Ostriches breed during the time of year when days are longest and temperatures are higher. The breeding season is typically about 40 days during the time when days are 12 hours long or more. Generally speaking, the mating season begins in May and ends in very early September. Typically, July is the peak of the egg laying season. In this article, we discuss ostrich breeding, ostrich eggs and chicks. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- How To Get Your Ostriches Ready For Breeding Season
- How Often Does An Ostrich Lay Eggs?
- How To Hatch Ostrich Eggs
- Make Sure Your Incubator Is In Good Working Order
- How Long Does It Take For An Ostrich Egg To Hatch?
- Let The Yolk Sac Feed The Chicks At First
- Handle Ostrich Chicks With Care
How To Get Your Ostriches Ready For Breeding Season
In preparation for breeding season, pair up each breeding male with as many as two hens about a month before the breeding season starts. You can tell male ostriches from females at a glance by the color in the animals legs.
Male ostriches have more colorful legs than female ostriches. During ostrich mating season, a male ostrich’s plumage will become quite bright.
When breeding commences, you’ll see the animals engaging in a behavior known as the candling dance. This is a territorial dance. During courtship, male ostriches vocalize a loud and booming sound.
Additionally, they sit and thump or drum alternating sides of their backs with their heads. In response, the hen will sit down and flutter her wings.
If you do not see this activity, you may need to switch them out to make sure that the males and females you have chosen are actually interested in one another. After mating, sperm can remain alive and active in the hen for as long as a week. After the initial mating, and the passage of 5 to 10 days, the female will begin laying eggs.
When mating is complete, the male ostrich will scratch out a very simple nest in the dirt. The female ostrich will then lay her eggs. She may lay as many as 15 to 20 in the wild area in captivity, some hens will lay as many as 100 eggs per laying season.
Ostriches are mature and able to mate around the age of 3 years. Generally speaking, hens that are black are not fertile. Black coloration may indicate an immature female or, less commonly, an intersex bird that is typically a male that also has ovaries.
How Often Does An Ostrich Lay Eggs?
In the wild, a female ostrich may lay between 12 and 18 eggs annually. In a domestic setting, a young female ostrich may produce between 10 and 20 eggs in her first laying year.
In subsequent years, she may produce between 40, or as many as 130, eggs per year depending upon a wide variety of conditions. Typically, a healthy female ostrich will lay between 40 and 60 eggs annually.
How To Hatch Ostrich Eggs
In a natural setting, a dominant female ostrich will sit on her eggs during the daylight hours, and the male will spell her at night. With both parents incubating the eggs, survival rate is approximately 20%.
When you incubate the eggs, the survival rate rises to approximately 70%. Generally speaking, about 10% of all ostrich eggs are not fertile. Another 10% may hatch but reveal chicks that have birth defects.
In captivity, you should collect the ostrich eggs as soon as they are laid. This will eliminate the risk of having them break. You can store ostrich eggs at a temperature of 55 to 60°F for up to 7 days.
At the end of the seven day waiting time, you can incubate all of these eggs at once. If you incubate them as they are laid, you will have chicks hatching every day. This will take up a lot of your time.
If you hold the eggs for 7 days, you should have the same percentage of successful hatching with a lot less work on your part.
You can gather eggs and incubate them throughout the breeding season from May to August. Fertility is usually greater at the end of the egg laying season. It is typically about 40% from May through June and about 80% in August.
While you are holding the eggs, you should turn them every day to make sure that they stay hatchable.
If you need to clean ostrich eggs, you should simply sand them lightly to remove foreign material or dirt that may be stuck to the shells. If the eggs are very dirty, you can wash them in warm water that is about 10° warmer than the temperature of the eggs. Be sure not to use very hot water.
How Much Is An Ostrich Egg Worth?
Generally speaking, ostrich eggs sell for about $30 each. Most of the time, you will not be able to find edible ostrich eggs for sale because eating ostrich eggs is not practical or economical.
How Big Is An Ostrich Egg Compared To A Chicken Egg?
It would take 24 chicken eggs to make up a single ostrich egg. Most people do not eat twenty-four eggs at one sitting.
How Does An Ostrich Egg Taste?
Make Sure Your Incubator Is In Good Working Order
Before putting your eggs in the incubator, you should test it for a minimum of 12. This will give you plenty of time to make adjustments to regulate the temperature before you start the incubation process.
Make sure that your incubator is correctly disinfected and cleaned before you use it. Disinfect the entire interior of the incubator and fumigate it if necessary. Be sure that the incubator is completely dry before you place the eggs inside.
Ostrich eggs should be incubated at temperature of 97.6°F. If the temperature is lower, the length of time needed to incubate the eggs will increase, and the eggs will lose more moisture during incubation process.
The room in which you keep your incubator will probably need both air-conditioning and dehumidification because of the heat and humidity released by the incubator. Maintaining the correct temperature of 97.5°F and the correct humidity level of 25% are essential steps for success.
Bear in mind that if the humidity level inside the incubator is too high, your checks are puffy and wet. Birds that are born this way do not usually start off well, and they are quite likely to die.
Weigh your ostrich eggs carefully at the outset and at intervals throughout the incubation process. Many professional ostrich farmers say that ostrich eggs should lose about 15% of their original way during the incubation process.
You may need to closely monitor humidity levels to be sure that the eggs do decrease in weight by this percentage.
While incubating, the eggs should be positioned with the large end facing up. It is best if they are also placed at a 45° angle. It is all right to position the eggs on their side.
You should turn the ostrich eggs a couple of times a day, but it’s best can turn them as many as 10 times of day. Do this until the 39th day of incubation, and then transfer the eggs into the hatcher.
If you are turning your eggs by hand, you should mark each one with an X on one side and a zero on the other side. In this way, you will be sure to know that every egg has been turned. After a couple of weeks have passed, you can candle the eggs to eliminate the ones that are not fertile.
How Long Does It Take For An Ostrich Egg To Hatch?
Ostrich eggs hatch more quickly than those of other types of ratites. This is probably because ostrich eggs are considered a delicacy by many types of natural predators, so quick incubation is a survival adaptation. You can expect ostrich eggs to hatch within a period of 35-45 days.
When your ostrich chick begins pipping, it will first break through into the air cell inside the shell. Then it will break through the outer shell. Once this is accomplished, the chick will turn within the shell. This motion will break the shell a bit at a time.
Once the shell has been broken completely, the chick will be able to push out. If this takes an excessively long time, you may need to help by cracking the shell a little bit. This is not recommended unless the incubation has taken much longer than 42 days. If you rush the chick, you may run the risk of the navel not closing properly. This can lead to an infected navel and chick mortality.
Before you take your chick out of the hatcher, you should check and make sure that it’s navel is fully closed. Treat the navel with 7% iodine solution. This will help prevent infection. In two or three days, you should treat the navel again.
When the chick is a week old, check it’s navel again. If there is still dried umbilical cord attached, you should carefully remove it and treat the navel with iodine again.
If you do not do these things, you run a very high risk of yolk sac and navel infection.
Let The Yolk Sac Feed The Chicks At First
Although you may want to feed your chicks right away, you should resist this urge. Instead wait for 3 to 5 days. This gives the chicks time to make use of the yolk sac and to lose edema. Don’t worry, the yolk sac does provide nutrition for the chicks for 3 to 5 days. It also conveys passive immunity to the chicks.
After 3 to 5 days, you can offer your chicks some commercial ostrich ration especially prepared for chicks. You don’t need to add anything else at this point, but you can give a little bit of fresh, chopped alfalfa.
This is not necessary, though. If you do decide to feed fresh alfalfa, only feed a very small percentage. It should not make up more than 15% of chicks’ diet.
Commercially prepared feed for ostrich chicks should be very low in protein. It should be less than 20% protein and greater than 15% fiber.
This configuration of nutrients will give the chicks enough nutrition to maintain a good growth rate without causing leg problems which are the result of too much weight gain, too quickly.
Monitor their diet closely and prevent them from over eating. Obesity causes leg problems and a host of other health problems. Additionally, over eating can cause digestive system impaction.
Handle Ostrich Chicks With Care
It is very important to set up a good environment for your chicks. Failure to do so will result in quite a bit of chick death. You should always keep the brooding area sanitary, and it should provide good protection against the elements.
You should provide a source of consistent heat for your chicks, and it should be set up in such a way that the birds can gather around it to warm up and move away from it if they become too warm.
You should not provide heated floors in your brooding area because your checks will not be able to get away to a cool place if the floors are heated.
Additionally, heated floors are often associated with leg problems. For this reason, overhead heat is preferred.
After removing chicks from the hatcher, you’ll want to put them in a brooding area. Brooder boxes are often used for this purpose. No matter what kind of brooding situation you establish for your chicks, be sure that the covering of the floor is not slick.
A slick floor in the brooding area can cause chicks to slip and damage or even break their legs.
When the chicks are strong enough and the weather permits, you should move them to an outdoor pen. It’s good for them to be in large, outdoor pens where they can exercise, work their muscles and grow healthy and strong.
When you move your chicks outside, don’t make it a permanent thing. Young chicks will need to come back indoors at night and may only need brief play periods outdoor when the weather is nice.
It’s a good idea to give the chicks a ball to play with in their outdoor pens. This encourages exercise, activity and mental engagement. Ostrich chicks are curious and need to be active and engaged.