Priceless. That moment your kids cuddle a new-born ostrich for the very first time. The smile on their face, the caution with which they hold and caress these little babies.
For us, Dutch people, ostriches are exotic animals. It should not come as a surprise that watching ostriches in Oudtshoorn was something we very much looked forward to. We were lucky. This was not an ostrich show farm where you can ride ostriches (we wouldn’t recommend that). This was an ostrich farm that educated us about the life of an ostrich on a breeding farm like this: from egg to full-grown ostrich.
It’s a breeding farm indeed. The animals are bred for their skin, feathers, eggs and meat. And yes, in that order. The skin is in high demand for production of shoes and bags. The feathers are used everywhere for feather dusters. The eggs of course can be eaten but are also nice for decoration. The meat is delicious and a delicacy in many parts of the world.
Growing ostriches is daily business for the people here in South Africa, just as breeding cows, calves or any other animal for human consumption elsewhere in the world. I think it’s important that farms like the ones we visited open up for public, showing you every single step of ostrich farming. Again, this was not one of those ostrich show farms. The owner of the camp where we were staying (Africamps Klein Karoo) arranged our tour at this genuine ostrich farm.
First stop was the hatchery. You know ostrich eggs are huge, but holding one makes you really understand how big and heavy they are (up to three pounds or 1.45kgs). We even watched one ostrich chick crawling out of his or her egg! It takes enormous strength to break the shell of the egg to get out. If the chick appears to be weak, people will help by removing a few pieces of the shell.
Newborn ostrich babies
After having a peek into the hatchery, they let us watch and hold newborn ostriches. The one our daughter was holding kept falling asleep, laying his head on her arm. So cute, she didn’t want to let the chick go… At that moment the day already was a perfect one. But the best had yet to come…
Naughty little ostriches
Outside we were able to not only watch but also play with 6 week old ostriches! These little animals are so curious: they approach you as a group, try to figure out who or what you are, and suddenly move away in the same crowd. Ostriches are not particularly intelligent. Their brains are the size of a walnut, smaller even than their own eyes which are actually relatively large. With these large eyes they have fantastic eyesight, but they have rather short term memory. Anyway, the little ostriches kept on approaching us and suddenly quickly move away again. Our son didn’t want to leave the playground!
Meet the grown-ups
Grown-up ostriches are held outside where they have a large area to run around. If you want, you can feed them. Make sure to cover your hand and fingers with the food completely as they will go for your fingers when they see one!
We so much enjoyed our stay at the ostrich farm and would recommend the tour to all of you (same goes for a stay at Africamps Klein Karoo by the way, see picture below).
Are you planning a safari in Kruger park? Read our latest post about the choice between a self-drive or a guided (private) game drive.