducklings, but Fred immediately took to them and has been babysitting ever since.
Jeremy Goldsmith, director of Mountfitchet Castle, said: ‘We knew the mother duck was nesting and then suddenly these ducklings appeared but she was nowhere to be seen.
Fred the Labrador with his brood of adopted ducklings at their castle home near Stansted
Fred, a 10-year-old Labrador has adopted the little ducklings after they were orphaned and staff found them waddling around the grounds alone
‘We think it was possibly a fox.’
Jeremy, who is also Fred’s owner, added: ‘Fred has got an absolutely wonderful nature. They absolutely love him.’
Adorable photos show Fred lying on the grass in the grounds of the castle, his adopted children nestling by his side.
In one picture, the nine brothers and sisters can be seen sitting on his back.
A member of staff said: ‘They are getting very mischievous even hitching a ride on his back and following him into the water for a swim in the castle moat.’
A spokeswoman for the castle said: ‘The team were very worried about the ducklings but Fred, a 10-year-old Labrador, immediately took to them and has been babysitting ever since
A member of staff at Mountfitchet Castle said: ‘They are getting very mischievous even hitching a ride on his back and following him into the water for a swim in the castle moat’
Fred sleeps alongside the the tiny ducklings in the castle grounds. Fred’s owner has spoken about how the dog has a soft and caring nature
Cuddled up to their adopted ‘dad’ the ducklings have refused to leave the dog’s side since he took them on
The ducklings sleep in the basket with Fred and have even hitched a ride on his back and followed him into the water for a swim in the castle moat
Fred is now a stay at home dad to nine ducklings after their nesting mother disappeared. It is believed she was eaten by a fox
Mountfitchet Castle is a Norman Motte and Bailey castle, built of wood.
Formerly an Iron Age hill fort, the historic site was also a Roman signals fort and later a Saxon and Viking settlement before being attacked in 1066 by William the Conqueror.