Getting started in ostrich production can be successful on both a small and large-scale

Getting started in ostrich production can be successful on both a small and large-scale depending on how one implements proven practices in the areas of nutrition, flock management, hatching management, incubation requirements and general brooding and health management. When getting started in ostrich production several options are available, each with it own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the size production one is looking for.

The least expensive method of getting started is to buy the eggs and hatch the chicks yourself, this being dependent on the ability to obtain the eggs and knowing ostrich production is 2 years from hatching. You can also buy chicks of 8 weeks or older, saving on the problems of brooding and hatching, but costs more with ostrich production still 2 years away. Buying a year old bird shortens the production to 1 year, and buying proven breeders (adults) the most expensive, though providing immediate results, with care taken in purchasing from reliable sources.

Next to consider are the nutritional needs of the ostrich. Many factors are to be considered in this area, such as the size of the acreage allowed for foraging of alfalfa, Bermuda grass, oats, rye and wheat. However, if allowed to much acreage they may become wilder and harder to manage, with the possibility of insufficient nutrition being a factor also, as the diet would be to high or low in fiber and protein for the energy needed for proper growth. With foraging, a commercial feed should then be supplemented, watching for weight gain as it affects egg production.

The ostrich has a delicate system, in younger chicks special care should be taken to insure proper nutrition on all levels with at least a basic knowledge of their specific needs and anatomy. Use of a good quality turkey or starter game bird ration should be used, only feeding what they can eat in two 20 minute feeding periods daily. Also a supplement of alfalfa pellets given when the twice daily feedings begin. Giving oyster shell or grit can begin at this time also, and watering with water soluble vitamins should be added to ensure proper nutrition levels.

When breeding ostriches they should receive supplements of high quality protein turkey or game bird ration for optimum fertility, hatchability and egg production. Breeding birds should also have the availability of bone meal, grit and oyster shell with poultry vitamins and electrolytes added to the feed or water to help to improve fertility and hatching. Properly fed ostrich hens will start laying about 2 years of age and can then lay eggs for approximately 30 years. Egg production varies, with 70 or more eggs being produced.

Lighting determines the reproductive process. Using both natural and artificial lighting, with a timer being used to regulate the day length, optimum fertility and egg production can be achieved.

Juvenile birds should be reared separately for the first year until their sexual maturity, with mature cocks and hens being separated after breeding season. This allows the birds to be rested and ready to begin egg production when placed together for the breeding season. Breeding pens should be 1 to 3 acres with one cock and two to fours hens.

Hatchery management skills are crucial for successful hatching. Improper breeder nutrition, egg handling or humidity and temperature problems can cause all types of problems, so knowledge of the problems associated with these issues requires great attention to detail and a degree of expertise in ostrich production. The building should be designed for environmental control, and should be durable with an ease of cleaning, as cleanliness is very important. It should also be of sufficient size to handle the egg volume and include areas for cleaning, culling, chick holding etc.

Incubation of eggs should be in a room of 65 to 70 degrees, with the eggs being rotated twice a day. Washing is not recommended unless absolutely necessary, though manure or debris should be cleaned off. If water cleansing must be used, a temperature of 10 degrees warmer then the egg should be used, with separate towels for each egg, do not reuse the towels.

Humidity and temperature must be maintained for proper hatching, with the Hatcher temperature slightly higher then the incubator, as the Hatcher will have fewer eggs then those in incubation.

Brooding and the general health of the chicks should be watched closely, not allowing them to get wet and keeping them safe from predators.For Health problems or nutrition, professional assistance should obtained for good ostrich production.

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