Ostriches live in nomadic groups of 5 to 50 birds that often travel together.
Ostriches can tolerate a wide range of temperatures.
The life span of an ostrich can extend from 30 to 70 years.
Today, ostriches are bred all over the world, including climates as cold as that of Sweden. They will prosper in climates between 30 and −30 °C, and are farmed in over 50 countries around the world, but the majority are still found in Southern Africa. Since they also have the best feed to weight ratio gain of any land animal in the world.
Adaptation of the ostrich
The ostrich is very adaptable and thrives under extreme conditions. It has a remarkable tolerance to heat, withstanding air temperatures of 56°C without undue stress. Ostriches rarely seek shade, as most desert animals regularly do. They normally avoid areas of thick bush or heavy tree cover, and inhabit wooded grasslands and other open country.
Male ostriches are polygamous and can mate with more than one female. The female starts to lay fertile eggs shortly after mating. Eggs are laid every other day in clutches (sequences) of 20 to 24 eggs. The hen stops laying for a period of seven to ten days, after which she starts a new clutch. High-producing females lay between 80 to 100 eggs during the breeding season.
As befits the world’s largest bird, the ostrich lays the largest egg of any living bird. Oddly enough, however, the ostrich egg is one of the smallest in relation to the size of the bird. Measuring 17 to 19 cm in length, 14 to 15 cm in width and weighing up to 1 900 g, the ostrich egg is only just over 1 percent of the female’s body weight.
An ostrich’s nest
Ostriches become sexually mature when 2 to 4 years old; females mature about six months earlier than males. The species is iteroparous, with the mating season beginning in March or April and ending sometime before September. The mating process differs in different geographical regions. Territorial males will typically use hisses and other sounds to fight for a harem of 2 to 5 females (which are called hens). The winner of these fights will breed with all the females in an area but only form a pair bond with one, the dominant female. The female crouches on the ground and is mounted from behind by the male.
Ostriches are oviparous. The females will lay their fertilized eggs in a single communal nest, a simple pit scraped in the ground and 30 to 60 cm deep. Ostrich eggs can weigh 1.3 kg and are the largest of all eggs, though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the bird. The nest may contain 15 to 60 eggs, with an average egg being 6 inches (15 cm) long, 5 inches (13 cm) wide, and weigh 3 pounds (1.4 kg). They are shiny and whitish in colour. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the male by night, making use of the different colors of the two sexes to escape detection. The gestation period is 35 to 45 days. Typically, the male will tend to the hatchlings.
The life span of an ostrich can extend from 30 to 70 years, with 50 being typical
The breeding season
Ostriches are seasonal breeders, breeding only during particular seasons of the year. On average, the breeding/mating season lasts from six to eight months every year, although the timing and duration of breeding can vary with latitude and altitude (Shanawany, 1994a). In the northern hemisphere, breeding commences during March and ends around August/September (Leuthold, 1977), while in the southern hemisphere it begins around July/August and finishes by the end of March (Jarvis, Jarvis and Keffen, 1985).
Today, ostrich farms are considered to be among the most profitable agricultural projects. They are often referred to as “the farms of the future” because of the large variety of possible products and hence their high profit potential. Ostriches are raised commercially for their meat, hide and feathers.
Ostrich feathers are used for cleaning fine machinery and equipment as well as for decorations and in the fashion industry. The quality of feathers produced from ostriches raised in Europe and North America differs from those produced in Africa. The best feathers come from the more arid regions of the world.
Ostriches produce red meat that is very similar in taste and texture to veal and beef depending on the age at which they are slaughtered. The study indicates quite clearly that ostrich meat is far better from the health point of view as it contains far less fat, and particularly less cholesterol, than other types of meat. Lately, with greater consumer awareness of the problems of high cholesterol levels in the blood and the possible association with increased incidences of heart attacks and cardiovascular difficulties, the demand for ostrich meat in the international markets has been growing. The latest statistics show that current ostrich meat production is not enough to meet the increasing demand, whether in Europe, North America or Japan. It is expected that during the next decade, ostrich meat may gradually replace traditional types of meat.
Nutritional Information Comparison of Ostrich Meat
Whole (no skin)
Whole (no skin)
Ostrich skin (hide) is considered to be one of the most luxurious leathers, and some even place it on a par with crocodile and snake skin. Ostrich leather is thick, durable and extremely soft and can be manufactured into a variety of products, such as shoes, bags, purses and jackets.
In addition to their meat, skin and feathers, ostriches are being explored for medical and medicinal purposes. The tendons of the ostrich leg are used to replace torn tendons in humans as they are long and strong enough for the human leg, and recent research in ophthalmology points to the possible use of ostrich eyes in cornea transplants. Ostriches are able to see clearly for over 12 km, and the cornea is large enough to be trimmed down to fit the human eye. Furthermore, the ostrich brain produces a substance that is being studied for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Ostrich leather is exquisite and very exclusive leather, distinguished by its tell-tale pattern of quill or feather sockets. Soft to the touch, the leather is both flexible and durable, making it an ideal working material for the manufacture of most leather goods and certainly luxury leather items.
Its durability adds an extra dimension, making ostrich leather one of the chosen materials for fashion in boot making, handbags, wallets, belts and clothing. Leading fashion houses, such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier, Prada and many others choose ostrich leather to exhibit its beauty and its high class status.
Ostrich leather offers itself as one of the toughest, but most pliable skins in the world. Full of natural oils, ostrich leather resists drying, cracking and stiffness. No other leather in the world can compete with the unique quill pattern the ostrich leather bears. This, in itself, makes it one of the most expensive leathers in the world today.
Distinctive and comfortable ostrich leather items are attributes of establishment, wealth and recognition. Elegant and classic they’ve been in fashion for the last fifty years.
The American Ostrich Association has trademarked the term “Genuine American Ostrich Leather” for the benefit of our members. The “Certified American Ostrich” trademark is a Quality Assured Ostrich product based on ostrich that are hatched, raised and processed in the United States of America under specifications set up by the AOA. All leather labeled “Genuine American Ostrich Leather” must be from birds that are source verified and hides should meet the standards set by the AOA Hide Guide and appear as healthy without signs of distress.
The wonderful oil of ostrich comes from the fat of ostrich. There is increasing anecdotal evidence of the benefits of their wonderful oil in providing relief from certain skin irritations and other discomforts such as:
* Dry Skin
* Skin Cuts
* Bed Sores
* Skin Burns
* Chapped Lips
* Canker Sores
* Sore Muscles
* Skin Abrasions
* Radiation Burn Relief
As production increases, it will be possible to verify this evidence with full scientific studies.
Ostriches – a Very Fertile Animal
Compare this with traditional farming of a red meat producing animal, such as a cow, and you can see why farmers the world over are investigating the ostrich industry.
Ostriches either breed in pairs, in threes (called a trio) or in a colony where many birds are placed in a very large pen. A good fertile male can easily service two and sometimes three females. Eggs are laid in clutches. The female will lay on a regular basis, every other day for example. She will maintain this for a period of time. The female will then take a break from laying eggs for a while and resume after a week or two.
Environmentally Friendly Ostrich Farming
The global focus of farming is now truly pointing towards
environmentally friendly business operations. With the huge amounts of antibiotics being forced fed into chickens, beef, pork and turkeys, together with intensive farming, steroids, growth hormones and all the other unnatural additives, it makes a fresh change to find a farming industry which does not require such techniques.
Farming ostriches is environmentally friendly; steroid, antibiotic, hormone and forced-feeding free. Ostriches are free roaming livestock and feed off all natural Ostrich feed. Ostriches require little or no handling once they reach 4 or 5 months of age and are recognized as a genuine environmentally friendly animal.
Incredible Feed to Weight Ratio Gain
Farmed animals such as cattle and swine eat steroid-, antibiotic- and hormone-laced feed… and they eat an incredible amount of it. Cattle and swine can eat in excess of 20:1 in their feed to weight ratio. This means that they have to eat 20 pounds of feed to add 1 pound of weight.
The overall feed to weight ratio gain of an ostrich is 2:1 during the first few months of their lives and this climbs to only 3.5:1 during their normal development for processing at 9 months or so. The benefits to you are considerable: less maintenance, less feed and of course less animal waste!
Which countries can raise Ostriches?
Ostriches are already farmed in over 100 countries: from the cold winter climates of Alaska, Norway and Sweden, all the way south to the equatorial countries of Zaire, Brazil, Indonesia and the sub-continent. Ostriches breed well in a warm climate, and heavy rain and thunderstorms will certainly affect the breeding cycle.
High humidity can also be a problem – not necessarily for breeding itself, but for young chicks. High humidity means high bacteria and young chicks are susceptible to catching all kinds of diseases when they are young.
A good supply of natural feed, including alfalfa (Lucerne), corn, soy and wheat are a definite advantage as these are staple foods for an ostrich. An unlimited supply of fresh, clean water is an absolute necessity. Ostriches drink up to 2 gallons (9 liters) of water every day.
The environmental benefits, the excellent feed to weight ratio gains and the breeding proliferation of ostriches make commercial ostrich farming worthy of investigation.
We also know that ostrich handling after 4 – 5 months is very low and a good farm manager can easily take care of a farm of 100 breeding ostriches and hundreds of offspring.
From a consumer and marketing point of view, people are eating a much healthier diet and are turning to ostrich meat as a beef alternative. The demand for luxurious and easily recognized ostrich leather continues apace. The cosmetic industry continues its never ending search for eternal youth and exotic ostrich oil is beginning to receive its long overdue recognition. And, of course, ostrich feathers are a permanent fixture in the world’s carnivals, Mardi Grass and festivals everywhere.
Farming ostriches can certainly be financially rewarding. But beware! Even though they are environmentally friendly and produce some wonderful products, as with all livestock, there are pitfall and danger areas!
The 2 biggest problems by far are:
Poor nutrition including incorrect feeding, feeding cheap feed
and feeding the wrong feeds.
Farmers do not maintain the right environment for the ostrich.