Wildlife/ Game Feeding and Supplementation | Part 2
February 1, 2019
Importance of water for livestock
March 20, 2019

Breeding Habits of Ostriches

Like chickens, ostriches are oviparous, which means that they lay eggs that hatch outside of their bodies. But unlike chickens that may lay an egg a day, ostriches have a completely different tactic for hatching young. In this article we will define the courtship ritual between the male and female ostrich, as well as the rest of their reproductive behaviour.

Courtship

Ostriches have a very visible courtship display. A female ostrich will peck aimlessly with her head close to the ground, gently shaking her outstretched wings next to her body.

The beak, legs and necks of the male ostrich will change colour during the mating season according to their names, such as the Zimbabwean Blue and Kenyan Red. The male will display behaviours such as sitting on their legs and swaying from side to side. Although usually silent, during the mating season the male will produce a loud hollow-sounding call to attract the attention of the female.

Breeding

Ostriches have a defined period for mating and breeding, which takes place from June to late October or early November. After the flamboyant courting rituals, the pair of ostriches will create a shallow nest in the dirt and the female ostrich will lay an egg roughly every second day.

Female ostriches will lay about 10 – 15 eggs in a season, and will only start to incubate the eggs once she has laid enough to cover with her wings and body. Should the eggs be removed — as is usually the case with ostrich farms — the female will assume that she does not have enough eggs to incubate, and will continue laying. Both male and female ostriches will take it in turns to sit on the eggs, with the female taking day-shift, and the male taking night-shift duties.

Breeding systems

There are two systems that are predominantly used on ostrich farms: the flock system, and the trio-system.

  1. The flock system gives the male ostrich a wider choice of females to mate with, as there is a 1:2 ratio of male to female birds released into a large camp. This system is closer to what happens naturally in the wild, as the birds have a larger degree of movement and choice.
  2. The trio-system works with three ostriches, one male and two females, that are put together in a smaller camp. This system is easier to control as the area is smaller and there are fewer birds. If the male shows no inclination of mating with the females, then those two females will be replaced until he mates with one of them.

Ostrich chicks

The stripey grey-brown ostrich chicks will hatch after 42 – 45 days, and will be able to climb out of the nest after 24 hours. Just before hatching, the chick will pull the egg-yolk sac into its abdomen via the navel, and this egg-yolk provides it with its only sustenance for the first few days. It can take up to three weeks for the yolk to be completely absorbed. Unlike other birds, ostriches will reach maturity at a later age, when they are about 4 years old.