Maintenance and Breeding of Ostriches
Growing ostriches at home is still a rather exotic occupation, although breeding more recently rare quails, pheasants, meat pigeons and guinea fowls is no longer surprising.
Raising ostriches is a relatively new business idea, of all types of poultry, these giants have only recently been maintained by farmers for commercial purposes, but such farms are developing intensively.
Large and small ostrich farms are opened in many countries of the world. From poultry, they get expensive feathers, leather and delicious meat, which are in great demand on the international market.
SPECIFIC FEATURES OF THE EXOTIC “DOMESTIC” BIRD
The ostrich (Struthio Camelis) is the largest bird in nature, producing incredibly large eggs weighing about 1.5 kg. They are running birds, cannot fly and are also called flat-chested, since they lack a pronounced keel, and the organs of the chest are closed by a flat sternum.
The only species included in the genus of ostriches is the African ostrich, which is most popular for keeping in captivity, less often related species – Australian emu and common cassowary – are born. It is about the features of the content of the African ostrich that will be discussed in this article.
There are varieties of the African ostrich with black, pink and blue necks.
Black ostriches are obtained by crossing Malay and South African subspecies and are best suited for breeding in cold regions. This variety has long been bred in a farm environment. Many years of selection in the livestock have been fixed positive qualities for poultry – quick wits, docility and adaptability.
Pink-necked ostriches are large, but not overly friendly and relatively less productive.
The blue-necked variety shows moderate productivity, a high fence is needed to keep this bird, but the individuals are docile and reproduce well.
Sexually mature males of the African ostrich weigh from 110 to 150 kg, the live weight of females reaches 120 kg. Long, muscular legs and a graceful neck hold the head 1.8 to 2.5 meters above ground level, this impressive height should be kept in mind when building poultry houses and pens.
The eyes of ostriches are huge, somewhat disproportionate to a relatively small head, the eyelids are covered with long pubescence, which prevents dust from entering the eyes. The movable third eyelid, in turn, perfectly protects the eye, moisturizing and cleaning the surface. The ears are represented by holes on the sides of the head and are covered by membranes.
The beak is medium-sized, strong, in males during the mating season it becomes red, and the skin of the legs also turns red.
The legs are well developed, muscular, fledgling. One of the differences between the African ostrich is the presence of two fingers, the emu has three fingers, and the rhea has four.
The skull bones are thin, fragile and can be damaged by the smallest impact, which must be considered when caring for the bird and setting up the house.
The wings are the pride and decoration of the bird, the span is about two meters. They are strong, mobile, used by the bird as a rudder for rapid turns when running, in mating games, when sorting out relationships and defending against predators, as well as to create shade for ostriches.
Adult plumage appears only by one and a half to two years. In males, black or chocolate body plumage is complemented by white wing and tail feathers. In females, the color is inconspicuous, grayish-brown, feathers on the wings are in transverse black stripes, tail feathers are gray in spots.
The adaptability of the African ostrich is amazing – this bird is able to withstand the scorching sun and temperatures up to +50 ° C, at the same time it feels great in European latitudes at temperatures of + 10-12 ° C and even frosts down to -15-16 ° C.
Despite their gigantic size, they are not distinguished by high intelligence, but they have sharp eyesight and excellent hearing. Being the prey of predators, the bird is very shy and, having noticed a threat, one of the representatives of the group can disturb the whole herd, which will lead to injury and injury. This feature is worth considering. You need to look after and communicate with them calmly and somewhat slowly. In addition, ostriches are a powerful bird that, under stress, can cause serious injury to a person by hitting a muscular leg.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE CONDITIONS
Keeping ostriches at home is possible in one of three ways – intensive in poultry houses, extensive in walking and semi-intensive, which is a combination of the first two methods.
The intensive method is more acceptable when the territory is limited, while the extensive method is the closest to the natural habitat and makes it possible to grow sustainable livestock, partially saving feed through foraging.
In cold climates, it is better to use the third method, which will allow you to keep the bird in the house in severe frosts, and release it for walking the rest of the year.
The poultry house for keeping ostriches is built high – at least a meter higher than the height of the bird, that is, at least 3-3.5 m in height. A room is being built on an elevated area without a close occurrence of groundwater, from reliable materials that allow you to retain heat and create insulation from drafts – bricks, cinder blocks, logs.
In winter, the indoor temperature is not allowed to fall below -5 ° C, while an important element of successful cultivation is the absence of dampness and stuffiness in the air, which can be achieved by equipping the ventilation system.
The territory of the poultry house is determined at the rate of at least 10 sq. m. for one bird. The room is divided into sections for each family, which are completed according to the principle for one male – two or three females. At the same time, a room with a size of at least 12×10 m is needed to keep a couple.
A deep bedding of straw or shavings is laid on the floors, avoiding the use of small sawdust, since ostriches react negatively to excessive dustiness in the air.
The walks are built as spacious as possible, enclosing them with a mesh fence with a height of at least 2.5 m, planted on a foundation that will not allow foxes, dogs or other predators that can scare a bird into the enclosure. In this case, the support posts are placed on the outside of the corrals. The approximate size of the range for keeping ostriches in an extensive way is about 1 hectare per 8-10 individuals.
In the walking area, several sheds are placed to protect the bird from rain, bunker feeders for feed mixtures, wooden nursery feeders for hay and grass, and drinkers are installed. Homemade feeders are made of wood, in the form of troughs about 120 cm long and up to 20 cm deep.
Hanging feeders are convenient, which allow the bird not to bend to the ground for food. For these purposes, you can use a car tire cut in half. In the bottom of such a trough, holes are drilled for rainwater to drain, and then suspended at a height of 0.5-1 m above the ground surface. To prevent moisture from entering the feed, simple sheds can be provided above the feeders.
Ostriches are curious and can swallow small shiny objects, including nails, glass and pieces of wire, so the area should be carefully cleaned of such debris.
Drinking bowls are built with a length of at least 80 cm and a depth of about 15-20 cm, replacing the water every day. The number of drinkers is determined on the basis that an adult bird drinks up to 10 liters of water per day. Ostriches are fond of swimming in hot weather; for these purposes, they place troughs of water.
The ostrich becomes sexually mature at the age of 4-5 years, the female earlier – when it reaches two years. Egg-laying lasts from March and lasts until late autumn, and the egg-laying period itself is generally about 8 months.
With the maintenance of two families, consisting of two males and four females, 120-150 ostriches can be obtained per year. Difficulties with breeding ostriches at home lie in incubation, which, due to the large size of the eggs, is associated with well-known difficulties and the purchase of an expensive incubator. Although it is possible to use natural incubation of eggs under the hen, in the role of which are the ostriches themselves.
During natural incubation, the harem females alternately lay eggs in the nest, which is a hole in the soil, which it is desirable to expand, deepen and sprinkle with fresh sand. A typical clutch is about twenty eggs; the female and the male incubate it, which predominantly warms the clutch at night. In the future, the male is actively involved in raising ostriches. The duration of incubation depends on the air temperature and the size of the eggs, but the average is about 42 days.
Only after emerging from the egg, the ostriches quickly dry up, they are covered with dense pubescence, are active and, being hatched by a brood hen, are taken away from the nest by adult ostriches in two or three hours.
Keeping young ostriches is one of the most difficult stages of breeding this bird, especially during the first six months, when chicks are especially susceptible to temperature fluctuations, lack of fresh air, and dampness. The survival rate of chicks in the first year of life is only 70-80%, and if the necessary conditions are not met, it can drop to 40-50%.
Good lighting plays an important role – the bird sees objects in the distance perfectly, and when kept in a confined space and at dusk, young animals may partially lose their sight or even completely.
Ostriches are placed on a deep bed, infrared lamps are placed, ensuring the temperature under the heaters is within 30-32 ° C and in the poultry house space – at least 25 ° C. Gradually, the temperature is lowered by the age of a month, the temperature under the heater should be at least 28- ° C, and in the room – about 23 ° C. In sunny weather, chicks older than two weeks are released into pens.
Youngsters are planted in pens freely, according to age:
- up to three months 1-5 sq. m per head;
- 3-6 months 10-30 sq. m. on the head;
- 6-12 months 50 sq. m. on the head;
- over a year – from 250 sq. m per head.
When organizing a corral, an area of at least 50 m is allocated so that the ostriches can run.
In the first week of life, young animals reduce their live weight, and this is normal for this species of bird. But already from the second week, intensive growth begins – ostriches gain 200 g of weight every day and by three months the weight is up to 15 kg.
At the age of two months, the young are transferred to a walking room, calculating the space from 1-1.5 square meters per individual in the area under a canopy, and from 3 square meters. m per individual on the walk. Further, they expand the walking space, following the above standards.
The fattening period for ostriches lasts about 10 months, the weight at the end of the term should be 110-120 kg. With winter fattening, the waiting period is extended to one year. As a result, when a fattened ostrich is slaughtered, a meat carcass of up to 60 kg, more than 1 square meter of valuable skin and about 2 kg of feathers are obtained.
Dear readers, you have the opportunity to send us your full story about the peculiarities of keeping and breeding poultry using our contact form. If you are a breeder and sell young animals or eggs, you can put this information as well, and do not forget to indicate the region of residence and contact information.